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CBSSports.com Senior Baseball Columnist

Just like the weather, Wilson remains cold in postseason


ST. LOUIS -- Alert the authorities and move aside. The path is now cleared for the Rangers to do some real damage in this World Series.

Of course it is. C.J. Wilson is now out of the way, moved off their plate, finished until later in this series.

I know the cold weather affected things as the Rangers and Cardinals, uh, broke the ice on the 2011 World Series. It had to. Because that wasn't Wilson's stuff alone keeping the Cardinals fairly quiet until they predictably stuck the Texas lefty with another postseason loss, this one 3-2 to send the frigid Busch Stadium sellout crowd of 46,406 home with (frozen) smiles plastered across their faces.

Had it been 73 degrees, like it was here last week, St. Louis surely would have squeezed seven or eight runs off Wilson before First Lady Michelle Obama and Jill Biden even stepped off the field following the national anthem.

These weren't your familiar thunder-and-lightning lineups from the LCS's. It was cold. It was windy. It was wear-two-pairs-of-underwear chilly, as Wilson reported after being tagged with -- surprise, surprise -- another postseason L.

It was 49 degrees when Chris Carpenter threw the first pitch to Ian Kinsler, matching the third-lowest Game 1 temperature at a World Series since records were first recorded in 1975 (what was that, first year of the Weather Channel?). For those of you who enjoy ice, be it on your infield or in your drink, it also was 49 degrees for Game 1 in 1999 (Yankees at Atlanta) and 2004 (Cardinals at Red Sox).

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"It was cold," said plate umpire Jerry Layne who, by the way, had an excellent game. "I felt like I was in Candlestick Park. The wind was blowing in your eyes at 20 miles an hour."

On its best [and warmest] days, Busch Stadium favors pitchers. An "extreme pitcher's park", as the website www.parkfactors.com notes. Mix in 40-some degrees, a steady mist and a windy evening, and is it any wonder why this autumn's story line changed so dramatically?

Other than Mike Napoli somehow coaxing a jet stream for a two-run homer in the fifth -- the way he's going, he would be voted Most Likely to Make a Deal with Jack Frost, anyway -- this game was LCS Lite. Like everyone went on a crash diet. Sacrifice bunts, move runners over, small ball. Starting pitchers actually lasting into the sixth inning. Swear on a stack of Tony La Russa lineup cards.

"You don't really feel comfortable," Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus said of the cold. "You get a little tighter. You don't feel like you loosen up."

It ain't easy to hit in this stuff. The cold deadens the baseball and stings the hands when you don't strike it just right.

"No," Cardinals hitting coach Mark McGwire said. "I don't think it's fun to do anything in the cold. I think there's only one sport where they like it -- football. The body just doesn't react as well as in the warmer weather."

The Rangers this summer plowed through a record 71 consecutive days of 100-degrees-or-higher temperatures in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex. Yes, they were on the road for some of them, but you get the idea. Not only have the Rangers hit the extremes, but they hit in the one extreme -- Texas ranked third in the AL in runs scored and second in home runs this season.

Napoli's home run Wednesday night expedited the game of catchup the Rangers had to play when St. Louis cuffed Wilson for two runs in the fourth when he hit Albert Pujols in the foot with a pitch, surrendered an opposite-field double to Matt Holliday and then was taken the other way again by Lance Berkman for a two-run single.

Problem was, immediately after the Rangers tied it in the fifth, Wilson started the bottom of the inning by walking Rafael Furcal. Granted, it was an impressive eight-pitch at-bat in which Furcal scratched and clawed like a cornered cat. But still, it was a leadoff walk, a mortal sin in a pressure game like this after your team has worked so hard to dig out of a hole.

Here's the thing about that: Wilson wants to be a No. 1. He's eligible for free agency this winter. The Rangers expect him to seek a $100-million contract.

That kind of pitcher does not issue a leadoff walk after his team ties a World Series game. That kind of pitcher slams the door. Preferably breaking his opponents' fingers in the door frame when he does it.

Not Wilson. Jon Jay bunted Furcal to second. Tiptoeing across the high wire, Wilson intentionally walked Pujols next. Then Holliday bounced into a 5-4-3 double play and, phew, Wilson escaped.

But he was right back in trouble in the sixth when David Freese drilled a one-out double. Three batters later, Alexi Ogando replaced Wilson, served up an RBI single to pinch-hitter Allen Craig ... and now Wilson is 0-3 this postseason with a 7.17 ERA.

Does that sound like a No. 1?

Does this: Asked about being winless in the postseason, Wilson stubbornly mounted a defense: "I had a win last year."


"It sucks," Wilson said, when informed that the sample size we are talking about is actually, like, you know, THIS postseason. "It sucks. I'm not here to lose. I'm here to win.

"You work all year. Sometimes you have to accept that the other team is really good, and your best-laid plans go away when you make a mistake."

The Cardinals are really good. But ace pitchers do not accept that the other team is really good. They spit at that notion, then go out and kick some ass.

One scout for an opposing club who has covered the Rangers all postseason says part of Wilson's problem is that he tries too often to strike out opposing hitters rather than simply getting an out and keeping his pitch count down. He also said Wilson has gotten too much of the white part of the plate recently -- meaning, he's not working the corners enough.

Wilson shrugged several times when discussing things postgame. His body language isn't much worth $100, let alone $100 million. Lifetime, by the way, his postseason record now is 1-5 with a 5.32 ERA.

For the record, he's right. He did have a postseason win last year.

So as I say, now that they're past Wilson, it should be full steam ahead for the Rangers. No more worries about how they're going to match up with the other team's ace -- a true ace, like Chris Carpenter -- with a guy most rivals consider a No. 2 pitcher on his best days, and a No. 3 or No. 4 on his worst.

Maybe with Colby Lewis on the mound for Game 2, the Rangers will be warmer.

"You grow up in St. Louis, you're going to be in the cold every now and then," said the appropriately named (on this night) Freese, who did grow up here. "I remember playing here when it was snowing."

Please, no.

"This is baseball. It's fun to be a part of it," Freese continued. "I'll play in the cold in a World Series any day."


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