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Cardinals’ bullpen finally cracks, Rangers stage comeback to even World Series

Oct 20, 2011, 11:51 PM EDT

Texas Rangers left fielder Hamilton celebrates with teammates Cruz and Chavez after the Rangers defeated the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 2 of MLB's World Series baseball championship in St. Louis Reuters

Two games in, this World Series has the look of an instant classic. Wednesday’s thrilling Game 1 saw late-inning heroics that sent a 3-2 victory St. Louis’ way. In Game 2 on Thursday, it was the Rangers who benefited from a dose of last-minute magic.

Facing a 1-0 deficit in the top of the ninth inning, and a closer in Jason Motte who had been nearly untouchable all postseason, the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler blooped a leadoff single over the head of Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal to get the ball rolling. Kinsler then swiped second base, beating Yadier Molina‘s on-target throw by inches, and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus followed with a sharply-struck base hit to right-center field that advanced Kinsler to third.

Those back-to-back hits led Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who’s pulled correct string after correct string throughout these playoffs, to fall back into the trap of over-management. Opting for a lefty-lefty matchup on Rangers slugger and No. 3 hitter Josh Hamilton, he pulled Motte from the 1-0 game in favor of 41-year-old southpaw Arthur Rhodes, who promptly surrendered the tying run on a sacrifice fly to right field.

Hamilton only had to flick his wrist to do the deed on a floater from Rhodes. One has to wonder if the game-tying sacrifice would have been so easily converted against Motte, who can touch 100 mph.

Hamilton’s groin injury — the one he’s been battling since the final month of the regular season — limits his ability to turn his core quickly and effectively on pitches. He barely had to budge against Arthur.

Michael Young gave the Rangers their first lead of the Fall Classic one pitching change later, lifting a ball to deep center field against Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn to score the fleet-footed Andrus from third.

That 2-1 score would hold through the bottom of the ninth as the Cards failed to capitalize on a leadoff walk.

The loss shouldn’t fall solely on La Russa, just as Wednesday’s blame shouldn’t center completely around Ron Washington. Motte cracked against the top of the Texas lineup and the Cardinals couldn’t escape the jam. Jaime Garcia was great. Allen Craig again came through. But the results, in the end, weren’t there.

The Rangers awoke in the ninth and stole this one. They shocked a rocking Busch Stadium crowd and surely sent a sting through the St. Louis clubhouse. The Fall Classic is now a essentially a five-game series, and three of those games will be played in Arlington, Texas over the next four days. Advantage: Rangers?

  1. antlerclaws - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:02 AM

    Cardinals got a taste of what the Rangers got in the first half of the season from Rhodes.

    Anyway, this series was predicted to be close, and I can’t imagine how it could be much closer. Tied at 1 win apiece, both teams have scored 4 runs each combined in 2 games, the pitcher’s duel went to 7 innings without a score. So I would have to agree with the “look of an instant classic”.

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:47 AM

      “Cardinals got a taste of what the Rangers got in the first half of the season from Rhodes.”

      Fly outs?

      • antlerclaws - Oct 21, 2011 at 11:30 AM

        Giving up big hits. Lots of them. Lots and lots of them.

      • thefalcon123 - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:32 PM

        …of which he gave up exactly 0 of last night.

        I have a hard time blaming Arthur Rhodes for a loss when he came in and gave up a fly ball out.

  2. okwhitefalcon - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:04 AM

    Advantage Rangers for sure.

    Now it’s for beer league rules in Texas.

  3. Kyle - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:07 AM

    Kinsler and Andrus were a lot of fun to watch tonight.

  4. tacklemeelmo - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:08 AM

    Not sure Motte “cracked” there.. There was 1 hard hit ball that whole inning.

    • Drew Silva - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:10 AM

      He’d been blowing batters away.

      • cur68 - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:33 AM

        T’was crazy to go to Rhodes against Hammy. What was TLR thinking? Motte would have blown injured Hammy out of the water…oh well, more baseball will be played to settle this. Su-weeeeeeet! I don’t know when it happened, but I started to root for the Cards. Maybe it was the sight of all those Blue Jays in the game (yeah, even Dotel)? Between Scrabble, a catcher named Molina and his brother, Jose in da house, I could almost believe it was the Beaver Men. Almost. TLR ruined it by snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. Thanks Tony. Thanks a lot.

        Saturday in Arlington, in the warm, too. Goody.

      • clydeserra - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:46 AM

        So? He gave up a pop up to Kinsler. Then a hard hit single to Andrus. If not for the crappy throw and even worse non catch by pujols, they would still be playing.

