Chris Carpenter

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

Texas Rangers manager Ron Washington shakes hands with St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa before Game 1 of the World Series.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

Both teams’ starters pitched well in the game, with Texas’ C.J. Wilson going 5 2/3 innings while allowing three runs. Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter pitched six innings of two-run baseball. But, as advertised in the pre-series hype, the game really came down to the bullpens. The Cardinals relievers were perfect in their four innings on the mound, with five pitchers navigating four innings, allowing only one hit. The Rangers relievers pitched well too, but not well enough. Alexi Ogando allowed a hit against the very first batter he faced, and that hit scored the game-winning run. While the Rangers pen did not allow another run to score from there, that one hit was enough to seal game one for the Redbirds.

Starters leave game on same play

Wilson and Carpenter were both removed from the game on the same play in the bottom of the sixth inning. Carpenter was pinch hit by Allen Craig, and Wilson was pulled in favor of Ogando, despite already having two outs in the frame. Rangers manager Ron Washington’s decision to pull his starter backfired in two ways. Ogando ended up surrendering a run on a Craig single to right. Then, in the next inning, the Rangers lost Ogando’s services after only two batters, when Ogando was pulled in favor of a pinch hitter, but the Rangers couldn’t convert. So, in the end, questionable managing decisions by Washington hurt the Rangers in the key situation of the game.

Cold weather birds

The chilly weather on the field lived up to October baseball’s billing, reaching 49 degrees with a constant wind gust of 25 miles an hour and an off-and-on drizzle. The Texas players were bundled up and ready for this cool Mid-West weather. Elvis Andrus was wearing long sleeves and a pair of snazzy earmuffs to keep warm. Ogando was sporting long sleeves as well when he entered the game in the sixth inning, while constantly rubbing his hands on the mound to keep warm. The Cardinals, on the other hand, looked a little more acclimated to the colder climate, as most of their roster was wearing their traditional uniforms with short sleeves.

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.

Cardinals pitcher Chris Carpenter will start game on of the World Series tonight against the Ranger’s C.J. Wilson. Carpenter’s pitching is key to the Cardinals success in the series, along with the rest of their starters. (Photo courtesy of Associated Press)

Photo Credit: Courtesy Photo | Daily Texan Staff

Editor’s Note: Austin Laymance covered the St. Louis Cardinals for three months during his summer internship with MLB.com.

The Cardinals are no strangers to the World Series. But this might be their most improbable run yet.

St. Louis is the only team in Major League history to be 10.5 games out of a playoff birth in August and make it to the Fall Classic. The Cardinals are the hottest team in baseball and are playing their best ball at the right time.

Their bullpen is among the best in the league and their lineup, from top to bottom, has found its swing. The Redbirds have scored in the first inning in each of their last eight playoff games, a postseason record. 

The heart of the batting order — Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman — is a nightmare for pitchers. If Texas manager Ron Washington wants to walk Pujols, he better have an answer for the RBI machine that is Holliday and the switch-hitting Berkman.

And don’t forget about David Freese, the hometown hero and National League Championship Series MVP. The oft-injured third baseman is the key to the St. Louis offense. When he’s hitting, the Cards score in bunches.

Freese is just one of a host of Cardinals who spent time on the disabled list this season. St. Louis, though, is a better team because of it.

The Cards also lost Holliday, Pujols, Nick Punto, Gerald Laird, Skip Schumaker, Allen Craig, Kyle McClellan and Lance Lynn to the injuries in 2011. Still, the Redbirds persevered and became the never-say-die team that manager Tony La Russa covets.

The adversity began in spring training, when staff ace Adam Wainwright underwent Tommy John surgery on his right elbow. When the club announced he would miss the entire season, few gave St. Louis any chance of making it this far.

But they did. And they aren’t going to leave quietly.

Veteran right-hander Chris Carpenter gets the ball in Game one. He’s 2-0 this postseason with a 3.71 ERA in three starts. Carpenter shutout the high-powered Phillies in the Divisional round, so he’s capable of silencing the Rangers.

La Russa, though, hasn’t announced his starters for the rest of the series. And that isn’t a surprise. The crafty manager will exploit any advantage he thinks he may have. But Rangers fans should hope they see Jaime Garcia in Arlington. The southpaw is dominant at Busch Stadium but struggles mightily on the road.

The Cardinals rotation has been a model for inconsistency all season. But La Russa is a master at utilizing his bullpen. He’s often credited for the construction of the modern bullpen and has a pair of left-handed specialists ­— Marc Rzepczynski and Arthur Rhodes — lined up for Josh Hamilton.

Rhodes was with Texas earlier in the season before being waived and signing with St. Louis. He’ll get a ring no matter who wins.

It’s hard to think of two franchises with such a stark contrast in pageantry.

The Cardinals have won a record 18 NL pennants and 10 World Series championships — second only to the Yankees.

The Rangers are going to the World Series for the second time in as many years after decades of futility.

While the Cards have several champions on their roster, they acquired a number of players at the trade deadline searching for a title late in their careers. Shortstop Rafael Furcal and relievers Octavio Dotel and Rhodes all came to St. Louis in hopes of a ring. The same rings true for Berkman, who signed with the club in the offseason and recently agreed to an extension.

The Rangers showed interest in Berkman at the trade deadline — funny how baseball works. He’s also a Texas kid who grew up in New Braunfels, went to Rice and started his career in Houston. But this October, the “Big Puma” could upset his fellow Texans.

Pujols will be a free agent at the end of the season, and this could be his last hurray in a St. Louis uniform.

The Cardinals are searching for their 11th World Series title in ‘11. And if you think they can’t beat Texas, consider this: St. Louis has not boarded a plane coming off a loss since August 3. The Cards have dubbed the streak “Happyflight” and chant it after each win before heading home.

Yes, these Redbirds are ready to soar.  

HOUSTON — Soaked with beer and champagne, Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman embraced in the St. Louis Cardinals plastic-wrapped clubhouse, basking in a celebration no one thought possible less than a month ago.

Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals completed one of baseball’s greatest comebacks on Wednesday night, clinching the NL wild card with an 8-0 win over Houston and a later loss by Atlanta.

The Cardinals got their playoff spot when the Braves fell to Philadelphia 4-3 in
13 innings.

St. Louis trailed Atlanta by 10½ games on Aug. 25, then won 23 of the last 31 games to finish its improbable charge.

“Any time you’re on a playoff team and you make a run like this, you invest a lot of yourself in the season with a great group of guys,” Berkman said. “It just makes
it special.”

The Cardinals will open the postseason on Saturday at NL East champion Philadelphia. In the other NL playoff matchup, Arizona visits Milwaukee.
St. Louis went 6-3 against the Phillies in the regular season. Amid the smiles and spray, the Cardinals were already looking ahead.

“A lot is going to be made of the fact that we played pretty well against the Phillies this year,” Berkman said, “But with the playoffs all around it’s a different story.”
The Braves and Cardinals entered Wednesday’s regular-season finales with 89-
72 records.

St. Louis made quick work of the punchless Astros, then rushed back into the clubhouse to watch the end of the Atlanta game. With the Braves two outs from defeat, a clubhouse attendant wheeled in a dolly stocked with cardboard
boxes of beer.

And when Freddie Freeman rolled into a season-ending double play, the party began. The Cardinals passed out black caps with “2011 MLB Playoffs” emblazoned on top and black T-shirts with NL wild-card logos.

Within minutes, the floor of the clubhouse was littered with bottle caps and corks.
“It’s a great feeling to be able to come from so far down,” Berkman said. “We felt like we had a run like this in us, and we executed it just in the nick of time. And
here we are.”

Carpenter (11-9) pitched like an ace, striking out 11 and allowing two hits in his 15th career complete-game shutout. The Cardinals poured onto the field after Carpenter fielded J.D. Martinez’s weak grounder for the final out.

“It was exciting, there’s no doubt about it,” Carpenter said. “The way these guys have played the past month-and-a-half has been amazing, every single night grinding, playing their butts off, not giving up.”

Atlanta’s game started an hour earlier, but the Cardinals virtually took away any hope for a Houston victory in the first inning, jumping to a 5-0 lead against Brett
Myers (7-14).

Pujols and Berkman drove in runs with singles, and David Freese doubled to left-center before Myers even recorded an out. Berkman scored when Skip Schumaker’s hard grounder ricocheted off Myers’ glove for an infield hit, and Freese came home on Nick Punto’s single to right.

“I’m glad that we contributed early in the game,” Pujols said, “and Carpenter obviously took them out and took care of business.” 

Printed on September 30, 2011 as: Berkman, Pujols pace Cardinals in win