Sharp defense, timely hitting, some sacrifice, and a little….luck. Those might be the best words to describe the Rangers comeback win in St.Louis Thursday night.
It looked as if it were déjà vu all over again. Just as it unfolded in Game 1, both teams were epic on the mound in what was turning out to be another pitchers duel. But the Cardinals were paving the way behind Jaime Garcia, who was brilliant, giving up only three hits, zero runs and punching out seven in just as many innings.
In another match showcasing a single run worth it’s weight in gold, Game 1 hero Allen Craig hit yet another go-ahead RBI that put the Cardinals on top 1-0 in the 7th inning. For Cardinals fans it looked like a sure thing; go up 2 games to ‘nill on a powerful Rangers squad and head to Arlington on another ‘happy flight.’ But Texas had something else in mind, and it wouldn’t come until the 11th hour.
Cards closer Jason Motte had only given up two hits all post season and looked nearly unhittable until Ian Kinsler’s lead-off blooper in the 9th , just falling ahead of shortstop Rafael Furcal’s glove. It was just the break Texas needed and with Elvis Andrus up to follow, the Rangers took a gamble, sending Kinsler to second base on a steal attempt that would barely find him safe on a bang-bang play.
Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina would jolt in disguise immediately following the call, knowing how crucial it was to keep the tying run at first base.
It wasn’t nearly over for Andrus though. After making two incredible defensive plays earlier in the game, one in which he completed a diving stop by tossing the ball directly from his glove to Kinsler at second base, recording the final out to end the inning, Andrus would go on to knock in a single, advancing Kinsler to third, and continue to take second base himself after a misplay by Albert Pujols on the cut-off throw.
“That was a big momentum shift for us. Kept the game locked up,” said teammate Michael Young in regards to Andrus’ play.
Of course the Rangers still had to make things happen in order to take a lead, and team catalysts Josh Hamilton and Michael Young did just that by knocking in back-to-back sacrifice flies to take the 2-1 advantage.
“Never say die until the last out is made,” said Hamilton on the field after the game. “Just have fun…”
And the Rangers can have as much fun as they want, celebrating a win as unlikely as tonight. Only three times in World Series history has a team comeback to win in the 9th inning after trailing 1-0
“They played a classic last inning…took cuts and they executed… I tip my cap to them,” stated Cardinals manager Tony La Russa post-game.
Cardinals Outlook: The Cardinals let this one slip away, but you have to give the Rangers credit. The guys in blue had clutch hitting and amazing defense. It wasn’t so much the Cardinals blowing it, but the Rangers doing all the right things to win it. Albert Pujols hit a warning track bomb in the 8th inning that was 6 inches away from going out of the park. After making the catch at the fence, you could see Nelson Cruz breathe a huge sigh of relief. I expect the next one Pujols connects with to go over the wall, especially in hitter-friendly Arlington. If Lohse shows up for Game 3, expect a Cardinals win.
Rangers Outlook: It’s a bit ‘iffy’ for both teams’ pitchers. Matt Harrison is sporting a 4.22 ERA this post season with a 1.41 WHIP. If that continues against St. Louis, the Rangers are in for a long night Saturday. On the other hand, Arlington is their house. I expect them to play well at home and put up big numbers.
Stat Of The Night: The Rangers became only the 3rd team in MLB history to rally from 1-0 in the 9th inning to get a World Series win. The last was in 1985 when the Kansas City Royals did it in St. Louis on the famous Don Denkinger blown call.
Game 3: Saturday @ Texas. 7:05 CT
STL: Kyle Lohse (7.45 ERA) vs. TEX: Matt Harrison (4.22 ERA)
Photo Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS