Tag:Albert Pujols
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 1:18 am
Edited on: October 24, 2011 3:08 am

Grading Game 4 of the World Series


By Matt Snyder

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The "A" grade here isn't really going to shock you. But just because it's obvious doesn't mean it's not true.

Derek Holland was just dazzling. We knew he was capable of this because he threw four shutouts this season -- including a stretch of three shutouts in five starts during July -- but we just hadn't seen it for a while. So Holland gave a refresher. He located his 95-mph fastball and impressively commanded his breaking pitches. It's funny, if you didn't watch the game, his line -- 8 1/3 innings pitched, two hits, two walks, seven strikeouts -- almost doesn't do him justice. But, if you did watch the game, and had never even seen or heard of Holland before, you'd have thought he was a Cy Young candidate. This against a Cardinals offense that obliterated the Rangers Saturday night. The best part was preserving the stressed Texas bullpen.

We'll go with Neftali Feliz here. He came on and walked Allen Craig, which brought Albert Pujols -- you may have heard something about his power following Saturday's game -- to the plate with two on and one out. That's bad. But then Feliz got a soft lineout from Pujols and struck out Matt Holliday to preserve the victory.

I've held off long enough. We're going with Ron Washington's lineup here. It worked out in Game 4 because Josh Hamilton doubled in Elvis Andrus in the first inning and then Mike Napoli came through with the big blow in the sixth. But, seriously, opposing pitchers have to be much more fearful of the Beltre/Cruz/Napoli portion of the order than the 2-3-4 spots at this point. Beltre didn't have a good game Sunday night, but collected four hits Saturday. Napoli and Cruz have to scare the daylights out of Cardinals fans with their prodigious power, too. Meanwhile, Andrus is being asked to bunt Ian Kinsler over in the fifth inning. Why not get to the power earlier in the lineup and give those guys more at-bats? Napoli batting eighth just doesn't make any sense at all.

World Series
Edwin Jackson could have been much worse, but seven walks in 5 1/3 innings is pretty bad. He at least saved the bullpen from having to work as hard as it did following Kyle Lohse's bad outing in Game 3. Still, Jackson was so inefficient due to his lack of command that he couldn't get through six. And, again, seven walks. Man, that's bad. But only three earned runs in 5 1/3 innings isn't near as F-worthy as ...

The Cardinals offense followed up a historic performance in Game 3 by being shut down. I'd particularly shine the flashlight on Pujols and Holliday. The duo of All-Stars is among the best 3-4 combos in baseball, but they combined to go 0-for-8 with two strikeouts and four men left on base in Game 4. This came against a left-hander, too, who is much worse against righties than lefties. The entire offense -- other than Lance Berkman, who gathered the Cardinals' only two hits -- deserves an F here, but the big names need to be held the most accountable.

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Posted on: October 23, 2011 3:02 am
Edited on: October 23, 2011 4:01 am

Overheard: Notes, quotes from World Series Game 3

By Matt Snyder

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Cardinals took Game 3 of the World Series with some pretty huge offense. Here are some of the post-game notes and quotes from Rangers Ballpark.

• Don't forget about Allen Craig. He had two huge hits in the first two games of the series and then hit a home run in his first at-bat of Game 3. As we noted in the Game 3 preview, the designated hitter actually gives the NL team the advantage in this series, as the Cardinals can get Craig's bat into the lineup, while the Rangers only get to add the likes of either Yorvit Torrealba or Mitch Moreland. The Rangers have a sick lineup, too, but seeing Craig, Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday, Lance Berkman and David Freese through the thick of the lineup is pretty imposing.

• Yes, first-base umpire Ron Kulpa is a born-and-raised St. Louis-area resident. I'm sure plenty of fans will latch onto that in the coming days and find it means that he had bias on the play. It's a ridiculous notion because, first of all, Kulpa was accountable for his mistake. "I saw a replay when I walked off the field, and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag," he said after the game. If there was a hidden bias, he probably wouldn't own his mistake.

Secondly, if you still think he made the errant call on purpose, you're gonna have to explain why he called Ian Kinsler safe on a bang-bang play in Game 2. If Kulpa was in the bag for the Cardinals, he could have easily called Kinsler out and the Cardinals would have likely won that game, too.

World Series, Game 3
• Should Kulpa have asked for help? "No. On that type of play, I'm not going to ask for help. Ron (Washington) didn't ask me to get any help, either."

• Rangers manager Ron Washington on the call: "Well, he missed the play, and I knew he missed the play when I went out there. We still had an opportunity to get off that field with maybe them just pushing one run across the plate. We just didn't make the plays. I mean, I don't think you can just start all of a sudden making excuses about things. We had a chance to get off the field with them scoring one run in that inning right there, and we just threw the ball around in that inning, and it really messed up Harrison's outing because he was throwing the ball well."

