Rangers bullpen sustains major damage during Cards’ romp


ARLINGTON, Texas — Albert Pujols spent his Saturday night silencing more people than just those of us who criticized him for playing a one-sided game of hide-and-seek after Game 2.

Also on the clammed up list: Texas Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando, who was a no-show in the team's clubhouse after Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals laid a 16-7 smackdown on the Rangers in Game 3. It was Ogando who gave up the first of Pujols' record-tying three homers, a three-run job in the sixth inning that traveled an estimated 426 feet and hit the facade of the left-field club level at Rangers Ballpark.

An allergy to postgame interviews, however, wasn't the only contagious thing being passed around as Mike Gonzalez and Darren Oliver also surrendered homers to Pujols in the seventh and ninth innings. Though both talked with the media afterward, there was really nothing for them to say after the Cards took a 2-1 series lead.

"You don't even have to miss your spot for him to get you," Oliver said. {YSP:MORE}

What will be interesting to see is how the Rangers bullpen backs up its consistent claim that its members will be ready to bounce back for Sunday's Game 4 and beyond. Though the first two games featured only eight total runs (and were decided by a run apiece), the law of averages and the stellar offense of both teams foreshadowed an offensive explosion like Saturday's 23-run outburst. The Rangers was the first to sustain really heavy damage. Can they shake it off to force a long series where the bullpens will become even more crucial?

It's tough to predict. The bullpen had to do a lot of heavy lifting after starter Matt Harrison lasted only 3 2/3 innings. All five relievers combined for a total of 117 pitches, not exactly the type of workload you want a bullpen carrying with an offday that won't come, if necessary, until Tuesday. What could really end up hurting the Rangers was the fact that they closed St. Louis' lead to 8-6 at the end of the fifth, leading Ron Washington to lift long reliever Scott Feldman for Ogando when he might have otherwise been able to eat some valuable innings in a lost cause.

"When Ogando couldn't come in and get it done, we knew we were in trouble right there," Washington said.

That they were. And the trouble could only continue if Ogando doesn't regain his footing the rest of the way. The tall and lanky righthander was one of the MVPs in the ALCS win over the Detroit Tigers, giving up just one run in 7 2/3 innings of relief work. Ogando has now pitched only an inning over the first World Series games, but he has given up two big pinch-hits to Allen Craig in the first two games and was tagged for four runs in Saturday night's game. (On a strange note, Craig was the only batter that Ogando retired in Game 3, striking him out the batter before Pujols' big swat.)

Of course, if Pujols stays mad and motivated, there might be little the Rangers' pitchers can do but acknowledge his greatness and move on to the rest of the lineup.

"If he doesn't want to chase the pitches, then give him first base and move onto Holliday," shortstop Elvis Andrus offered after the game.

About time someone spoke up.

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