It's cliché and boring to say that baseball is a game of inches. We've all heard it said a thousand times, and it's usually the mark of someone who just doesn't have anything insightful to say. But sometimes I think it's really amazing how close a baseball game can come to being a completely different baseball game.
Wednesday night, in Game 1 of the World Series, the St. Louis Cardinals came close to playing a different baseball game against the Texas Rangers. The baseball game they wound up playing, though, was one they won 3-2, establishing an early 1-0 series lead.
Game 1 matched ace C.J. Wilson up against ace Chris Carpenter, and though neither is a flamethrowing ace in the classic mold, they're both among the better starters in either league. They didn't necessarily show that early on, as each starter struggled to throw strikes through the first two innings in cold and windy conditions, but they did manage to keep their respective opponents off the board.
Wilson and Carpenter appeared to find their grooves in the third, and through three and a half, there was no score at all. But then in the bottom of the fourth, the Cardinals got to Wilson - and only barely.
Berkman placed a single just fair, and just out of Michael Young's reach. The single plated both runners, and the Cardinals pulled in front 2-0.
Their lead didn't last long. The top of the fifth saw Carpenter face the #7 hitter in the Rangers' lineup, and the #7 slot in the Rangers' lineup is apparently cursed, in a good way. (Blessed?) Mike Napoli batted with one on and one out and blasted a high outside fastball deep and out to right field. That knotted up the score in a right jiffy.
The Cardinals had a chance to respond, but they wasted a couple baserunners. The Rangers subsequently wasted a baserunner of their own a few minutes later, and then in the bottom of the sixth, the Cardinals got the hit they needed.
David Freese doubled with one out, and stood on third base with two outs when Allen Craig pinch-hit for Carpenter. Facing Alexi Ogando, Craig went after a pair of hard fastballs, looking really bad, but then in a 1-2 count, Craig made contact with a fastball and sent the ball down the right field line.
Nelson Cruz dove and came inches from making an inning-ending catch, but instead he missed and the ball hit his leg. Freese came in to score, and the Cardinals moved in front 3-2.
That took the game to the seventh, and with Carpenter out, Tony La Russa got to start messing around with his bullpen, like he likes. Fernando Salas recorded the first out of the inning but left a jam for Marc Rzepczynski. However, Rzepczynski successfully struck out both Craig Gentry and Esteban German with two on to escape. German pinch-hit instead of Yorvit Torrealba, which was unexpected and the cause of much consternation.
Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes combined for a flawless eighth. The ninth, as is the norm, went to Jason Motte, and Motte went through the Rangers' hitters 1-2-3 for the save. There was a dispute when Adrian Beltre grounded out and then argued that the ball glanced off of his foot, which replays confirmed, but the out call stuck, and Nelson Cruz flew out to left-center to end it.
So the Cardinals take the first game of the series thanks in large part to a pair of run-scoring hits that were very nearly not run-scoring hits. They'll try to take Game 2 Thursday night at 8:05pm ET, with Jaime Garcia opposing Colby Lewis.