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Bullpen, Craig's hit help Cardinals take Series opener

CBSSports.com wire reports
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ST. LOUIS -- Texas manager Ron Washington joked about not being able to match wits with Tony La Russa.

No joke.

Who can, these days?

2011 World Series
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The St. Louis boss looked like a genius once again, especially when Allen Craig pinch-hit for ace Chris Carpenter and delivered a go-ahead single Wednesday night that sent the Cardinals past the Texas Rangers 3-2 in Game 1 of the World Series.

Craig's slicing hit with two outs in the sixth inning fell inches in front of sliding right fielder Nelson Cruz. Game 1 was just that tight throughout a cold, damp evening.

It was a game perfectly suited for La Russa -- lots of bunts, intentional walks and pitching changes. And in a postseason in which he has made all the right moves, the 67-year-old manager was at the top of his game.

"It's going to be interesting to see how it plays out," Cardinals outfielder Lance Berkman said. "But I feel like we have to win the National League-style games if we're going to win this thing and tonight was a National League-style game -- 3-2, good pitching, good defense, timely hitting.

"I don't think that we want to get into a gorilla ball-type series with these guys. We'll see what happens when we add the DH and go to the American League ballpark, but I think when we have the National League style and we have the advantage we have to capitalize."

The Cardinals did, barely. A sliding stop by first baseman Albert Pujols helped prevent Texas from taking the lead on Carpenter's final pitch in the sixth.

St. Louis even won without its Rally Squirrel. There were no sightings of the elusive critter still roaming Busch Stadium -- good thing for the rodent, too, because La Russa probably would've devised a way to catch him.

Game 2 is Thursday night, with Jaime Garcia starting for the Cards against Colby Lewis. Texas has not lost back-to-back games since Aug. 23-25.

In a postseason where St. Louis and Texas starters have struggled, Carpenter and C.J. Wilson each pitched well enough. They both left in the bottom of the sixth when the managerial wheels started to spin.

It was 2-all when the Rangers worked around eighth-place hitter Nick Punto with a four-pitch walk that put runners at the corners with two outs.

"I know they had either Carpenter coming up or a pinch-hitter, and with Ogando warming up behind me, I have confidence that he's going to come in and get that guy out," Wilson said.

La Russa did not hesitate, pulling Carpenter and sending up Craig, a versatile player who was injured for much of the season. Washington countered by bringing in hard-throwing reliever Alexi Ogando.

Rather risky lately, trying to play baseball chess with La Russa. As Washington said a day earlier: "Well, I don't think I can ever live up to matching a wit with Tony La Russa."

La Russa liked Craig's chances.

"Cold weather game, sitting on the bench, Ogando. It's not a very good situation," La Russa said. "But he's got a history in our system, that's why we like him so much. He should have a really good career."

All the pieces in place, it was time to play -- and what followed was the play of the game.

Craig swung through two fastballs, then hit a drive toward the right-field line. Cruz tried to make a sliding catch, except the ball bounced just before it reached him and thudded off his left leg for an RBI single.

"It was close. I think the dirt caught me," Cruz said.

Craig's single scored NL Championship Series MVP David Freese, the St. Louis area prep star who led off with a double. Freese has hit in 11 consecutive postseason games.

"Man, he's tough," Craig said of Ogando. "He came right at me with fastballs, and I missed the first two. Then that last one I was trying to get the barrel on it, make the defense make a play. Fortunate, kept it fair, and Cruz made a great attempt on that. It was a great play all-around."

Ahead, La Russa coaxed three scoreless innings from his deep bullpen. Five relievers did the job, with Jason Motte closing for his fifth save of the postseason.

This was the first time Texas had ever played in St. Louis. Yet Josh Hamilton, Cruz and the big-hitting Rangers looked a lot like the team that fizzled at the plate in last year's World Series against San Francisco.

Each team wound up with six hits. The wild-card Cardinals just did more with them.

