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While FOX was messing around with a new toy, we all got to see that the Rangers were hosed in the ninth inning of Game 1.
In the pivotal seventh inning of Game 1, Tony La Russa once again deployed his bullpen masterfully, and left Ron Washington behind on the way to a 3-2 victory. But was Washington really out-managed?
The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers traded runs in quick succession in Game 1 of the 2011 World Series on Wednesday night, with all of the action taking place in the middle innings. Each team put two on the board in back-to-back half innings -- St. Louis scored first in the bottom of the fourth, followed by Texas in the top of the fifth.
And in the top of the bottom of the sixth, it was Allen Craig, brought in as a pinch hitter in place of pitcher Chris Carpenter, delivering the big hit for the Cardinals. Craig had his chance after C.J. Wilson walked Nick Punto on four-pitches, putting runners on first and third with two outs. Wilson explained the sequence, including the walk, after the game.
"The plan was not to give in," Wilson said. "I know they had either Carpenter coming up or a pinch hitter, and with Ogando warming up behind me, I have confidence that he's going to come in and get that guy out."
The pinch hitter was Craig, who stepped to the dish with a chance to bring in the go-ahead run with a base hit. Wilson was sent to the bench in favor of Alexi Ogando and Craig sent a blooper down the right-field line that was just out of Nelson Cruz's reach. He slid feet-first, but came up just short.
"It was close," Cruz said. "Baseball is like that. Inches."
And from the probably useless, but perhaps interesting, stats department:
Allen Craig had the first go-ahead, game-winning RBI hit by a pinch hitter in a World Series Game 1 since Kirk Gibson's home run in Game 1 of the 1988 World Series (Luis Polonia had a pinch-hit fielder's choice in 1995). The four previous teams to have a pinch-hit go-ahead RBI in Game 1 went on to win the series.
So we can just mark the Cards down as World Series champs thanks to this fun pinch-hit statistic that only comes into play once in forever.
Whether or not it translates to a positive World Series outcome, Craig was the hero at the plate on Wednesday night, but he had plenty of help after the fact. Once again, the St. Louis bullpen came in and clamped down, pitching the final three innings by committee while allowing just one hit.
The end result was a 3-2 win and a 1-0 series lead for the Cardinals. The Rangers and Cards will be back at it again on Thursday as they square-off in Game 2 of the World Series at Busch Stadium.
Missed chances, a missed sliding catch and a few inches here and there doomed the Texas Rangers on Wednesday night as they fell to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 1 of the World Series, 3-2. Nelson Cruz's attempt at a sliding catch in the sixth inning came up just short, and the Cardinals had the go-ahead, and game-winning, hit they needed.
Over at SB Nation Dallas, Robbie Griffin took a look at the game, lamenting the missed chances and inability of the offense to string together hits.
There was not a whole lot to be happy about in the loss, either. So many players were bad. Ian Kinsler had two base hits, but each of the three hitters behind him responded with oh-fors. The combination of David Murphy and Craig Gentry did the same. Chris Carpenter was clearly struggling with command, but the Rangers were incapable of taking advantage of it.
So it's all bad for the Rangers, right? Not so fast, Griffin says. Game 1 is over and done with, but the Rangers can still escape St. Louis with momentum. Thursday presents Texas with a clean slate and a chance to head back to Texas with a knotted series.
Despite some terrible performances, the Rangers had so many opportunities to win. For some, that will keep them up tonight. For some, that can be their silver lining. The preview had this game as slightly favoring the Rangers, but only slightly, and yet still favored them to win the series. Win Thursday and Texas goes home with a 1-1 lead; and splitting at home in the setting of this series would be dramatically in their favor, and all you could ask for.
The Rangers and Cardinals get back at it on Thursday at 8:05 p.m. EDT in St. Louis.
Chris Carpenter spun six strong innings, and Lance Berkman and Allen Craig delivered the run-scoring hits that gave the Cardinals the win in the World Series opener.
The new FOX infrared toy is neat, sure, but is it practical? That was debatable until Adrian Beltre came up in the ninth inning of a one-run game in the World Series. He hit a ball off his foot that went down the third-base line. He hopped and puffed and did the things you're supposed to do when you hit a rock-hard projectile off your foot, but the home-plate umpire ruled it in play, and Beltre was thrown out.
