ARLINGTON, Tex. -- This game sucked. That was my column, OK? That was my story. This game sucked, from the pitching to the fielding to the base-running to the umpiring. The weather was nice, but otherwise this was a bad night of baseball, not worthy of October, not worthy of the big leagues at all. This was something you'd see at the College World Series, or the Juco World Series.
This was bad.
And then, just like that, this was beautiful.
Thank you, Albert Pujols. Thank you for rescuing this game, and for rescuing everyone who devoted more than four hours on a Saturday night to watch it. Until Pujols came to bat in the ninth inning, we'd wasted our time. All of us. Well, all of us but the Cardinals, who would win this thing 16-7 to take a World Series edge of two games to one. And I suppose Cardinals fans also considered the evening time well spent.
Well, not me. I could have been in East Lansing, Mich., watching Michigan State beat Wisconsin with a last-second Hail Mary. I could have been at home with my kids. I could have been doing laundry, washing my hair or cutting my toenails. Any of those were better options than sitting through four hours of this monstrosity.
And then Pujols hit another home run in the ninth inning, his third of the game, and all was forgiven. The laundry can wait. The toenails are hidden inside shoes. I'm bald, so what hair would I be washing anyway? And those poor saps in East Lansing, watching another Hail Mary -- didn't Doug Flutie and Kordell Stewart do that already? -- while the rest of us, the luckiest of us, were here at Rangers Ballpark watching Albert Pujols go where only Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson had gone, and actually going farther than that.
Albert Pujols went where nobody has gone, ever, in baseball history.
Listen to this quote from one of the managers from Game 3:
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"I've seen [great games] on TV," he said, "but I tell you -- tonight was something special."
And that was the losing manager. That was the Rangers' Ron Washington, whose team was victimized by Pujols, calling the experience "something special."
Which it was, of course. It was historic, so special that Pujols dragged himself out of the trainer's room to talk to the media (kidding!). But seriously, folks, it was special. Before Saturday, only Hall of Famer Paul Molitor had ever recorded five hits in a World Series game. Before Saturday, only Hall of Famers Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson had hit three home runs in a World Series game. Before Saturday night, only Bobby Richardson and Hideki Matsui had recorded six RBI in one World Series game.
Pujols did all of that, and then he did more. He totaled 14 bases, two more than the previous record, the kind of game the biggest 12-year-old in town occasionally has in Little League, or the kind of game a techno-geek will have on a video game.
This was the greatest offensive game in World Series history.
And that's what Game 3 needed to be saved, because it was a lousy game. Nobody could pitch. Lots of folks couldn't field. An umpire made a horrendous call, triggering the offensive fusillade.
Rangers starter Matt Harrison got shelled for six hits and five runs (three earned) in 3 2/3 innings -- and he had the best ERA, for this game, on his team. Five other players pitched for the Rangers, and all five did worse than Harrison. That's how bad this game was.
The Rangers made three errors in the middle innings -- second baseman Ian Kinsler kicking a grounder, shortstop Elvis Andrus kicking another, and first baseman Mike Napoli throwing away a ball meant for the plate. Kinsler also threw away a ball on a double-play, but wasn't charged with an error because an out was recorded at second on the play. Then again, the guy was out at first, too. That was the blown call, with Napoli leaving the bag for Kinsler's wild throw, catching it and tagging Matt Holliday between the shoulder blades as Holliday ran past. More than 50,000 people at Rangers Ballpark saw Napoli tag Holliday a full step before Holliday reached first. Umpire Ron Kulpa, closer to the play than anybody at the stadium, didn't see it.
Ugliness. But that's what this game was all about -- ugliness. After the first two beauties, this World Series was due a game like this, a time-capsule game, the kind of game that should be buried in the ground under a landfill and not excavated for 20 years, or 40 years, or maybe ever. Maybe just bury this thing and leave it, on accident of course, but leave it down there all the same.
The Cardinals offense kept giving their pitchers a huge lead, and the pitchers kept coughing it up. Starter Kyle Lohse, staked to a 5-0 lead in the top of the fourth, gave up three runs in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the fifth it was 8-3. By the bottom of the inning it was 8-6. Around this time I was tracking the Wisconsin-Michigan State game on my laptop, and I started to wonder which game would see more scoring.
And the Badgers and Spartans ended up with 68 points.
The Cardinals and Rangers combined for 23 runs. And 28 hits. Ten walks. Fourteen runners left on base. Three errors. Eleven pitchers, eight of whom had a single-game ERA of 7.36 or worse. The Cardinals scored three runs in the fifth but could have had more had they not run into consecutive outs on the base paths to end the rally. The only thing anyone did right all game was hit -- and that only goes so far. If offense is all we wanted to see from this sport, we'd all watch college baseball.
None of us watches college baseball, because we want more.
Saturday night, Albert Pujols gave us more. He gave us more offense than we've ever seen from a single player in World Series history. Before Game 3, that distinction probably belonged to Babe Ruth.
So this is where I thank Pujols for doing what he did, and for doing it on a night I had the good fortune to be in attendance.