Posted on: October 23, 2011 11:14 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The Cardinals are on a World Series record-grabbing binge.
One night after the Albert Pujols Show, starting pitcher Edwin Jackson threw a few balls for the ages. And a few more. And a few more. ...
Jackson walked seven Texas Rangers, tying Wild Bill Hallahan (Game 2, 1931) for the most walks ever by a Cardinals starter in a World Series game. The main problem: Two of those walks came directly in front of Mike Napoli in the sixth inning, Jackson's parting gifts to reliever Mitchell Boggs.
How did that go? Napoli drilled the very first pitch from Boggs deep over the left-field fence for a three-run jack, the final touch on Texas' 4-0 two-step evening this series at 2-2 heading into a pivotal Game 5 featuring the two clubs' aces, Chris Carpenter of the Cardinals vs. Texas' C.J. Wilson.
Derek Holland gave Texas what it needed nearly as much as rain over the summer: A starter who went deep into a game and gave the bullpen a chance to kick up its cleats and relax.
Holland just missed firing World Series' first complete-game shutout since Josh Beckett clinched the title for the Marlins over the New York Yankees in Game 6 in 2003. Manager Ron Washington hooked him with one out in the ninth after he walked Rafael Furcal, in favor of closer Neftali Feliz.
As it was, Holland became the first World Series pitcher to last at least 8 1/3 innings and surrender no more than two hits since Greg Maddux in Game 1 in 1995.
It could not have come at a better time. There are growing questions regarding whether Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver and Co. are threadbare given how much Washington had to rely on them during an ALCS in which Rangers starters didn't earn a win. Holland's eight innings were a godsend.
Also a godsend: Holland holding Pujols to two ground balls and a harmless foul to first base.
That's where things get especially interesting as this series steams into it's final two or three games: For all we heard about Pujols and his record 14 total bases in Game 3, his other three games have been exceptionally ... silent.
Fact is, despite his outburst Saturday, Pujols is hitless in three of four games during this World Series. He was hit by a pitch and intentionally walked in Game 1, but that's it.
Just as Texas needed a starting pitcher -- and now needs a couple beyond Holland -- to move into position to win the state's first-ever World Series, the Cardinals cannot go it with Pujols alone. Matt Holliday, in particular, has been quiet behind Pujols: He's hitting .143 (2 for 14) with three walks and three strikeouts.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 7:30 pm
ARLINGTON, Tex. -- The World Series changes venues, and you know what that means: As the only sport that changes rules in its championship event, Game 3 here brings with it the designated hitter Saturday.
For the Cardinals, it's a chance to get Allen Craig into the lineup following his two RBI pinch-hits against Alexi Ogando in Games 1 and 2. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he will play Craig in right field and move veteran Lance Berkman to designated hitter.
"It really comes down to just respecting Lance," La Russa said. "He's a pivot on that, and talking to him, I think we'll play Allen in right field and Lance will DH and we'll go day-to-day with it."
Rangers manager Ron Washington did not publicly reveal his plans because, as he said, "we just arrived at the ballpark and I haven't had a chance to tell my guys yet."
But later in the day, he told the writers who cover the Rangers that Michael Young will be his DH, Mike Napoli will play first base and Yorvit Torrealba will catch.
Posted on: October 21, 2011 1:49 am
ST. LOUIS -- Two World Series games. Two well-played, one-run games.
You never know, but this could be the start of something great.
"It was fun," Rangers first baseman Michael Young said following Texas' 2-1 Game 2 win Thursday. "Dave McKay [Cardinals first-base coach] came up to me in the eighth or ninth inning and said something like, 'Competition at its finest.' And I said, 'Yeah, this is fun, isn't it?'
"That's exactly what it is. Fun."
The game was scoreless through six innings. The only other time in World Series history the first two games have even been scoreless through three came in 1961 when the Yankees and Reds did it.
Of course, by the end of the ninth, it was the Rangers who were having the most fun. Staring at an 0-2 hole heading back to Texas, the fact that they were able to squeeze two ninth-inning runs out of the rigid St. Louis bullpen to even the series could be a series-changer.
"It's huge," shortstop Elvis Andrus said. "We came here for sure wanting to get a win so we could get back home with a chance to win. It was a pretty good game. Jaime Garcia did a really good job.
"Our approach was let him pitch, because he gets wild. He didn't get wild."
But the ninth inning did, and this series could.
Fasten your seatbelts.
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 20, 2011 7:12 pm
Edited on: October 20, 2011 9:06 pm
ST. LOUIS -- How bad is Josh Hamilton's strained groin?
"In all honesty, if this was the regular season, I'd probably be on the disabled list," the Texas slugger said Thursday afternoon before batting practice as the Rangers prepared for Game 2 of the World Series. "But we don't have that luxury right now."
It is a miserable time for the 2010 AL MVP to come up lame, but as Hamilton said several times during the conversation, "it is what it is."
No matter, he is in the lineup and batting third for the Rangers in what becomes a vital Game 2 after they dropped Game 1 to St. Louis here Wednesday night 3-2.