FOX's new fancy toy said something different:
Right off the ol' tootsie. Unfortunately, you know that. I know that. We all know that. But the umpire couldn't know that, and the Rangers lost an out. It was a really, really, really, really important out. Who knows what Beltre would have done with that out? Stretched Motte out more? Hit a single? A double? A homer?
He probably would have made an out because Motte is a nasty, nasty pitcher. But it's always tough to have to include a "what-if" in your game analysis. What if the call were made correctly? Don't know, but the end result was that the Cardinals took the first game of the World Series.
The headline is misleading. Of course he knows. But when you're thinking of things to say off the top of your head for a few hours, it's easy to make this kind of mistake.
And McCarver reacted about the only way he could -- he laughed about it and moved on.
Not a big deal. Funny, sure, but it's not a reason to turn on McCarver. He gets a bad rap in a lot of circles, but I've never heard people complaining about him spelling.
No, this is the proper reason to turn on McCarver:
If that's the first time you've seen that clip, you might think it's funny. Just wait a second for the meaning to set in. You have a few more games of this -- possibly six more. That's at least 18 hours, maybe more.
Nope. Not so funny anymore. I've watched that clip six times tonight, and it hurts a little bit more each time. Certainly more than the misspelling of "strike."
Eventually, Tony La Russa's going to do something that doesn't work.
Maybe later tonight, even.
So far, though?
To start the top of the eighth, La Russa summoned Octavio Dotel from the bullpen, and Dotel got Ian Kinsler on a grounder to the mound and struck out Elvis Andrus on three pitches. Andrus didn't swing at even one of them. Dotel has now pitched in eight postseason games, and he's been perfect in seven of them.
With Josh Hamilton coming up, just one swing away from tying the game, La Russa patted Dotel on his bottom and waited for Arthur Rhodes to arrive from the bullpen. Rhodes, of course, began this season with the Rangers and is going to pick up a World Series ring regardless of who wins this thing.
Rhodes fell behind 3-and-1, but battled back and retired Hamilton on a routine fly to center field.
So it's still Cardinals 3, Rangers 2 and Jason Motte's going to enter in the ninth with three right-handed hitters coming up. At least all three of them can really hit. This might still be interesting, despite La Russa's best efforts.
There's no rule or law of physics that says that the Rangers and Cardinals will lose if they keep going to their bullpen in the sixth or seventh inning of every game, which they've done throughout the LDS and LCS. But it'd be weird to play that many games and not deploy a single reliever having an off night. A good bullpen can do a lot of things, but they usually aren't perfect.
In the seventh inning, Tony La Russa put in once-closer Fernando Salas, but the right-hander could only get one out. Salas allowed a single to Nelson Cruz and a walk to Mike Napoli. There were two on with one out, and it looked like La Russa's Midas touch was going to end the same way it did for King Midas, who I believe choked on a LOOGY made of gold.
|2011 - Esteban German||11||11||6||5||1||0||1||4||1||1||1||0||.455||.462||.818|
Yeah, I didn't know he was still around, either. He did hit .301 this year in the Pacific Coast League, but as the old saying goes, when your best pinch-hitter is Esteban German, your best pinch-hitter is Esteban German. There had to have been a better option on the bench ... Yorvit Torrealba, maybe, especially against a lefty?
I couldn't have said this better myself, so ...
After the NLCS, nine outs is nothing for La Russa. He's got eight pitchers in the bullpen -- well, now seven since Fernando Salas is in there -- and only nine outs left.
Whoops. Make that eight outs, as Salas retired Adrian Beltre on a weak grounder to second base.
Maybe this game won't end 3-2, especially now that Nelson Cruz has singled to center with one out. But Lance Lynn, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes, Marc Rzepczynski, Jason Motte ... La Russa might not win, but Crasnick's right: the manager must be happy, even as his stomach's churning. Because this is why he's on this earth.
Update: Now Salas has walked Napoli on four pitches, and here comes "Scrabble".
The Cardinals had a chance to pull ahead of the Rangers in the bottom of the fifth, but Matt Holliday bounced into an inning-ending double play. Chris Carpenter worked through a scoreless top of the sixth, though, giving the Cardinals another opportunity, and this time they seized it.
After retiring Lance Berkman, C.J. Wilson made the mistake of throwing David Freese a pitch. David Freese hits all pitches, and he hit this one to the right-center gap for a double. He soon thereafter advanced to third when a ball got away from Mike Napoli.
