ST. LOUIS

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If NHL players are allowed at the Sochi Games, look for the U.S. to make a run

They won gold in 1960. It took a miracle to win it again in 1980. They came within minutes of victory in 2008. But 2014 might be U.S. hockey’s best chance ever to bring home the gold – that is, if its NHL stars are allowed to play again.

We are just about a year away from the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia, and one major question remains unanswered: Will NHL players be allowed to represent their countries at the games?

For the past few days, representatives of the NHL, the Players’ Association, the International Ice Hockey Federation and the International Olympic Committee have been meeting to discuss this question. Talks are scheduled to continue Friday.

As they always do, several concerns have surfaced: If NHL players are allowed to go overseas for a month to represent their countries, will league television ratings suffer? Many of these departing players are all-star caliber, so how does that affect attendance? These are all legitimate questions to consider.

The fact remains that NHL players have participated in the last four Winter Games. Despite their absences, league-wide revenue has increased in each of the past six years. So it’s safe to assume that the NHL players should be allowed to participate in next year’s winter games, right?

We’ll have to leave that up to the negotiators, but for now, let’s assume that the NHL players will be attending the 2014 winter games. This US squad might be America’s most talented team ever. There are a number of great players that the US can select from, and that number has been growing since 2008. Here is the US team I’d like to see on the ice for the 2014 games.

Line 1:
C: Joe Pavelski (San Jose)​​​​
RW: Patrick Kane (Chicago)
LW: Zach Parise (Minnesota)
This is a world-class scoring line.

Line 2:
C: David Backes​ (St. Louis)
RW: Phil Kessel (Toronto)
LW: Max Pacioretti (Montreal)
All three of these guys can easily score 30+ goals this season.

Line 3:
C: Derek Stepan (New York Rangers)
RW: Dustin Brown (Los Angeles Kings)
LW: James Van Riemsdyk (Toronto)
Van Riemsdyk is currently the Leafs’ (8-6-0) leading scorer. An NHL team-leading scorer on the US third line is a testament to the depth this squad would have.

Line 4:
C: David Legwand (Nashville)
RW: Jamie Langenbrunner (St. Louis)
LW: Ryan Malone (Tampa Bay)​
Old-timer Jamie Langenbrunner will provide invaluable leadership and international experience.

Defenseman:
Jack Johnson (Columbus)
Alex Goligoski (Dallas)
Ryan Suter (Minnesota)
Dustin Byfuglien (Winnipeg)
Kevin Shattenkirk (St. Louis)
Rob Scuderi (Los Angeles Kings)
Keith Yandle (Phoenix) ​
This is an elite defensive staff – they are all physically-imposing two-way defensemen.​​​​

Goaltenders:
Craig Anderson (Ottowa) – arguably the best goalie in the league right now. Has a .949 save percentage.
Ryan Miller (Buffalo) – 40+ saves vs. Canada twice in the 2008 winter games. Currently holds a .915 save percentage on weak defensive team.
Those are two of the league’s best between the pipes.
This proposed US squad would be supremely talented and competitive. There aren’t any holes and each player contributes a great deal to the team. The 2014 US team should look something like this proposed team. If so, I expect them to play very well against the world next year. Not all of these players will make the team, but as American hockey fans, we can hope.

ST. LOUIS — Sometimes the men emerge from out-of-town police cruisers that stop at homeless shelters and then quickly drive off. Others turn up still wearing gowns from suburban hospitals.

Surrounding communities have long been accused of using downtown St. Louis as a dumping ground to dispose of homeless men with nowhere else to go. But as the weak economy and foreclosures push more people onto the streets, overwhelmed city officials say enough is enough.

“It’s a big problem,” said the city’s human services director, Bill Siedhoff. “It’s one we’ve talked about for a long time. There’s just been no response from these surrounding areas. ”

Experts say the suburban homeless population is rising. Shelters in St. Louis are virtually full all the time.

Homeless advocate Larry Rice, a pastor who operates a shelter at his downtown New Life Evangelistic Center, said he typically housed 200 to 225 homeless last year.

“Now, it’s not unusual to have 300 to 325, and the difference is people coming from outside of St. Louis,” Rice said.

Last week, Rice went to Belleville, Ill., to call attention to the problem. He picked up Belleville people he said had been dropped off across the Mississippi River in St. Louis and brought them back to Illinois. He called for the community to come up with a better way to address homelessness.

Belleville Mayor Mark Eckert said Rice is simply wrong. He said the struggling economy has led to an increase in homelessness. And while some people from Belleville may go to St. Louis seeking shelter, Eckert said his city neither encourages them to leave nor dumps them downtown.

