Tag:Mike Napoli
Posted on: October 25, 2011 2:24 am
 

Overheard: Notes, quotes from World Series Game 5



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers have moved ahead in the World Series, 3-2, and are just one game shy of their first World Series championship. Here are some of the post-game notes and quotes from Rangers Ballpark. Oh, and the picture of Adrian Beltre's home run from his knee is here just because it was funny. No other reason.

• Of the previous 41 World Series that entered Game 5 tied at two, the Game 5 winner went on to win the series 27 times (66 percent). So while it's definitely not over, odds and history are on the Rangers' side.

• "Pujols is going to put it in play, he's a good contact hitter, and they were just starting the runner, 3-2. As soon as I got it, I just got rid of it and put it on the bag." - Rangers catcher Mike Napoli said of the huge strike-him-out-throw-him-out play in the ninth, which seemed to ice the game.

• Remember the Cardinals' "happy flight" mantra? How they were on a huge streak of always flying either home or away coming off a victory. Well, both flights in this World Series are following losses. So now they're having sad flights.

• "It was just a mix up. It was a mix up and on our team, no one gets thrown under the bus, so it was just a mix up." - Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on Allen Craig's attempted stolen base with Albert Pujols at the plate in the seventh. Craig was thrown out by Napoli and then Pujols was intentionally walked. Had Craig made it, Pujols would have been intentionally walked, so it was obviously a mistake. But we know La Russa definitely didn't call for it.

C.J. Wilson walked 19 hitters this postseason, which ties Jaret Wright (1997, Indians) for the most ever. If Wilson comes back in relief in Game 7 -- which he wouldn't rule out when talking to reporters after Game 5 -- he'll have a good shot at dubious history.

• Monday was the birthday for both Arthur Rhodes (42) and Rafeal Furcal (34).

• The Cardinals set a record Monday night. They have made 65 pitching chances in the playoffs this year. The previous high was 62, established by the 2002 Giants. I have to say, I'm shocked Tony La Russa was behind this.

• "Just trying to get something to the outfield, you know, get a sac fly, get that run across the board," Napoli said of his huge two-RBI double. "I was trying to stay short and I got a pitch I could handle over the middle of the plate and put it in the gap."

• "I don't know, I mean, not really," Napoli said when asked if he was surprised to see left-hander Marc Rzepczynski in the game to face him in the bottom of the eighth. "I had Mitch hitting behind me who was a lefty and I didn't really see anyone warming up in the bullpen.

• "I wanna be a complete player," Napoli said when asked about his defense. "I'm trying hard on the defensive side."

• Cowboys great Roger Staubach threw out the first pitch. Did he practice? "I did, yeah. I was throwing really good in practice, you know. But it's a little different on that rubber. It's a downhill slant. I played baseball, so I should have -- I threw it really hard. That was my problem. I probably should have just -- it was a little low. I mean, it wasn't a strike."

• Rangers president Nolan Ryan on Ron Washington's dugout antics: "It's pure. It's not a show. He gets so wrapped up into the game and is so in tune to what's happening that that's just him and his personality reacting to the situation, and the joy that those things bring to him shows."

Derek Holland loves Mario -- of the video game series -- so much so that he has a "Super Mario" balloon likeness in his locker. "He's really fragile, so I just leave him here all the time."

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Posted on: October 25, 2011 1:50 am
Edited on: October 25, 2011 2:26 am
 

Grading Game 5 of the World Series



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers took a pivotal Game 5 of the series with a 4-2 victory Monday night. Let's hand out some grades yet again.

Mike Napoli was obviously an A, but we're already covered him ... twice. There's no need to go overboard with the love-fest, so I'm going off the board. True baseball fans have been winning all series, because it's been an amazing series; one of the best since the epic 2001 clash between the Yankees and Diamondbacks. So we'll give both teams an A for the entertainment so far. Speaking for myself only -- and I still consider myself a fan -- I'd like to thank both teams and tell them to keep it up. This is outstanding. We've had close games, huge hits, great defensive plays, a historic performance by Albert Pujols and a near-historic performance by Derek Holland. I just can't say enough about how great this series has been. And we may get two more games. We'll see, but it's hard to fathom this thing getting boring.

World Series Game 5
A huge reason the Rangers came into the series so hot was the bridge Alexi Ogando and Scott Feldman were providing to the eighth inning. But then both had been bad so far in the World Series -- pretty awful, in fact -- leaving a big question mark on what was supposed to be one of the Rangers' strengths. Maybe the rest provided by Holland in Game 4 helped, because while neither were sparkling Monday night, the decent outings had to be encouraging. Ogando allowed two hits and three walks in his inning, but two of those walks were intentional and his stuff looked more crisp. Feldman gave up a hit upon entering the game, but then got two big outs to end a threat, including a big strikeout.