Hamilton said he suffered the injury about two months ago.
"It was right at the point when it first started where I could warm up" and loosen it up, Hamilton said. "Then there was a point where I couldn't.
"Now I'm at the point where, whatever."
The key, he said, is making adjustments.
"Square the ball up and just really not use my lower half," he said. "Because I can hit line drives."
The groin injury has robbed him of his explosiveness, he said, which inhibits his ability to put the ball over the fence. He does not have a home run in 45 at-bats this postseason.
He said he feels his groin when he swings, "running and throwing ... whatever else baseball has. If I have to go from first to third, if I have to leg out a double, beat out an infield hit. ..."
Manager Ron Washington said Thursday that he has not considered removing Hamilton from the lineup.
"He's been dealing with it ... and he's come up big for us," Washington said. "You know, at this point of the year, we've all got nagging injuries. He had one, and he'll figure out a way to get through it, and we'll figure out a way to help him get through it."
Washington explained that "even if Hamilton doesn't do anything, he makes a difference just with his presence in our lineup. And I want his presence in it."
General manager Jon Daniels is on the same page as Washington.
"I think that's what this time of year is about," Daniels said. "It didn't start yesterday. He was hurting in Detroit and he played very well in Games 5 and 6. You tip your cap. He's playing hurt. It is what it is."
Hamilton batted .308 with five RBI in the six-game ALCS with Detroit. Four of his eight hits were doubles.
He estimated that he's somewhere between "75 and 80 percent" and added, "I'm comfortable playing at that level." Check swings also bother him to the point where a shooting pain goes through his groin that might last 15 or 20 minutes, he said. Or, severely inhibit his effectiveness in the rest of that at-bat.
As Daniels inferred, many players are playing in pain at this point in the season.
"You show up at spring training 100 percent, and it's a gradual decline after that," Michael Young told colleague Danny Knobler during the ALCS.
Hamilton acknowledged that his groin is getting progressively worse, and it seems it could be a race to the finish line between Hamilton and the Rangers' World Series run.
"We've got six games left," he said. "I'll do everything I can to be productive in the six games to help this team win.
"All I want to do is help my team win, anyhow. A sacrifice fly, whatever."
Posted on: October 20, 2011 2:26 am
ST. LOUIS -- Chris Carpenter has had more memorable games. He's had more dominant games. He's surely had more enjoyable games.
But for 87 pitches over six innings in Game 1 of the World Series, Carpenter reached the bar he's set for pitching on guts and determination.
Given the degree of difficulty on this night, it surely was one of his most impressive outings for the Cardinals. And with a 3-2 Game 1 win over Texas, it surely will stand the test of time, too.
As if 49 degrees at game-time wasn't unpleasant enough, Carpenter admittedly received treatment on his elbow for swelling and discomfort following his NLCS Game 3 outing against Milwaukee. Both Carpenter and the Cardinals were adamant that he was fine, that he wouldn't have started otherwise.
But one clue as to the condition of his elbow is this: He threw only seven curveballs in 89 pitches, about 8 percent, according to the pitch-by-pitch feature on MLB.com's GameDay.
According to the web site FanGraphs.com, Carpenter threw his curveball 20.4 percent of the time in 2011.
What he did in Game 1 was feed the Rangers a steady diet of sinkers and cutters. And though he only got two 1-2-3 innings of the six he pitched -- the third and fourth -- he left after six with a 3-2 lead and the lethal Cardinals bullpen picked him up from there.
"When you throw Carp on the mound, you expect a quality start," Cardinals third baseman David Freese said in response to a question regarding Carpenter's elbow. "You expect him to be Chris Carpenter.
"I don't think he'd be out there if he couldn't do what he's been doing."
Because the Rangers and Cardinals have only played once in Interleague play, several years ago, very few of the Rangers have faced him. Michael Young, for example, had only six lifetime at-bats against the right-hander, and two hits.
Because of that, Young said he didn't notice Carpenter's curve count. But he did notice a few other things.
"He was keeping the ball down and getting strike one," Young said. "That was a big thing right there. A lot of balls down. He got ground balls. We did not have a lot of line drives, like we usually do."
"He was pitching, you know?" said Rangers outfielder Nelson Cruz, who went 1 for 3 with a walk after being moved up to sixth in the lineup following his six homers in the ALCS. "He makes pitches when he has to."
Carpenter was not asked about his elbow during his appearance in the post-game media interview room. Of the weather conditions, he said that the balls "were a little slick with the breeze and the lack of humidity. But besides that, it's the same. It's another game, and we've pitched in weather like this before. I grew up [in New Hampshire] pitching in weather like this, so it was no big deal."
The fact that he threw so few curveballs, hard to say definitively whether that is a big deal. But Carpenter did exactly what the Cardinals have come to expect and appreciate on the latest biggest night of their season.