Many make their way to St. Louis on their own or with the help of friends, the mayor said.

But Rice’s son, Chris, also a pastor at New Life, said he has seen police vans pull up near his center, watched officers remove handcuffs and then leave homeless men in a park across the street.

Larry Rice said suburban hospitals and detox centers have also been known to bring homeless people into the city and leave them near shelters — sometimes still wearing hospital gowns.

Printed on Friday, February 24, 2012 as: St. Louis, suburbs clash over homelessness issue

In this Oct. 19 photo, Reginald Rutledge displays his model of the Rangers Ballpark in his home backyard in Arlington. $12 million worth of renovations to the ballpark’s bullpen will take place in the coming weeks.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas — Visiting managers will soon have an unobstructed view into their bullpen at Rangers Ballpark.

A reconfigured bullpen is among nearly $12 million in stadium upgrades the Rangers announced Thursday. The plans were in the works before the bullpen phone foul-up for St. Louis manager Tony La Russa in Game 5 of the World Series.

The entire plaza in center field is being redone. A play area for kids that had taken up most of the plaza is being moved to an indoor location nearby. There will be a new indoor seating area, a Rangers-themed restaurant/sports bar and four new concession areas. Bleachers will be replaced by individual seats.

The changes, including changing the orientation of the bullpen to run parallel to the left-center field fence, are scheduled to be completed before the 2012 season opener for the two-time defending American League champions.

The Rangers had previously announced plans to make all protective railings along front-row seats above field level at the stadium a uniform height of 42 inches. Some rails will be raised as much as a foot after a firefighter’s fatal fall in July when he reached out to catch a ball tossed his way. That project is also expected to be completed before the April 6 home opener.

Team CEO Nolan Ryan said the changes in center field will add more concessions and entertainment options and provide ways to cool off in the summer months at the stadium that opened in 1994. The Rangers set an attendance record of 2,946,949 this season despite 27 games when the temperature was 100 degrees or higher at first pitch.

“We have a commitment to our fans to provide the finest ballpark experience,” said Ryan, the Hall of Fame pitcher who is part of the ownership group that acquired the team in August 2010. “This project represents the most extensive renovation in the history of the park and we plan to make further upgrades in the coming years.”

Pitchers in the visitor’s bullpen in left-center would have their backs to the field behind a barrier when warming up during games. With that setup, it was hard if not impossible to see from the visitor’s dugout along the third-base line.

In Game 5 of the World Series on Oct. 24, there was a miscommunication between La Russa and a coach on the bullpen phone about who should be warming up. All the confusion came during the decisive eighth inning when the Rangers went ahead 4-2. Texas ended up winning to take a series lead before the Cardinals won both games in St. Louis to claim the World Series championship.

Aluminum bleacher seats on the left and right field sides of the grassy area in straightaway center will be replaced by individual seats. The capacity in the area will decrease from 1,075 to 424, but there will also be covered deck areas with open seating and tables on either side of the new indoor seating area that will be known as the Batter’s Eye Club.

Printed on Friday, November 4, 2011 as: Rangers Ballpark will undergo changes

2011 World Series

St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese hits a two-run triple off a pitch from Texas Rangers' Neftali Feliz during the ninth inning of Game 6 of baseball's World Series on Thursday in St. Louis.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — David Freese homered to lead off the bottom of the 11th inning, and the St. Louis Cardinals forced the World Series to a Game 7 by rallying from two-run deficits against the Texas Rangers in the 9th and 10th on Thursday night.

Freese hit a two-run triple just over a leaping Nelson Cruz to tie the score 7-7 in the ninth inning against Neftali Feliz. Then, after Josh Hamilton put Texas ahead with a two-run homer in the 10th off Jason Motte, Ryan Theriot hit an RBI groundout in the bottom half and Lance Berkman tied it 9-9 with a single. Freese’s shot to center came off Mark Lowe.

Game 7 is Friday night.

Texas had built a 7-4 lead in the seventh when Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit consecutive home runs off Lance Lynn, and Ian Kinsler added an RBI single off Octavio Dotel.
Allen Craig’s second homer of the Series cut the gap in the eighth against Derek Holland.

In the ninth, Albert Pujols doubled with one out off Feliz and Berkman walked on four pitches.

Craig took a called third strike, and Freese fell behind in the count 1-2. He sliced an opposite-field drive, and when Cruz jumped, the crowd of 47,315 at Busch Stadium couldn’t tell at first whether he caught it.

Feliz then retired Yadier Molina on a flyout to right, sending the game to extra innings.

