The Narrative: There’s an eagerness among baseball pundits to label the 2011 World Series a classic, and in one way it’s getting increasingly more difficult to argue with them. However, in another way, a more cynical way that looks at the poor management decisions and outrageous amounts of stranded runners, there’s very little about tonight’s game at least that one would refer to as classical.
Nonetheless, after tonight’s 4-2 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals, the Texas Rangers are now a single win away from their first World Series in franchise history. C.J. Wilson provided a serviceable, albeit shaky start to only allow two runs and the Rangers bullpen took care of the rest from there, with shutdown outings from Scott Feldman, Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz.
But as much as we might talk about the Texas bullpen or or Adrian Beltre’s heroic home run or Mike Napoli hitting a two run double to put the Rangers ahead for the first and last time, it’s impossible to escape the many missteps from both Tony La Russa and Ron Washington tonight with ill advised intentional walks, poorly planned sacrifice hits and the creation of batter vs. pitcher matchups that wouldn’t, shouldn’t and didn’t work out.
The Premonitory Moment Of The Pre Game
Mike Napoli required an old fashioned pick me up prior to tonight’s game.
The Anatomy Of One Too Many Curveballs
We heard that prior to his last start, Chris Carpenter had to get treatment on his elbow, and I wonder if pain in the joint was causing the St. Louis Cardinals interim ace (with Adam Wainwright out) to alter his pitching repertoire.
During the regular season:
- Sinker: 44%
- Cutter: 33%
- Curveball: 20%
In the playoffs, prior to tonight:
- Sinker: 49%
- Cutter: 28%
- Curveball: 23%
- Sinker: 20%
- Cutter: 56%
- Curveball: 25%
By the sixth inning, Texas Rangers hitters could probably tell that Carpenter’s pitching engine wasn’t firing on all cylinders, and that at one point in their at bat, they would see a curve ball. Adrian Beltre saw his in the second pitch of his at bat, and tied the game by dipping low and sending it over the fence while landing on one knee.
Something wasn’t quite right with Carpenter tonight, and I expect we’ll learn more in the coming days.
The Most Disturbing Screen Cap Of The Game (Courtesy of MOCKSESSION.com)
The Most Important Play Of The Game
After Michael Young led off the eighth inning with a double off Octavio Dotel and Adrian Beltre struck out, Tony La Russa, rather inexplicably intentionally walked Nelson Cruz, despite Dotel’s record against RHB. Marc Rzepczynski then came into the game for Dotel and David Murphy stepped up with an infield single that bounced off the pitcher to load the bases. La Russa then stuck with Rzepczynski, even though Napoli, throughout his career, including this season, has had a history of success against southpaws.
The Rangers catcher doubled, scoring two runs and giving Texas the lead for the first time in the game. The hit increased the home team’s probability of winning the game by more than 18%.
The Biggest Disappointment Of The Game
With two out in the second inning and Yadier Molina on second base, Nick Punto lined a ball into the gap in left center field. Covering a huge amount of ground, David Murphy made a diving catch to come up with the third out and save his team a run. While Punto was certainly disappointed he didn’t drive in the third run of the inning, it’s not even close to the disappointment millions of viewers felt while watching the second baseman’s feeble attempt at breaking his baseball bat, after ill advisedly running with it down the first base line.
For the record, this is how one breaks one’s bat over one’s knee:
The Shamsky Award
Named after Art Shamsky, who single handedly increased the Cincinnati Reds’ chances of winning by 150.3% in a losing effort during a game in 1966, The Shamsky Award is given to the player on the losing team who contributes the most to them winning.
Yadier Molina went three for four tonight with a run batted in. He increased his team’s probability of winning by more than 20% in a losing cause.
The Statistics You Won’t Believe
Not so much a stat, but both starting pitchers tonight are named Christopher John.
In the top of the fourth, C.J. Wilson had his first 1-2-3 inning. He still required 21 pitches. Somehow, that is mathematically possible.
Ian Kinsler has been caught stealing three times this postseason. He was caught four times through the entire regular season.
Assuming he doesn’t pitch in a theoretical Game Seven, C.J. Wilson finishes the postseason with 19 walks and 24 strikeouts in 26 and two third innings. He joins Orel Hershiser in 1997 and Kevin Appier in 2002 as the only pitchers with five starts in a single postseason and no wins.
The Rangers issued 21 intentional walks all season. They’ve issued eight this postseason.
The six intentional walks tonight is a World Series record. See also, The Aggravating Things That The Managers Did.
The St. Louis Cardinals stranded a dozen runners tonight.
The One Pant Leg At A Time Of The Game
Despite last night’s World Series heroics, Derek Holland isn’t taking anything for granted. He’s seen Who’s The Boss and understands the lack of employment opportunities for former Major League Baseball players.
The Aggravating Things That The Managers Did
This was a mess of a poorly managed game. Here are some of the more egregious errors that I noticed.
With three right handed batters due up in a row in the fifth inning with runners already on base and C.J. Wilson seemingly incapable of locating his pitches and Scott Feldman warmed up in the bullpen, I might have been a bit quicker with the hook than Ron Washington. However, in the end it worked out okay for the Rangers, who took advantage of a sac bunt by Allen Craig (an aggravating thing in its own right), intentionally walked Albert Pujols and got Matt Holliday to (surprise!) ground out.
Ron Washington, who must have been convinced by someone that Albert Pujols hits a home run in 87% of his plate appearances, intentionally walked the first baseman for the third time, immediately after Craig Allen was caught stealing. Pujols almost came around to score in the inning.
Ryan Theriot was called into the game to sacrifice bunt Yadier Molina into scoring position for Nick Punto. Does Tony La Russa even think this stuff through?
This season, Nelson Cruz got on base less than 32% of the time. The average RHB got on base less than 20% against Octavio Dotel. I might not call for an intentional walk. Then, to stick with Marc Rzepczynski against Mike Napoli makes no sense. He had a 1.049 OPS against LHPs this season. I had an incredibly similar reaction to Tony La Russa’s.
Ninth inning. Strike him out. Throw him out. Wow.
To anyone complaining about Derek Holland doing impressions during the baseball game: get over yourself.
The redemption story of the game: Mitch Moreland second inning error is totally redeemed by his third inning moon shot into the stands in right field.
Like Edwin Jackson last night, with the way he pitched tonight, it’s a miracle that C.J. Wilson didn’t allow more runs.
At least two innings were saved from getting out of control by brilliant defence by the Texas Rangers. If/when C.J. Wilson signs a free agent contract this off season, he’s going to owe his fielders a nice little present.
When Wilson left the game, for perhaps the last time as a member of the Texas Rangers, the crowd didn’t seem too heartbroken over that possibility.
In the sixth inning, Chris Carpenter looked human, as his curve ball began to get exposed. During the at bat with Napoli, with two on and two out, the pitcher shook off Molina’s suggestion at 1-1. At that point, the entire stadium, including the Rangers catcher knew a curve ball was coming. It’s unfortunate for Napoli that he hit the ball to the deepest part of the park.
Who would have thought that Ogando vs. Craig would be one of the most anticipated matchups of the series?
We joke about how dependent Tony La Russa is with his bullpen, but he literally brought in Lance Lynn to intentionally walk a batter and then pull him for Jason Motte, who needed a little extra time warming up.
Na-Po-Li! Na-Po-Li! Na-Po-Li! Na-Po-Li!