Berkman put St. Louis ahead with a two-run single in the fourth. Mike Napoli tied it with a two-run homer in the fifth.

Carpenter earned his eighth postseason win, breaking the team record he shared with Bob Gibson. Of course, all of Gibby's victories came in the World Series.

Texas nearly took the lead on Carpenter's final pitch. Instead, Pujols smothered Michael Young's grounder behind the bag and tossed to Carpenter to end the sixth with a runner on third.

Carpenter helped himself with a nifty play in the first inning, diving to catch a toss from Pujols and tagging the bag with his glove. He didn't argue when La Russa removed him -- all the Cards know too well to doubt La Russa's smarts.

Cardinals relievers Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes and Motte finished.

Wilson fell to 0-5 in his last seven postseason starts, dating to last year.

The Texas lefty recently spent 2½ minutes in a Dallas cryotherapy chamber, where liquid nitrogen lowered the temperature to 295 degrees below zero trying to speed body recovery. It was a bit warmer at the ballpark, at 49 degrees for the first pitch.

Wilson became the first pitcher to lose an All-Star Game, an AL Division Series game, an AL Championship Series game and a World Series game in the same year, STATS LLC said.

Napoli kept up his season of slugging, hitting a two-run homer in the fifth that made it 2-2. He had come into the game 3 for 3 lifetime against Carpenter and had been the only Texas hitter to connect off him, but he bounced into a double play with two runners on his first time up. He avenged that with an opposite-field drive to right.

Traded twice within a week last winter, Napoli blossomed in Texas, prompting Tampa Bay manager Joe Maddon to pronounce it "The Year of the Napoli" during the AL playoffs.

The Cardinals took a 2-0 lead in the fourth after Pujols hit -- or was hit by pitch, more precisely. The St. Louis star was plunked on the lower left leg to start the inning, Matt Holliday sliced a double and Berkman chopped a two-run single down the first base line.

Players, umpires and techs needed a little time to work out the kinks.

Freese saw Ian Kinsler's leadoff grounder glance off his glove at third base for a single, and stared at the glove that betrayed him. The next inning, Adrian Beltre doubled off Freese's leather.

Third base umpire Ron Kulpa missed his first call in a Series. He ruled Beltre caught Pujols' liner to third when the ball actually bounced in the opening inning.

Notes

  • Wilson issued two intentional walks in a game for the first time in his career.
  • Rhodes, in his 20th big-league season, made his World Series debut.
  • This was the Cardinals' 106th World Series game, breaking a tie with the Dodgers and Giants franchises for second-most in history. The Yankees lead with 225.
  • Garcia is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA in three postseason starts.
  • Lewis is 4-1 in the postseason. His loss came this year to Detroit in the ALCS.
  • The team that has won the Series opener in 12 of the past 14 years has gone on to take the crown.
  • This was the first AL West vs. NL Central matchup in the Series since baseball went to six divisions in 1994.
  • Young had his 35th birthday. Cardinals infielder Daniel Descalso turned 25.
  • NBA All-Star Dirk Nowitzki of the champion Dallas Mavericks is set to throw out the first ball at Game 3.
 
Copyright 2014 by STATS LLC and The Associated Press. Any commercial use or distribution without the express written consent of STATS LLC and The Associated Press is strictly prohibited.
 
