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Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre turn in the Rangers’ play of the game

Oct 28, 2011, 2:12 AM EDT

Mike Napoli Getty Images

It’s only fitting, as the two have been the Rangers’ best players in the World Series.

With the bases loaded, one out and the tying run having already touched home plate in the sixth, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre pulled off the perfect pickoff Thursday, retiring Matt Holliday at third in the Game 6 that the Rangers went on to lose in extra innings.

The Rangers entered the bottom of the sixth with a 4-3 lead, but with one out, the Cardinals loaded the bases on two grounders — one going for an infield single and the other turning into an error on Michael Young — and a walk. Alexi Ogando then replaced starter Colby Lewis and walked Yadier Molina on five pitches, tying the game.

It was at that point that Napoli, who suffered what initially looked like a season-ending ankle injury going into second base two innings earlier, took matters into his own hands. He fired down to third after an Ogando fastball and caught Holliday far enough off the base that Beltre was able to put his foot down and block the bag. Holliday dove right into Beltre’s foot and suffered a badly bruised finger that knocked him out of the game.

Ogando remained very shaky afterwards, so it seems very likely that the Cardinals would have taken the lead if not for the pickoff. A wild pitch advanced the two remaining runners, and Ogando loaded the bases again with a walk to light-hitting Nick Punto. Derek Holland took over at that point and preserved the tie by getting Jon Jay to hit a comebacker.

With 10 RBI in the series, including one tonight, Napoli will likely be World Series MVP should the Rangers prevail on Friday. Still, a big defensive highlight in a crucial situation added to his cause. He’s been one of baseball’s best players in his 129 games this season, and now everyone should know it.

  1. colinmc82 - Oct 28, 2011 at 4:55 AM

    Of course the play of the game came from the losing team….never mind the the first walk off home run in history for St Louis in a world series …which they’ve been to 18! And the fact that it came in the 11th inning and they’re the first team ever to score in innings 8-11 in world series history. No who cares about that? Play of the game has to be a pick off. SMH …

    • buddaley - Oct 28, 2011 at 8:00 AM

      What do you want? Two previous posts focus on the Cardinal’s win. The site is constantly providing interesting stories that are up to the minute, and the pick-off was a highlight of a very exciting game. So too were the contributions of Freese which is the focus of the previous entry, and so too were the comebacks which are integral to another earlier posting.

      There are also posts on the injuries to Holliday and Napoli. Should they be omitted to make room for another story about the Cardinal victory and its historical context? Is the Freese story ruined because it mentions his comical error? If there is a post that focuses on managerial missteps by Washington will it mean that the Cardinals are not receiving the respect they deserve for their achievement?

      The pick-off was a Rangers highlight and Napoli deserves attention for his contributions to the Rangers in the series. I am curious if anyone thinks that Holliday was simply beaten by a terrific play or that he screwed up by being too far off the bag unnecessarily.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 10:39 AM

        He was definately too far off the bag. Matt…next time…dive back with both arms extended!
        But it ALOS took a terrific throw by Napoli and (in my opinion) an even better block by Beltre.

    • CJ - Oct 28, 2011 at 8:57 AM

      EAST COAST BIAS!!!!!!!!!

      Oh wait, the Rangers play where? Nevermind.

      • stlouis1baseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:54 PM

        Let me guess CJ…Philadelphia, New York or maybe…Boston? Close?

  2. crispybasil - Oct 28, 2011 at 6:54 AM

    As Matthew said, “Rangers'” play of the game.

    • foreverchipper10 - Oct 28, 2011 at 3:10 PM

      Which is why the first commenter is completely off-base. Unless Freese hitting a walkoff to send the series to a 7th game was the best play for the Rangers.

  3. Kyle - Oct 28, 2011 at 12:07 PM

    Incredible block of the plate by Beltre, and throw from Napoli. Perfectly executed.

    • Bryz - Oct 28, 2011 at 12:56 PM

      That’s a funny looking plate that Beltre blocked last night.

      • Kyle - Oct 28, 2011 at 1:52 PM

        Haha, yeah it was! Game six fried my brain! Base, sorry.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:55 PM

      Plate, Bag…whichever.

  4. schlom - Oct 28, 2011 at 12:42 PM

    I don’t blame Holliday at all. Past experience had shown him that touching the base wasn’t necessary for him to be called safe.

    • stlouis1baseball - Oct 28, 2011 at 2:50 PM

      Oh he touched it alright…he touched it…tripped and did a freaking dive roll down the 1st base line.
      But I get where you are going with that.

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