Rangers' big weapon: Defense

According to the Defensive Runs Saved metric from Baseball Info Solutions that we've been using all season at ESPN, the Texas Rangers ranked fourth in the majors with 45 runs saved on defense compared to the average team. The Cardinals ranked 20th at minus-13.

Defensive obviously played a crucial factor in the Game 2 win for Texas: the diving stop and flip by Elvis Andrus, the sweet double play turned by Andrus and Ian Kinsler. Meanwhile, we've seen three plays that David Freese failed to make at third base that Adrian Beltre would likely have made (there's a reason Tony La Russa takes out Freese for defensive purposes late in the game) and Jon Jay's poor throw from center field in the ninth inning helped lead to Albert Pujols' error. Considering Pujols and Yadier Molina are the two clear defensive advantages for St. Louis, it was ironic that the go-ahead rally was set up by a stolen base (although Kinsler stole that off Jason Motte, not Molina) and Pujols' miscue.

The key to the Texas defense is the middle infield duo. As one Rangers fan said in our postgame chat about Andrus' flip, "I've seen Elvis make those plays all season." Asked if that play was good as he's seen from Andrus, Kinsler said, "There's a couple that come to mind, but yeah, the situation I was in and being that it was a World Series game and just a run-saving play, the play was ridiculous. It was probably one of the best I've seen, not just him."

According to DRS, Andrus ranked third among major league shortstops at +13, trailing only the Mariners' Brendan Ryan and the Braves' Alex Gonzalez. Overall, the Rangers' middle infield also ranked third, behind Tampa Bay and Seattle.

The Cardinals will play Allen Craig in right field in Game 3, with Lance Berkman moving to DH, but that's really only a minor upgrade. La Russa could have elected to use Daniel Descalso at third and move Freese to DH, and thus not have to worry about losing Freese's bat late in the game; I wouldn't be surprised to see that alignment at some point in these three games, especially if Berkman doesn't start producing more at the plate.

So as you watch Game 3, keep a close eye on the defense and those plays made and not made. It could be a subtle key to deciding the outcome.

* * * *

By the way, here are the regular-season DRS totals for the World Series teams since 2003:

2010: Giants + 54, Rangers 0 (winner: Giants)

2009: Phillies +16, Yankees +2 (winner: Yankees)

2008: Phillies +79, Rays +26 (winner: Phillies)

2007: Rockies +46, Red Sox -1 (winner: Red Sox)

2006: Tigers +57, Cardinals +54 (winner: Cardinals)

2005: Astros +64, White Sox +44 (winner: White Sox)

2004: Cardinals +57, Red Sox -4 (winner: Red Sox)

2003: Marlins -7, Yankees -27 (winner: Marlins)