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.