With Texas ahead 3-2 in the Series and one win from its first title, the Rangers also wasted 1-0, 3-2 and 4-3 leads. The Cardinals made three errors in a Series game for the first time since 1943, and Rangers first baseman Michael Young made two, with each team allowing two unearned runs.
Matt Holliday was picked off in the sixth at third base by catcher Mike Napoli, thwarting the Cardinals’ attempt to go ahead, and he had to leave the game because of a bruised right pinkie.

Hamilton’s RBI single had put the Rangers ahead in the first off Jaime Garcia, Berkman’s two-run homer gave the Cardinals the lead in the bottom half and Kinsler’s run-scoring double tied it 2-all in the third.

Cruz reached when Holliday dropped a flyball leading off the fourth and came home when Napoli singled for his 10th RBI of the Series. Berkman then got to first on a throwing error by Young starting the bottom half and scored on Molina’s grounder.

Freese dropped Hamilton’s popup to third leading off the fifth, and Young lined a pitch from Fernando Salas to the gap in left-center. An error by Young on Holliday’s sixth-inning grounder was followed by three straight walks, including two by Alexi Ogando.

Colby Lewis allowed four runs — two earned — and three hits in 5 1-3 innings.

Texas got far better swings against Garcia than it did in Game 2, when he allowed three hits in six shutout innings. This time, he gave up five hits and two walks, throwing 59 pitches, and seven of the first 13 Texas batters reached base.

Just 24 of the 61 previous teams with 3-2 leads won Game 6, but 41 of those 61 teams went on to win the title. Eighteen teams trailing 3-2 in the best-of-seven format bounced back for championships, including 12 that swept the last two games at home.

In an effort to provide more production behind Pujols, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa moved Berkman to cleanup and dropped slumping Holliday down to fifth.
Rangers manager Ron Washington moved the hot-hitting Napoli up one spot to seventh and had Craig Gentry hitting eighth, as he did in Game 2.

Four Cardinals Hall of Famers, wearing cardinal red sports jackets, stood at home plate before the game. Red Schoendienst, Lou Brock, Bob Gibson and Ozzie Smith. And then the greatest Cardinals player, 90-year-old Stan Musial, was driven from the right-field corner to the plate in a golf cart. Wearing a red sweater and Cardinals warmup jacket, he greeted his fellow Hall of Famers and watched 2006 Series MVP David Eckstein throw out the ceremonial first pitch.

Texas went ahead 10 pitches in. After starting with a called strike, Garcia walked Kinsler on four straight pitches, and Elvis Andrus’ hit-and-run single put runners at the corners. Hamilton pulled the next pitch into right field for a single and his third RBI of the Series.

Garcia recovered to strike out Young and Beltre, then got Cruz to hit into an inning-ending forceout on his 23rd pitch.
Lewis quickly gave back the lead. Skip Schumaker, moved up from eighth in the batting order to second, singled with one out in the bottom half. Pujols flied out on the next pitch. Berkman also swung at the first pitch, sending an 89 mph offering over the center-field wall.

Napoli walked leading off the second and Gentry singled him to second. Lewis bunted directly at Freese, who started a rare 5-6-4 double play. Shortstop Rafael Furcal took the throw at third for the force, then threw to second baseman Nick Punto covering first.

Kinsler followed with a ground-rule double that hopped over the left-field fence, tying the score 2-all. La Russa then had Mitchell Boggs start warming up after Garcia had thrown just 42 pitches to 10 batters,

Andrus hit an inning-ending lineout to right that Berkman slightly misjudged and caught with a jump.

Schumaker and Pujols flied out just in front of the warning track in the third. Other than his 5-for-6, three-homer, six-RBI performance in Game 3, Pujols is 1 for 17.

St. Louis, tied for fourth in the majors in errors during the regular season, started to get sloppy in the fourth. Cruz led off with a fly to short left, where Holliday called for Furcal to take it, only for the shortstop to back off. The ball then bounced off Holliday’s glove for a two-base error.

Napoli sliced a single down the right-field line, kicking up chalk from the foul line, to put Texas ahead 3-2. After Gentry struck out, Lewis bunted to Pujols, who threw to second in time for a forceout, but first base umpire Jerry Layne called the ball foul. Lewis bunted the next pitch to Salas, who threw the ball into center field. Not sure whether to slide, Napoli went in awkwardly and turned his left ankle. He stayed in, but the base was later replaced.

Salas escaped further trouble by throwing a called third strike past Kinsler and retiring Andrus on a fly to left that turned Holliday around in the wind.

Berkman led off with a grounder to Young, who bobbled it and made a throw that pulled Lewis off the base for an error on the first baseman. Holliday walked for the second time, and Furcal bounced into a forceout to second, with Andrus’ throw to first for a double play way high and bouncing off a screen near the dugout. Molina followed with a grounder to third that drove in his sixth run of the Series.

