Print and Go Back ESPN.com: Wojciechowski [Print without images]

Sunday, October 23, 2011
A schizophrenic World Series

By Gene Wojciechowski
ESPN.com

ARLINGTON, Texas -- This World Series needs a shrink and a leather couch. It has a severe personality disorder.

How does it make me feel? Here's how …

Just when you're sure the St. Louis Cardinals are on the brink of a breakthrough, they break down.

Just when you're sure the Texas Rangers are on the brink of a breakdown, they break through.

I have no idea what this World Series is yet, but whatever it is, it's going six games for sure and a full seven if the Cards and Rangers keep suffering from baseball schizophrenia. And good luck trying to pick a winner. I'll stick with St. Louis, but only because my head hurts from trying to figure these guys out.

Mike Napoli
Mike Napoli delivered the key blow in the sixth inning, depositing the first pitch from Mitchell Boggs into the left-field seats for a three-run homer.

Sunday night, a 25-year-old left-hander with a mustache in serious need of Rogaine, pitched the Rangers back into this Series and in a few days, back to St. Louis. Derek Holland evened everything with a 4-0 Game 4 win at the Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, causing team president Nolan Ryan and former U.S. president George W. to trade awkward high-fives at their primo seats.

Holland, who lasted 8 1/3 innings while giving up just two hits, was almost as overpowering as Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols was a night earlier when he hit three dingers in a 16-7 St. Louis stompfest.

"Well, I would just say that he worked us over,'' Cards manager Tony La Russa said.

At this point, we're all worked over. Four games have come and gone and the Series is still running in place. If it were a NASCAR race, the Cardinals and Rangers would be drafting each other every other lap. You go. No, you go. No, you.

Somebody is going to be spraying champagne later this week. Whoever it is will be spraying it in St. Louis. What amounts to a best-of-three series begins Monday evening here, followed by a travel day and followed by who knows what at Busch Stadium on Wednesday and possibly Thursday nights.

"I think it's got a ton of personality,'' Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said of this Series so far. "I just don't know how to describe it.''

Exactly. That's because neither the Rangers nor Cardinals can get enough pine tar on these games. They keep losing their grip after a win.

St. Louis won Game 1.

Texas won Game 2, but only after the Cardinals were three outs away from a 2-0 series lead.

St. Louis won Game 3 with the kind of run production that supposedly was going to intimidate the Rangers into submission.

So, of course, Texas won Game 4 in a shutout.

"It's been very good games, classic games,'' Kinsler said. "[The 16-7] was such a weird game. After the first two -- 3-2, 2-1 -- then 16-7, 4-nothing. It just shows what these two teams are capable of and why we're both in the World Series.''

It does? Laura Bush, the former First Lady, could have stroked a double to the gap against Rangers pitching on Saturday night. But a night later, Holland is channeling his inner idol -- Andy Pettitte -- and holding the Cardinals to zilch. St. Louis goes from 16 runs, 15 hits and those record-tying three homers by Pujols to crickets chirping in Game 4. Pujols was hitless. Every St. Louis player was, except Lance Berkman.

"Good pitching is always going to stop good hitting,'' La Russa said. "Keep the ball out of the middle.''

The Rangers got good-to-great pitching from Holland, while the Cardinals got decent-to-uh-oh pitching from starter Edwin Jackson (seven walks). La Russa pulled Jackson in the sixth inning, brought in Mitchell Boggs and had barely made his way down the dugout stairs when the reliever gave up a first-pitch home run to Mike Napoli.

"Well, it looked like it was a bad decision,'' La Russa said.

Nah. Instead, it fits the profile of this World Series. Momentum lasts until the start of the next game.

The Rangers still haven't lost back-to-back games during the postseason. In fact, they haven't lost consecutive games since Aug. 23-24-25.

"I always preach to them, it's not always the best team that wins, it's the team that plays the best on that day -- and today we were better,'' Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "I'm not even thinking about tomorrow until it gets here.''

So that's it, eh? That's why this Series has stopped and started like someone is pulling its emergency brake. It has been four games of very short memories. The starting pitching is good. The starting pitching is gruesome.

Mascot
The Rangers raised a flag in Game 4 of the World Series, but they had no intention of surrendering.

The bullpens are in lockdown mode. The bullpens are in slo-pitch softball mode.

Pujols has five hits, three homers and 14 total bases in a single game. Pujols takes the collar.

Washington can't make a right move. Washington can't make a bad move. Same for La Russa.

It's bone-chilling cold in St. Louis. It's pleasantly warm in Texas.

Opposites attract, I guess.

Chris Carpenter, who has won his past three postseason stars, pitches Monday evening. He'll face soon-to-be free agent C.J. Wilson, who is 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA in the playoffs. The stats say Carpenter, but the personality of this Series shrugs its shoulders in confusion.

"If you want to choose somebody from the St. Louis Cardinals to pitch that game, it's Chris,'' La Russa said.

Under normal circumstances, yes. But this World Series is anything but normal.

Back to the couch it goes to get its head examined. I'll go with Carpenter in Game 5.

Call me crazy.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

MORE COMMENTARY