The Cardinals took one step closer to achieving Major League Baseball history Wednesday night, winning Game 1 of the 2011 World Series, 3-2 over Texas.
St Louis, who were 10.5 games behind the Wild Card leading Atlanta Braves as late as August 24th, are trying to become the first team to win a World Series down by such a deficit.
In a game so close, with so much at stake, every pitcher feels the heat on every throw; even on a 49 degree night.
Game 1 featured both squad’s aces in Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson, and both were spectacular until the home half of the 4th inning when Wilson began the inning by hitting lead off batter Albert Pujols with a pitch. The Cardinals’ “murderers row” took advantage of Wilson’s mishap by continuing the inning with a Matt Holliday right field double that would then open the door for Lance Berkman, who would poke in a single, scoring both Pujols and Holliday.
The Rangers’ Wilson had six walks, giving up three runs on four hits by the end of the night, definitely a forgettable outing. Carpenter however, continued his post-season dominance, only giving up five hits and two runs over six innings. But it wasn’t a hero on the mound, but a hero off the bench that would change everything.
After a 5th inning two-run bomb by Mike Napoli to tie the game 2-2, the next inning would feature the turning point of the game when Rangers manager Ron Washington decided to pitch around Nick Punto with David Freese already on base. With Carpenter due up, the walk would force Cardinals skipper, Tony La Russa, to toss in pinch-hitter Allen Craig, who batted .315 with 11 home runs in only 200 at-bats this season.
The Rangers, who took another gamble in exiting Wilson for reliever Alexi Ogando, would pay costly when Craig ripped a two-strike 99 mph fastball down the right field line that would fall just short of the glove of outfielder Nelson Cruz, scoring Freese to take the lead.
Berkman stated post-game that Craig could ‘hit fourth’ in almost any other lineup. “I’m happy to come off the bench and help any way I can,” said Craig.
And ‘help’ he did. The last player to have a game-winning pinch hit in a World Series was Luis Poloria for the 95’ Braves, and only four players total have done the feat since 1954. Tonight, it was a little-known guy named Allen. Craig.
The St.Louis bullpen would continue to slam the door shut, tossing three innings of one-hit ball. There was some controversy in the 9th inning when Adrian Beltre hit a ground-out to third base, in which he claimed the ball actually hit his foot first and should have therefore been called a foul ball.
When play resumed, Jason Motte continued to look like an absolute stud and star closer in the making, with a seamless 9th inning, controversy or not. Motte has only given up one hit this post season.
Ice in the veins maybe? Who knows. But on a chilly October night in St.Louis, one thing is for sure; after going 23-9 to end the season and now three wins away from their NL leading 11th World Series title, the heat is most definitely on for the Cardinals.
Cardinals Outlook: With this big Game 1 victory via Chris Carpenter, and by only throwing 87 pitches, the Cardinals might be able to use their ace for three starts if this series goes seven games.
Rangers Outlook: Josh Hamilton isn’t 100% (surprise, surprise?) and both Hamilton and Michael Young went 0-8 Wednesday night. Those two stars have to produce and be the leaders for Texas they have been all year if they want to win their ballclub’s first World Series title. Don’t bet against them. The Rangers haven’t lost two straight games since August 23-25 against Boston.
Stat Of The Night: Game 1 winners have captured 7 of the last 8 World Series Titles, 12 of the last 14 and 19 of the last 23.
Game 2: Thursday night at St.Louis. 8:05 ET
Colby Lewis (3.86 ERA post-season) vs. Jaime Garcia (5.74 ERA post-season)
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS