October 21, 2011
By putting his team ahead with a pinch-hit RBI single for the second straight night, Allen Craig(notes) not only set a World Series record, but he also set himself up to be considered among the most legendary of St. Louis Cardinals.
And then the Texas Rangers caught up to the tortoise-owning Craig and flew past the Cards for a 2-1 victory in Game 2 at Busch Stadium on Thursday night. Texas' ninth-inning rally had reduced Craig's doubly impressive feat into a merely amazing footnote.
Still, he seemed pretty astonished that the same situation as in Game 1 — tie score, two outs, same pitcher in Alexi Ogando(notes) — presented itself again. Even if it came in the seventh inning, instead of the sixth. As he was quoted in the New York Times:
"I couldn't believe that it was the same exact situation against the same guy," said Craig, who lined outside fastballs to right field in each at-bat. "I kind of had to snap out of it and refocus a bit because that doesn't really happen that often in baseball, that it's the same situation, coming up with the same guys getting on base, the same guys coming in."
Odd, and record-setting. Research by Baseball-Reference shows that Craig is the first player in World Series history to come through with two go-ahead, RBI pinch hits. Imagine how epic that would be if the Cardinals had won 1-0. For a while there, Craig had ascended with the highest-flying Redbirds:
• Enos Slaughter making "The Mad Dash" to win Game 7 of the 1946 World Series.
• Bob Gibson striking out 17 Tigers in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series.
• Ozzie Smith hitting the home run to win Game 5 of the NLCS that made folks "go crazy," (or Jack Clark's pennant-winning homer the next game).
• "Allen Craig's pinch-hit déja vü in the World Series," they might have said.
Craig's single continued a remarkable run as a pinch hitter in the postseson; overall he is 4 for 6, including a two-run single against the Brewers in Game 6 of the NCLS to help clinch the pennant. He's not just the proud owner of a tortoise!
But with the World Series shifting to Texas — where the DH will be used for three games and the Rangers are scheduled to start three left-handed pitchers — Craig probably will be put into the starting lineup. That's OK for the Cardinals, because Craig hit .315/.362/.555 (!) with 11 homers in 219 plate appearances this season. A 27-year-old who is finishing up his first full season in the majors, Craig said he'll be ready for whatever.
"You know," said Craig, "I'm just going to do whatever they tell me to do. I want to play and I'll do whatever it takes to play. I don't really care where it is."