        I hardly think a pop up and a single constitute “cracking”

      • Drew Silva - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:40 PM

        He didn’t get a single swing-and-miss. Rare for him.

      • gostlcards5 - Oct 21, 2011 at 1:44 PM

        Drew, you’re delirious. Previously “blowing batters away” or not, the first single wasn’t Motte’s fault. That was the fault of the “no doubles” defense. I don’t think the catch was necessarily as much of a slam dunk as McCarver thought (based on his “5 steps” estimation, because Holliday missed the ball by more than that). The second hit was good contact, blame that on Motte if you want.

        Either way, I agree that TLR should have left Motte out there. He was better equipped to get out of the jam.

      • Drew Silva - Oct 21, 2011 at 2:02 PM

        You’re right on the no-doubles defense thing. And it wasn’t great contact. But to then allow a well-struck liner to Andrus would be considered “cracking” to me.

        Then again, he didn’t get the opportunity to right the ship.

      • clydeserra - Oct 21, 2011 at 3:40 PM

        Drew, you are trying too hard to justify the line about the bullpen cracking.

        Motte threw 12 pitches. Twelve. Eight for strikes and 4 were either hit, or foueld off.

        You are even saying that one hard hit ball is enough to consider the 2 innings of relief work by the cardinals a failure.

      • Drew Silva - Oct 21, 2011 at 3:57 PM

        They coughed up the lead. A “crack” is different than a “collapse.” I’d admit the language was wrong if I thought it was wrong.

  5. miketreedy - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Now we got ourselves a World Series. Cards in trouble if the Rangers get hitting again now that they are back at home. Temps will be in 70’s so it will be much warmer.

  6. Old Gator - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:12 AM

    Definitely enjoying this series as pure baseball. Couldn’t give a weasel’s patootie about either team so I can just savor the pure tension without letting my beer get warm.

    • 1historian - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:04 AM

      Thumbs up on that one, amigo

  7. fearlessleader - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:54 AM

    A painful loss for the Cardinal faithful, but no despair in Budville: The Cards’ bats are just as due to awaken in Arlington as the Rangers’, and the Redbirds have been winning games and series they weren’t supposed to win for two months now. Far from over.

    I DO want to blow a raspberry at Tony La Russa for rewarding my nice comment about him with his continued stubborn insistence on replacing Freese with Descalso in the 8th. It’s become a damned fetish (unless, as I’m beginning to suspect, Freese actually TURNS INTO Descalso upon hearing “Take Me Out to the Ballgame”…?), and it’s hard not to wonder whether things would have gone differently if the former, rather than the latter, had come to bat with two men on base and the Cards desperately needing an insurance run.

  8. aceshigh11 - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:56 AM

    We’ve got ourselves a Series now, folks!

    These two teams are so evenly matched, it’s beautiful. The tactical decisions alone make for compelling baseball. Gotta love it.

  9. jason9696 - Oct 21, 2011 at 1:17 AM

    Ian Kinsler could pass as Gary Busey’s son.

  10. saintsfire - Oct 21, 2011 at 2:29 AM

    Gripping, exellent professional baseball played out in St. Lou, all in less than desireable weather.
    Both games were pins and needles, so far instant fall classic indeed.

    Three things sticking in my mind,

    Allen Craig’s (identical twin) pinch hit go ahead rbi’s game one and two, that is proving it.

    Spectacular middle infield defensive gems by shortstop Elvis Andrus, in tandem with second baseman Ian Kinsler. Unity and cohesiveness, more than graceful, an artful craft to be sure.

    Both Texas and St.Louis pitching, starters and relief, there really shouldn’t be any complaints.
    Try throwing or hitting a baseball with temperatures in the 40’s if you haven’t.

  11. Reflex - Oct 21, 2011 at 4:41 AM

    Fantastic series, shaping up to be a true classic. Really enjoying it, so much better than I imagine a Sox/Phils series would have been.

  12. 8man - Oct 21, 2011 at 5:26 AM

    No horse in this race and I’d be happy for either city. St; Louis is a classy baseball city and the Rangers have never won, so best to both.

    Definitely, entertaining baseball. What a play by Andrus to end the fifth! Hoping for some fireworks in the warmer climate of Texas.

  13. paperlions - Oct 21, 2011 at 8:47 AM

    You knew it was coming….here it is.

    If the headline yesterday was about TLR pushing all the right buttons, then the headline today should be about his multiple questionable decisions leading to a Rangers comeback win.

