October 26, 2011 · 00:15
Tony LaRussa must have the Mad Cow. The future Hall of Fame manager who renowned for micromanaging games inning by inning seems to have lost his managerial mojo and isn’t admitting it. Now the Texas Rangers who have played excellent baseball are one game from winning their first World Series.
The first thing that mystified me were the unexplainable steal attempts and mix ups on the base paths that killed the Cardinals chances of blowing open the game. One of the most puzzling plays was when in the 7th inning Pujols called a hit and run with Allen Craig on first and Alexi Ogando pitching him carefully. Pujols did not swing at a high pitch that was way out of the strike zone and Craig was caught stealing. Ron Washington then had Ogando intentionally walk Pujols to get the Matt Holliday who has been in a World Series funk, hitting just .167. Holliday singled and Lance Berkman was intentionally walked to load the bases but David Freese flew out to center to end the inning. In the 9th with Neftali Feliz pitching and Pujols at bat with no outs Craig ran as Pujols struck out swinging and was thrown out at second to complete a double play. The Cardinals left 12 men on base including 8 in scoring position and as the game progressed I knew that the Cardinals were going to find a way to lose the game. It didn’t matter how well Chris Carpenter pitched or how well their defense played as the game moved on I knew that the blown scoring attempts were going to doom the Redbirds Monday night.
But the real mystery was the 8th inning. With the game tied and one out with Michael Young on second base LaRussa had ace set up man Octavio Dotel intentionally walk Nelson Cruz. He then sent in left hander Marc Rzepczynski to face David Murphy. I guess that the idea was to set up a double play but Murphy hit an infield single sending which loaded the bases with Mike Napoli coming to the plate.
Napoli has been hotter than exploding napalm during the post season and has been feasting on left handed pitching. And this is where the game gets even weirder. With Napoli coming to the plate one would expect to have LaRussa send a right handed pitcher to the mound, someone like Jason Motte. But no right hander emerged in fact none were even warming up. This forced Rzepczynski to have to face Napoli who hit a double into the gap in right center field scoring two runs and giving the Cardinals their first lead of the night. Rzepczynski stayed in the game and struck out Mitch Moreland to get the second out. With the horses out of the barn a right hander came in but it was not Motte, it was Lance Lynn who was only supposed to pitch in an emergency situation. LaRussa had Lynn intentionally walk Ian Kinsler to get Motte some warm up time. Motte finally entered the game and struck out Elvis Andrus to end the inning.
LaRussa said after the game that he had wanted Rzepczynski and Motte up but Bullpen Coach Derek Lilliquist said that he did not understand LaRussa due to the crowd noise. When LaRussa called to get Motte up Lilliquist claimed that he misunderstood and sent up Lynn who was not supposed to pitch. To make matters worse, Dotel said that he was surprised that he was not allowed to pitch to Nelson Cruz.
With all that said and all the second guessing and the convoluted explanations aside the Cardinals did not put runners across the plate. They should have won the game going away. The single off Rzepczynski in the 8th took an angle that he did not seem to anticipate and it could have been a double play ball and there would have been no “Bullpengate.”
Game 6 is scheduled for Wednesday night inSt Louis. However rain is in the forecast and there is a possibility that it could be postponed. Colby Lewis will get the start for the Rangers and Jaime Garcia for the Cardinals. Both pitched well in game 2 and the Cardinals have the advantage of playing at home and by National League rules which means with no Designated Hitter that Texas will have one less big bat in the lineup. This will be a game of bullpens and pinch hitters; I don’t expect either pitcher to go 7-8 innings as happened in games 4 and 5 in Texas. However the Cardinals have to win both games and Texas has not lost two games in a row in a month and a half, but this is where the Cardinals play their best ball and of the 10 World Series titles the Cardinals have won in their illustrious history they were down 3 games to 2 in three of them. I still think it goes 7 games but the Cardinals and LaRussa have to get their grove back on. If not their miracle season will become a memorable footnote in MLB history.
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Tagged as 2011 world series, albert pujols, Alexi Ogando, allen craig, chris carpenter, colby lewis, Derek Lilliquist, ian kinsler, jaime garcia, Jason Motte, lance berkman, lance lynn, Marc Rzepczynski, matt holliday, michael young, mike napoli, neftali feliz, nelson cruz, Octavio Dotel, ron washington, st louis cardinals, texas rangers, tony larussa, world series
October 23, 2011 · 17:42
“I’m sure the ball looked to him like a water balloon up there.” Ranger’s reliever Darren Oliver. Albert Pujols hits his historic 3rd Home Run with 2 outs in the top of the 9th against Darren Oliver
Game three of the World Series between the St Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers was one for the ages. Cardinals First Baseman Albert Pujols set a record for a World Series game going 5-6 with 3 home runs and 6 runs batted in. He is the first player to hit three home runs in a World Series since “Mr. October” Reggie Jackson did it in game six of the 1977 World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers and Babe Ruth how did it in the 1926 and 1927 World Series. Pujols home runs were all massive going 43 feet, 406 feet and 397 feet respectively. One commentator referred to Pujols as “Mr. Octobert” to distinguish him from Jackson.
The game was a big change from games one and two where pitching and defense dominated. In those games the teams scored a combined 8 runs on 23 hits and only committed 2 errors. In those two games the Texas pitching staff had a 2.11 ERA and St Louis a 2.00 ERA. However in game three on a warm and windy night in Arlington the pitching staffs of both teams broke down and both bullpens showed signs of overuse. In game three the teams scored a combined 23 runs on 28 hits and the Rangers committed 3 costly errors plus one that should have been an error which resulted in a blown call at First Base and helped the Cardinals to a big 4th inning. The series ERA for the Rangers ballooned to 6.66 and the Cardinals to 3.80.
Of particular concern for the Rangers is their g0-to man in the bullpen Alexi Ogando who was central to their success as a set up man for closer Neftali Feliz has been thunderstruck during the World Series. He has three appearances and only gotten one out in each appearance. He has given up 5 hits, one being a home run and two walks and allowed 4 runs of which 3 were earned for a 27.00 ERA in the World Series. Ogando has to be on for the Rangers to win.
Conversely the batting averages of the teams which had been very low in games one and two Texas hitting a meager .186 andSt Louisa marginally better 2.03 went up. At the end of game three the Cardinals average was .267 and the Rangers to .252. The Rangers series On Base Percentage (OBP) is .292 and a Slugging Percentage of .378. The Cardinals OBP is now 3.70 and a .455 SLG.
Lance Lynn got the win in relief for the Cardinals and Rangers starting pitcher Matt Harrison took the loss. Tonight Edwin Jackson 12-9 3.79 will be on the hill for the Cardinals and Derek Holland 16-5 3.95 will pitch for the Rangers. Holland has not performed well in the playoffs giving up 8 earned runs and 18 hits including 5 home runs in 13.2 innings. His playoff ERA is 5.27 and his opponent batting average is .305. Jackson too has struggled in the playoffs giving up 8 earned runs on 16 hits with 4 home runs in 12.1 innings. He has a playoff ERA of 5.86 and opponents are hitting .302 off of him. Jackson in his career against the Rangers is 2-3 with a 4.02 ERA and opposing batting average of .244.
Pujols is now hitting .418 in the playoffs with a .492 OBP and .818 SLG. In addition to Pujols mammoth feat David Freese continued his record playoff run hitting safely in 13 consecutive games with 21 hits including 7 doubles and 4 home runs. He has a .429 batting average, .481 OBP and .816 SLG. Allen Craig who has been an amazing pinch hitter during the 2011 playoff made his first start in Left Field hit a hitting a solo home run in the first inning off Matt Harrison.
I expect more fireworks from both teams tonight and think that in order to win one team will have to get a clutch performance out of their pitching staff. The Rangers are down but they are not out. They have the firepower
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Tagged as 2011 world series, albert pujols, Alexi Ogando, allen craig, babe ruth, darren oliver, david freese, derek holland, edwin jackson, matt harrison, me octobert, mr october, neftali feliz, reggie jackson, st louis cardinals, texas rangers, world series
October 21, 2011 · 00:14
Elvis Andrus scores the winning run in the top of the 9th (Photo By REUTERS/Jeff Haynes/REUTERS)
The World Series is coming down to pitching and defense. The Texas Rangers shut out for 8 innings made a 9th inning comeback againstSt Louis closer Jason Motte who has saved five games this post season.
Both starting pitchers had great performances. Texas starter Colby Lewis pitched 6.2 innings allowing 1 run on 4 hits with 4 strikeouts and 2 walks. St Louis starter Jaime Garcia went 7 innings allowing no runs and just 3 hits with 7 strikeouts.
Defense especially that of the Texas middle infield of Kinsler and Andrus who made an amazing 4th inning double play and equally impressive fielder’s choice to end the 6th inning.
The Cardinals scored first on a 2 out 7th inning rally. Lewis gave up a single David Freese and a second to Nick Punto. LaRussa sent in Allen Craig to hit for Garcia. Ron Washington countered by bringing in Alexi Ogando to set up a rematch of game one. The result was the same when Craig singled to score Punto to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.
Ian Kinsler hit a bloop single to leadoff the 9th against Motte and stole second with Elvis Andrus at the plate. Andrus singled to right to send Kinsler to third and Andrus took advantage of a poor throw by Jon Jay which was touched but not cut off by Albert Pujols to take second. At this point Tony LaRussa made what I think was his first mistake of the series. He took out Motte and brought in Arthur Rhodes to pitch to Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to right center which scored Kinsler. LaRussa then took out Rhodes and sent in Lance Lynn to pitch to Michael Young who also flied to right center to bring home Andrus to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. For Motte who had pitched 9 post season innings giving up just 1 hit and no runs it was his first setback. Of course he was not helped by his defense because Andrus took second and took away the chance of a double play.
The Cardinals blew a number of chances to score more runs and left 9 men on base some of which were do to bad execution on the part of the team.
Neftali Feliz gave up a leadoff walk in the 9th but shut down the Cardinals to secure the win. The Rangers scored 2 runs on 5 hits and committed one error and the Cardinals 1 run on 6 hits with no errors. Texas reliever Mike Adams got the win and Feliz the save while Motte took the loss.
The Series goes to Arlington where the resurgent Rangers who were one inning from going down 2-0 will be able to take advantage of their ballpark where they score an average of 2 runs more than they do on the road. The Cardinals will start Kyle Lohse who went 14-8 with a 3.39 ERA in the regular season against the Ranger’s Matt Harrison who went 14-9 with a 3.39 ERA.
So far this has been a battle of pitchers and great defense. Will the return to Texas change this dynamic or will the big bats come out? We’ll see what happens Saturday.
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Tagged as 2011 world series, Alexi Ogando, allen craig, arthur rhodes, colby lewis, david freese, elvis andrus, ian kinsler, jaime garcia, Jason Motte, Jon Jay, josh hamilton, kyle lohse, lance lynn, matt harrison, mike adams, neftali feliz, nick punto, ron washington, tony larussa, world series
October 20, 2011 · 00:41
Chris Carpenter’s diving put out of Elvis Andrus in the 1st inning set the tone for the game (Reuters)
The game was decided in the top of the 1st inning. Cardinals’ starter Chris Carpenter gave up a fluke leadoff single to Ian Kinsler that was deflected off the glove of third baseman David Freese. The speedy Kinsler attempted to steal with Elvis Andrus at bat and was gunned down at second by Yadier Molina. Andrus hit a grounder that Albert Pujols had to go deep to get and his throw was far in front of Carpenter who was racing to cover first. Carpenter dove to catch the ball and slid into the bag slapping it with his right hand to make the put out. The play electrified the crowd and at that point I was confident that the pluck and determined Cardinals would win this game.
The game was dominated by pitching and defense, a far cry from the LCS when both the Rangers and Cardinals hammered their opponents. The Cardinals struck first in the bottom of the 4th inning when Rangers’ starter C J Wilson hit Albert Pujols to lead off the inning and gave up a double to Matt Holliday and a single to Lance Berkman which scored Pujols and Holliday to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. That lead would only last a third of an inning when Carpenter gave up a single to Adrian Beltre and then struck out Nelson Cruz. He then gave up a home run to Mike Napoli which tied the game.
The Cardinals scored again in the bottom of the 6th inning when Freese doubled off of Wilson and advanced to 3rd on a wild pitch.Wilson stuck out Molina for the second out but then walked Nick Punto. That was it for Wilson who was relieved by Alexi Ogando who gave up a single to pinch hitter Allen Craig that scored Freese to give the Cardinals the lead. Freese’s hit gave him the record for consecutive games with a hit his 11th of this post season.
Allen Craig singled the go ahead run off of Alexi Ogando in the bottom of the 6th inning
The Cardinals then used 5 relief pitchers to shut down the Rangers. The Rangers threatened in the top of the 7th getting men on first and second with one out. Tony LaRussa brought Marc Rzepczynski into the game to relieve Fernado Salas who had come on after Carpenter left the game. Rzepczynski struck out pinch hitters Craig Gentry and Esteban German to end the threat and the inning. Octavio Dotel relieved Rzepczynski in the 8th getting Kinsler and Andrus and LaRussa was back out to the mound to bring in 40 year old left hander Arthur Rhodes to face Josh Hamilton and LaRussa was right again as Hamilton flied out to center to end the inning.
This set the plate for the non-closer closer Jason Motte who put down Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in order to close out the inning and get the save.
The game demonstrated the craftiness of LaRussa who found the right combination of pitchers and hitters to get the win. It was a very close game and LaRussa and his Cardinals scraped out the win against a very strong Rangers team.
The Rangers had 2 runs on 6 hits with no errors and the Cardinals 3 runs on 6 hits with no errors. Carpenter got the win and Motte the save while C J Wilson continued to have a rough post season taking the loss.
On Thursday Colby Lewis 14-10 4.40 ERA will face Jaime Garcia 13-7 3.56 ERA at Busch Stadium in game two.
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Tagged as Adrian Beltre, albert pujols, Alexi Ogando, allen craig, arthur rhodes, c j wilson, chris carpenter, colby lewis, craig gentry, david freese, elvis andrus, esteban german, fernado dalas, ian kinsler, jaime garcia, Jason Motte, lance berkman, Marc Rzepczynski, michael young, mike napoli, nelson cruz, nick punto, Octavio Dotel, ron washington, st louis cardinals, texas rangers, tony larussa, world series, Yadier Molina
October 19, 2011 · 20:38
Last Year I made picks for both the MLB Playoff series and the World Series that were very accurate. See the 2010 MLB Post Season Page link at the top of this page. I try to look at all the stats in the regular and post season to make my picks. This year I did not get around to picking winners for the Division or League Championship Series. I plan on providing analysis of each game during the World series. Of course I could be wrong, but this is my pick.
This is a really interesting World Series that I really believe will go the full seven games. I am picking the Cardinals but not because I think that they are the “better” team in the context of this season. I think that in a 7 game series that Tony LaRussa will do just enough to beat the Rangers. The majority of baseball commentators are predicting that the Rangers will win this in 6 or 7 games. If they were playing the Brewers, Diamondbacks or Phillies I would pick them in a New York minute. But they are playing a team that at the end of August was 10.5 games out of the Wild Card race in the National League and handily defeat teams in the NLDS and NLCS that were on paper better than them.
I believe that the Texas Rangers are the better team and I actually kind of want them to win the Series because I like Nolan Ryan, Ron Washington and would like to see the Rangers win their first World Series. Over the course of this year’s 162 game season I don’t think that there was a better team in baseball. They have decent starting pitching, a great bullpen and hit the hell out of ball. They have made mincemeat of some of the best pitchers in the league. Ron Washington is one of my favorite managers, he is smart and really has shaped this team into the machine that they are. They are at or near the top in almost every offensive category including stolen bases. They have a better record than the Cardinals and the two teams pitching staffs have similar records and statistics for the season. The Rangers held off a late season rush by the Los Angeles Angels and took the AL West for the second time in as many years. They eliminated the Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games chewing up a very good Rays pitching staff and proceeded take down the Tigers in 6 games to reach the World Series for the second strait year. Ron Washington is turning into a great manager who has proven that he can manage the game and inspire his players at the same time.
However the Wild Card so to speak is the “Wild Card” in this series. The Cardinals took advantage by the epic collapse of the Atlanta Braves in September and won the NL Wild Card on the last day of the season. They then had to face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. The Phillies had the best record in the National League but had fallen victim to the Red Birds 6 of 9 times during the regular season 3 of which came in September. They dispatched the Phillies in 5 games after being down 2-1 in the series. Then they went to their division rivals and NL Central Champion Milwaukee Brewers. They took the Brewers with whom they evenly split their 18 regular season games in 6 games.
These are both great teams with a lot of character and talent. When one looks up and down the roster they are filled with great hitters. The Rangers have the edge in overall quality but the Cardinals are also very good and had the best team hitting in the Division and League Championship Series. Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Yadier Molina, Jon Jay and Matt Holiday highlight a line up that hit for a .274 batting average, .341 On Base Percentage and .425 Slugging Percentage in the regular season and produced 762 runs. The Rangers roster includes Josh Hamilton, Michael Young, Adrian Beltre, Elvis Andrus and Nelson Cruz. The Rangers hit a Major League leading team batting average of .283 On Base Percentage of .341 a .460 Slugging Percentage and which produced a MLB high 855 runs.
However the playoffs have been another story. The Cardinals led all the playoff teams in batting average (.288) and runs (111) while having .345 OBP and .448 SLG percentages. The Rangers hitters were not as dominant in the playoffs hitting for a .259 team batting average producing 90 runs and achieving a .330 OBP and .434 SLG. They were still potent especially Nelson Cruz the ALCS MVP who hit .364 with six homers and 13 RBIs.
The pitching performance of the two teams in the regular season was quite similar the Cardinals had a slightly better team ERA of 2.74 versus the Rangers 2.79 but LaRussa is unorthodox in his use of his bullpen when has performed magnificently. Game one will feature the two teams’ workhorses, Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals and C J Wilson for the Rangers. The bullpens are both excellent and the Rangers feature Neftali Feliz and Alexi Ogando. Ogando has been particularly good and as a former starter can pitch in extended or short relief. The Cardinals bullpen features Jason Motte and Octavio Dotel who have been excellent in the playoffs.
The hitters will challenge the pitchers of both teams and the starters will need to perform to protect their bullpens. LaRussa will use his bullpen in ways that cannot be anticipated and the Rangers could face any pitcher in any situation.
The reason that I am picking the Cardinals is the fact that they have done so much that they were not expected to do this season. They overcame a lot to get to this point. The Rangers were expected by many to be here again, especially after the Red Sox collapsed in September and did not make the playoffs. The key for me is Tony LaRussa and his ability to manage a game inning by inning batter by batter in order to deny the opposing team the opportunity to score runs in any single inning particularly “the last three innings of the game.” LaRussa manages the details of a game probably better than anyone in baseball and though many criticize his “micromanagement” it certainly has worked. Provided nothing really unexpected happens LaRussa will pass the great John McGraw on the all time managerial win list sometime during the 2012 season. None of this is to be disrespectful of Ron Washington, he too is an excellent manager and the Rangers would not be where they are without him. Likewise the Cardinals have home field advantage and Busch Stadium is a pitchers park which plays well with how LaRussa uses his bullpen and bench.
The Rangers are an amazing team and I do think that they are the better team and really want to win this, but there is something about this 2011 Cardinals team. Since the end of August they have played every day with their season on the line and risen to the occasion. Besides they have the Rally Squirrel…. How can they lose?
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Tagged as 2011 world series, Adrian Beltre, albert pujols, alcs, alds, Alexi Ogando, atlanta braves collapse, boston red sox, c j wilson, chris carpenter, detroit tigers, earned run average, elvis andrus, Jason Motte, Jon Jay, josh hamilton, lance berkman, matt holiday, michael young, milwaukee brewers, neftali feliz, nelson cruz, nlcs, nlds, nolan ryan, Octavio Dotel, on base percentage, philadelphia phillies, ron washington, slugging percentage, st louis cardinals, st louis rally squirrel, tampa bay rays, team batting averages, texas rangers, tony larussa, world series, Yadier Molina