'96 Rangers slug way to next Bracket round

May 21st, 2020

The 1996 Rangers, who scored 928 runs over the course of that season, used their offensive might to overpower the 1968 Tigers in five games during the opening round of the MLB Dream Bracket 2: Dream Seasons.

The simulated competition, featuring many of the greatest teams in baseball history, is being produced by Out of the Park Baseball 21, MLB's most realistic strategy game (PC and Mac).

The Rangers scored 37 runs and hit .306 as a team in five games against the Tigers. The Rangers also hit 11 home runs, including three by third baseman . hit two home runs and with a .429 average. had two wins and Mike Henneman notched three saves.

The 1996 Rangers advance to the Round of 32 and will face the 2004 Red Sox next. On Friday, the 2011 Rangers are matched up against the 2018 Red Sox in their first-round matchup.

The Tigers won the 1968 American League pennant during the Year of the Pitcher with a pitching staff led by 31-game winner Denny McLain. The rest of the rotation included right-handers Earl Wilson and Joe Sparma, and left-hander Mickey Lolich, who won three games in the World Series.

But that rotation didn’t hold up against the 1996 Rangers. Those four combined to go 0-4 with an 8.27 ERA in the series.

The designated hitter is being used, so the Tigers' computer manager Mayo Smith did not have to make the famous decision of using center fielder Mickey Stanley at shortstop to get outfielder Al Kaline in the lineup.

But the Tigers' skipper did make some controversial pitching decisions that left him open to some serious second-guessing.

Game 1: Rangers 7, Tigers 4
McLain, in the opener at the Ballpark in Arlington, was bit right away by the long ball, giving up back-to-back home runs to and Greer in the first. After an RBI single by Rodriguez made it 3-0 in the third, the Rangers broke it open with four runs in the fourth. McLain hit with a pitch, and ’s two-run home run drove the right-hander from the game.

The Rangers scored two more that inning to take a 7-0 lead and Hill went 6 2/3 innings to get the win. Henneman earned his first save.

Game 2: Rangers 8, Tigers 6
Again, the Rangers struck early, this time with a pair of two-run home runs -- Palmer in the second and Greer in the third, both off Lolich. The Tigers left-hander allowed five runs in 3 1/3 innings and the Rangers led 8-3 after five. Tigers light-hitting shortstop Ray Oyler had a two-run double and the Tigers scored three in the seventh. But relievers and Henneman shut it down to preserve starter ’s win.

Game 3: Rangers 9, Tigers 5
Rangers outfielder , the 1996 AL MVP, took over this game, hitting a two-run home run off Wilson in the first and a grand slam off reliever Don McMahon in the eighth. Palmer and Clark also homered for the Rangers, while the Tigers could not take advantage of home runs from Dick McAuliffe, Kaline and Bill Freehan.

Game 4: Tigers 10, Rangers 6
Freehan, with the score 2-2, hit a three-run home run in the sixth off Rangers starter , and the Tigers held off Texas to stay alive in their home park. Norm Cash had four hits, including a home run. Kaline also had three hits.

The Tigers' starter was Sparma, instead of McLain on three days' rest. Curiously, McLain was used in relief, pitching 2 1/3 scoreless innings to get the save.

Game 5: Rangers 7, Tigers 3
The Rangers wrapped up the series, but wow, the controversy is all about the Tigers' use of pitching. McLain started this game after pitching in relief the day before. Lolich could have easily started on three days' rest, but did not get the nod.

McLain pitched a scoreless first before allowing a one-out single in the second. He was taken out of the game and reliever Daryl Patterson walked the bases loaded. Only then did Lolich come in to pitch and give up a two-run double to Kevin Elster. The Rangers then took a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth with three runs off Lolich and McMahon.

Hill allowed one unearned run in 5 1/3 innings to get the win and Henneman stopped a ninth-inning rally by the Tigers to get his third save.