Thursday, October 20, 2011
Cardinals approach to Cruz a Game 2 key
By Mark Simon
Where lefties have gotten Nelson Cruz out this postseason. He's 0-for-7 against them.
Click here to create your own Cruz heat maps
The improbable run by the St. Louis Cardinals, largely due to the remarkable work of their relief corps, has sparked them to a 1-0 lead over the Texas Rangers in the 2011 World Series.
Here's a closer look at the matchup for tonight's Game 2.
The Cardinals have won Game 1 of a World Series six previous times. In 1934, 1964, 1967, and 2006, they won Game 1 and went on to win the World Series (three of the four went seven games). In 1968 and 1985, they lost the World Series (blowing a 3-games-to-1 lead in each instance).
The Rangers have won Game 2 of a postseason series in four of the last five postseason series in which they’ve played. The lone loss came in Game 2 of the 2010 World Series against the San Francisco Giants. But the pitcher starting for the Rangers, Colby Lewis, has the team’s only World Series win to date.
Matchup of the Game: Jaime Garcia vs. Nelson Cruz
The Cardinals pitched Nelson Cruz to perfection in Game 1 of the World Series. Of the 20 pitches Cruz saw in the series opener, none were thrown inside (defined as on the inner-third of the plate or closer to him).
Remember that Cruz hammered inside pitches for five of his six home runs in the ALCS win against the Tigers (the Rays avoided pitching him inside in the ALDS, a series in which Cruz went 1-for-15).
Garcia is a rare left-hander with better regular-season splits against right-handed hitters than left-handed batters. That’s due partly to the success of his changeup, which he uses against right-handers at a rate of about once every five pitches.
The pitch hasn’t been as effective in the postseason as it was in the regular season. He’s gotten nine outs and allowed four hits with it in October. His typical rate is to get about five outs for every hit he allows with the pitch.
Cruz is 0-for-7 against left-handed pitchers this postseason.
The other thing to watch will be Cruz against the Cardinals' late-game relievers. Closer Jason Motte threw Cruz five sliders in their meeting in the ninth inning of Game 1. It was a change of approach for Motte, who hadn’t thrown more than three sliders to any hitter in any plate appearance all season.
Rangers and Cardinals relievers combined for 5 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 1 of the World Series, though Alexi Ogando allowed an inherited runner to score on Allen Craig’s go-ahead pinch-hit in the sixth inning.
Dating back to Game 6 of the NLCS, opponents are now 1-for-their-last 25 against Cardinals relief pitchers.
Quirky Stat of the Day
Albert Pujols has a heck of a history in Game 2s of postseason series. Pujols was 4-for-5 with four extra-base hits in the 12-3 win over the Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. That upped Pujols’ Game 2 batting average to .463 (25-for-54) with four home runs and 12 RBIs in 14 games.