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Tag:2011 playoffs
Posted on: October 22, 2011 9:35 pm
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:04 am
 

Bad call, defense open door to huge inning



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- It all started so innocently. Albert Pujols hit a rocket single to left field, but that isn't really surprising. Then Matt Holliday hit what should have been a double play. Had it been completed, the Rangers would have been facing Lance Berkman with the bases empty and two outs, trailing by just one.

But Ian Kinsler made an errant throw and Mike Napoli was ruled to have not tagged Holliday. Replays showed Napoli was correct, and that it was a blown call by first base umpire Ron Kulpa. Also note that Holliday was knocked off balance by the tag, and fell down as he crossed the bag. He doesn't usually just fall down when running through first base.

Here's a good GIF, courtesy of SB Nation:



And everything came unraveled from there.

World Series, Game 3
Berkman singled. David Freese doubled in one. The Rangers intentionally walked Yadier Molina. It was 2-0 at the time, and a decent deficit could have been salvaged. And then the defense faltered.

Mike Napoli, a catcher by trade, was playing first base. Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay hit a weak grounder to Napoli, who made an off-balanced, errant throw to the plate, allowing two runs to score. Ryan Theriot then followed with an RBI single.

Just like that, it was 5-0 Cardinals through 3 1/2 innings.

There were three mistakes in the Cardinals' half of the inning. Two by the Rangers' defense and one by the first base umpire. It's likely the home fans will mainly remember the one by the umpire, but should realize their defense needed to have a better inning, too. It's also worth mention that Kulpa was the umpire at second who made the great safe call on Kinsler's big ninth-inning Game 2 stolen base.

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 8:25 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 8:44 pm
 

Craig continues hot World Series

Allen Craig

By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Cardinals pinch-hitter/outfielder Allen Craig was the hero of Game 1. He would have been the hero of Game 2, had the Rangers' not mounted a ninth-inning comeback.

And he's already made a huge impact on Game 3. In the first inning, Craig got a pretty fat pitch from Matt Harrison and planted it into the left-field seats in Rangers Ballpark, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead after one inning. After his first at-bat in Game 1, he's 3 for 3 with 3 RBI in the World Sieres and hitting .333/.440/.714 in the postseason, with two homers and six batted in.

The difference in this game, though, is that it's being played at 2011's top hitter's park in conditions almost ideal for hitters. One run isn't going to cut it. Still, the Craig story this postseason continues to grow.

Follow along live on CBSportscom's GameTracker

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Posted on: October 22, 2011 3:31 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 4:01 pm
 

Game 3 weather: In-game rain delay possible



By Matt Snyder


ARLINGTON, Texas -- Too bad they don't do day games for the World Series anymore. As evidenced by these pictures -- taken by yours truly -- it is absolutely gorgeous outside Saturday afternoon in Arlington. The conditions for playing baseball couldn't be more perfect.

Unfortunately, that could change during the actual game, which doesn't start until 7:05 p.m. CT. From Weather.com:

"There doesn't appear to be any heavy rain concerns, but an isolated shower or thunderstorm could make an appearance during the game. Temperatures should hover in the 70s and winds shouldn't be too much of a factor, outside of shifting winds surrounding thunderstorms."

So here's the reality: We are not looking at a game broken up into two different days, which would then eliminate the off day, forcing travel headaches. That's the good news. Instead, it appears the worst-case scenario -- assuming the forecast is correct -- is a delay or two with the game still being completed. So it's bad news, but not horrible. Game 4 should still be Sunday night and Tuesday will still be the off-day, assuming the series doesn't conclude in five games.

Also, with the warm weather compared to what it was in St. Louis -- not to mention the presence of the designated hitter -- I fully expect the offenses to get back on track, just as I said in the Game 3 preview.

Let's just cross our fingers that we avoid extended delays.

View from the field at 2:00 p.m. CT:



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Posted on: October 21, 2011 9:49 pm
Edited on: October 22, 2011 4:04 pm
 

World Series Game 3: Offense on the way



By Matt Snyder


Rangers at Cardinals, 8:05 p.m. ET, Rangers Ballpark, Arlington, Texas. Series is tied 1-1.

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Can two slumping offenses magically reappear to what they were heading into the World Series? Of course they can, simply by taking the flight from St. Louis to Dallas-Fort Worth. First of all, the temperature will be about 20 degrees higher, give or take a few. Secondly, Rangers Ballpark in Arlington was the top offensive stadium in the majors for both runs scored and home runs this season, while Busch Stadium rated out as a pretty significant pitcher's park this year.

