1:09 AM Eastern
The St. Louis Cardinals took the World Series opener, Allen Craig broke a 2-2 tie with a two-out pinch-single in the bottom of the 6th and the Cards’ bullpen held tight the rest of the way.
Chris Carpenter threw six innings, becoming the first Cardinals’ starter to work more than five since he himself did it in throwing a complete-game shutout to end the first round 12 days prior, the only damage he allowed was a two-run homer to Mike Napoli. Almost as important as his six strong innings, though, was an incredible defensive play Carpenter made in the first. With one out, Elvis Andrus hit a grounder into the hole between first and second and Albert Pujols ranged to his right to pick it up, then fired wild to Carpenter covering, as he led his pitcher too much. Carpenter dove headlong, full out, to snare the throw and slid into first base, glove-first, to get the out. It was an incredible defensive play, one I’ve never seen a pitcher make before, and even though it’s not going to happen, I might have given Carpenter the World Series MVP right there and then.
As it stands, Craig has the early lead, or maybe Lance Berkman does – the Cards’ rightfielder, also known as Fat Elvis, went 2-for-4, his first hit a chopper over first that drove in a pair of runs.
The Cards’ bullpen was terrific, only slightly moreso than the Rangers’, with five relievers combining to throw three innings of one-hitter, walking one. Those two baserunners were allowed back-to-back with one out in the 7th, by Fernando Salas, leading to Marc Rzepczynski’s first-ever World Series appearance. Zep came on with David Murphy and then the pitcher’s spot due up, and though he’s been used as a lefty-killer this post-season, it was pretty apparent that he’d have to face a pair of right-handed hitters in this spot.
The weird part was the righties that he wound up facing – Craig Gentry and Esteban German. Gentry was expected, since he platoons with Murphy he’s the guy who almost always pinch-hits for him. Also, had Yorvit Torrealba (4-for-9 in the ALCS) hit for Murphy and reached base, Gentry would almost certainly have been used to pinch-run, so you save a bullet.
Gentry struck out, and then German came up, not Torrealba. Now, German is a .280 career hitter in parts of ten big-league seasons, and that goes up to .292 (with a .783 OPS) against lefties, and he did hit .455/.462/.818 in 13 plate appearances as a September call-up after a very successful season at AAA Round Rock. He’s no big-league neophyte, to be sure. But the last time Esteban German came to the plate in any situation other than batting practice was on September 25th, almost a month ago. Torrealba, on the other hand (despite a .612 OPS against lefties this season), went 4-for-9 in the just-concluded ALCS, so he might have been just a little sharper.
A lot was made of the decision to use German, but it’s defensible if seemingly a huge reach. The question is, if the Rangers aren’t going to use Torrealba in that spot, why carry a third catcher? That’s the biggest thing that jumps out at me. And yet, there sits Matt Treanor, the luckiest man in the world, able to be used as a back-up to the back-up catcher, for situations just like this, one would think. Weird.
German, not terribly unpredictably, looked awful in striking out on three pitches. But if he gets a hit and ties the game, Washington is a genius, much like Tony LaRussa is being hailed as one for using Craig to hit for Carpenter in the 6th, which was really his only move.
Say what you will about the in-depth strategy that’s needed to manage in the National League but come on – when you’re in a tie game in the bottom of the 6th, with two on, two out and the pitcher coming up, you’re an idiot if you don’t pinch-hit. And when there’s a lefty on the mound and you have a guy on the bench who hit .313/.343/.657 against lefties, that’s the guy you use. Genius.
So congrats to the Cardinals – teams that win the World Series opener have taken 12 of the last 14 Fall Classics. The Rangers are looking for a split on the road, and their big right-handed boppers Ian Kinsler, Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre and Mike Napoli get a chance to face southpaw Jaime Garcia in Game Two. Colby Lewis will oppose.
Before the game, we had the pleasure of having the Blue Jays manager as our guest on The Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show. John Farrell is the first Jays’ skipper who has ever appeared on the program, taking calls, and he was – as expected – terrific! Here’s the show, for your listening pleasure:
Make sure to join us at 7:00 PM Eastern Thursday night along the Fan Radio Network when our Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Guest will be none other than Jose Bautista, taking your phone calls!
Please give me a follow on The Twitter, you can find me @wilnerness590.
You might also want to check out dynastyleaguebaseball.com – that’s the website of the simulation game on which I pre-played the World Series. It’s a tremendous game, a great way to play manager. In my simulation, the Rangers won in six, but they did take Game One 17-0 with C.J. Wilson taking a no-hitter into the 9th. Hey, it’s not perfect, but it’s fun, and if you simulated 100,000 World Series or so, you’d have a good chance of picking the winner when it’s all said and done.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!