Stats & Info: Marc Rzepczynski

Cardinals, Rangers strong on mound so far

October, 21, 2011

The pitch locations on which Allen Craig has gotten his six hits this postseason.
Click here to create your own Craig custom heat maps and images

Think about how close this World Series has been. The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are even in games, even in runs, even in errors and one apart in hits (the Rangers have 11, the Cardinals have 12).

It is a World Series in which pitching has dominated, with the Game 2 starters Colby Lewis and Jaime Garcia matching the efforts that their respective bullpens have put in this postseason.

The pitching has been so good that each team held the other to six hits or fewer in each of the first two games of this World Series. The last time both teams were held to six hits or fewer in Games 1 and 2 was in 1981, when the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers did so.

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is the first World Series in 37 years in which neither team scored more than three runs in either of the first two games. That had last happened in 1974, when the Athletics defeated the Dodgers in five games. The only game of that series which did not end with a 3-2 final score was Game 4, which Oakland won 5-2.

Albert Pujols
The Rangers' pitching has been good enough to hold Albert Pujols to 0-for-6 so far. Pujols is actually just 3-for-21 in World Series play dating back to the start of the 2006 World Series (a series the Cardinals won despite his hitting .200).

The Cardinals' pitching has been good enough to record 16 strikeouts to just three walks in the first two games. Their staff has whiffed 85 hitters and yielded just 25 walks. This could be the first time in Cardinals postseason history that their pitchers finished a postseason with a strikeout-to-walk rate of at least 3-to-1.

Some other noteworthy nuggets gleaned from mining the numbers through these first two games World Series include:

Ian Kinsler
• Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler has four hits, three coming on pitches that were in the lower-third of the strike zone or below the knees.

During the regular season, Kinsler had only a .243 batting average on balls in play (and no home runs) against pitches to that location, a success rate that put him in the bottom 20 percent of major leaguers. But within the small sample of two games, he’s been able to produce positive results.

• Similarly, Cardinals pinch-hitter Allen Craig (who may DH in the games in Texas) has been able to hit the knee-level pitch. Both of his pinch-hits in this series have come on pitches that were at the bottom of the strike zone.

The image at the top of this article shows the range of locations on which Craig has gotten his six hits this postseason.

• After giving up three hits in four at-bats against right-handed hitters in the Division Series against the Phillies, Cardinals lefty Marc Rzepczynski has been terrific against right-handers in the last two rounds. They are 1-for-their-past-14 against him.

This is due largely to the effectiveness of his changeup and slider. He’s thrown seven of eight for strikes to right-handed hitters in the World Series.

AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
Chris Carpenter's diving swipe of first base was one of many key outs in the Cardinals Game 1 win.
Allen Craig came through in a pinch and the St. Louis Cardinals bullpen came through every time it needed to make the right pitch in a Game 1 World Series win.

Craig’s pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth inning gave the Cardinals the lead for good. It was the first go-ahead RBI by a pinch-hitter in the World Series since Wade Boggs walked in the 10th inning of Game 4 for the 1996 New York Yankees in their win over the Atlanta Braves.

Craig, who was 7-for-22 as a pinch-hitter in the regular season, became the first Cardinals player with a pinch-hit go-ahead RBI game in the World Series since Brian Harper in the eighth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 World Series (the game that featured the famous missed call at first base in the ninth inning by Don Denkinger).

That play made a winner of Chris Carpenter, who won his sixth straight postseason decision in Busch Stadium (both the old one and the current one).

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, he is the fourth pitcher to win his first six home decisions in postseason play, joining Mariano Rivera (7), Curt Schilling (7) and Orel Hershiser (6) (the latter two are covering the World Series for ESPN).

Lance Berkman continued his history of timely postseason hitting with two RBI. According to Elias, Berkman has the most RBI for any player within the first five World Series games of his career, with eight (six for the 2005 Astros).

C.J. Wilson fell to 0-3 this postseason with his Game 1 loss. He’s the first pitcher to lose Game 1 of the World Series and the All-Star Game in the same season since Dock Ellis in 1971.

It is the second time in team history that the Cardinals won Game 1 of the World Series by one run. The other instance was against the Boston Red Sox in 1967. That 2-1 win was headlined by a complete game victory from Hall of Famer Bob Gibson, four hits from Hall of Famer Lou Brock, and two RBI from Roger Maris.

Winning Game 1 of the World Series has been significant recently. In the previous 23 World Series, the Game 1 winner won the series 19 times.

The Cardinals are the third team to have four relievers make scoreless appearances of less than an inning in the same World Series game, the most such appearances in one game in World Series history. The other two teams were also managed by Tony La Russa -- the 2006 Cardinals (Game 2) and 1988 Athletics (Game 5), each of whom lost that game.

Left-hander Marc Rzepczynski continued his impressive run this postseason with a pair of strikeouts to escape a seventh-inning jam.

Rzepczynski had only fanned one of the 14 right-handed hitters he’d faced in the LDS and LCS, but got the needed whiffs to preserve a one-run lead on seven pitches, six of which were offspeed (three sliders to Craig Gentry, and then three more sliders to Esteban German.)

He was followed by Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes, the latter of whom turns 42 on October 24th and became the oldest pitcher to earn a hold in a World Series game.