Unsung hero: Nick Punto waits out C.J. Wilson
October, 19, 2011
By Jeff Caplan | ESPNDallas.com
ST. LOUIS -- It's what eight-hole hitter Nick Punto didn't do in his sixth-inning at-bat against Texas Rangers starter C.J. Wilson that proved significant in the St. Louis Cardinals' 3-2 Game 1 victory.
With two outs in 2-2 game, David Freese on third and pitcher Chris Carpenter on deck, Punto changed the course of the game by keeping his bat on his shoulder.
Wilson started Punto with consecutive curveballs that tailed low and outside.
"He didn't chase. What am I going to do, throw a fastball down the middle?" Wilson said. "I threw a curveball that started over the middle of the plate, he didn't chase it. I threw another that started over the middle of the plate, he didn't chase it. I was playing for a swing-and-miss the first two pitches. I fell behind and then I went for the back-door cutter, which had been working and he didn't swing at that again. He just wasn't going to swing."
Punto, a .143 hitter in the postseason, took all four pitches to put runners at the corners and set the wheels of change in motion. Carpenter headed back to the dugout and right-handed pinch-hitter Allen Craig emerged. Rangers manager Ron Washington then made the obvious move to pull Wilson after 5 2/3 innings in favor of right-hander Alexi Ogando, who has been nearly unhittable in the playoffs.
"I felt like I could get Craig out because I was prepared for him," Wilson said. "At the same time I feel like Ogando's going to get everybody out because he's the magic man."
As Wilson then noted, Ogando must have run out of magic in this one. Craig lined Ogando's fourth consecutive fastball into right field , driving in the winning run and handing Wilson his third loss in three postseason starts.