Commentary

Blame game begins with Rangers

Ump's call at first was bad, but miscues -- and Albert Pujols -- responsible for mess

Updated: October 23, 2011, 8:51 AM ET
By Jean-Jacques Taylor | ESPNDallas.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Please, no whining about St. Louis native and first base umpire Ron Kulpa's butchered call in the fourth inning.

Not a single bleeping word.

Seriously, not one.

[+] EnlargeMike Napoli
Tim Heitman/US PresswireMike Napoli argued to no avail when Ron Kulpa missed a third-inning tag on Matt Holliday. The Cards scored four in the frame and seven more times in the next two innings.
You don't get thumped 16-7 in historic proportion -- Albert Pujols became the third player to hit three homers in a World Series game and the St. Louis Cardinals scored in seven different innings -- and complain about a blown call, no matter how egregious.

The Texas Rangers lost Game 3 of the World Series because of raggedy defense, abysmal pitching and Pujols.

You can blame, in order, Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando, Elvis Andrus and pitching coach Mike Maddux, since three different pitchers yielded homers to Pujols.

If you choose to swap the order, fine.

Ultimately, it doesn't really matter. They're each culpable.

Once you've finished slicing and dicing those guys, then feel free to focus on Kulpa, who missed an obscenely easy call during the Cardinals' four-run third inning.

With Pujols on first and no outs, Matt Holliday hit a double-play bouncer to Andrus. The shortstop flipped the ball to Kinsler, whose poor throw then drew Napoli off first base. Napoli tagged Holliday on the shoulder as he approached the bag, but Kulpa somehow called him safe.

Napoli argued vehemently. So did Ron Washington to no avail, though Kulpa admitted after the game that he missed the call.

Lance Berkman singled and David Freese doubled, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Harrison intentionally walked Yadier Molina, loading the bases.

Jon Jay hit a bouncer to the right of the mound that Napoli fielded, but he rushed his throw home and it bounced past Yorvit Torrealba all the way to the backstop as Berkman and Freese scored, making it 4-0. Ryan Theriot's run-scoring single made it 5-0.

"The game wasn't based on that call," Kinsler said. "The game isn't played in slow motion. He had to look at the base, he had to watch the runner coming down the line and he had to look for the tag.

"That play didn't cost us. We didn't play very well."

Precisely.

No matter who you choose to blame, your Rangers have a huge problem.

[+] EnlargeLance Berkman
Steve Mitchell/US PresswireLance Berkman was the first to score on Mike Napoli's two-run error with the bases loaded, a throw that got past Rangers catcher Yorvit Torrealba.
They trail the series 2-1 -- 10 of the last 11 World Series winners have won Game 3 -- and wasted an opportunity to get a win over St. Louis starter Kyle Lohse, who was 0-2 with a 7.45 ERA in the postseason.

Now, the Rangers need Derek Holland to save the season. Does that give you comfort?

It shouldn't.

Holland has struggled throughout the postseason and hasn't lasted more than five innings in any of his three starts.

You must also deal with the reality that St. Louis is playing better. The Cardinals have scored first in each of the three games, and if not for a dramatic ninth-inning comeback, the Rangers would trail the series 3-0.

The Rangers have led in one of 27 innings, and perhaps the most troubling aspect of the series is that the Cardinals outbashed them in their own park.

Wow.

Didn't see that coming, did you? Me either.

But the Cardinals ripped the Rangers' pitching staff for 11 runs and nine hits during the fourth, fifth and sixth innings.

Twice, they batted around.

In the process, they ripped the cloak of invincibility off star reliever Ogando, scoring four runs off him in one-third of an inning after the Rangers had pulled within two runs.

Batters are 5-for-9 (.556) off Ogando in the World Series after going 4-for-37 (.108) against him in the first two rounds of the postseason.

Don't be fooled by the final score. Even in a blowout, the Cardinals made big plays.

Holliday threw Napoli out at the plate in the fourth inning, completing a double play and keeping the score 5-3. In the fifth inning, Kinsler popped out to short with two out and the bases loaded and the Rangers trailing 8-6.

Understand, it would be foolish to count out the resilient Rangers.

They haven't lost consecutive games since Aug. 23-25 against the Boston Red Sox, a span of 43 games. They scored a league-leading 7.64 runs per game during Holland's regular-season starts.

Plus, this is a club that doesn't get too emotional whether it wins or loses by nine runs.

Still, the Rangers find themselves in the exact situation they were in last year heading into Game 4 of the World Series.

They must win. Or there's no guarantee the Rangers will return to St. Louis.

Jean-Jacques Taylor is a columnist for ESPNDallas.com.

Jean-Jacques Taylor joined ESPNDallas.com in August 2011. A native of Dallas, Taylor spent the past 20 years writing for The Dallas Morning News, where he covered high schools sports, the Texas Rangers and spent 11 seasons covering the Dallas Cowboys before becoming a general columnist in 2006.

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