Wilson struck out Yadier Molina to relieve some of the burden, and then he walked Nick Punto to bring up the pitcher's spot. Carpenter returned to the dugout, though, as Tony La Russa sent up Allen Craig to pinch-hit.
That brought Ron Washington out of the dugout to replace Wilson with Alexi Ogando. In other words, a walk of Nick Punto chased two starting pitchers from a game.
In came Ogando, and he overwhelmed Craig with a pair of fastballs. In a 1-2 count, though, Craig made contact and slashed a ball down the line in right, and...
That close. Nelson Cruz dove, but his dive was fruitless, and Craig had himself a run-scoring single to make it a 3-2 game. Had the ball gotten away from Cruz, it would've been 4-2 or 5-2, so the Rangers kind of got a break, but now they're losing with three innings to go.
It's worth noting that, while Rafael Furcal flew out after Craig's single to end the inning, it looked like he hit a homer off the bat. He did not.
The FOX team just showed an on-screen graphic with the following:
(The Texas Rangers are) the first team to have five pitchers with 13 wins since the 1977 Yankees
And I hate myself for thinking it. Fought against it, paced around for a bit, tried to forget it. But, but ...
That's kind of cool.
Pitcher wins are mostly useless, sure. But at a very basic level, there's something to them. Maybe they're there or not there because of the strength of the pitcher's offense, or maybe there are other some other factors. But there's something there to unpack, and the fact that it hasn't been done for thirty years ... kind of cool.
And this is one of the reasons it was weird for the Rangers to have such trouble going deep into games this postseason. They averaged over six innings per start in the regular season.
On cue, Ron Washington ambled out to the mound in the bottom of the sixth to get C.J. Wilson. The streak of early exits continues. But it's been good luck for both teams so far this postseason. Why stop a good bad thing?
Ron Washington's apparently anticipating a different sort of game than we've become used to.
Because after Ian Kinsler led off the sixth inning with a bloop single, Washington (presumably) ordered Elvis Andrus to lay down a sacrificial bunt. Which Andrus did, Kinsler happily trotting to second base while Andrus was out at first by a country mile.
Kinsler soon sprinted to third base after Jon Jay caught Josh Hamilton's fly to deep center field.
But that's where Kinsler stayed, officially, because Michael Young slapped a grounder down the first-base line that (of course) Albert Pujols snagged, well into right field, and tossed to Chris Carpenter to end the threat.
You know, like this:
The Cardinals scored the first two runs of the World Series in the bottom of the fourth. That put them in excellent position, where they remained for some minutes, until Mike Napoli and the Rangers got those two runs right back with a home run. So as the game headed to the bottom of the fifth, it was even once more.
That's when C.J. Wilson opened the door for the Cards to re-assume the lead. After an eight-pitch battle, Rafael Furcal drew a leadoff walk. He advanced to second on Jon Jay's sac bunt, and then Wilson intentionally walked Albert Pujols. That meant the Cards had two on and one out for Matt Holliday, who's a good guy to have up in those sorts of situations.
Holliday hit the first pitch he saw hard, too. Unfortunately...
It was the Cardinals' second double play of the game, but it felt like the fourth. So we move on, with the score still 2-2. Wilson's at 74 pitches, with a lousy 39 strikes.
Last week, we noted that FOX was going to try military grade thermal-imaging cameras in their broadcasts. From the original AP article:
The cameras spot the friction-heat generated when a ball hits a bat or players' protective padding and gloves. Little nicks or glances that the naked eye may miss because the ball is traveling so fast and the contact is so slight often show up nicely, as a white mark, with the images generated by the Hot Spot system.
Sounds great, but I had no idea what it meant. Sure, I've played Call of Duty 4 and everything, but I have a hard time telling my military grade thermal-imaging cameras from my standard civilian grade thermal-imaging cameras that I don't use to see what my neighbor's up to. What does it look like in a baseball context?
Huh. That's interesting. Sure would have helped when Reggie Jackson was packing heat and trying to kill the Queen of England. It's probably pretty useful if you can tell if a player has to go to the bathroom. Just keep throwing over to first. Pickoff throw after pickoff throw ... when you finally do pitch, the hitter will have no choice but to swing. It can't lose!
When they said before the game that with Nelson Cruz moving from No. 7 in the Rangers to No. 6, new No. 7 hitter Mike Napoli would have to protect Cruz, my first question was, "So who's going to protect Mike Napoli?"
