Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Rapid Reaction: Cardinals 3, Rangers 2
By Richard Durrett
ST. LOUIS -- It was an entertaining Game 1 of the World Series as the St. Louis Cardinals broke a tie score with a pinch-hit single in the sixth and then held off the Texas Rangers for a 3-2 win. Some quick thoughts (more to come from clubhouse later):
What it all means: The Cardinals won at home in Game 1 behind a strong performance by Chris Carpenter and great work from the bullpen (as usual this season). The winner of Game 1 has won 12 of the past 14 World Series, with 2002 (San Francisco beating Anaheim) and 2009 (Philadelphia over New York) as the lone exceptions. It sets up Game 2 on Thursday at Busch Stadium with Colby Lewis vs. Jaime Garcia.
Starters come through: Both teams came in with big bats, but starting pitchers C.J. Wilson of Texas and Chris Carpenter of St. Louis pitched well. Wilson came within one out of a quality start, but was lifted with a runners at the corners and two outs for Alexi Ogando to pitch to pinch hitter Allen Craig. Ogando gave up an RBI single to Craig, so that run was charged to Wilson. Wilson ended up allowing three runs on four hits in 5 2/3 innings, but it was his best postseason start in 2011. Carpenter came out of the game when Craig pinch hit for him. He did get a quality start, giving up two runs on five hits with four strikeouts and one walk in six innings.
Defensive gem: Carpenter made a great play in the first, diving to get a throw from first baseman Albert Pujols and then sliding his glove to the bag to retire Elvis Andrus. Carpenter just barely got his pitching hand away from Andrus' foot as it touched the bag. The play helped Carpenter get out of the first despite giving up a leadoff hit to Ian Kinsler (part of that was Yadier Molina's nice throw to second to get Kinsler trying to steal on what looked like a hit-and-run in which Andrus missed the pitch).
Glove work: Pujols can do more than pound the ball. He made a nice sliding play behind the first-base bag on a ball hit by Michael Young with a runner at third and two outs in the sixth. He flipped to Carpenter covering the bag. The play saved a run in a tie game.
Berkman delivers: The right fielder hit a single over the first-base bag to score two runs in the fifth after Wilson hit Pujols on a 2-0 pitch and Matt Holliday doubled to put runners at second and third.
Year of the Napoli: Right after the Cardinals scored, the Rangers tied it up. Mike Napoli, who came in with just one homer this postseason, blasted an opposite-field shot that was out the moment he hit it (Berkman just turned and watched). Napoli likes facing Carpenter. The homer put him at 4-for-5 with two homers and five RBIs against him. Some ESPN Stats & Information stuff on Napoli's homer:
• First homer by an AL catcher since Jorge Posada in Game 3 of 2001 World Series.
• First World Series Game 1 HR by any catcher since Charles Johnson in 1997.
• First World Series Game 1 HR by an AL catcher since Ted Simmons in 1982 (also in St. Louis).
• Was measured at 415 feet and would have been a home run at all 30 MLB parks.
Smart strategy: Manager Ron Washington wasn't going to let Pujols beat the Rangers in the fifth. After Rafael Furcal walked and was bunted to second by Jon Jay, Washington had Wilson intentionally walk Pujols to set up the double play. After a visit by pitching coach Mike Maddux, Holliday hit the first pitch he saw to third for a 5-4-3 double play, ending the threat and keeping the score tied at 2.
Big pinch hit and a kick save: Nelson Cruz tried to make a sliding catch on Craig's single to right field and couldn't get it. But he did manage to keep the ball in front of him with his feet. One run scored on the play, but Cruz's slide might have saved another run as Nick Punto had to stop at third and was stranded there. Give Craig credit. He was late on the 98-mph fastball by Ogando, but was able to drive it near the line in right field. ESPN Stats & Info: Allen Craig is the first pinch hitter to have a go-ahead RBI in the sixth inning or later of a World Series game since Wade Boggs with the Yankees in 1996.
Interesting decision: With two outs and runners at first and second, Washington decided to pinch hit right-handed hitter Esteban German for Alexi Ogando despite having Yorvit Torrealba on the bench. It was German's first postseason at-bat and he struck out against lefty Marc Rzepczynski. Torrealba was 0-for-5 against left-handed pitching in the postseason, though La Russa might have gone to Octavio Dotel had Torrealba pinch hit. It was an interesting call.
Situational lefty: Mike Gonzalez came in for one batter, which is what his role is in close games. The left-handed pitcher threw to left-handed batter Jon Jay leading off the seventh inning and got him to ground out to short.
Rhodes vs. Hamilton: Former Ranger Arthur Rhodes, the Cardinals' situational lefty, came in to face Josh Hamilton with two outs and no one on in the eighth in a one-run game. Hamilton got ahead in the count, 3-1, but ended up flying out to center.
Did that hit his foot? Adrian Beltre thought a ball that he swung at hit his foot in the ninth. But it bounded to third and the Cardinals threw to first for an out with Beltre still at home plate. It's tough to tell on the replay, but it was certainly close. Jason Motte got the out on his way to the save.