After Young’s double, Napoli was intentionally walked with two outs, and pinch-hitter David Murphy walked to load the bases. While Yorvit Torrealba was in the on-deck circle to hit, Washington left Lewis in the game, and he struck out in three pitches.

Berkman reached on an infield hit. Young then picked up Holliday’s grounder, thought about throwing to second and allowed the ball to pop free. Berkman then just beat him to the bag.

Walks to Freese and Molina forced in a run, and Napoli picked off Holliday at third, with Holliday bruising his right pinkie and leaving the game. After a wild pitch, Punto walked and Holland retired Jon Jay on a comebacker.

The grounds crew at Busch Stadium in St. Louis pulls a tarp over the playing field on Wednesday. A wet forecast prompted Major League Baseball to postpone Game 6 of the World Series.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Game 6 of the World Series was postponed Wednesday because of a wet forecast, delaying the Texas Rangers’ bid to clinch their first championship.

Major League Baseball announced the decision about four-and-a-half hours before the Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals were set to play. At the time, no rain had fallen at Busch Stadium, but heavy precipitation was expected.

Texas leads the Series 3-2. Game 6 was rescheduled for Thursday night at 8:05 p.m. EDT. If Game 7 is necessary, it will be played Friday night.

“Because of the forecast, there was no reason to wait any longer,” said Joe Torre, MLB’s executive vice president of baseball operations.

Torre said he told managers Ron Washington of Texas and Tony La Russa of St. Louis on Tuesday that if the forecast didn’t change, baseball would postpone it early.

Rain was in “every forecast we had probably for the last three days,” Torre said at a news conference. “They were all consistent there was going to be rain during the game.”

Looking at Commissioner Bud Selig, Torre asked, “Do you want to play in rain?”

Colby Lewis had been set to start for Texas, with Jaime Garcia ready to go for the Cardinals.

If anything, the extra day may lead to more intrigue over who might pitch for St. Louis should the Series go to a Game 7 for the first time since 2002. Washington already has said Matt Harrison would start if the Series goes that far.

The forecast for Thursday was much better — clear enough with a game-time temperature in the low 50s.

Rain has hovered over the majors all year with more than 50 washouts, baseball’s highest total since 1997.

This was the first Series rainout since 2008 at Philadelphia. That year, Tampa Bay and the Phillies were tied in the sixth inning when rain and snow turned the field into a quagmire, forcing a suspension. It rained the next day too, and the game finally resumed two days later, with the Phillies taking the crown.

Because of the debate about how to handle that situation, MLB adopted a rule a few months later mandating that any postseason game stopped in progress would be resumed at the point of suspension, rather than being postponed and
started over.

Before that, the previous Series rainout came at Busch Stadium, when Game 4 between Detroit and the Cardinals was pushed back by a day.

A few hundred fans already were milling outside Busch Stadium when the Rangers-Cardinals game was called. The tarp was on the field at the time. Later, about a dozen St. Louis players came out to toss around balls in right field.

Bad weather has lingered throughout the big leagues since opening day. Even before that actually, as the Milwaukee Brewers and Reds worked out in snow flurries a day before their March 31 opener at Cincinnati.

Wicked weather intruded earlier in this postseason, too. So did the threat of storms.

A game in the AL championship series between Detroit and Texas was postponed for a day because of a dicey forecast. The players left Rangers Ballpark and went home — the rain, however, never came.

The opener of the AL playoff series between Detroit and New York was halted after one-and-a-half innings by showers that lasted all night. The game at Yankee Stadium was suspended and picked up the next day at the point when it was stopped.

The only other suspension in postseason history was that Rays-Phillies game in 2008.

Baseball began the playoffs a week earlier this year than last season, intending to have the World Series conclude before November. MLB also hoped the adjustment could help avoid a chilly finish for the championship. It was in the 40s and raw last week for Game 1.

It was in the 70s and clear at Busch Stadium on Tuesday. A perfect night to play, but it was a travel day for Texas and St. Louis. Washington was aware of the shaky forecast.

“If it’s possible we can play, of course we want to play. You don’t want to sit down. We’re here to play baseball,” he said Tuesday. “But if the forecast says that it’s going to be bad weather and we’re going to play and start and stop ... We want to make sure the conditions are correct, and if we have to wait a day, then we have to wait a day.”

Printed on Thursday, October 27, 2011 as: Wet forecast places Game 6 on hold

2011 World Series

Adrian Beltre admires his game-tying homerun on one knee in the sixth inning. Two innings later, Mike Napoli broke the 2-2 tie with a bases-loaded double as Texas beat St. Louis, 4-2. The Rangers are now one win away from winning their first-ever World Series championship.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON — Mike Napoli hit a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning against Marc Rzepczynski, and the Texas Rangers rallied from a two-run deficit to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-2 on Monday night and take a 3-2 World Series lead.

Solo home runs by Mitch Moreland in the third and Adrian Beltre in the sixth off Chris Carpenter sparked the Texas comeback. Michael Young doubled off loser Octavio Dotel leading off the eighth.

Darren Oliver got the win in relief of C.J. Wilson, and Neftali Feliz finished for his sixth save of the postseason, striking out Albert Pujols as part of a double play when Allen Craig was caught stealing second.

Colby Lewis starts Game 6 for the Rangers on Wednesday in St. Louis, trying to wrap up their first title. Jaime Garcia starts for the Cardinals.

After Young’s double, Beltre struck out and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked.

Dotel relieved Rzepczynski and David Murphy reached on an infield single to load the bases and Napoli doubled to deep right field, making it 4-2.

Pujols drew three intentional walks, including a pass with two outs and none on in the seventh. The St. Louis slugger then nearly used his legs to put his team ahead.

Pujols was running hard on a 3-2 pitch that Matt Holliday hit for a single to left-center. Pujols chugged around the bags and third base coach Jose Oquendo initially waved him home, only to put up a late stop sign.

Would Pujols have been safe on shortstop Elvis Andrus’ wide throw to the plate? Maybe. But it became moot when Lance Berkman was intentionally walked to load the bases and David Freese flied out against Alexi Ogando.

Beltre and Moreland hit solo home runs off Carpenter, helping Texas come back from an early 2-0 deficit.

Beltre made it 2-all with two outs in the sixth, dropping to one knee after following through on a meaty cut. He connected on a big curve from Carpenter, who had easily handled Josh Hamilton and Young to start the inning.

Beltre’s other homers this October came in a bunch. He hit three in a first-round playoff game at Tampa Bay.

Napoli almost gave Texas a cushion later in the inning. With the crowd standing and chanting his name as “Nap-Oh-Lee” flashed on the scoreboard, the catcher’s bid for a three-run homer was caught on the warning track in right-center field, just shy of the 407-foot mark.

The homer let Wilson avoid becoming the first pitcher to lose four times in a single postseason. The eccentric lefty who alternates red and blue gloves between starts had another uneven outing, working around five walks.

Wilson walked six while losing Game 1 to Carpenter and the Cardinals.

Moreland atoned for some glove woes with a home run in the third, hitting a drive halfway up the second deck in right field.

The Cardinals scored twice in the second, cashing in two leadoff walks sandwiched around a wild pitch.

Yadier Molina notched his fifth RBI of the Series with a single that left fielder David Murphy overran and fumbled for an error. Skip Schumaker followed with an RBI grounder to first that Moreland boxed around, preventing any chance at a double play.

Murphy made a diving catch to end the inning, denying Nick Punto a run-scoring hit. Punto carried his bat all the way to first base and tried to break the wood by bending it over his right thigh.

Already ahead 2-0, the Cards threatened in the third after Wilson slipped coming off the mound trying to field Rafael Furcal’s leadoff bunt and made a poor, backhanded flip that skittered past Moreland. But with runners at the corners, Wilson got Holliday to bounce into a quick double play. Not so surprising, really — Wilson induced the most DP grounders in the majors this year while St. Louis hit into an NL-record 169 double plays.

Holliday flied out with the bases loaded, after an intentional walk to Pujols, to finish the fifth.

Printed on Tuesday, October 25, 2011 as: Rangers take 3-2 World Series lead

2011 World Series Column

The Texas Rangers just won’t go away. Derek Holland wouldn’t let them.

After Texas and St. Louis split two nail-biters, the Cardinals seemed to take control of the World Series with a convincing 16-7 win Saturday night. But Holland brought the Rangers back into the Fall Classic, shutting St. Louis out for more than eight innings to give Texas a 4-0 win and tie the series at two games apiece.

Holland turned in a masterful outing, allowing just two hits over eight and one-third innings against a team that set a postseason scoring record the previous day. The 25-year-old southpaw also held Albert Pujols in check. Pujols, who tied a World Series record with three home runs in Game 3, hit one ball out of the infield in four hitless at bats Sunday night.

St. Louis skipper Tony La Russa was off his game, too. The two-time World Series winner, known for the skillful shuffling of his pitching staff, finally had a pitching change backfire when he replaced starter Edwin Jackson with Mitchell Boggs in the sixth inning, whose first pitch landed in the left-field seats thanks to Mike Napoli.