 
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Players of the Game
Texas

M. Napoli
AB 2
R 1
H 1
HR 1
RBI 2
St. Louis

L. Berkman
AB 4
R 0
H 2
HR 0
RBI 2
 
Texas Rangers
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Ian Kinsler, 2B4020000 .295
Elvis Andrus, SS3000020 .190
Josh Hamilton, CF-LF4000011 .267
Michael Young, 1B4000001 .191
Adrian Beltre, 3B4120000 .261
Nelson Cruz, RF3010111 .250
Mike Napoli, C2112101 .325
David Murphy, LF2000010 .360
   a- Craig Gentry, PH-CF1000012 .364
C.J. Wilson, P2000000 .000
    Alexi Ogando, P0000000 .000
   b- Esteban German, PH1000012 .000
    Mike Gonzalez, P0000000 .000
    Scott Feldman, P0000000 .000
Totals3026227  
a-struck out for Murphy in the 7th
b-struck out for Ogando in the 7th
Batting
2B - Adrian Beltre (4, Carpenter)
HR - Mike Napoli (2, Carpenter)
SH - Elvis Andrus (2)
RBI - Mike Napoli 2 (7)
CS - Ian Kinsler (2, 2nd base by Carpenter/Molina)
Team LOB - 4
Fielding
DP - Beltre-Kinsler-Young, Beltre-Kinsler-Young
Texas Rangers
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
C.J. Wilson (L,0-3) 5.2433640 7.17
Alexi Ogando 0.1100000 0.84
Mike Gonzalez 0.1000000 0.00
Scott Feldman 1.2100010 0.00
IBB - Punto by C.J. Wilson, by Pujols
HBP - Pujols (by C.J. Wilson)
WP - C.J. Wilson (2)
Pitches-Strikes - C.J. Wilson 94-50, Alexi Ogando 9-7, Mike Gonzalez 2-2, Scott Feldman 27-15
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - C.J. Wilson 8-3, Mike Gonzalez 1-0, Scott Feldman 2-2
Batters Faced - C.J. Wilson 26, Alexi Ogando 2, Mike Gonzalez 1, Scott Feldman 6
St. Louis Cardinals
HittersABRHRBIBBSOLOBAVG
Rafael Furcal, SS2000213 .196
Jon Jay, CF3000002 .200
Albert Pujols, 1B2100100 .400
Matt Holliday, LF4110001 .361
Lance Berkman, RF4022000 .262
    Jason Motte, P0000000 .000
David Freese, 3B2110100 .429
    Daniel Descalso, 3B0000000 .167
Yadier Molina, C4000014 .255
Nick Punto, 2B2010211 .174
Chris Carpenter, P2000023 .250
   a- Allen Craig, PH1011000 .263
    Fernando Salas, P0000000 .000
    Marc Rzepczynski, P0000000 .000
    Octavio Dotel, P0000000 .000
    Arthur Rhodes, P0000000 .000
    Skip Schumaker, RF0000000 .600
Totals2636365  
a-singled for Carpenter in the 6th
Batting
2B - Matt Holliday (3, Wilson), David Freese (6, Wilson)
SH - Jon Jay (2), Daniel Descalso (2)
RBI - Lance Berkman 2 (8), Allen Craig (4)
2-OUT RBI - Allen Craig (3)
Team LOB - 8
Fielding
DP - Furcal-Punto-Pujols
St. Louis Cardinals
PitchersIPHRERBBSOHRERA
Chris Carpenter (W,3-0) 6522141 3.52
Fernando Salas (H,3) 0.1100100 1.80
Marc Rzepczynski (H,5) 0.2000020 5.68
Octavio Dotel (H,2) 0.2000010 1.23
Arthur Rhodes (H,3) 0.1000000 0.00
Jason Motte (S,5) 1000000 0.00
Pitches-Strikes - Chris Carpenter 87-49, Fernando Salas 11-5, Marc Rzepczynski 7-6, Octavio Dotel 5-5, Arthur Rhodes 6-3, Jason Motte 10-7
Ground Balls-Fly Balls - Chris Carpenter 8-4, Fernando Salas 1-0, Octavio Dotel 1-0, Jason Motte 2-1
Batters Faced - Chris Carpenter 22, Fernando Salas 3, Marc Rzepczynski 2, Octavio Dotel 2, Arthur Rhodes 1, Jason Motte 3
Game Information
Attendance - 46406
Game Time - 3:06
Temperature - 49
Umpires - Home - Jerry Layne, First Base - Greg Gibson, Second Base - Alfonso Marquez, Third Base - Ron Kulpa