The Rangers entered the ninth inning of last night’s World Series game staring straight down the barrel of a two games to none deficit. Failing to score through the first eight innings, it looked like the Rangers could go quietly against St. Louis closer Jason Motte. The Cardinals had scored the lone run of the game in the seventh inning. With two outs and David Freese on third base, Tony LaRussa called on Allen Craig to pinch hit for pitcher Jaime Garcia. Ron Washington countered by bringing Alexi Ogando to the mound to face Craig. This exact same move had not worked for Washington in Game 1, and it didn’t work this time either. Craig singled to right, driving in Freese. But that was all the St. Louis offense could muster.
To the ninth
Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus were able to get themselves into scoring position with back-to-back hits and some nifty base running. The Cardinals closer was pulled from the game, having failed to record an out. Tony LaRussa had clearly outmanaged Ron Washington up to that point. But then things got a little more interesting. LaRussa brought Arthur Rhodes into the game to pitch to Josh Hamilton. The Rangers castoff got Hamilton on a flyout, but both runners tagged up and advanced, tying the game. With Andrus at third and only one out LaRussa summoned Lance Lynn from the bullpen. Lynn fell behind Michael Young with three straight pitches that were out of the strike zone. At that point I expected LaRussa to call for the intentional walk to set up a double play possibility. But instead the Cardinals decided to go after Young. The result was a go-ahead sacrifice fly. Adrian Beltre followed with a groundout to end the inning. After getting a brilliant seven inning performance from Jaime Garcia, LaRussa needed five pitchers to get the final six outs. Rangers 2 Cardinals 1
Neftali Feliz came in to try and protect the lead and immediately walked Yadier Molina. LaRussa’s bizarre pattern of decisions would continue. Gerald Laird, a catcher, was brought in to pinch run. Nick Punto tried to bunt him over and fell behind with two quick strikes. Punto has been a good bunter throughout his career but LaRussa decided to abandon the bunt strategy and Punto struck out. Ogando retired the next two batters and suddenly the series was even at one game apiece.
This was a huge turn of events for the Rangers. They were able to gain a split even though the offense never really got on track. Now the series moves to Arlington where less managerial strategy will come into play under the American League rules. I think the Rangers are looking good. Texas appears to have more pitching depth and they are tough to beat at home. But the Cards have surprised most of us by advancing as far as they have. Is the clock about to strike midnight for the Cinderella Cardinals?