12:02 AM Eastern
The Texas Rangers got up off the mat and scored a pair of runs in the ninth inning to beat the Cardinals 2-1 and turn this World Series into a best-of-5, the next three games of which will be played in the Lone Star State.
The Rangers became the first team to win a World Series game after trailing going into the 9th inning since the Arizona Diamondbacks came back on Mariano Rivera and the Yankees in Game Seven of the 2001 Fall Classic.
They did it by taking what the Cards gave them.
Jaime Garcia pitched a brilliant seven innings of three-hit shutout and then watched as, for the second straight night, Allen Craig lined a pinch-hit single to right field off Alexi Ogando with two out to give St. Louis the lead. In Game One, it happened in the 6th and broke a 2-2 tie, this time it happened in the 7th and opened the scoring.
After Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski combined to throw a perfect 8th, the Cards took that 1-0 lead into the top of the 9th, needing three outs against the top of the Rangers’ order to take a two games to none lead as they hit the road.
On came closer Jason Motte, who took the role at the end of August, was good on 9 of 10 save opportunities in the regular season, and who through the post-season had been almost perfect, allowing just one baserunner in nine innings of work.
The Cardinals went into the “no-doubles” defense, pushing the outfielders back to prevent a deep fly ball from falling in for an extra-base hit. It’s kind of like the “prevent” defense in football, and there’s a famous line that the only thing that the prevent defense prevents in wins.
In this case, Ian Kinsler led off with a shallow fly ball to left-centre that would have been caught with a normal defensive alignment, but instead fell in for a leadoff single. Kinsler then stole second when Motte was slow to the plate, and Elvis Andrus lined a single to centre. He hit it too hard for Kinsler to score (especially down a run with nobody out and the 3-4-5 hitters due up), but Albert Pujols couldn’t cut off Jon Jay’s throw home properly, allowing Andrus to move up to second.
That brought a hobbled Josh Hamilton to the plate, with the Cardinals desperately needing a strikeout (or two) to hold on to the lead. So Tony LaRussa took out the guy who throws 98 miles an hour and went to his second-best bullpen lefty, Arthur Rhodes, who whiffed just 21 in 33 innings pitched this season.
Motte had given up a couple of hits, but one was a bloop. He’s the guy who gets strikeouts (8.3 per 9 inn. this season) and Hamilton, who the Rangers admitted before the game wouldn’t have been playing if it wasn’t the World Series, isn’t currently that threat that requires a left-handed pitcher to face him. But it’s in his blood, LaRussa can’t help matching up in big spots. Huge point in the game, lefty in the batter’s box, he must bring in a left-handed pitcher.
Rhodes threw one pitch, Hamilton hit it deep enough to right field for a sac fly, game tied. On came Lance Lynn to give up another fly ball to right, this one from Michael Young, and the Rangers had the lead for the first time in the Series.
Texas went to closer Neftali Feliz, and Yadier Molina worked him for a leadoff walk. Actually, it didn’t require much work, Feliz was all over the place. Nick Punto was next, and was sent up to bunt the tying run into scoring position. Punto bunted at ball one and fouled it off. He then bunted at another ball and couldn’t get it. With the count 0-2, the bunt was off and Punto swung and missed at a pitch that was nowhere near the plate. If he had just stood there with the bat on his shoulder the whole time, the count would have been 3-0 and Feliz would have been going nuts, having missed badly on seven out of eight pitches, trying to figure out why he couldn’t throw a strike. Instead, Punto was out, Feliz found his legs, and then struck out Skip Schumaker and got Rafael Furcal to fly out to end the game.
Tony LaRussa was hailed as a genius in Game One because Ron Washington used Esteban German instead of Yorvit Torrealba (tonight Washington used both, and Zep got them both). This time, LaRussa may have outfoxed himself. Now the Cardinals have to win at least once in Texas in order to get the Series back to St. Louis.
I’ll be surprised if they don’t. Despite the difference in their run differentials over the course of the season, right now these two teams look pretty evenly matched, and the Cardinals have a DH-type bat that they can put into the line-up in Craig, while the Rangers don’t really gain a big bat since they’ll use either Torrealba or Mitch Moreland, who is 2-for-19 in the playoffs and had been benched in the ALCS.
It’s been a terrific series so far, and I’m looking forward to the rest of it, however long it goes!
It’s also been a terrific run of Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Shows, and the latest featured Jose Bautista, live from the Dominican Republic! Here’s the show, for your listening pleasure:
The Series gets a travel day, so we’ll be back at it on Saturday night, with the Blue Jay A Day Pre-Game Show starting at 7:00 PM. Not sure who the guest will be yet, but we do know that Brett Lawrie will be on before Monday night’s Game Five to take your calls! Keep your eye on my Twitter feed (@wilnerness590) to find out who Saturday night’s guest will be as soon as I know!
Then the game, of course, which will feature Rangers’ lefty Matt Harrison against Cards’ righty Kyle Lohse, who had an amazing season in the National League. He doesn’t seem to me like someone who will likely last all that long against a tough AL line-up. We shall see.
Rational, reasonable comments are always welcome!