    In the 8th he replaced Freese with Descalso. There is a very small difference in their defense and a huge difference in their offense. No ball was hit to Descalso (of course), but he did come up with two on and two out in the bottom of the 8th and predictable weakly grounded out. Having Freese up then would have been nice. As usual, replacing superior players with inferior ones in a close game is a bad idea.

    In the 9th, as in most of the game, he had the OF playing way too deep. TLR has been doing this late in close games all year, calling it the no doubles defense. Obviously, this is a suboptimal deployment of defenders or teams would do it all the time. TLR deploys his defenders in a way that he knows decreases the liklihood of a batted ball being turned into an out in exchange for a reduction in doubles and triples. Of course, getting outs is the most important thing. Kinslers bloop would have been an easy out if Holliday wasn’t playing just in front of the warning track and the 9th inning probably ends after 3 or 4 batters with no pitching changes.

    Replacing Motte with Rhodes was one of the dumbest things I’ve ever seen any manager do. In that situation you need a K or a ground ball…not just any old out would do. Motte against a one-legged Hamilton was a better matchup than Rhodes, who has an xFIP of 5.41 against lefties this year.

    Pinch running with Laird didn’t matter, but it also made no sense….that is like pinch hitting for Garcia with Carpenter. Why bother?

    To top it off, he has Punto bunting after a 5 pitch walk to Molina was all kinds of stupid. Feliz wasn’t within a foot of the zone on most pitches (Feliz threw 6 of 19 pitches in the zone). Instead of having Punto take pitches until he gets at least one strike, he’s up there throwing the bat at high fastballs, none of which were strikes and the ump wasn’t giving high strikes all night.

    All TLR had to do was nothing and the Cardinals are probably up 2 games to none. His job is to put his players in the best positions to succeed, and in these cases he failed….and he didn’t fail by inaction, but by doing a bunch of unneccesary things. Tony, I know your are bored in the dugout, but please try not to interfere with the players ability to win games from here on out, okay? Thanks.

    • panthur63 - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:08 AM

      If Rhodes, got the save you would have said “GREAT coaching by TLR” you arm-chair coaches kill me the DAY AFTER so, quick to critique a coach thats probably been coaching baseball longer than you been watching it…. like YOU can do a better job!!! I guess you can sitting your FAT-A** on your keyboard LMAO…

      • 1historian - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:10 AM

        armchair coaches and armchair coaches and monday morning qbs and the like – just ignore them.

        Problem solved.

        My work here is done.

      • paperlions - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:19 AM

        No I wouldn’t have….if you were familiar with my opinions, you would know that….and if you were in the chat, you would have seen me rip these moves when they were made and before the results.

        TLR regularly makes dumb moves that work out anyway, the game of baseball is like that….but when you keep making moves that reduce the likelihood of your team winning….well, you are not a good manager.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:00 PM

        Yeah, PL would have ripped the decisions no matter the outcome. I thought the decision to bunt Punto and the Rhodes switch were just plain wrong for the reason’s mentioned above.

      • cur68 - Oct 21, 2011 at 1:49 PM

        panthur; I was in the chat (am might sloshed, but present); every single person thought the Motte switch was stupid as it happened, not after. Pretty much all of us thought leaving Freese in was better as Delasco came up; he was raking man, why pull him in a close game? The defence deployment was ‘lions’s personal rant as it happened. He was about the only one of us familiar with TLR’s move to see it.

        We are not monday morning QBs; we QBed that mo-fo as it went down and we now stand by those decisions.

    • thefalcon123 - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:55 AM

      The Freese/Descalso stuff drives me up the wall. UZR actually shows Freese as a *better* fielder. That may not be the case, but the difference between them is nowhere near as great as the gap in their bats. If Freese is good enough to play 3rd for the first 7 innings, he certainly good enough to play the last two. Instead, you now have a much worse hitter in your lineup in a tight game.

      That being said, this game was lost due to a bloop single, a ballsy steal, a missed cutoff and two sac flies. I hardly blame LaRussa for that.

      • drmonkeyarmy - Oct 21, 2011 at 12:07 PM

        I think the steal had mostly to do with Motte doing a horrid job of holding Kinsler. Motte never made Kinsler stop his forward momentum on the play in which he ran.

  14. 1historian - Oct 21, 2011 at 10:08 AM

    GREAT series so far. I can do without the interviews during the game but some genius thought of it so who am I to question genius?

    Fun to see Nolan Ryan suffering through it, not as in glad to see him suffer, but in his watching without being able to do anything about it. He is a classy guy.

    You can just feel the tension in the stadium.

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