Texas manager Ron Washington has had his share of boneheaded moves this series, including puzzling pinch-hitting decisions in Game 1 and letting reliever Alexi Ogando give up another go-ahead RBI courtesy of Allen Craig in Game 2. But he kept his team from throwing in the towel and has kept setup man Mike Adams and closer Neftali Feliz fresh, using them to get only two outs in the last two games. Now the Rangers have won more World Series games than they did last year when the Giants ousted them in five games.

Washington has also left an ailing Josh Hamilton in the lineup. Hamilton has done his best Kirk Gibson impersonation this October, struggling for most of the series but delivering a game-tying sacrifice fly in a Game 2 Rangers win and an RBI double in the first inning of Game 4 that proved to provide enough run support for the Texas pitching staff.

The series-tying victory was certainly a must-win contest for the Rangers. Even with the World Series knotted up at 2-2, the Rangers still have a tough task ahead of them with Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter slated to start Game 5 and St. Louis set to host Games 6 and 7.

With Carpenter, who has won four games and thrown two shutouts in his last five starts, St. Louis has the World Series’ best pitcher. With Pujols, who boasts a .390 postseason batting average, the Cardinals also have the best hitter.

But Holland turned in the finest performance from either dugout, regardless of position, Sunday night. He’s helped the Rangers out-Cardinal the Cardinals. The odds were against Texas after losses in Games 1 and 3, but after 119 magnificent Holland pitches, the Rangers have regained momentum and a chance to win the World Series.

2011 World Series

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Derek Holland kept Albert Pujols in the ballpark and the Texas Rangers in this World Series.

In a title matchup that’s getting more interesting with every game, Holland put the emphasis back on pitching. Given a pep talk by manager Ron Washington minutes before the game, Holland threw two-hit ball for 8 1-3 innings to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 4-0 on Sunday night and even things at 2-all.

Holland struck out seven, walked two and never was in trouble against a team that erupted for 16 runs the previous night. He came within two outs of pitching the first complete-game shutout in the World Series since Josh Beckett’s gem for Florida to clinch the 2003 title at Yankee Stadium.

“I was very focused. I knew this was a big game for us,” Holland said. “I had to step up and make sure I was prepared.”
Hobbled Josh Hamilton put Texas ahead with an RBI double in the first inning. Then Mike Napoli broke it open with a three-run homer in the sixth that set off a hearty high-five in the front row between team president Nolan Ryan and former President George W. Bush.

And just like that, for the first time since 2003, the World Series stood at two games apiece. Now the whole season is down to a best of three, with the outcome to be decided back at Busch Stadium.

Game 5 is Monday night at Rangers Ballpark. It’s a rematch of the opener, when Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter topped C.J. Wilson.

A day after Pujols produced arguably the greatest hitting show in postseason history, tying Series records with three home runs, six RBIs and five hits during the Cardinals’ romp, Holland emerged as the unlikely star.

Holland got a big cheer when he took the mound in the ninth and was still throwing 96 mph. With the crowd chanting his name, he walked Rafael Furcal and was pulled by Washington after a long talk on the mound.

“I was begging to stay out there,” he said. “I said, ‘I’ll give it everything I’ve got. I can get the double play.’

“When I came off the field my arm hair was sticking up — not like I have much.”

Holland tipped his cap and waved to the fans as he walked off. His outing was the longest scoreless appearance by an AL starter in the Series since Andy Pettitte also went 8 1-3 at Atlanta in 1996.

Neftali Feliz took over and closed. He walked Allen Craig, then retired Pujols on a fly ball and struck out Matt Holliday to end it.

Pujols finished 0 for 4 and hit the ball out of the infield only once.

“I wanted him to see my ‘A’ game,” Holland said.

Said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa: “Well, I would just say he worked us over. Give him credit.”

“Good pitching is always going to stop good hitting,” he said.

Holland was in tune all evening with his Napoli, his pal and catcher. Much better than the battery for the pregame ceremony — Bush tossed a wild pitch that glanced off the catcher’s mitt Ryan wore.

“I should’ve gone with the regular glove,” Ryan said with a chuckle.

The bounce-back Rangers managed to avoid consecutive losses for the first time since Aug. 23-25, a streak that’s kept them out of trouble in the postseason.

The Rangers also completed a Sunday sweep in the matchup of teams from St. Louis and the Dallas area. Earlier in the afternoon, the Cowboys beat the Rams 34-7 right across the parking lots. Hamilton and Lance Berkman served as honorary captains for the pregame coin toss, wearing their baseball uniforms.

