St. Louis Cardinals

First Naval Academy grad in 94 years appears in MLB game

It’s been seven years from the time Mitch Harris graduated from the United States Naval Academy and a little over two years since he finished his five years of service in the U.S. Navy. But now Harris has made his way as a major league baseball player.

Harris pitched 1 1/3 scoreless innings in the St. Louis Cardinals’ 5-3 victory over Milwaukee. He struck out the first batter he faced, Adam Lind, and worked around a couple of singles and walks in his major league debut.

The Cardinals drafted the right-handed pitcher in the 13th round of the 2008 draft knowing that he would have to fulfill his commit to the U.S. Navy before he could join the organization. But, now that he has met his requirements, the Naval lieutenant, who went on three deployments, can finally play baseball.

Harris is the first Naval Academy graduate in 94 years to make an appearance in a major league baseball game since relief pitcher Nemo Gaines, who appeared in four games with the Washington Senators in 1921. Counting the minor leagues, Harris is one of nine Annapolis graduates to play baseball at a professional level.

"It's nice to finally say that the dream has begun to come true," Harris said to ESPN. "Obviously just making it is part of it, but staying is the better half."

Although Harris was sailing around the world serving his country for five years, he still found time to focus on baseball. Harris knew that he would have to keep his game and arm in check, even on boat, in order to keep his dream alive. His throwing partner was a cook from the Dominican Republic who was the only person on the ship who grew up around baseball.

“I threw on the flight deck when we could, depending on how the seas were, but it wasn’t often,” Harris told the Washington Post. “Depending on what type operations we were doing, or if I had watch, if I could do it or not. So we would if we had the opportunity.”

Harris won’t be an ordinary rookie for the Cardinals. He is 29 years old and his fastest pitch was only thrown around 80 mph when he reported to his first spring training. That only motivated Harris to get better in order to achieve his goal.

"If you tell yourself you're not going to be able to do it, you're setting yourself up for failure. So I told myself the whole time that there was going to be a time where I was going to get a chance to do this," Harris said. "And that was the best way to go about it. I'm human. There's definitely days where I thought there's no shot, no chance I was going to do this. But here we are."

Harris improvement over the offseason was obvious. He impressed many with his cutter, split-finger fastball and breaking ball and his pitch speed even hit the low-90s. He had a 1.86 ERA in eight appearances in this year for the Cardinals in spring training and posted two saves and a 2.45 ERA for Triple-A Memphis.

Harris now serves as a rare example to many that both a career in professional sports and the military are possible.

Early MLB predictions: Who will come out of the National League in 2013?

It’s never too early to start making predictions, right? Sure, spring training has only just begun, but what better time to predict which teams will be resilient enough to make it through the season and duke it out for baseball’s ultimate prize? In fact, should I get my predictions right, I’ll be seen as a baseball genius. And, should I get them wrong, I can just attribute it to the fact that my prediction was made in March. It’s a win-win. So, without further ado, here is my 2013 National League Champion prediction. 

On paper, it looks to be a five-horse race for the 2013 National League pennant. The Nationals, Dodgers, Giants, Reds and Braves all look like they could play the part this year in the NL. However, when looking at potential contenders, you can never count out the St. Louis Cardinals, a team that has lived for October over the past decade. Additionally, with their payroll and own version of the “Big Three” atop their rotation, the Phillies will look to come back strong in 2013 after missing the playoffs in 2012. 

The Reds are set to win the NL Central, with a rotation that can rack up innings and a potent lineup. The addition of Shin-Soo Choo at the top of the lineup is one of the more underrated moves of the offseason and could turn out to pay huge dividends when October rolls around. The Cardinals will give them some trouble in the Central, and I expect the Redbirds to earn another Wild Card berth.

A point of concern I have for the Nationals and Braves and the Dodgers and Giants is the fact that both these pairs of teams are in the same division, which could cause them to beat up on each other during the regular season. Furthermore, one of these teams might not even make the playoffs, assuming the Cardinals fulfill my prediction and clinch the other Wild Card spot.

In the NL West, I expect the Giants to win the division once again, despite the blockbuster moves the Dodgers made during the past offseason. I believe there is lots of built-up pressure in the LA baseball community, and I’m not positive that the Dodgers made all the right moves to build toward winning a championship. Instead, the Dodgers roster looks to be full of unproven players who will attract a larger fan base.

