A Giants-Rangers World Series … just what everyone was hoping for.
That ratings-killer of a match-up moved one quiet step closer to reality Tuesday night. Behind solid pitching and postseason hero Cody Ross, the Giants shut out the Phillies 3-0 to take a 2-1 lead in the NLCS. Meanwhile, the Rangers continued to stymie the Yankees in the Bronx, cruising to a 10-3 victory and overcoming a controversial home run that left fans flashing back to 12-year-old Jeffrey Maier to take a commanding 3-1 lead in the ALCS.
With the next two games to be played in San Francisco, and lights-out ace Tim Lincecum due on the mound Thursday, the Giants hold an imposing lead over the Phillies, who have lost their pop at the plate since downing the Reds in the NLDS.
The Rangers hold an even more desirable position. Although they play in New York today, the final two games of the series (if necessary) will be back in Texas. On top of that, the team holds the trump card of having Cliff Lee return to the mound if the series goes the distance.
While a Giants-Rangers showdown isn’t exactly what baseball fans have been clamoring for all season, it would pit two of the MLB’s best pitching staffs – and hottest bats – against one another. It would also prove, once again, that money can’t buy you everything, as the Giants (10th largest payroll) and Rangers (27th) are small potatoes compared to the Yankees (1st) and Phillies (4th).
But nothing is set in stone yet. As the Boston Red Sox taught us in the 2004 ALCS, anything is possible in October.
Here’s the action around the diamond going on today (all times Eastern):
Texas Rangers at New York Yankees (4:07 p.m., FOX)
It’s a rematch of Game 1 as the Rangers’ C.J. Wilson and the Yankees’ CC Sabathia return to the mound. Wilson outpitched Sabathia in the first outing, but the Yankees scored eight runs in the eigth inning off the Rangers' bullpen to pull off a 6-5 heist.
Philadelphia Phillies at San Francisco Giants (7:57 p.m., FOX)
After weighing the idea of starting Roy Halladay on short rest, Phillies manager Charlie Manuel is sticking with Joe Blanton, who last pitched on Sept. 29, in a pivotal Game 4. The Giants will trot out rookie Madison Bumgarner, who has never faced the Phillies but finished off the Braves in the NLDS.
BY THE NUMBERS
$175,000 – Combined amount the NFL fined Steelers LB James Harrison, Patriots S Brandon Meriweather and Falcons CB Dunta Robinson for their helmet-to-helmet hits over the weekend. SI.com’s Jim Trotter writes about the league’s growing need to protect its players.
39 – Points scored by Knicks forward Amar’e Stoudemire against the New Jersey Nets on Tuesday, the most by any NBA player this preseason.
15 – Seasons second baseman Ryne Sandberg played for the Chicago Cubs. On Tuesday, “Ryno” finished runner-up to Mike Quade for the Cubs’ open managerial job. Quade went 24-13 as the team’s interim manager last season.