Many fans might remember Holland from last year’s World Series. He’s the reliever who came in against San Francisco, walked his first three batters and promptly got pulled.

Maybe that guy was an impostor. Because this 25-year-old lefty with the sorry little mustache was completely poised, with pinpoint control. Perhaps it was the talk he got from Washington near the dugout shortly before taking the mound.

Washington put both hands on Holland’s shoulders and talked to him tenderly, like a dad about to send his teenage son off to college. Holland kept nodding, and Washington finished up with a playful pat to Holland’s cheek.

“He shows that he cares about all his players, and he definitely showed that when he talked to me,” Holland said.

After that, Holland was in total command in his first Series start, and improved to 3-0 lifetime in the postseason. The only hits he allowed were by Berkman: a double in the second and a single in the fifth. Holland got even later, getting Berkman to look at a strike three that left the St. Louis star discussing the call with plate umpire Ron Kulpa.

Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson kept his team close despite a wild night. He walked seven, and eventually they caught up with him.

It was 1-0 when La Russa yanked Jackson after two one-out walks in the sixth and signaled for reliever Mitchell Boggs. Napoli was up, and the sellout crowd chanted his name as he stepped into the batter’s box.

Boggs stayed in the stretch for an extra beat while Furcal ducked behind Nelson Cruz from shortstop. When Boggs finally threw a 95 mph fastball with his first pitch, Napoli whacked it.

Napoli stood at the plate for a moment as the ball sailed deep, just inside the left field line. Boggs could only contort his body, seeing the game get out of hand.

Hamilton forced the Cardinals to play catch-up for the first time in a while. St. Louis had scored first in 10 straight postseason games, one shy of the record set by Detroit during a span from 1972-84.

Elvis Andrus singled with one out in the Texas first and sped home when Hamilton doubled into the right field corner. The reigning AL MVP has been slowed by a strained groin, part of the reason he hasn’t homered in 57 at-bats this postseason.

2011 World Series

Texas Rangers' Ian Kinsler is congratulated in the dugout after scoring during Game 2 of the World Series on Thursday (Photo Courtesy of Charlie Riedel)

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Josh Hamilton and the Texas hitters looked lost. They chased pitches that bounced, broke their bats and seemed totally overmatched.

Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP seemed to be wearing down with every swing in his first three at-bats.

Hamilton shattered his bat the first time up and slowly jogged to first base. Later, he weakly waved and appeared overmatched as he struck out on three pitches. That left him with an 0-for-16 Series slump dating to last October.

Hamilton’s teammates were equally feeble. Maybe it was because none of the Texas starters had ever faced Garcia, maybe it was carryover from the stress that began in last year’s World Series wipeout against San Francisco.

Until the ninth inning, that is.

Their hardest hit early in the game came in the fourth — rather, it was the hardest a Texas player got hit.

Kinsler was at third base when Adrian Beltre sent a solid, one-hopper down the line. The foul ball nailed a ducking

Kinsler in the right shoulder, and he grinned while playfully rubbing it off. No smiling, though, when Beltre took a poor cut at a low pitch and struck out to strand runners at the corners.

Down to their last three outs, and in danger of dropping into a serious World Series deficit, the Rangers rallied against St. Louis’ vaunted bullpen.

Hamilton and Michael Young lifted sacrifice flies in the ninth and Texas startled the Cardinals 2-1 on Thursday night to even the Series at 1-all.

For the second straight night, Cardinals pinch-hitter Allen Craig greeted reliever Alexi Ogando with a go-ahead single.

This time, Craig did it the seventh. In Game 1, his hit in the sixth sent the Cards to a 3-2 win.

The Rangers, however, were not done quite yet. Now, after a travel day, they will host Game 3 on Saturday night. Matt Harrison is set to start for the Rangers against Kyle Lohse.

“It would have been hard,” Hamilton said of possibly facing being 0-2. “We would have been comfortable going back to our place, having three games. They’re just like we are, never say die, until the last out is made. It makes it fun.”

Texas has not lost two straight games since Aug. 23-25. They sure waited a while to save themselves on this night that began as a duel between starters Colby Lewis and the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.

Ian Kinsler opened the ninth with a bloop single against closer Jason Motte. Next up was Elvis Andrus, whose tremendous play at shortstop kept the game scoreless much earlier. He singled to center, sending Kinsler to third, and when the relay throw got away for a moment, Andrus scampered to second.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who’s been making all the right moves this October, brought in lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. But the slumping slugger, slowed throughout the postseason by a groin injury, hit a solid fly ball that scored Kinsler and moved Andrus to third.

La Russa went to his bullpen again, bringing in Lance Lynn to face Young. The steady Texas veteran did his job, lofting a fly ball that sent Andrus scampering home.

