ST. LOUIS – Just when the Texas Rangers seemed picked clean as the barbecue Cardinals closer Jason Motte(notes) devoured for lunch in front of TV cameras, they scored two runs in the ninth inning Thursday night to win 2-1 and even the World Series at one victory apiece.
Motte, reluctantly handed the closer role late in the regular season by manager Tony La Russa, had been invincible throughout the playoffs. But he gave up a single to Ian Kinsler(notes), and after Kinsler stole second, Elvis Andrus(notes) got a hit that put runners on second and third with none out when Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols(notes) couldn't handle the cutoff throw from center fielder Jon Jay(notes). Pujols was charged with an error.
Josh Hamilton(notes) and Michael Young(notes) followed with sacrifice flies against Motte's successors Arthur Rhodes(notes) and Lance Lynn(notes), and instead of the Cardinals heading to Texas up two games to none, they stagger south having squandered the home-field advantage.
Motte likely had heartburn by the end of the night, and it had nothing to do with the fare from Pappy's Smokehouse, St. Louis' pork paradise. In nine previous postseason innings he'd allowed no runs and one hit.
And the Cardinals had a string of 15 consecutive victories on getaway days snapped, days they liked to end with what they called "Happy Flights" to the next city on their schedule.
Instead, it was the Rangers' Neftali Feliz(notes) who closed the game. Feliz walked Yadier Molina(notes) to begin the inning but struck out Nick Punto(notes) and pinch-hitter Skip Schumaker(notes), and retired Rafael Furcal(notes) on a flyout, reaching 99 mph with his fastball.
"They did some classic baseball stuff to get the two guys around to score," La Russa said. "It took a lot of guts [for Kinsler] to steal that base."
The Rangers haven't lost two games in a row since late August. They are the defending American League champions. Nobody should be surprised that they turned the series on its head in the last of their 18 innings in St. Louis. Guts they have in spades.
"We played nine full innings," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We have great character."
Their rally obscured a remarkable showdown in the seventh inning that produced the Cardinals' run. Allen Craig(notes), a tad more familiar to a national audience, stood at the plate, again. Alexi Ogando(notes), a tad more vulnerable deep in his heart, stood on the mound, again.
Was it any surprise the result was identical to a night earlier? Certainly, because outcomes in baseball rarely repeat themselves as neatly as this. Craig lined a single to right field, scoring David Freese(notes) to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead.
Game 1, you'll recall, was decided by a pinch-hit single to right field by the very same Craig against the very same Ogando, scoring the very same Freese. It marked the first time a player has produced two go-ahead RBIs as a pinch-hitter in the same series. But this time it didn't produce a victory.
The scenario won't play out this precisely a third time for one simple reason: Craig will be in the starting lineup because a designated hitter is allowed in the AL ballpark.
Motte's meltdown and Craig's hit overshadowed spectacular performances by the starting pitchers. One, Jaime Garcia(notes), was the first born in Mexico to start a World Series game since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. The other, Colby Lewis(notes), resurrected his flagging career by pitching for two years in Japan.
Both dominated Game 2, a Series that was supposed to yield to each team's well-stocked bullpens. Starters had difficulty lasting even five innings throughout the championship series.
But Garcia pitched seven scoreless innings before being lifted for Craig. That juncture also was the end for Lewis, who exited having allowed four hits in 6 2/3 innings. Washington opted for the right-handed Ogando again against Craig, a power pitcher against a hitter who loves fastballs and is as adept at hitting righties as he is lefties.
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Washington sticks to his convictions, whether it be Ogando as the first man out of the bullpen or Hamilton batting third despite a groin pull. Washington was peppered with questions before the game by reporters who suggested he move the ailing Hamilton down in the batting order.
Washington wouldn't waver, however, and it was Hamilton whose long flyout to right field scored Kinsler with the tying run. La Russa had been getting all the kudos for managerial acuity, and deservedly so, but maybe Washington ought to get some credit, too.
"We're equal in the way we play baseball and it's going to be fun the rest of the way," Washington said. "Tonight was one of those great ballgames I think you will continue to see between the Cardinals and Rangers. That's what you're in for, so I've got to say, those of you that have bad hearts, watch yourself."
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