Four wins is all that separates the Texas Rangers from a return trip to the World Series -- and Texas' first shot at one of those wins comes tonight as the Rangers play host to Justin Verlander and the Detroit Tigers in Game 1 of the ALCS.
Ron Washington's Rangers haven't played a game since Tuesday's ALDS clinching victory over the Rays. The Rangers dropped Game 1 of that series before winning the next three games to advance to the ALCS.
C.J. Wilson starts for the Rangers in Game 1, as he's set to make his first start since Game 1 of the ALDS over a week ago. Wilson, who pitched at a high level during the regular season, was shelled against the Rays, giving up eight runs (six earned) on seven hits while walking one in five innings.
Wilson will certainly need to be sharper against the Tigers as he's opposed by virtual Cy Young lock Justin Verlander. Verlander had one of the best seasons in recent memory for a pitcher, going 24-5 with a 2.40 ERA, .192 BAA, .92 WHIP while striking out 250 batters in 251 innings of work.
Verlander started two games in the ALDS against the Yankees, though, he only lasted one inning in Game 1 because it was suspended due to rain. In his Game 3 start against the Yankees in Detroit, Verlander pitched eight innings, giving up four runs on six hits, walking three and striking out 11 as the Tigers won 5-4.
If you believe at all in momentum in baseball, then the Tigers, who are sending Verlander to the mound after defeating the Yankees in the Bronx in a decisive Game 5 on Thursday certainly hold the edge. We'll see if the rest has done the Rangers well as they play for the first time since Tuesday.
First pitch from Rangers Ballpark in Arlington is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. CT. Televised coverage for the ALCS shifts to FOX.