Posted on: October 20, 2011 11:13 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Lighting does strike twice in the same spot. We just saw it. Right here in St. Louis.
One night after Allen Craig pinch-hit and slapped an RBI single to right field against Texas reliever Alexi Ogando to win Game 1 ... he did it again in Game 2. Reruns? So soon?
Hold on -- not quite. In a tense and taut game as crisp as an autumn leaf, Craig's seventh-inning hit didn't quite win it for the Cardinals this time. It spotted them a 1-0 lead ... which only gave the heretofore vaunted St. Louis bullpen the chance to cough it up. Which it did.
Texas 2, Cardinals 1, and this World Series is tied at a game apiece and heading to Texas.
Craig's was an amazing, incredible moment given that pretty much the exact same thing occurred 24 hours earlier. Only difference was, the Rangers and Cardinals were 2-2 in Game 1 when Craig batted with two out and runners on first and third in the sixth.
Game 2, it was 0-0 with two out and runners on first and third in the seventh.
But instead of allowing Craig to become the hero on consecutive nights, Texas' AWOL offense showed up in the ninth with two runs on back-to-back sac flies from the aching Josh Hamilton (groin) and Michael Young.
Talk about eeking one out.
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus greeted Cardinals reliever Jason Motte with singles to start the ninth. Then, in a move revealing why he never did name Motte as the club's official closer, Tony La Russa hooked him for matchups. Veteran lefty Arthur Rhodes was summoned to face Hamilton, and the Texas lefty hacked at the first pitch and tied the game.
Then Young poked a fly ball deep enough to score Andrus against Lance Lynn.
The Cardinals had been three outs from seizing a 2-0 lead in this World Series and knocking the wind out of the Rangers.
Instead, the Cards were left to wonder what hit them instead.
And this, folks, is just getting good.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 8:06 pm
Edited on: October 18, 2011 8:09 pm
ST. LOUIS -- The questions continue to pelt Albert Pujols like the cold rain of early autumn: Has he taken moments here and there during this postseason to soak in the sights and sounds of what could be his final days as a Cardinal?
His answers remain steadfastly the same: No, he isn't thinking about his impending free agency right now, hasn't thought about it since addressing the matter this spring. And can we please talk about the World Series now?
But here's the thing: You know Pujols can't help but be thinking about it because of his incredibly classy gesture in Milwaukee on Sunday.
When Prince Fielder stepped in to lead off the bottom of the eighth with the Brewers trailing 12-6, Pujols called time from first base in an effort to extend the standing ovation Fielder was receiving from the Miller Park crowd.
It was a gesture that got lost in the post-game champagne as the Cardinals clinched, which was too bad. Because it shouldn't have been.
"I've been in that situation here with the best fans in baseball, and I wanted Prince to have the same feeling that I have here, and the same chills," Pujols said when I asked him about it as the teams worked out Tuesday preparing for the World Series opener Wednesday. "I wanted him to have almost the same tears that I have when I have the standing ovation from our fans in my last at-bat, at least they thought that was going to be my last at-bat here in Busch Stadium at that time.
"And I wanted to make sure that Lance [Lynn, St. Louis pitcher] gave Prince a really good opportunity. I think what Prince has done for the organization and for the city of Milwaukee, what he's done in turning the organization around, is amazing. I just wanted him to have his moment. That was his moment.
"At that moment I didn't look at the scoreboard, I didn't look at who was winning or losing. At that moment, I was looking at the person, at the guy who deserved that standing ovation. I wish it would have been a little bit longer. I tried my best. That's how much respect I have for him and the Brewers and those guys."
In a rare philosophical mood Tuesday, Pujols continued.
"I thought it was the right thing to do," he said. "It didn't matter what uniform you were wearing. Things like that, seeing Jeter get his 3,000th hit, seeing the standing ovation that the Yankees fans gave him, those are moments you can't replace. Those are moments that you always are going to take with you and I wanted him to have that opportunity just like I have here."
I still think Pujols will re-sign with the Cardinals this winter.