In the NL East, I fully expect the Nationals to pick up where they left off, with a slight decrease in run production. However, should Steven Strasburg make it through a whole season this year, expect them to dominate even more than last year. The addition of Denard Span will provide a spark at the top of the lineup and expect Bryce Harper to take another step forward this season. The Braves will rely on an aging Tim Hudson and two very young starting pitchers that have only really proven themselves for one season. What worries me more, in the case of the Braves more than the Nationals, is the threat of the Philadelphia Phillies. After a very disappointing, injury-riddled season last year, the Phillies will be hungry and the intense fan base will provide enough pressure and motivation to force another playoff appearance or a change in management.

In my eyes, the Nationals, Giants and Reds look to be the cream of the crop in terms of management, talent and experience of recent success. However, the Giants have won it all two of the past three years, so the odds are against them. So it comes down to the Reds and the Nationals. To be honest, I can’t make a case against the Reds potentially reaching the Fall Classic, but last year, the Nationals made one decision preventing them from getting past the Cardinals in the 2012 NLDS — the decision to sit Steven Strasburg after pitching 160 innings. Strasburg would have gotten the Nats through that series and perhaps deeper into the playoffs, but the organization chose to make a long-term decision.

Therefore, this year, barring any injuries to Strasburg or any other key players, the Nationals will fight their way through the National League en route to the World Series.
 

The Detroit Tigers took game four against the New York Yankees 8-1, ending the series and propelling the Tigers to the World Series. With the win the Tigers also claimed the American League Penant. This will be their first trip to the World Series since 2006, when they lost to the St. Louis Cardinals 4-1. Detroit will face the winner of the National League Championship Series. The Cardinals are currently leading the NLCS, 3-1, against the San Francisco Giants.

— Sara Beth Purdy

 

National League Central Preseason Power Rankings

Decisions are starting to be made, pitchers are being stretched out for more than 30 pitches an appearance, and lineups are starting to get closer to resembling major league lineups rather than a mixture of hopeful minor league prospects. As the season draws closer, we’re going to give you a preseason set of power rankings to get you up to speed for Opening Day.

1. Cincinnatti Reds: The Cincinnati Reds become the favorites in this division purely based off subtractions from other teams. Albert Pujols is no longer a Cardinal, and Prince Fielder is no longer a Brewer. The Reds did make a big trade in the offseason to acquire front line starter Mat Latos from the Padres, and he will join Johnny Cueto at the top of the rotation. Joey Votto and Brandon Phillips will bring the offense, and the Reds are sitting pretty before the season gets under way.

2. St. Louis Cardinals: The World Series champions have had a bit of retooling to do since they were spraying champagne in October. Albert Pujols took his talents to Los Angeles, and that leaves a big gap in the lineup for Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman to fill. Hall of Fame head coach Tony LaRussa retired, meaning they will have a new manager on the top step for the first time in 16 season. It’s not all doom and gloom in St. Louis though, they do get Adam Wainright back into their rotation, who missed all of last year with Tommy John surgery. Along with the strength of the rest of the rotation, the Cardinals will once again be competitive.

3. Milwaukee Brewers: Like their divisional counterpart Cardinals, the Brew Crew has a bit of rebuilding to do as well. Prince Fielder left for big money over the winter, and his left handed bat will be sorely missed. They added former Cubs third basemen Aramis Ramirez to the squad, and they do still have the reigning NL MVP in Ryan Braun. With the rotation headlined by Zach Greinke, the Brewers should make noise again in 2012.

4. Pittsburgh Pirates: With the Pirates on the cusp of their 20th consecutive losing season, there seems to be at least a small, minute gleam at the end of the tunnel. The Pirates were the surprise of the National League last year when they managed to stay relevant until August before unraveling at the seams. They locked up Andrew McCutchen to a long term deal and add A.J. Burnett to their rotation, but just crossing the .500 mark for this team would be cause for a parade in the steal city.

5. Chicago Cubs: The Steve Bartman incident of 2003, along with the last century of torture from the baseball gods, continues to burn holes in the souls of Cubs fans everywhere. The good news on the north side is that they took a step in the right direction this winter, trading for Red Sox GM Theo Epstein, who knows a thing or two about killing legendary curses. The bad news is, it takes time to build a team from the ground up, and the Cubs are in year 1 of a multi-year process. Patience Cubs fans, nothing lasts forever.