Well, technically that job falls to David Murphy ... but it would have fallen to Murphy regardless of who's batting seventh. And the real point here is that protection is exceptionally overrated.
In the top of the fifth, Adrian Beltre led off with a sharp single into right field for the Rangers' second hit. That brought up Nelson Cruz, who struck out swinging at a high cutter that actually got away from Chris Carpenter.
Which brought up Napoli, who smacked Carpenter's second pitch, a 93-mile-an-hour fastball that grazed the top of the strike zone, well over the fence in right field.
Maybe, as Joe Buck suggested, there's something about the No. 7 spot in the Rangers' lineup.
Or maybe Nelson Cruz and Mike Napoli are just really good at hitting fastballs in their wheelhouses.
Carpenter did escape the inning with no further damage, so it's Cardinals 2, Rangers 2 in the bottom of the fifth.
C.J. Wilson wasn't very good through the first two innings, but he escaped unscathed. Then he seemed to find his groove in the bottom of the third. That didn't bode very well for the Cardinals' hopes of getting on the board.
But get on the board they did, in the bottom of the fourth. Pitching in a scoreless tie, Wilson hit Albert Pujols with a 2-1 slider to lead off.
On the very next pitch, Wilson left a fastball over the middle of the plate, and Matt Holliday drove it down the line the other way for a double. Pujols limped around the bases and had to stop at third instead of sprinting home, but he'd make it home before long.
Lance Berkman was up next, and in a 1-0 count, he slapped an outside cutter the other way, the ball falling just fair, just beyond first base. It went for a two-run single, and the Cardinals found themselves armed with a 2-0 lead.
That's all the damage they'd do. David Freese sent a long fly to straightaway center that sounded good off the bat, but came up short of the wall. There were also two other, far more boring outs. But a 2-0 lead is a 2-0 lead, and Chris Carpenter has looked a lot better in the last two innings than he did in the first two. The Cardinals are in a good place.
And suddenly, Chris Carpenter is looking sharp.
Early in the game, both starting pitchers were giving up walks and hard contact. On the Cardinals' side, there were a couple of quasi-tough players that David Freese didn't make. None of it added up to runs, though.
Rule #235 of broadcasting is that when a pitcher throws a front-door sinker, you have to mention Greg Maddux by law. Most of the time it's unwarranted. With that one up there, though ... wow.
With the Cardinals up in the fourth and Carpenter rediscovering his groove, the game is starting to get that common feeling of "Boy, if the Rangers had just gotten to him earlier ..." Chris Carpenter wasn't especially good in the first three innings. He was dominant in the fourth. If the Rangers want to come back, they'll have to deal with the new (old) Carpenter.
Like the rest of America that isn't tuned to another channel waiting for football to be on, Brandon McCarthy is watching tonight's Game 1 of the World Series. He's watching it on FOX, with the sound on, and he has opinions about the people talking to him. Twitter:
God I wish there was a Collinsworth, Blackledge, or Gruden for baseball. I just want actual in depth baseball information.
There's so much good information that those guys pass along that adds to viewing experience. In baseball, scouting reports/tendencies [...] on both sides could constantly be examined and talked about practically. I think fans would love it. Enough with 'gamer', 'great guy' stuff.
I wonder what the Cardinals' hitters approaches are against a lefty like CJ? Pull happy? Stay in the middle? Successful? Patient?
Who knows, but they all seem like a great group of guys.
I don't necessarily think all baseball fans are annoyed by Joe Buck and Tim McCarver, but it seems like all the baseball fans on the internet are. And one of the neat things about Twitter is that we can find out when players feel the same way. They're just like us! In some respects.
D'awwwww. So adorable. Joe Buck and Tim McCarver were talking about C.J. Wilson thinking that he can hit. Fancies himself a student of the whole hitting genre, he does. And he did have a 1.000 OPS this season, hitting a triple in four at-bats. That was an improvement over his .000 OPS in four at-bats last year. You can see where this is going -- a 2.000 OPS in 2012, a 3.000 OPS in 2013 ... all the way to a 6.000 OPS in 2016, regardless of what "math" says.
Or not. See, all pitchers who don't get the chance to hit think they can hit. They haven't been beat down by the reality of facing their MLB peers. So while it's nice that Wilson's .292/.398/.435 line at Loyola Marymount allows him to get a little confident, he has no idea. If and when he gets to face a lot of major-league pitching, he'll learn quickly.
