Friday, October 28, 2011

10/28/11 Texas Rangers 2, St Louis Cardinals 6

Busch Stadium, St Louis, MO
2011 World Series Game 7

TLR in suspended shock as David Murphy’s fly ball to Left-Center field is about to land in Allen Craig’s glove…

The Cardinals finish the series in what would have been a relatively exciting game, but in comparison to game 5 and game 6 the yawn factor was induced for some viewers…but not for me. This game had a lot of thrilling and tactically interesting moments; it was less than a “cake walk” as suggested by some, and more of an example of how a team whose chances of winning go from slim to none to all the way in just a few games.

Chris Carpenter had a fantastic start, not anything akin to his 3-hit shutout of the Phillies on October 7th in the LDS, but hey…

The critical flaw for the Rangers tonight had to be the almost predictable short start of Matt Harrison, but only marginally so…the concept of tournament baseball notwithstanding, Harrison’s 3 ER in 4IP could have been met with another reliever other than Scott Feldman, who gave up 2ER (on 2BB and a HB, more on this in a moment) in 0.2 innings. Would bringing CJ Wilson down instead of Feldman in the 5th inning have changed anything? Probably not, but after some of the relief pitching miscues from the Ranger’s stall in the 2010 World Series, you might wonder…as I do.

A lead-off hit by Ian Kinsler, given the circumstances of Game 6, lethally ignites the Rangers and simultaneously threatens to stun the home crowd at Busch Stadium. Yadier Molina’s subsequent put-out of Kinsler attempting to steal 2nd base on an 0-0 count to Elvis Andrus slammed a rally door shut, symbolically, so early in the game. The Rangers still manage to eke out 2 runs during this frame after Andrus walks and Hamilton doubles him in, followed by a textbook Michael Young RBI double scoring Hamilton, but from where I was sitting the Kinsler CS was a bold statement by the Cardinals.

In response, to further underline this, Matt Harrison walks Pujols and Berkman with 2 outs. David Freese, in his first at-bat since his historic walk-off win in Game 6, drives a deep fly ball into the gap in left-center to tie the game.

Allen Craig delivers a 1-out HR courtesy of Harrison in the 3rd, putting the Cardinals in the lead. Harrison sweats a lot in the 4th inning, allowing 2 Cardinals to reach on back-to-back singles with 1 out. He breaks 2 of Skip Schumaker’s bats in the same AB; Schumaker grounds out to 1B, Carpenter flies out to RF to end the inning, stranding both baserunners, and Harrison is done for the evening.

Scott Feldman picks up the ball in the 5th…again, why not CJ Wilson? After retiring Theriot (and breaking his bat as well) Feldman walks Allen Craig and hits Albert Pujols, who both advance on a Lance Berkman groundout… that’s 2 on, 2 outs, and David Freese is intentionally walked so that Feldman can pitch to Yadier Molina. Freese is 1-for-2 so far; I have no strength as a baseball strategist, but I am a vocal dislike of the intentional walk, even in “obvious” situations. So to me, this is less than obvious as to why Freese gets the IBB; I would give Mike Napoli a free pass way before David Freese but nonetheless, Molina is UNintentionally walked, walking in a run and giving the Cardinals a 2-run lead.

Just so you know, Matt Harrison also broke Pujols’ bat in the 3rd…so that’s a total of 4 BLS (Broken Louisville Sluggers, from my scoresheet notation) in the game, 3 of them by Harrison…

CJ Wilson’s very first pitch in relief of Feldman hits Rafael Furcal (who was shockingly 2-for-2 in this game, after being so silent offensively for so long), which allows Pujols to score. Feldman is charged with the run, Wilson shuts down Schumaker to end the inning, and is dominant until he is replaced by Mike Adams to start the 7th.

The real story from this point on is the Cardinals’ bullpen, carrying Chris Carpenter’s torch and handcuffing the Rangers for the rest of the game. Well, they had some help from Allen Craig in the 7th, who majestically robbed Nelson Cruz of a sure-fire solo HR in the 6th, but the line speaks for itself, the bullpen allowed no hits and no runs for the rest of the game, exclamation point.

And thus endeth by far, the best World Series I think I’ve seen in many, many years.

Cardinals win 4-3

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