The Cardinals aren't denying the difference.

"The ball does carry here, and you're going to have some danger if you don't hit your spots," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said Friday in Arlington.

"It's a tough place to pitch, especially when you see those flags blowing in," said St. Louis' Game 3 starter Kyle Lohse. "It usually means that jet stream is going out to right-center. I think everyone in the league knows that. Coming in you've got to keep the ball down, especially against this lineup."

Oh, and of course the pitchers look a bit different. While we've seen recent struggles from C.J. Wilson of the Rangers and Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals, there wasn't much question the two had the ability to provide some quality innings. Colby Lewis has a great postseason history and Chris Carpenter is, well, Chris Carpenter. So when you factor in the weather and ballpark, it shouldn't seem a complete shock that the first two games were mostly a pitcher's paradise. The Game 3 starters aren't awful by any stretch, but they're a step down from what we saw in the first two games. And the conditions for them are the complete opposite of what the pitchers had in St. Louis.

Simply: The scoreboard operator is likely to be busy. 

World Series Coverage
PITCHING MATCHUP

Harrison vs. Cardinals:
The 26-year-old left-hander was 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.28 WHIP this season and he's 1-0 with a 4.22 ERA in two postseason starts. Like I said, he doesn't suck. He has never faced the Cardinals and no St. Louis hitter of relevance has a large enough sample size to draw any conclusions.

Lohse vs. Rangers: The 33-year-old right-hander was 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA and 1.17 WHIP this season. Eerily similar numbers to Harrison.

In 52 2/3 career innings against the Rangers, Lohse has been dreadful. He has a 6.66 ERA, 1.67 WHIP and has coughed up 14 homers.

But.

He hasn't seen them since 2006 or gotten hit hard by the Rangers since 2005. He doesn't really know these Rangers well, other than Michael Young. Young vs. Lohse has taken place 31 times. Young is hitting just .233 off Lohse, but four of his seven hits are of the extra-base variety, including three homers. Adrian Beltre has homered of Lohse, but it's his only hit in nine tries. Ian Kinsler is 0-for-2 and Mike Napoli is 0-for-5. 

LINEUPS

Cardinals Rangers
No. Name Pos No. Name Pos
1 Rafael Furcal SS 1 Ian Kinsler 2B
2 Allen Craig RF 2 Elvis Andrus SS
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 Josh Hamilton CF
4 Matt Holliday LF 4 Michael Young DH
5 Lance Berkman DH 5 Adrian Beltre 3B
6 David Freese 3B 6 Nelson Cruz RF
7 Yadier Molina C 7 Mike Napoli 1B
8 Jon Jay CF 8 David Murphy LF
9 Ryan Theriot 2B 9 Yorvit Torrealba C
SP Kyle Lohse RHP SP Matt Harrison LHP


NOTES

• With Harrison being left-handed, that means switch-hitting Lance Berkman will be hitting from the right side of the plate. Berkman hit .307 with a .998 OPS left-handed this season, but just .277 and .804 as a right-hander. Berkman is 0-for-3 against Harrison in his career.

• It's worth noting that Harrison's ERA during the regular season was nearly a run worse at home than on the road.

• Lohse has been terrible this postseason, racking up 13 hits and eight earned runs in just 9 2/3 innings pitched across two starts. And he now gets to face a better offense in a better hitter's park. 

• Cardinals supersub Allen Craig is 5-for-10 with a home run and five RBI in the NLCS and World Series. He's now going to be in the lineup for three games as things shift to the AL ballpark, with Craig taking right field and Berkman moving to DH. That is a huge advantage for the Cardinals, as they add Craig's bat to the lineup while the Rangers only get to add either Mitch Moreland or Yorvit Torrealba. So the designated hitter rule ends up helping the National League team, who is only using it because the American League team is at home. Definitely an interesting twist as the games shift to Texas for three.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:35 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 2:09 am
 

Overheard: Notes, quotes from World Series Game 2

Jason Motte

By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- The Rangers came through in the ninth inning offensively and all game with pitching and defense. The result was a 2-1 victory, and the series is now tied as it shifts to Texas for three games. Here are some of the post-game notes and quotes from Busch Stadium.

• "I knew there was a lot of talk about the starting pitching not being up to par, but I'll tell you, these last two (games), I think the starting pitching has shown what they're capable of doing." - Rangers manager Ron Washington.

