As Texas prepare to take on the St. Louis Cardinals in this year’s Fall Classic, the team is arguably the healthiest that they’ve been all season. This is good news for those that have already bought their Rangers tickets.
RF Nelson Cruz has dealt with a myriad of injuries this season, being placed on the 15-day disabled list for the first time on May 4 due to a strained right quadriceps muscle. This kept him out of the lineup until May 23, when he returned in Texas’ game against the Chicago White Sox.
Cruz stayed healthy until July 29, when he came out of the game against the Toronto Blue Jays. He managed to stay off of the 15-day disabled list, being listed as day-to-day, and was back in the lineup on August 2 against the Detroit Tigers.
However, Cruz did return to the 15-day disabled list on August 29 due to straining his left hamstring, an injury that was projected to keep him out 2-3 weeks. It turned out that Cruz would not return to the lineup until September 14 against the Cleveland Indians, a period of 16 days.
Cruz stayed healthy the rest of the season and the postseason, but obviously lost some of his timing due to the layoffs. It took him a while to get his swing back, as evidenced by his going just 8-42 (.190) from his return to the end of the regular season. Fortunately for Texas, they went 12-2 in those final 14 games of the regular season, enabling them to retake the #2 ranking in the American League seeding, giving them home-field advantage against any AL team outside of the #1-seeded New York Yankees.
Cruz’s struggles continued in the American League Divisional Series against Tampa Bay, where he went just 1-15 (.067). While Texas lost game 1 to Tampa Bay behind their rookie phenom, LHP Matt Moore, Texas rebounded to win Games 2-4 by scores of 8-6, 4-3, and 4-3 despite Cruz’s struggles.
Unfortunately for the Detroit Tigers, Cruz was starting to get his swing back together, as evidenced by the damage he did in the American League Championship Series. Cruz would go on to be 8-22 (.364) in the series, hitting 6 HRs (a new League Championship Series record) and knocking in 13 RBIs. He also made a significant defensive play in right field in Game 4, cutting down Tigers 1B Miguel Cabrera at the plate when he attempted to score on a sacrifice fly to right field in the 8th inning, which would have given Detroit a 4-3 lead going into the 9th inning. Instead, the game remained tied throughout 9 innings, and in the 11th inning, Cruz hit a 3-run shot to follow C Mike Napoli’s RBI single to give Texas a 7-3 extra inning win and a commanding 3-1 series lead, which was eventually won by Texas in 6 games.
Cruz’s offensive production returning should help his team match up well with the Cardinals, who themselves can produce some offense of their own.
3B Adrian Beltre has had some offensive struggles in this postseason, and at least part of the reason could be due to the fact that he has had sore legs for a while now, largely due to his fouling the ball off of his legs several times in recent weeks. In addition, Beltre has been dealing with a left hamstring strain since July 23 when he was placed on the 15-day disabled list. Beltre didn’t return until September 1, though he seemed to be fully healthy, as he had at least 1 hit in every game until September 16 against Seattle. In fact, he did not go hitless again until the first game of the American League Divisional Series (ALDS) against Tampa Bay.
However, his bat has not been as productive in the postseason, outside of a 3-homerun game against Tampa Bay in Game 4 of the ALDS that finished off the Rays. Beltre’s bat was mostly silent in the ALCS against Detroit as well, as he only had 6 hits in 27 at-bats (.222), with just 3 doubles and 0 homeruns. Thanks to Cruz and other members of Texas’ lineup, however, the absence of Beltre’s bat has not been a problem to this point in the postseason.
Right now, the only key player from their team who is missing due to injury is right-handed relief pitcher Mark Lowe, who has been out since September 22 with a left hamstring injury. This injury has kept him out of the first two rounds of the postseason, as he was not on the active roster for either round.
Mark Lowe has come out and said that he is fully recovered from the hamstring injury and wants to be added to the World Series active roster. He feels that being left off of there would sting, especially since he feels he helped Texas get back to the World Series, as he appeared in 52 games, with a record of 2-3, a 3.80 ERA, 45.0 IP/46 H/26 R/19 ER/19 BB/42 K/.263 Batting Average Against during the regular season.
Adding Lowe could be tough to accomplish for manager Ron Washington, as one of Texas’ eight relievers would have to be dropped, and if Texas went with seven relievers as they did in the ALDS against Tampa Bay, two relievers would have to be dropped. It is a little more conceivable for the Rangers to drop two relievers and go with seven total relievers in the upcoming World Series because the lack of the designated hitter at Busch Stadium, potentially four games, would likely lead to additional pinch-hitting appearances and double switches, requiring more positional players off of the bench.
Additionally, there are two possible candidates who could potentially be dropped from the bullpen: RHP Yoshi Tateyama, who only appeared in one ALCS game, and RHP Koji Uehara, who has really struggled of late and became the first player to ever give up home runs in three straight relief appearances.
Washington did say that Lowe is improving health wise, but would not commit to adding him to the postseason roster. Outside of the aforementioned Tateyama and Uehara, the rest of the teams bullpen has been stellar, being another main reason why they were able to advance past the Tigers and into the World Series, as the bullpen gave up just 4 runs in 27 1/3 IP (1.32 ERA), allowing just 21 base runners and striking out 25 batters.
Therefore, it’s a toss-up whether Lowe will be on the World Series postseason roster. One thing is for certain, though, they are probably as healthy and strong as they’ve been all season, which could spell bad news for the Cardinals, especially if Cruz’s bat continues to stay hot and their bullpen continues to dominate as they did against the Tigers in the ALCS.