We're through two innings in Game 1 of the World Series, and there isn't any score. The Cardinals and the Rangers feature two of the best offenses in baseball, but so far they've been held in check, or at least kept off the board. With that said, it's hard to say that either Chris Carpenter or C.J. Wilson have pitched particularly well so far. Why?
Carpenter: 14 strikes, 15 balls
Wilson: 15 strikes, 15 balls
Four combined half-innings, and one more ball than strike. The weather is nasty in St. Louis, by which I mean it's cold and windy, so maybe that's having an effect, but unless these aces get things turned around in short order, we could be in line for more of the same extended bullpen work with which we grew familiar during the previous round.
Amazing how generating a bunch of ground balls can allow a struggling pitcher to get by, though.
So the story entering the World Series was that the Cardinals and Rangers are going to score a ton of runs, because their starting pitchers struggled in the LCS's and whatever happened in the LCS's will happen in the World Series, too.
Well, not necessarily.
Chris Carpenter, who lasted only five innings against the Brewers in his NLCS start, has pitched two scoreless innings.
C.J. Wilson, who entered Game 1 with an 8.04 ERA in three postseason starts, has pitched two scoreless innings.
Which isn't to suggest that either of them's been perfect. Carpenter's given up two hits and a walk; Wilson's issued a couple of free passes.
The point is that both of these guys are good pitchers when they're healthy and -- like a lot of their colleagues -- they can reasonably be expected to actually give their clubs at least five or six good innings, almost every time out.
In related news, after two innings the score remains Cardinals 0, Rangers 0.
David Freese has never had a great defensive reputation. Pretty sure he's never had a defensive reputation. He's just always been there, minding his own business, not bothering anybody, and not doing a lot to attract attention. Like Canada. He was the Canada of third basemen. His career UZR at third, per FanGraphs: 1.1.
But in the first two innings, he's looked like his range is exactly six feet and two inches in either direction, depending on which direction he falls. In the first inning, Ian Kinsler hit a single off his glove down the line, and in the second inning, Adrian Beltre hit one past Freese as well.
Both times, the Cardinals got out of the inning without allowing a run. In the first inning, Kinsler was caught stealing, and in the second, Mike Napoli grounded into a double play. So Freese's defense at third will not become a thing.
But that's how quickly they can happen, those things. One minute, you're not paying attention to an aspect of a player's game, and the next, it's a thing. Not for Freese this time, though. He was fortunate.
Everybody tells me I missed Tim McCarver's prime, back in the 1980s with the Mets.
But I was around in the late '90s, and at that point I found McCarver insufferable.
He's somehow become less insufferable since then, which is both refreshing and surprising because people generally get more of whatever they are, and certainly not less. But I think McCarver has.
Sometimes he's also really, really, really smart.
Like at the very beginning of tonight's Game 1.
Ian Kinsler led off for the Rangers. McCarver noticed that Cardinals third baseman David Freese was playing fairly close, and said this after Chris Carpenter's first pitch:
McCarver: Hey, David Freese is expecting a bunt from Ian Kinsler, playing him very shallow, in front of the bag. Ian Kinsler, a very good pull hitter. He does not hit a lot of balls to right field.
Carpenter's third pitch:
Would you believe it? Yeah. Kinsler took a crazy swing and drove a hot grounder right past Freese, who (as everyone has been told many times) is not a good defender.
(Fortunately for Freese (and the Cardinals), Kinsler was erased a moment later on a busted hit-and-run.)
McCarver might not be so prescient again at any point in this World Series. But he's off to a great start.
I haven't the foggiest idea why, but earlier this afternoon I found myself reading over ESPN's staff predictions for the World Series. You can find them here, and presented below are a couple of the blurbs:
The Rangers' offense is simply too powerful for the Cardinals to handle.
I don't mean to pick on those writers - I just want to use this as a jumping-off point to talk about the perception that the Rangers have an unbelievable lineup. The Rangers, obviously, can hit. They finished third in baseball in runs scored, and second in OPS. But - and obviously this isn't ground-breaking analysis - it's so, so important to consider park effects.
Rangers, home: .860 OPS
Rangers, road:. 740 OPS
Rangers, home: 6.1 runs/game
Rangers, road: 4.4 runs/game
The Rangers play their home games in a hitter-friendly environment that boosts their offensive numbers. Hell, in the playoffs, they've scored 33 runs in five home games, and 22 runs in five road games. They can hit and they have power, but they're made to look better than they are by the ballpark named in their honor.