• Neither Josh Hamilton nor the Rangers will say much about it, but when he had to throw on the brakes at third base in the bottom of the fifth inning, that had to have hurt his tweaked groin. Nothing brings out pain in leg muscle injuries like having to stop on a dime from full speed.

• "The thing I liked best was that he was working good counts all night," hitting coach Mark McGwire said to a handful of reporters in the hallway after the game of Albert Pujols' performance.

• Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki on throwing out the first pitch: "My last one in July was a little high. This time they told me to throw a four-seam fastball. I still don't understand what that means. But I think that's the grip I had. Or was it a two-seam fastball? No, I forgot. It worked out better the last time. Everybody just told me don't throw it low, so I left it way high, and Michael Young almost pulled a hamstring trying to jump and get it, and this time I think he could stay in the stance and catch it. So it was better."

• Cardinals manager Tony La Russa moved past Bobby Cox and into second place in the all-time record books. La Russa is now 16 wins behind Joe Torre for first.

• Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn on his outing: "You know, that's what this game is all about, who's going to be the guy that comes in and is able to get multiple innings in a game like that because both offenses were on tonight. Somebody had to come in and try to calm the storm, I guess, and I was able to make a couple pitches, and I actually got away with some pitches, too. So to be able to come in and get a couple outs there and not have to go in our bullpen any deeper, I felt like that was good movement on the rest of the series."

• Lots of attention is being paid to Alexi Ogando's issues this series, but Scott Feldman had a terrible outing Saturday night, too. Feldman and Ogando were an incredible bridge to the late-innings guys in the ALDS and ALCS but have faltered this series.

• Lost in the Cardinals' offensive hooplah: Matt Holliday is now just 2-for-11 in the World Series.

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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 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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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 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 20, 2011 2:05 am
Edited on: October 20, 2011 12:53 pm

Overheard: Notes and Quotes from Game 1

By Matt Snyder

ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals took down the Rangers in Game 1 of the World Series with a 3-2 victory. Here are some of the post-game notes and quotes from Busch Stadium.

• The Game 1 winner of the World Series has gone on to win the entire series 65 times out of 106, but it's held true far more often recently. The Game 1 winner has won the series seven of the last eight World Series and 12 of the last 14. Even further, the home teams that won Game 1 of the World Series have won the whole series every single year since 1993.

World Series, Game 1
• "I enjoy talking about it because he's not just a great hitter, he's a great baseball player," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Albert Pujols' defensive gem to end the Rangers' sixth inning. "You'll see him do something on the bases. Defensively he's a Gold Glover several times now and he's clutch. He knows exactly who the runner is, who the hitter is, the situation. He's so aware of how the game is being played. That's the play of the game, really, for us."

• With the win Wednesday night, Chris Carpenter now has eight postseason wins for the Cardinals, which sets the franchise record. He was previously tied with Hall of Famer Bob Gibson at seven.

• "That ball in the first, uh, I think we need to work on that one next spring," Carpenter said with a laugh of his diving save. "It was just an instinct, (Pujols) threw it a little out of my reach and I dove."

• The Rangers' relievers now have a 2.22 ERA in the postseason while the Cardinals' relievers have a 2.38 ERA.

• "Well, I thought C.J. (Wilson) did a good job tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said of his starting pitcher. "Yep, he may have walked some guys and he hit Albert (Pujols), but he was in a 2-2 ballgame and he was battling Carpenter. As far as I was concerned, it was a pretty good ballgame, and C.J. did his job."

• Wilson walked six batters. The last time a starting pitcher walked six batters in the World Series? Scott Kazmir of the Rays in 2008. Before that, you have to go back to Livan Hernandez in 1997.

• "Can you guarantee me that, if I used (Yorvit Torrealba), he would have done anything different? I used the guy that I thought could get me the base hit," Washington said of his decision to pinch hit with Esteban German in the pivotal seventh. German hadn't had an at-bat since Sept. 25.

• Cardinals closer -- even though La Russa won't overtly say he's the closer -- Jason Motte now has worked nine innings this postseason. He's only allowed one hit and has picked up five saves.

• Carpenter invoked "The Blind Side" -- a book that was made into a movie about the life of Ravens' left tackle Michael Oher -- to describe what catcher Yadier Molina means to him. Carpenter likened Molina's role to that of a left tackle protecting the quarterback -- with the pitcher being the QB in the metaphor.

• "It's just one," said Cardinals third baseman David Freese. "We need to get three more."

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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