But if not, this is one of the longest goodbyes on record. Busch Stadium fans cheered for Pujols on the final Sunday of the season when it appeared as if that would be his final home game of 2011.
Then they cheered him in Game 4 of the Division Series in case the Cardinals were eliminated by the Phillies in Game 5.
Then they cheered him in Game 5 of the NL Championship Series in case the Cardinals didn't come back alive from Milwaukee.
Now, the next potential Pujols' farewell at-bats in Busch could come in Game 2 of the World Series here Thursday ... or in Game 6 or 7 here next week.
For now, Pujols is just concerned with attempting to win his second World Series ring in his third Fall Classic appearance with the Cardinals. They were swept by Boston in 2004, then they beat Detroit in 2006.
The big question is how the Rangers will pitch Pujols, who has taken six walks -- including two intentional passes -- so far this postseason.
"I don't know," said Pujols, who is hitting .419 this postseason with two homers and 10 RBI. "Hopefully, I can have the same series I have against Philadelphia and Milwaukee. I'm very patient at the plate, I know that I have great players in front of me and behind me who are going to be able to do damage.
"My main goal is to go out and if I get a good pitch to hit put my best swing on it. And if not, try to take my walk. That's something I've been doing the past two months that I wasn't doing earlier in the year."
Posted on: June 2, 2011 2:25 pm
Edited on: June 2, 2011 5:18 pm
While schoolkids across the land sweat through final exams, the Cardinals dive into their latest test in a season full of them: Overcoming the hip injury that sent starter Kyle McClellan to the disabled list this week.
In McClellan's place, rookie right-hander Lance Lynn will get a look. Summoned from Triple-A Memphis to start Thursday night's game against San Francisco (on short rest, nonetheless), Lynn, a supplemental first-round pick in the 2008 draft, was 5-3 with a 4.06 ERA.
Few pitchers in the game have been as valuable as the unassuming McClellan, who, along with Kyle Lohse, has done wonders in keeping the Cardinals atop the NL Central even after losing Adam Wainwright for the season this spring and while Chris Carpenter battles through a (so far) disappointing season.
"In Jupiter this spring, the sky was falling," general manager John Mozeliak said last week, referring to the immediate aftermath of Wainwright's elbow injury. "People said it was doomsday for the organization.
"To see what McClellan has been able to do, giving us a chance to win baseball games, has been special. Both guys, McClellan and Lohse, have done it from different directions: Lohse is healthy [following forearm surgery last summer], and McClellan came in from the bullpen. Both have helped steady the ship."
McClellan, the National League's first six-game winner this season, is expected to miss two weeks with the left hip flexor strain. Because he had made 202 major-league appearances before this season with zero starts, and never pitched more than 75 2/3 innings in the majors, the Cards figured they would have to limit his innings at some point this season. They hope maybe this will be a natural way of doing so.
"There's enough good rotations in this league, if you want to compete successfully, you need to trot out somebody that gives you a chance every day," manager Tony La Russa said recently of McClellan. "[Wainwright] was a huge hole, and Kyle's wanted it and he worked hard every day and he's done a real good job."
As usual, the Cardinals have had the angles figured. They've had McClellan prepare as a starter the past couple of springs to give them options, and they've been rewarded for their preparedness this year.
"I like him in the bullpen so much, but Dunc has been saying since the first year that this guy could be a starter," La Russa said of pitching coach Dave Duncan. "As he so often does, Dunc has got it figured out."
McClellan had a 3.11 ERA through his first 10 outings, but that swelled to 3.86 during a seven-run, four-inning stint while battling the sore hip against San Francisco on Monday.
Meantime, with McClellan out, the Cardinals will lean even more on Lohse. Fully recovered from surgery last May 28 to relieve nerve compression in his right forearm, Lohse so far has been dominant.
In nine post-surgery starts late in 2010, Lohse was 3-4 with a 7.25 ERA.
"I think he really needed all of last year to recover," Mozeliak says. "It was a unique surgery, not common in our sport. He had to get himself strong to where his confidence was back.
"You see a difference in him now in how he approaches things."