Left: Albert Pujols' power hot zones in 2011
Right: The 3 pitches Pujols hit for HR in Game 3 of the World Series (all were in his hot zones).
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The emphasis in the 2011 World Series shifted from pitching to hitting in Game 3 and the ramifications were such that both teams will have some fatigued relievers in Sunday night’s Game 4.
In the fourth through sixth innings, the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers combined for 17 runs, more than twice as many as were scored in the first two games. They had just five fewer hits over those three frames than in the 18 innings of Games 1 and 2.
This could play a major role not just in this game, but for the rest of the series.
With that in mind, here are a few things to watch for in Game 4
The last time Edwin Jackson was on the mound, the Cardinals celebrated a trip to the World Series following their 12-6 win in Game 6 of the NLCS. Jackson, who got just six outs in the game, became a historical footnote as the second starter in major-league history to allow three homers in two innings or fewer in a postseason game.
Two of the three longballs he allowed in that game came on inside pitches to right-handed batters, a spot that has given Jackson trouble all season. Righties are slugging .642 in at-bats ending with a pitch on the inner third of the zone or closer this season, a rate that is nearly 200 points higher than the league average.
The tailing fastball of Rangers starter Derek Holland against right-handed hitters could be worth watching on Sunday night. That pitch was among Holland’s most effective during the regular season. According to the data from Pitch F/X (the pitch-tracking system in major-league ballparks), his fastball averaged 11 inches of “tailing break,” the most among starting pitchers in baseball.
Highest Avg Horizontal Break, Fastballs
Best By LHP in 2011
The Tigers were ready for it in Game 4 of the ALCS. Their right-handed hitters got four hits against it, including home runs from Miguel Cabrera and Jhonny Peralta in the first two innings. That’s as many hits as he allowed on fastballs away to right-handed hitters in his last seven regular-season appearances (spanning 119 pitches).
Pujols and Freese the perfect combo
Albert Pujols and David Freese each have 16 RBI this postseason, marking only the second time in postseason history that two teammates have had at least 16 RBI in a postseason. Three members of the 2002 San Francisco Giants did it- Rich Aurilia (17) Barry Bonds (16), and Benito Santiago (16).
Neither has faced Derek Holland in a major league game. But Pujols is 8-for-17 against left-handed pitching this postseason, including his home runs against Mike Gonzalez and Darren Oliver. Freese has been all-or-nothing against lefties. He’s 6-for-15, but with seven strikeouts.
Nelson Cruz is 2-for-10 in the World Series with a home run, but the Cardinals have done their best to limit his damage. He’s whiffed four times in the three games, twice on pitches at the very top of the strike zone, twice on pitches down around his toes.
The Cardinals approach has been virtually the opposite of how the Tigers pitched to Cruz in the ALCS. In that six-game series, Tigers right-handed pitchers threw Cruz 40 pitches (out of 90 total) on the inner-third of the plate, or that missed inside.
In the three World Series games, Cruz has seen 38 pitches from right-handers. Only four have been inner-third or missed inside.