Bob Gibson, Bruce Sutter, and Adam Wainwright have always commanded attention while on the pitcher’s mound. When they all took the mound together for ceremonial pitches, it was like watching different 3 points in space-time meeting for just a moment. Geeky? Yes. Awesome? Absolutely. For a fleeting instant, I almost wanted a batter in the box for Gibby to go “high and tight” on just one last time. I wanted Sutter to throw a splitter in the dirt with someone swinging weakly over the top and missing by 4 inches. Finally, I wanted a 12-6 curve from Wainwright with Carlos Beltran standing there looking on helplessly with a bat that just wouldn’t move. That’s probably a bit too much to ask for, but one can always hope. Amazingly, the night just got better and better from there for Cardinal fans.
For the first 3 innings, the game looked like a good, old-fashioned pitcher’s duel in which 2 runs might be enough to win it. The Rangers were getting some good swings off of Chris Carpenter, and they were able to turn on a few pitches that caught just a bit too much of the plate. CJ Wilson had plenty of his own problems as he was struggling to locate in the early innings, but he managed to match Carpenter zero for zero. That looked to change in the top of the 4th inning when Carp hit the heart of the Texas lineup for the 2nd time and appeared to have his mojo going by striking out Elvis Andrus and Josh Hamilton before Michael Young hit an easy grounder to shortstop. When the bottom of the inning started, it looked like the wheels might be coming off for Wilson. He looked to be in good shape against Pujols to start the bottom of the 4th, but one pitch just got away from him a bit and lightly tapped Pujols. Matt Holliday followed with double that put Cardinals on 2nd and 3rd with no outs. After Berkman’s timely single put the Cardinals up 2-0, it looked like the 4th might be huge up until David Freese‘s long fly to center.
After Wilson worked his way out of the inning, Carp went to the mound for a “shutdown inning” and promptly gave up a single to Adrian Beltre. Just two batters later, Mike Napoli tied the game at 2 apiece with an opposite field shot that was a no-doubter from the moment it left the bat. To say that Napoli has “easy power” would be an understatement, and he’s quite a weapon hitting in the number 7 spot.
Carpenter worked through a scoreless top of the 6th despite giving up a leadoff single to Ian Kinsler, and the Cardinals came to bat with Wilson still looking like he might go another couple of innings. Thankfully for Cardinal fans, that all changed the moment David Freese sent a double into deep right. Thanks to a two-out, pinch hit single from Allen Craig, the Cardinals were able to take a 3-2 lead that they would not relinquish thanks to yet another masterful effort by the bullpen.
KEY MOMENTS: Some important moments in the game resulted in runs scored, but most of the key moments resulted in damage prevention.
- Yadier Molina saying “Yadios” to Ian Kinsler by gunning him down in the top of the 1st was significant. If that Kinsler steal attempt is successful, then the Rangers would have had the opportunity to advance him to 3rd with just 1 out and Josh Hamilton at the plate.
- Carpenter’s bunt attempt in the 3rd inning didn’t look all that great, but at least partial credit goes to Wilson for making it difficult. By getting Carpenter out, he was able to keep Nick Punto out of scoring position.
- The pitch that hit Albert Pujols wasn’t a very good one. When Wilson did struggle with his control, he still managed to keep the ball out of most hitters “hot zones”. That was true until the 4th inning when he set one on a tee for Holliday to drill to right.
- Credit Adrian Beltre for a nice piece of hitting to start the 5th inning. Without his leadoff single, maybe Mike Napoli isn’t in position to tie the game. Yadi set up outside, and Carp missed his location and left the ball over the plate. Tie game.
- Maybe I’m wrong about this, but the 2011 version of Alexi Ogando would seem to be a good matchup for Allen Craig. Ogando’s pitch to Craig that resulted in the winning rbi wasn’t a horrible pitch. I doubt that Ogando v.2010 makes that same pitch, though.
- Marc Rzepcznski deserves a huge hat tip for striking out both Craig Gentry and Estaban German in the Texas half of the 7th. That’s a “lefty specialist” making 2 solid right-handed hitters look bad. Doing so after Fernando Salas looked shaky in facing 3 hitters (2 of whom reached base) made Rzep’s work that much tougher.
- Finally, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes, and Jason Motte combined for possibly the most intense 2 innings I’ve seen in a while. Nearly every Texas hitter they faced had serious potential to tie the game up with a single swing. Rhodes did the same thing to Josh Hamilton that he basically did to Ryan Howard in the NLDS, although it is worth mentioning that Josh Hamilton looked to be feeling the effects of his groin injury. His fly ball out to center was on a pitch that he’s normally capable of driving with a bit more force. If Hamilton is as hobbled as he appeared last night, that greatly impacts the ability the Rangers have to do damage from the left side of the plate.
HIGHLIGHT OF THE NIGHT: Duh. That jump pass throw from Albert Pujols to a diving Chris Carpenter was about as good as defense gets. Hat tip to Elvis Andrus for taking measures to avoid stepping on Carpenter who was completely laid out around the 1st base bag by the time Andrus got there. As much as Cardinal fans were cheering the play, I like to think that they were also cheering Andrus for a great display of sportsmanship.
WORST MOVE OF THE NIGHT: This guy….
While I applaud the “reduce, reuse, recycle” approach….c’mon! Man up and at least use something better than tape and a sharpie.
TIDBIT: Every time Motte enters and “Lose Yourself” plays, I want to throw on a PH8 hoodie and perform the final battle rap scene from “8 Mile”.
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