After a combined 59 Spring Training games, 324 regular season games and 33 playoff games, the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals will require one more final game to decide the winner of the 2011 World Series.
Tonight, these two teams played out something more than a mere athletic endeavour. It was a drama. It was a drama that went beyond a mere template of acts filled with story lines that rise to a single moment of climax. There were several moments of climax, so many in fact, that there was no time left to dedicate to anything resembling denouement.
After his team was twice a single strike away from losing the World Series, St. Louis native David Freese hit a walk off home run in the eleventh inning to win the game 10-9, and force a seventh and deciding game on Friday night.
Here’s what how it happened:
The Most Important Plays Of The Game (With Thanks To FanGraphs)
If I was foolish enough to believe in momentum, as it pertains to a team gaining or losing it in the game of baseball, I’d say something as stupid as: The St. Louis Cardinals gained momentum back after a run in the sixth inning tied the game at four apiece.
But I’m glad I don’t believe in momentum as it pertains to baseball because I’d be at a loss to explain how:
Adrian Beltre led off the seventh by doing this to a one ball, zero strike 2-seamer:
And Nelson Cruz followed by doing this to a one ball, two strike curveball:
The two plays gave Texas a 6-4 lead and combined to increase the Rangers probability of winning by 32.6%.
If I was foolish enough to believe that what was probable always happened and that randomness wouldn’t end up playing a role in a series that has been so unpredictably random as to be one of the most memorable World Series I can remember, I probably wouldn’t have expected the St. Louis Cardinals to come back in the ninth inning and tie this game (see below for Nelson Cruz lulz). I also probably wouldn’t have finished writing a game story and waited to hit publish while the ninth inning drama played out.
And in no way would I have expected Josh Hamilton, last year’s American League MVP, who was so hampered by a groin injury that he’s been unable to hit a single home run this postseason, to come up to bat with so much on the line and hit a two run home run in the top of the tenth inning, giving the Rangers a 9-7 lead and single handedly increasing his team’s probability of winning by 42.2%.
And then of course, because I’m not a complete idiot, I would’ve been fully prepared for a Lance Berkman single that brought home Jon Jay, tying the game once again, and increasing the Cardinals’ probability of winning by 46.8%.
And then, I was obviously expectant for David Freese to do this to win the game and force one more to decide it all Friday night:
The Most Apt Bunch Of Puns To Listen To After Watching Tonight’s Game
The New Heart And Soul Of The Texas Rangers
If Josh Hamilton’s home run was the most Michael Young thing of all time, then Mike Napoli’s twisted ankle was the second most. I assume that this was Michael Young’s internal monologue after Napoli stepped on second base, rolled his ankle and stayed in the game: “It wasn’t enough he gets all the RBIs, now he’s trying to take over as heart and soul of this team. I’m gonna have to change positions again.”
Napoli got on base five times tonight in six plate appearances, he knocked in his tenth run of the series, picked off a base runner at third base and was just in general, an awesome dude tonight.
The Anatomy Of A Meatball
It seems like a very, very, very long time ago, but this game wouldn’t have had the dramatics that it did if this didn’t happen.
After inducing a first inning Albert Pujols fly out to right field, Colby Lewis threw the most meatballiest pitch of all time to left handed hitting Lance Berkman. It was an 89 mile per hour fastball that seemed to stand still at the front of home plate as though it was sitting on a tee or had just caught a glimpse of blue steel.
And Berkman smashed it over the fence in center field.
Lewis didn’t give up another hit until the sixth inning, and once again it was Berkman, only this time he had to leg out an infield single after tapping the ball in the direction of third base.
The Biggest Disappointment Of The Game
Normally, we use this part of the game summary to pick an instance in which the losing team failed to capitalize on an opportunity with a typically high expectancy for runs. Tonight, we have to talk about the fielding errors.
In the fourth inning, Nelson Cruz led off with a pop up to shallow left field. Matt Holliday and Rafael Furcal struggled to figure out whose ball it was (it was Holliday’s) before it bounced off the left fielder’s glove to put Cruz on second base.
Later in the inning, Fernando Salas threw Colby Lewis’ bunt attempt over Rafael Furcal attempting to cover second base.
Then, the first batter in the bottom half of the inning got on base thanks to a throwing error by Michael Young.