Then it was Rangers manager Ron Washington’s turn. He signaled for closer Neftali Feliz, who worked around a leadoff walk to earn the save. Mike Adams got the win.

Garcia and Lewis dominated at the outset, and no one got a hit until Furcal doubled with two outs in the St. Louis third.

Before that, the closest anyone came was Jon Jay, whose bunt danced along the third base line chalk before trickling foul.

Perhaps both sides could have used some hitting tips from Stan Musial. A month shy of his 91st birthday, Stan the Man was sitting in a Busch suite. The Cardinals Hall of Famer was shown on the video board and drew a big cheer.
 

2011 World Series

Texas Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz can’t come up with a hit by St. Louis Cardinals’ outfielder Allen Craig during the sixth inning of Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday in St. Louis.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

ST. LOUIS — Nelson Cruz sprinted over to the foul line, desperately trying to run down Allen Craig’s tailing liner. The right fielder came up just short, and so did the Texas Rangers.

Craig’s pinch-hit drive landed an inch or two in front of Cruz’s outstretched glove for a go-ahead single off reliever Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning that carried the St. Louis Cardinals over the Rangers 3-2 Wednesday in a chilly World Series opener.

On a night when all the runs were driven in with opposite-field hits to right, Lance Berkman put St. Louis ahead with a two-run single in the fourth against C.J. Wilson.

Rangers catcher Mike Napoli watched in dejection as Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday scored, but a few minutes later celebrated in the top of the fifth when he tied it 2-all with a two-run homer off Chris Carpenter.

While the Rangers’ bullpen couldn’t hold on, five St. Louis relievers combined for three innings of one-hit relief. Not that Texas didn’t have its chances — the Rangers were 0 for 5 with runners in scoring position.

Colby Lewis starts for the Rangers on Thursday night, trying to send the Series back to Texas tied at a game apiece.
Game 1 has been an indicator of success in recent decades: The winner has captured seven of the last eight titles, 12 of the last 14 and 19 of the last 23. In addition, the team hosting Game 1 has won 20 of the last 25 World Series.

A year after making their first World Series appearance, a five-game loss to the San Francisco Giants that opened with an 11-7 loss, the Rangers were back.

Taking over as ace after Cliff Lee left to sign with Philadelphia, Wilson dropped to 0-3 with a 7.17 ERA in four postseason starts this year, allowing three runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings with a career-high six walks — two of them intentional.

He prepared for the start by getting in a tank of liquid nitrogen at 295 degrees below zero — the treatment is said to aid recovery — but on a blustery, 49-degree night his walks and a key wild pitch got him into some hot spots.

He fell behind after bouncing a pitch in the fourth that hit three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols on the left foot. That started a streak of three bad pitches in a four-pitch span.

Wilson tried to go inside on Matt Holliday but left the next one over the plate, and Holliday hit an opposite-field double into the right-field corner as Pujols took third.

Then, with the count 1-0 to Berkman, Wilson tried to go inside again but allowed the ball to drift over the plate.

Berkman went the other way and chopped the ball over first base and into right field as the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead. Wilson shook his head back and fourth as he walked back to the mound.

The lead was short-lived.

Adrian Beltre singled leading off the fifth and, one out later, Napoli turned on a high pitch and sent it about 10 rows deep into the right-field seats for his second home run of the postseason. A fired-up Carpenter had escaped a two-on, none-out jam in the second inning when Napoli hit into an inning-ending double play.

Pujols had Cardinals fans cheering in the top of the sixth when he slid to stop Michael Young’s grounder behind first and threw to Carpenter for the out, stranding Ian Kinsler at third.

Then in the bottom half, NLCS MVP David Freese hit an opposite-field double to right with one out and went to third on a wild pitch. Wilson struck out Yadier Molina, then pitched carefully to Nick Punto and walked him on four pitches.

Ogando relieved, and with many of the red-clad Cardinals fans standing and waving white towels, Craig sliced a 1-2 pitch down the right field line. Cruz, the ALCS MVP, came oh-so-close to making the sliding catch, but the ball bounced just in front of his glove as Freese scored. Texas was lucky that the ball struck Cruz on a foot; otherwise, it could have rolled to the fence.

Carpenter became the first St. Louis starter to reach the sixth inning since the division series. He got the win, allowing two runs and five hits in six innings with four strikeouts and one walk. Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte followed, with Motte getting three outs for his fifth postseason save.

With one out in the ninth, Beltre was called out on a grounder to third on a ball that appeared to bounce off his foot and could have been ruled foul. The call didn’t go the Rangers’ way.

It was that kind of night.