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2010 MLB Playoffs: What Can Go Right (And Wrong) For The Rangers

As part of our MLB Postseason coverage, Adam Morris from SB Nation's Texas Rangers blog, Lone Star Ball, examines why the Rangers, the A.L. West champions, will beat the Rays in the ALDS. And then details why they'll lose.

Why they will win:

The Rangers will win the series with the Rays if they play smart and the bats show up. The Rangers reputation for years has been as a collection of mashers who try to outscore everyone, but that hasn't been the case in 2010. The Rangers have combined a quality pitching staff with a terrific defense to put together a team that was third in the A.L. in ERA in 2010, despite pitching in one of the most hitter-friendly parks in the league. Texas' problem has been inconsistent offense ... the Rangers rely inordinately on Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz for their offense, and need to get production from other guys, particularly Elvis Andrus (who has been in a slump for about four months) and their first base and right field platoons. In addition, Texas is a young team that has played aggressive ball, but too often seems to make mental mistakes at the wrong moment ... the Rangers need to play smart against the Rays if they are going to advance.

Why they will lose:

The Rangers will lose the series with the Rays if Josh Hamilton isn't 100% and the setup men struggle. Josh Hamilton is likely to win the A.L. MVP Award despite missing most of the month of September with rib and back issues suffered when he ran into a wall. He returned to the lineup for the final three games of the year, and hit the ball well in his final two games, showing signs that he's shaken off the rust. Still, a lineup that was roughly average offensively loses a lot without Hamilton in the middle of the order, and if his back flares up again, or he isn't all the way back from injury, the offense is going to have issues.

As for the pitching, the Rangers actually probably have the edge on the Rays in terms of their starting pitching in this series -- Cliff Lee is Cliff Lee, C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis have had terrific years, and Tommy Hunter is a solid back-of-the-rotation guy who has shown time and again this season that he can eat innings and keep the Rangers in games. But the bullpen is, surprisingly, looking shaky outside of closer Neftali Feliz. There was thought earlier in the year that Tanner Scheppers and Frankie Francisco would be dealing heat in the 7th and 8th innings come playoff time, but Scheppers ran out of gas late in the year and was never promoted to the majors, while Francisco is sidelined with an injury. Texas has to hope that former Rule 5 picks Alexi Ogando and Darren O'Day, along with the ancient Darren Oliver, can keep the Rays offense at bay between the starters and Feliz.