The Cardinals, incidentally, have the opposite thing going on. Busch Stadium is a pitcher-friendly environment, and you can see that in the stats:
Cardinals, home: .745 OPS
Cardinals, road: .785 OPS
Cardinals, home: 4.3 runs/game
Cardinals, road: 5.1 runs/game
The Cardinals, despite playing in the National League, finished with the #1 road OPS in baseball. The Red Sox were a close second, and the Yankees were a distant third. (The Royals[?] were a distant fourth.) There's a convincing argument to be made that it's the Cardinals who have the best offense in the league.
The Rangers have a good offense, and it'll be the best the Cardinals have faced of their three October opponents, but it'll be mortal for the games in St. Louis. And as for the games in Texas, then it becomes a matter of keeping up, of which the Cardinals are more than capable.
I guess that headline implies that there's a lot of Nick Punto in the Cardinals' Game 1 starting lineup. In truth, there's only one Nick Punto in the Cardinals' Game 1 starting lineup, but that's one more Nick Punto than I expected.
Punto: .649 OPS
Theriot: .775 OPS
Punto is a good defensive infielder, so that helps, but the same goes for Theriot, too. This sounds an awful lot like Tony La Russa playing a hunch, although he might say that he's "playing the best defenders" even though Theriot's overall value is probably higher than Punto's.
The other surprise in here is Jon Jay batting second. You'll notice that Jay is the only left-handed hitter in the lineup. C.J. Wilson has forever been carbon-based death to left-handed hitters, limiting them to a career .560 OPS with three times as many strikeouts as walks. Batting order doesn't matter very much and you can never predict what'll happen in one single game, but Jay doesn't belong at #2. Not for Game 1. That is a minor but suboptimal decision.
Oh, Major League Baseball. Why are you so ... that way? The Texas Rangers had a great idea for their first pitch, inviting Dallas Mavericks forward Dirk Nowitzki to do the honor. Nowitzki was an inspired choice -- an iconic Dallas athlete who brought a championship to his long-suffering franchise after decades of abject failure, and years of recent just-misses. Sounds like a pretty sweet parallel, no?
Major League Baseball, though, is thinking big picture. Like, what if there's a person watching the game at home who thinks that by letting an NBA player perform a ten-second ceremony at a baseball game, MLB doesn't support the NBA in their labor conflict? What would happen then? From ESPN Dallas:
Sources told ESPNDallas.com that -- with the NBA in the midst of a lockout that has spanned 111 days -- at least some hesitation stems from the idea that MLB executives want to stand behind their basketball counterparts and have notified the Rangers that they can't bestow first-pitch honors on an NBA player.
MLB denies this, of course.
"MLB absolutely denies that any part in selecting the first ball pitcher had anything to do with the current labor situation in the NBA," MLB spokesman Pat Courtney said. "You want the club's input in what makes sense for them and then we talk about what makes sense for the team and a good broad-base national appeal.
To which Baseball Time in Arlington responds:
The Game 2 first pitch is being thrown out by a CONTEST WINNER. Take your "broad-base national appeal" and shove it up your ass, MLB.
It's true. An Ohio man won an online vote to throw out the first pitch in Game 2. No one cared, though, because no one really cares who throws out first pitches, except for maybe the fans in attendence when it's someone really special. Like, oh, a local sports hero.
But, really, MLB is just concerned with broad-base national appeal. They don't want regional curiosities like one of the most famous athletes in American sports. And they certainly don't want someone who is even slightly controversial. Nope, we need broad-base national appeal.
So by proactively squashing a gesture that no one would have read anything into, Major League Baseball has turned a complete non-story into something that reflects poorly on Major League Baseball. That's a talent you just can't teach.
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are two good teams, and the 2011 World Series should be a heckuva match-up. But there's something to be said for what we're missing ...
The Rangers’ Nelson Cruz has been batting seventh during the ALCS; he had one of the best LCS in history, becoming the first player to hit six home runs in a postseason series. That led to a lot of comments about him batting “that low”, as if batting order really matters after the first time through.
Cruz hit seventh just eight times during the regular season and hit a small-sample-size (35 PA) .382/.371/.676 (yes, an OBP lower than his BA; a sac fly and no walks will do that).