Elvis Andrus' big single in the ninth broke an 0-for-8 mini-slump.
World Series Game 2

• "I've got to say those of you that have bad hearts, watch yourself." - Washington on the drama in the series thus far.

• "They caught a break with a blooper, but after that they did some good classic baseball stuff to make two guys come around and score. They deserve credit for how they played in the ninth inning offensively." Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

• "No, not really. You know, load the bases, that's a really difficult thing to do," La Russa said, when asked if he considered walking Hamilton in the ninth and keeping Motte in the game. "We thought we could get -- we had a chance to do something with Hamilton with Rhodes, maybe they score a run but they don't advance the other guy, and he did a good job. That's what I'm telling you, he pulled a ball, so he got a run in, got a guy over and Young did a very good job getting the ball to the outfield. I don't think walking him there would have made it easier for us. I think it would have made it tougher."

Jaime Garcia of the Cardinals was the first Mexican-born starting pitcher in the World Series since Fernando Valenzuela took the ball for the Dodgers in 1981.

Ian Kinsler, when asked about how safe he was on his late stolen base: "Enough. I mean, my hand just barely got in there. It took everything I had. Yadier made an unbelievable throw, quick, on the money, and I was just able to get my hand in there."

• Remember, the Rangers lost Game 1 of the ALDS and then went on to win five straight games over the course of two series.

• The Cardinals are 4-2 on the road this postseason.

• "If he tells me he can play, I'm putting him in the field. All I can say is I know my players better than you guys." - Washington, responding to the sentiment from some that Josh Hamilton shouldn't be playing.

• "Up and down our lineup our guys want to win ballgames, and it doesn't matter if we're down five runs or we're up five runs. We have the attitude of, you know what, until the last pitch is thrown, last out is made, we're going to keep fighting. You know, you can't really say why that is other than the character of the guys on our team." - Hamilton, on the Rangers' fight all the way until the end of the game.

• I walked right by Hamilton in the hallway after his press conference interviews, and he had a massive ice bag on his injured groin. He was laughing, too, so evidently he agreed that it looked hilarious.

• Hamilton on the current state of his health: "It is what it is. I'm tired of talking about it. I'm going to hurt until the season is over. You know, so it's a non-issue as far as talking about it. So stop asking me, please."

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:59 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:37 am
 

Grading Game 2 of the World Series



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- Another game, another chance to hand out grades (I was a student teacher once upon a time, after all). Let's dive in without any further ado.

The starting pitchers from both teams were pretty maligned heading into the series after a collectively brutal performance in the LCS round. Considering these two teams sport some of the most powerful offenses in baseball, we were going to see a slugfest, right? Wrong. Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia was dominant, giving his ballclub seven shutout innings, allowing only three hits and one walk while striking out seven. If he pitches like that in his second turn this series -- assuming there is one -- the Cardinals will have some real confidence in him. Colby Lewis also turned things around for his Rangers. No Texas starting pitcher had worked into the seventh inning this postseason until Lewis did so Thursday night. His final line: 6 2/3 innings, four hits and one earned run. It's worth noting he wasn't on the hill when his one charged run scored.

The Rangers' defense. Elvis Andrus was incredible, but an Ian Kinsler error could have really burned the Cardinals in the fourth inning. He booted a groundball off Lance Berkman's bat, meaning the Cardinals had a runner on base with Matt Holliday and David Freese to follow. That was absolutely playing with fire in a game where runs were at a major premium. Sure enough, though, the defense is what got them out of the inning -- when Andrus and Kinsler teamed up for a beautiful double play, keeping the score tied at zero.

The Rangers' offense. They were asleep for eight innings, and it appeared the lack of offense would send the Rangers home trailing 2-0 in the series. At that point, I had the Rangers' penciled in for an F. But the game wasn't over yet, and Texas did something no one has done in a while: Get to Cardinals (unofficial) closer Jason Motte. Kinsler's hit to start things off was a bit lucky, but that's how the game is played. Then, Kinsler showed some serious guts and stole second on Yadier Molina. Andrus followed with a single and consecutive sacrifice flies won the Rangers the game. They won with pitching and defense, but the offense salvaged enough in the ninth to get a C.

It's hard to blame Jason Motte for Kinsler's single, again, but Motte also allowed the big hit to Andrus and also didn't keep Kinsler on his toes prior to the paramount stolen base. "We steal bases on the pitcher," Andrus said in the locker room after the game. And he was right. Yadier Molina couldn't have possibly made a better throw, but it wasn't enough to get Kinsler. An out there likely ends any threat for the Rangers in the ninth, and sends the series to Texas with a 2-0 Cardinals lead.