The Rangers' defense has seemed a bit fickle this entire series, even if you can tell how much ability they have. The bad and good pretty much cancelled each other out Monday. David Murphy couldn't pick up a ball in the second, allowing Lance Berkman to advance to third. Then Berkman scored because Mitch Moreland botched what probably should have been a double-play ball. Of course, Murphy then made a spectacular diving catch to get out of the inning. Next inning, Moreland and C.J. Wilson teamed up to look like the Bad News Bears on a Furcal single, but a beautiful double play ended the inning. Later in the game, Elvis Andrus should have robbed Yadier Molina of a hit with an incredible across-the-body jump and throw, but Moreland couldn't dig the throw at first. But then in the seventh and the ninth, Napoli hosed Allen Craig at second on stolen base attempts.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa claims he called for "Motte" and not "Lynn" in the eighth inning, but, in the noise of the ballpark, the bullpen coach inadvertently heard "Lynn" and got the wrong guy up to throw. So La Russa didn't have the guy he wanted ready to face Napoli in that huge spot in the bottom of the eighth. He wanted Jason Motte, but Lance Lynn was in the bullpen. So La Russa kept left-hander Marc Rzepcyznski out there, who gave up the game-losing double. Considering Washington said "yes, I've had that happen before," about the phone gaffe, we'll grant La Russa a pass and only give him a D for the mishap. Still, isn't there something the Cardinals could have done there instead of letting a left-handed specialist face one of the most dangerous hitters in the lineup?

The Cardinals ability to take advantage of baserunners was abysmal. They left 12 men on base, including eight in scoring position. They also had Craig thrown out twice on stolen base attempts. Seven hits, nine walks and a hit-by-pitch ... and two runs is all you come up with? That's awful. Easiest F I've ever given. Matt Holliday, if I can single someone out, needs to bring a lot more to the table, or Pujols isn't going to see a pitch worth swinging at the rest of the series.

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 11:40 pm
Edited on: October 25, 2011 2:34 am
 

Napoli's double puts Texas one win from title



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Rangers beat the Cardinals, 4-2, to take Game 5 of the World Series and a 3-2 lead overall.

Hero: Mike Napoli gave the Cardinals a huge scare in the bottom of the sixth inning, hitting what had a chance to be a three-run homer, but it nestled into Skip Schumaker's glove on the warning track. Disaster was averted, but only temporarily. In the bottom of the eight, Napoli came to the plate with the bases loaded and delivered a two-RBI double, putting the Rangers on top for the first time all game. Let us not forget that Napoli also gunned down Allen Craig on a stolen base attempt in the top of the seventh with Albert Pujols at the plate

World Series Game 5
Goat: Several choices here, but let's go with Tony La Russa. He said it himself earlier in the series when he was getting heaps of credit for his tinkering, that praise and blame is based upon the players. So it's only fair to note that he left in a left-handed pitcher -- Marc Rzepcyznski -- to face Napoli in that pivotal eighth-inning at-bat. La Russa is so in love with matchups he brought in a right-handed Ryan Theriot to bunt against left-handed Darren Oliver the previous inning.

Turning point: Napoli's double in the gap.

It was over when ... The final out was recorded. It was a two-run lead heading into the ninth, sure, but Rangers' closer Neftali Feliz had to deal with the Cardinals' 2-3-4 hitters. So by no means was the ballgame over until it was officially over.

Next: We shift back to St. Louis for Game 6 -- where the weather is supposed to suck (sigh). We'll be treated to a rematch of what was a brilliant pitcher's duel, and defensive display for that matter, between Jaime Garcia of St. Louis and Colby Lewis of Texas. The next Rangers win will be a championship, while the Cardinals need to win both to take the crown.

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Posted on: October 24, 2011 2:46 am
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Posted on: October 24, 2011 2:31 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 4:06 pm
 

Overheard: Notes, quotes from World Series Game 4



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The story was Derek Holland, but the Rangers gave a full team effort Sunday night in evening up the World Series at two wins apiece. Here are some of the post-game notes and quotes from Rangers Ballpark.