Next to that, Cruz hit best batting sixth during the season (238 PA, .277/.324/.614), and that’s just where manager Ron Washington has him for Game 1:
1. Ian Kinsler – R – 2B
2. Elvis Andrus – R – SS
3. Josh Hamilton – L – CF
4. Michael Young – R – 1B
5. Adrian Beltre – R – 3B
6. Nelson Cruz – R – RF
7. Mike Napoli – R – C
8. David Murphy – L – LF
9. C.J. Wilson – L – P
Someone had to move down so Cruz could move up, and that’s catcher Mike Napoli. Napoli hit virtually the same during the regular season batting sixth (1.084 OPS), seventh (1.032 OPS) or eighth (1.224 OPS), so it likely won’t matter to him.
As a NL fan, I’m always interested in how AL pitchers fare at the plate. C.J. Wilson, who was primariliy a reliever until 2010, doesn’t have much sample size: eight career at-bats. But he did hit a triple this year (in four at-bats), so maybe he’s figuring out that batting thing.
So the weather for Game 1 of the World Series tonight in St. Louis is ... well, it's not okay. It's pretty far from okay.
I'm writing this from chilly, breezy, overcast Oregon.
Scott Miller's in St. Louis, where it's chillier, breezier, and overcastier ...
That's not okay, and it's not going to get okay. It's presumably going to get worse. According to Weather Underground, here's tonight: Breezy. Mostly cloudy with a 40 percent chance of rain. Low in the lower 40s. Northwest wind 15 to 20 mph with gusts to around 30 mph.
Sure, maybe the rains will hold off. But what do the low 40s feel like when the Iowa Express is howling through Busch Stadium at 20 or 30 miles an hour?
I've made this argument before and nobody cared, but this isn't baseball weather, friends. This isn't golf weather or Ultimate Frisbee weather or croquet weather and it's especially not baseball weather. And if not for TV, they probably wouldn't even be entertaining the notion of playing baseball in this weather.
At least it will be the same for both teams. But as much as I love the World Series, I will take a bit less pleasure than usual tonight, watching the players doing something they shouldn't be doing.
Last year, it was Jake Westbrook who wore the Pendant of Effectiveness that Dave Duncan got from a wizard back in '83, helping the Cardinals in the second half of 2010 and signing a contract extension. This year, though, the pendant went to Kyle Lohse, and with Westbrook the Cardinals' fifth-best starter on the roster, he was left off the playoff roster for the first two rounds.
He's back for the World Series, though, and considering how much time the Cards' bullpen got in the NLDS and NLCS, there's a pretty good chance he'll see some action. From Jayson Stark:
StLCardinals make it official. Schumaker & Westbrook on World Series roster. Chambers & McClellan off.
Westbook makes the roster at the expense of reliever-turned-starter-turned-reliever Kyle McClellan, who pitched a third of an inning in the NLCS, allowing two hits and a run. McClellan scuffled at the end of the regular season too, giving up at least one earned run in seven of his final 12 outings.
The Cardinals will also welcome back Skip Schumaker, who missed the NLCS with an oblique tweak. To clear a spot for him, St. Louis opted to leave off the speedy/slappy Adron Chambers, who has only eight at-bats in his MLB career.
Game 1 of the World Series is set for Wednesday night, so earlier Wednesday, we've seen the Rangers' and the Cardinals' respective rosters get finalized. As for the former, there aren't any huge surprises, but there is this, from John Blake:
Lowe, a reliever, is all healed from a strained hamstring. Treanor will play the part of third catcher, as the Rangers anticipate some pinch-hitting when playing under NL rules. Treanor isn't much, but Ron Washington obviously likes to have the flexibility.
What's most interesting here isn't the Lowe/Treanor part. It's the Uehara/Tateyama part, because in 2011k those two relievers combined to strike out 128 batters in 109 innings, with 15 unintentional walks. They also allowed 19 home runs, and Uehara allowed three more homers in three appearances in the first two rounds of the playoffs, but one could certainly make the argument that the Rangers are overreacting, and hurting themselves by leaving off two quality relievers.
Not that their bullpen isn't already deep. I like Uehara more than Lowe, but the difference between them isn't big, and odds are this series won't come down to each team's last relievers.
The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers will face off on Wednesday night for Game 1 of the 2011 World Series. The game time, pitching matchups and television schedule and everything else is included below.
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