Leading off the fifth, Josh Hamilton got to first base, when David Freese dropped an easy infield fly.
Then, in the sixth, Michael Young bobbled an easy ground ball that should have been the second out of the inning. Instead, the Cardinals went on to score the tying run thanks to Alexi Ogando’s inability to throw a strike.
Although it wasn’t scored as an error, Elvis Andrus fielded a ball lackadaisically in the eighth inning, and instead of taking an obvious force out of Yadier Molina at second base, the Rangers shortstop attempted to throw the speedy Danny Descalso out at first base. His attempt failed, and it put runners at first and second, increasing the leverage even more.
And then, there was this play in the ninth inning which tied the game and sent it into extra innings. What exactly was Nelson Cruz doing?
It was as much a comedy of errors on the field this evening as it was in the dugout in Game Five.
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.
Josh Hamilton’s three for six night, highlighted by a tenth inning home run, contributed .539 WPA to his team’s cause in a losing effort.
The This Meme Will Never Get Tiresome Of The Game
Tony La Russa’s pitching changes tonight:
- LHP Jaime Garcia started the game.
- RHP Fernando Salas started the fourth inning.
- RHP Lance Lynn started the sixth inning.
- RHP Octavio Dotel entered with two out in the seventh inning.
- LHP Marc Rzepczynski started the eighth inning.
- RHP Jason Motte started the ninth inning.
- RHP Jake Westbrook started the eleventh inning.
For more of the Tony La Russa Bullpen Phone Meme, click here.
The Statistics You Won’t Believe
After two, Cardinals starter Jaime Garci was on pace to throw 225 pitches if he were to go nine innings.
Mike Napoli received an intentional walk tonight. He had only two all season.
In the ninth and tenth inning, the Texas Rangers were a single strike away from the World Series title.
The Aggravating Things That The Managers Did
Tony La Russa intentionally walked Mike Napoli in the fifth inning. With Mike Gentry, who turned into David Murphy, due up next, and with a runner on second, it might not have been the worst call. However, Fernando Salas walked Murphy to get to Colby Lewis.
And this is where it turns into Ron Washington’s error. He could’ve sent a pinch hitter up to the plate in Lewis’ place considering that the entire bullpen was fresh. He didn’t and Lewis struck out with the bases loaded to end the inning. In doing so, he lifted his best defensive player from the game with the lead and set it up so that the highest run expectancy was placed on his worst hitter’s shoulder’s.
I’m pretty sure it’s common knowledge that Allen Craig is a very good hitter against left handed pitching. It’s funny that Derek Holland would be left in to face him in the eighth inning.
A no doubles defence might not be the best idea when your team is up by one and the lead runner is on second base. I don’t understand this overly cautious move at all by Ron Washington, and that’s not even mentioning what I think about intentionally walking Albert Pujols in that situation.
This is what happens when you make no attempt to hide that you’re bunting. You set up the perfect time to swing through. Unfortunately, that didn’t seem to be a part of Colby Lewis’ play book tonight.
David Freese hit a railing fairly hard going after an errant foul ball that was popped up by Josh Hamilton. He missed the ball, but his ribs caught the railing and he flipped over. Elvis Andrus got out of the dugout immediately to assist him. #NiceGuy
I love Adrian Beltre, but sometimes chasing pitches just kills him, like in the third inning when he grounded into a 4-6-3 double play on a 3-1 count (on what would’ve been ball four).
Matt Holliday slid about three feet off second base to break up a double play in the fourth inning.
Poor Fernando Sallas. His fielders were in no way backing him up tonight.
Michael Young. Eughn. Alexi Ogando. Eughn. Adrian Beltre. Yay. Derek Holland. Yay.
Matt Holliday left the game in the bottom of the sixth after severely bruising his pinkie finger sliding into Adrian Beltre’s foot at third base. I’m sure whatever he suffered was painful and likely would’ve led me to take several weeks of work off, but in comparison to Mike Napoli staying in the game with what he did to his ankle, it just doesn’t quite seem to balance out.
I wonder if prior to his home run in the tenth, Josh Hamilton looked at his bat, and said, “[Getting Blanked] you, Jesus. I do this for me.”
I think I’ve started and scratched about five different opening paragraphs.