Mike Napoli will get plenty of credit for his offense this series, and rightfully so. But I was thinking ... back in Los Angeles, Angels manager Mike Scioscia used to justify playing Jeff Mathis over Napoli on a regular basis because of "catcher's ERA." You know, the ERA of the pitching staff with a certain catcher behind the plate. It's one of the main reasons the Angels let Napoli's bat go. Napoli's catcher's ERA this World Series? 1.38. Yorvit Torrealba's? 13.00. Of course it's a small sample, but it's worth noting: The Rangers pitchers don't exactly seem to get worse with Napoli behind the plate.

World Series
Something you didn't see on TV: The Rangers took the field in the top of the ninth inning without a pitcher for a while. Eventually, Holland emerged from the dugout and the crowd erupted.

• "I've seen it before, this was not the first dominant outing that Derek Holland had," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. Fellow starter Colby Lewis expressed the same sentiment in the locker room to a reporter who asked if it was the best Holland's ever pitched. People seem to be either forgetting or just ignorant to the fact that Holland threw four shutouts this year, including three in July. This wasn't the worst pitcher ever finding some magic out of the blue. It was just Holland digging deep and pitching to his potential.

• "If you wanna stay out here, you get on your knees." - Washington, on what he said to Holland when removing him from the game in the ninth. A complete-game shutout from Holland would have marked the first World Series shutout from an AL pitcher since Jack Morris in 1991.

• It's no secret Lance Berkman is a much better hitter from the left side of the plate, but it's been a different story in the World Series. He's evidently locked in from both sides of the plate. going 4-for-8 as a right-hander and 3-for-7 as a left-hander.

• "He worked us over, give him credit." - Cardinals manager Tony La Russa on Holland's performance.

• The 51,539 in attendance were a Rangers Ballpark season high, and the seventh-most in stadium history.

• "I wanted to execute all my pitches, that was the main thing," said Holland. "I wanted to go after these hitters. I wanted to show that I belong here. That was the main thing, I wanna make a name for myself. At the same time, I wanna get momentum back on our side."

• "I was looking up, and I got a pitch up that I could handle," Napoli said of his three-run shot.

• "I thought it was a double play waiting to happen," La Russa said of bringing in Mitchell Boggs to face Napoli.

• Napoli became the first catcher with a multi-homer World Series since Mike Piazza of the Mets did so in 2000.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 2:22 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 2:49 am
 

Grading Game 3 of the World Series



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's grading time once again, as the Cardinals won 16-7 in Game 3 of the 2011 World Series. They now hold a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7. Let's give out some grades.

The Cardinals offense pounded out 15 hits -- including four home runs and three doubles -- while also drawing six walks. That means they hit .357 with a .438 on-base percentage and a .714 slugging percentage in the game. There's going to be a lot of attention on Albert Pujols -- and with damn good reason -- but it wasn't just him. Yadier Molina had two doubles and four RBI while Lance Berkman and David Freese both had multi-hit games. Jon Jay was the only starter who failed to gather a hit. And let us not forget Allen Craig got the scoring started with a home run in the first. By the way, this is an A+. Maybe even an A++ (do they still give those in elementary school?).

You can't give an A to a player from the losing team, so we'll throw Adrian Beltre here. His day was lost in the shuffle because he didn't hit a home run or make an awful defensive play, but Beltre had a great game. He went 4-for-5 with a double, an RBI, two runs and his usual silky-smooth defense.

We can't exactly say Lance Lynn was great, because he wasn't. In just 2 1/3 innings, Lynn gave up three hits, two walks, one run and allowed an inherited runner to score. But following Kyle Lohse and Fernando Salas meltdowns, Lynn needed to get some outs. At least he did the job of holding down the mighty Rangers offense just enough through the middle innings, giving the Cardinals' offense the chance to put this game out of reach. So, hey, we'll throw Lynn a C.

You can't give an F to a player on the winning team, but c'mon Jon Jay. Your teammates pound out 15 hits, 16 runs, three doubles and four home runs and you can't even manage a measly single? Jay went 0-for-5 with a strikeout, and is surely being roundly mocked by his teammates for his lackluster day on such an opportune night to fatten the stat line.

The Rangers take pride in their defense. They like the fact that they make things easier on their pitchers. Several players in the locker room told me as much after the defense probably won Game 2 for them. A great argument could be made that it cost them Game 3, or at least cost them a chance to keep up with Pujols and Co. Whine about the bad call all you want, Rangers fans, but Ian Kinsler's throw made it possible. Kinsler also had an error earlier in the game, just as Elvis Andrus did later in the contest. Mike Napoli's awful throw home, meanwhile, is what broke the game wide open for St. Louis.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 1:44 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:03 am
 

Bad call? Yes. Reason for Rangers loss? No



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Other than the rightful praise of Albert Pujols and the Cardinals offense after a 16-7 shellacking of the Rangers in Game 3 of the World Series, the story gaining the most traction among fans is the blown call by umpire Ron Kulpa in the top of the fourth inning. Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday hit a routine double-play ball, but Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler made an errant throw to first base. Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli made the catch and a swipe tag.