Anyone who has read me regularly knows I often call Albert Pujols the best player in baseball, so keep in mind this grade is relative. It was an "F" game for Pujols' lofty standards. He went 0-for-4 and then made a pretty costly mistake in the ninth inning. He failed to cut off Jon Jay's throw home cleanly, and that allowed Andrus to advance to second base. That meant Andrus was able to get to third on Josh Hamilton's sac fly and then score on Michael Young's.

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Posted on: October 21, 2011 12:37 am
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:53 am
 

Andrus' glove helps propel Rangers to Game 2 win



By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- Elvis Andrus came through with a big single in the top of the ninth Thursday night and then scored the eventual winning run in the Rangers' 2-1 victory. If you only look at the offensive statistics, he was one of the heroes of the game. And that would be a correct assertion, but it wouldn't even come close to telling the whole story.

Andrus is a dazzling defender and he showed it once again in Game 2. In the fourth inning, Andrus flashed his range and glove control, cutting down a ball up the middle, scooping it to second baseman Ian Kinsler, who then proceeded to bare-hand the ball and complete an incredible double play to end the inning. Then, in the sixth, Andrus showed even more range up the middle, making a diving stab and then making the throw from the ground, getting it to Kinsler just in the nick of time to end the inning. Had he not made the play, Nick Punto likely would have scored, and any run in a 2-1 contest changes the entire complexion of the game.
World Series Game 2

"Having him at shortstop, it’s fun to watch," said center fielder Craig Gentry, who enjoyed a pretty nice view of the plays. "He had two plays tonight where I was like ‘wow.’ That was impressive. But he’s been doing that all year."

It's true, Andrus is so good defensively it's gotten to the point where his teammates don't necessarily take him for granted, but they expect him to make those plays. It's not just Andrus, either, because the entire defense is a strength. He's just the defensive leader.

"You never wanna make mistakes, but, boy, they take care of you," reliever Mike Adams said. "Sometimes you make a pitch and the ball’s gonna go through and these guys come up with some amazing plays."

"Our pitchers feed off that, they know they can let ‘em put the ball and play and our defense is behind them," Gentry added. "We take pride in that."

And it was especially evident Thursday night.

"It’s a totally different game if a few of those plays aren’t made tonight," Adams said.

A few of those plays would obviously be Andrus' two gems. So which one was better?

"I liked the second one," Andrus said with a laugh. "I’ve made that play a couple of times, but in the World Series … "

Indeed, he saved at least one run for his team on the biggest stage of them all, and in a game the Rangers won by one. It's no surprise Andrus couldn't really finish that thought in words, only with a smile. Just as it's no surprise that he continues to make life easier on his pitchers and teammates in the field.

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Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:10 pm
Edited on: October 21, 2011 1:08 am
 

Rangers take down Cardinals, tie World Series

Ian Kinsler
By Matt Snyder


ST. LOUIS -- The Texas Rangers used a two-run ninth inning to knot the World Series at one game apiece with a 2-1 win.

Hero: Tough to pick just one here, because the Rangers' offense was brutal until the ninth inning. So, we're going to go with Colby Lewis. He didn't get the win -- archaic stat alert -- but pitched 6 2/3 innings of pretty good baseball against a great offense, allowing just one run. And that run scored off Alexi Ogando, after Lewis had been removed. This was the first time all postseason a Rangers' starter had worked into the seventh inning, so give props to Lewis for giving his team those innings. Credit has to go to the defense, too. And that credit is going to come soon, here on this blog (spoiler alert!).

World Series Game 2
Goat: The Cardinals' offense. You can point to Jason Motte, Arthur Rhodes, Lance Lynn or even Tony La Russa's bullpen decisions in the ninth inning if you want, but the offense needs to provide more than one run to win games against this Rangers ballclub. That isn't going to cut it moving forward.

Turning point: Ian Kinsler's stolen base in the ninth. He moved into scoring position and took the double play off the board, setting the tone for the rest of the inning.

It was over when ... Rangers closer Neftali Feliz recorded the final out. This thing hung in the balance all night for both teams.

Next: We shift down to a bit warmer weather, as the series moves to Texas for three games. Friday is a travel day, and Game 3 will take place Saturday night at 7:05 p.m. CT (note I put Central time because that's where both of these teams are located). The tentative pitching matchup is Kyle Lohse of the Cardinals against Matt Harrison of the Rangers.

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The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not reflect the views of CBS Sports or CBSSports.com