Plus, what his pitching line does not show is his fabulous defensive play in the first inning, when he made a diving catch of an Albert Pujols toss while covering first base two batters into the game. Carpenter caught the toss and tagged first to get the speedy Elvis Andrus on a sensational, athletic play.
"Great performance," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. "They're a great hitting team. If you don't make a lot of pitches, they're going to bang you around. ...
"The thing about Carp, he was exactly what we needed."
Posted on: October 19, 2011 5:40 pm
ST. LOUIS -- The tarp is on the field. The place is on near-lockdown with First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden due tonight. The rain has been falling off and on all afternoon.
Though MLB officials are confident that the Cardinals and Rangers will play tonight (and on time), it is cold, wet and raw here -- which means Mother Nature may have a better chance of slowing down these two big-hitting lineups in Game 1 of the World Series than any starting pitcher.
The cold, wet conditions will not help Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter, who experienced some swelling in his right elbow following his Game 3 start against Milwaukee in the NLCS. (He says he's fine.)
The weather will not be comfortable for Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who has experienced some severe swelling in his postseason numbers this autumn: He's 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA. (He says he's fine.)
But the conditions may be even worse for hitters, because the colder it gets, the less the baseball carries. And it is expected to dip into the upper 30s tonight.
The Rangers clubbed 13 homers, 20 doubles and scored 55 runs in their 10 post-season games so far, and they're hitting .276 with runners in scoring position. Josh Hamilton has hit safely in five consecutive postseason games, and he hopes to take that momentum into this World Series to erase the memories of last year against San Francisco: Hamilton was just 2 for 20 against the Giants and looked even worse than those numbers do.
The Cardinals, meantime, averaged 5.6 runs per game in the NLCS. They led the NL in runs scored this season, and their +70 run differential was third in the AL. Albert Pujols is coming off of a torrid NLCS, and Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday are doing a fine job of protecting him. Holliday, battling tendinitis in his right hand, says though it's about the same as it was in the NLCS, it's far better than it was against Philadelphia in the first round.
Both of these clubs are fairly experienced in October, the Rangers having gained theirs more recently. Michael Young talked extensively Tuesday about how this year should be better for Texas because the Rangers know what's ahead of them, know better what to expect out of the World Series. That no doubt goes for manager Ron Washington, too, who is has guided the Rangers to their second World Series in two years.
This is the sixth World Series for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa, and as the wind blew and the rain fell outside, he spoke of how he's changed from that first one with Oakland in 1988 until now.
"The first one, I wouldn't say I was clueless," La Russa said. "You have a little clue. But it was like in '83, the first time in the playoffs [managing the White Sox], you're just hoping you don't pass out during the game.
"That was painful in '88 because no doubt, Tommy [Lasorda, then the Dodgers' manager] did a much better job of getting his club ready for the World Series than I did for the A's."
All these years later, La Russa has become the master. And over in the Texas dugout, Washington has earned his stripes -- though he doesn't want to hear about "matching wits" with La Russa.
"I don't think I can ever live up to matching a wit with Tony La Russa, but what I will try to do is put my players in the right position," Washington said the other day. "And if my players perform, I don't have to worry about matching wits. They'll take care of things."
Rangers-Cardinals, we're just about there.
Well, as soon as they take the tarp off the field.
Posted on: October 18, 2011 9:11 pm
ST. LOUIS -- Arthur Rhodes pitched in Texas' bullpen from opening day until early August.
Then he pitched in St. Louis' pen the rest of the way.
And after the Cardinals clinched their 18th World Series berth in club history Sunday, Rhodes had an emphatic -- if biased -- opinion:
"I know our bullpen is better than theirs," he said of his Cardinals.
Each pen was splendid in the LCS. Texas' earned the W in all four of the Rangers' wins over Detroit in the ALCS. St. Louis' earned three wins in the NLCS.
Texas' bullpen compiled a 1.32 ERA in six ALCS games while fanning 25 Tigers and walking only six.
St. Louis' bullpen compiled a 1.88 ERA in six NLCS games while fanning 21 Brewers and walking only seven.
"If that's how he feels, that's how he feels," said Rangers set-up man Mike Adams, whom Texas acquired from San Diego in a July 31 deadline deal that came in just under the buzzer.
"We have the best bullpen in these playoffs," Adams continued. "Let's put it that way."
Rangers lefty Darren Oliver was amused.
"He said that about St. Louis?" Oliver said. "I guess we'll see in a week. He's supposed to say that. That's his team."
Rhodes was a little more modest on Tuesday.
"Both bullpens are great," Rhodes said. "Both bullpens throw strikes and get guys out. We have two left-handers in our pen [Rhodes and Mark Rzepcynski]. They have one, Darren Oliver.
"I think we have an advantage."
Except, Rhodes was off by one. While snapping up relief help at midseason, Texas GM Jon Daniels not only acquired Adams from the Padres and Koji Uehara from Baltimore, but Mike Gonzalez from the Orioles as well. In Gonzalez, the Rangers have a former closer and one more lefty in the pen.
Does that swing the advantage Texas' way?