“We ran into each other, I don’t know whether he tagged me or not," Holliday said afterward. "I didn’t watch it. All I know is we ran into each other and I ended up on the ground, so I don’t know.”

Replays showed Napoli clearly tagged Holliday, but Kulpa called him safe. He even admitted the mistake after the game.

"I saw a replay when I walked off the field, and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag," he said.

World Series, Game 3
Had the correct call been made, the Cardinals would have had two outs with no one on base. Instead, the floodgates were opened and the Rangers would never recover -- even if they tried with two big innings.

"He looked like he tagged him before he reached the base from my point of view," Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said. "I wasn’t sure until I saw the replay. He was out, but he called him safe and I just had to move on."

Only the entire complexion of the game had been changed. Harrison and the Rangers' defense melted down. It was 5-0 before the inning ended. Sure, the final score was 16-7, but what if the Rangers got the correct call and escaped the inning down 1-0? And then took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth? That's a completely different game.

“I don’t think it did (harm the Rangers) psychologically, no, but the game could have turned out differently," Harrison said.  "That’s four runs that inning, so if he woulda called him out there they may or may not have scored that inning.”

"You gotta move past that," Napoli said. "We had a chance to get out of the inning, but we didn't make the plays we had to."

Napoli himself was among the culprits. It was just 2-0 when Napoli made a terrible throw to home, letting in two more runs before Harrison coughed up an RBI single to Ryan Theriot, completing the scoring for the inning. And it was Harrison who gave up a single and double following the botched call. And don't forget that the bad call was only made possible by Ian Kinsler's bad throw. If he makes a good throw, the call is an easy out. So that inning was the Rangers' fault.

"We had more chances after that," Napoli added. "We came back and scored three runs that inning. We had more chances after that, too."

"We didn't lose because of the call."

And he's right. Even if you take that four-run inning off the board, the Rangers were outscored 12-7 in Game 3. We can talk about momentum or shifts in psyche or anything else fictional and hypothetical if you want. It simply has no factual basis and, thus, no relevance.

The bottom line is that two things beat the Rangers Saturday night: The Rangers and the Cardinals. Blaming one call is a very convenient excuse and ignores the bad defense and pitching, not to mention the Cardinals' offensive explosion. Give Napoli credit for being accountable and refusing to blame the entire game on one call in the fourth inning. One call doesn't cost a team a game in which they lost by nine.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 12:10 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:11 am
 

Pujols, Cardinals slug way to Game 3 win



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cardinals have taken Game 3 of the World Series from the Rangers, 16-7, and now hold a 2-1 lead.

Hero: As if there was any other choice. After a bad Game 2 and a slight media controversy, Albert Pujols went utterly ballistic. The line: 5-for-6 with three home runs, four runs and six RBI. It was only the eighth three home-run game in postseason history, and only the third in the World Series.
World Series, Game 3

Goat: The Rangers pitching and defense was huge in Game 2 and it totally faltered in Game 3. We're not going to single anyone out, but you can pick from this group: Ian Kinsler, Mike Napoli, Matt Harrison, Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando or even Elvis Andrus (OK, maybe not, but he had no business making an error on a routine play, and that runner did come around to score).

Turning point: It's gotta be Kinsler's throw/the blown call. There's no way of knowing how the game goes if Kinsler makes a decent throw or if Ron Kulpa makes the correct call, but the Cardinals took full advantage and led the rest of the way.

It was over when ... Pujols crushed an Ogando pitch into the upper deck. That three-run bomb gave the Cardinals an 11-6 lead in the top of the 6th. When it was 8-6, the game was certainly in doubt. In fact, it felt like the Rangers would come back and eight runs wouldn't be enough. But Pujols' prodigious blast put the game out of reach. Or, to better sum up how the Rangers fans felt on this homer, check out the Rangers sitting behind the plate.



Next: We'll do it again Sunday night in Game 4. Edwin Jackson is set to take the hill for the Cardinals while Derek Holland is pitching for Texas. As with the Game 3 slugfest, don't expect it to come down to the starters. As we just witnessed, this is an offensive park. First pitch at 7:05 p.m. CT. Don't miss it.



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