6. Houston Astros: They finished with the worst record in all of baseball last season, and appear to be spiraling into another failure of a season in 2012. They do have a new owner, Jim Crane, who promises to pump money and provide resources to turn the team around, but it’s not in the foreseeable future. The Astros have a farm system ranked in the bottom half of the entire league and average to below-average baseball appears to be on the horizon for awhile. The good news? They’re doing baseball a favor and bringing back the awesome Colt .45 jerseys that they wore for their first three years of existence.

 In one of the more dramatic World Series in baseball history, the Texas Rangers were denied their first-ever championship by the St. Louis Cardinals. The seven-game series provided both epic entertainment and frustrating despair for Rangers fans everywhere. Here’s a sample of the reactions and observations made by Daily Texan sports writers:

It was Josh Hamilton’s “Disney Moment”.

His two-run homer in the bottom of 10th put the Rangers up by two in Game 6. It was the perfect way to cap off Hamilton’s career comeback, after the former number one overall pick was away from baseball for three years because of drug issues.

But it wasn’t to be for the Hamilton or the Rangers as the Cardinals scraped their way back once again to tie the game and eventually win it on a David Freese walk-off homerun in the 11th.

The series was tied but the outcome of the seventh game was a foregone conclusion. When upsets and comebacks like these happen, the losing team is mentally and emotionally done.

The Rangers went out in Game 7 with little more than a whimper and watched another team celebrate a championship for the second straight year.

There were plenty of things to blame for the Rangers loss. Most will point to Game 6.

But it really comes down to the fact that this team could not get it done in the clutch. Whether it was Ron Washington’s questionable managing decisions, the bullpen’s blown saves, the defense’s terrible showing, or the offense’s inability to manufacture runs in crunch time, there were many things that caused the Rangers to settle for an AL championship ring again.

This will not be the Rangers’ last shot at a title. Their lineup is young, the group of starters is only going to get better, and their farm system is deep.

But the real question for is, will Texas ever be able to get over the hump?

Best case scenario they turn into the Braves of the 90’s make the playoffs every year and eventually break through. But unfortunately, comparisons are being drawn to a different 90’s power - the Buffalo Bills, who ost four straight Super Bowls.

Which comparison will prove to be more accurate? Only time will tell.
-Chris Hummer

Being from Austin, I root just as hard for the Texas Rangers as I do for the Houston Astros. Since I support what many like to call the “Last-ros,” I have seen my fair share of excruciating collapses. But Game 6 of this year’s World Series topped them all. When Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homeruns in that epic contest, I thought it was over. But the combination of blowing multiple two-run leads, having the Cardinals down to their final strike twice, and seeing an heroic Josh Hamilton 10th-inning 2-run bomb go to waste made for the most dramatic but most heartbreaking game I’ve ever seen. I was pulling hard for the Rangers in Game 7 but, deep down, I knew St. Louis had already won the series.
-Christian Corona

In season where the Philadelphia Phillies were predestined World Series Champions, the accomplishments the Texas Rangers achieved speaks volumes. Last season, when Cliff Lee bolted out of Arlington after a brief stint with the Rangers, many expected Texas to return to its role of little brother to the Anaheim Angels in the American League West. The Rangers silenced their critics by accruing one of the major league’s top five ERAs, proving to be more than the team can hit - it can pitch as well. While Ranger ace and free agent C.J. Wilson is probably headed to the Yankees this offseason, young pitchers like Derek Holland will fill his role, just like Wilson filled Lee’s in 2011. Fans can expect the Rangers to continue to make deep playoff runs in the future under manager Ron Washington, who gets the most out of his players.
-Hank South

For me its frustration. We needed one win in two games. In Game 6, we needed just one more out, twice, to win it all. With the level of obsession for sports in the state of Texas, one national championship isn’t enough. The Mavericks did their part but with the Cowboys bipolar on the field and the dis-Astros still in a midlife crisis, the Rangers were our only hope. To come so close to winning it all twice is just crushing. Next year, though, next year the Rangers will make it happen. Next year will be the year. Third time’s the charm, right?
-Sara Beth Purdy
 

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

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 right fielder Nelson Cruz canÂ’t come up with a hit by St. Louis CardinalsÂ’ 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.