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Incredible, Improbable, Amazing and Unbelievable: The Epic Saga of the 2011 World Series Champion St Louis Cardinals

Champions  Photo By Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images

“I think that in a 7 game series that Tony LaRussa will do just enough to beat the Rangers…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?” Padre Steve on October 19th (Cardinals in Seven: Padre Steve’s World Series Pick)

I hate to say I told you so, no wait that’s a lie; I love to be right and hate to be wrong.  For the third strait year since starting to do so I picked the World Series winner.  Last year I had a dog in the fight, my San Francisco Giants, this year I didn’t and I enjoyed the playoffs and World Series immensely. That being said this is about the incredible, improbable, amazing and unbelievable epic regular season comeback and playoff run of the St Louis Cardinals.  In order to keep this from being the mother of all posts I have included links to the articles that I wrote about their accomplishment as September came to an end and as the 2011 Cardinals became part of baseball history and immortality.

Incredible: The Road to the World Series

Back in August I remember talking with a friend about the pennant race.  At the time the Cardinals were 10.5 games behind the Braves in the NL Wild Card Race. They had endured major adversity, their closer Ryan Franklin was released, Albert Pujols had rebuffed a contract offer and refused to negotiate during the season and to make matters worse he had broken a bone in his wrist and was expected to be out at least 4 weeks. Expected lead starting pitcher Adam Wainwright went on the disabled list on March 25th and never pitched a game in the season.  The Cardinals suffered injuries and adversity throughout the season and by all calculations it looked like they were done.

On the morning of August 25th Tony LaRussa and the Cardinals woke up having been swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers at home in a series where the Dodgers outscored the Cardinals 24-7. They were so far out of the Wild Card that all the talk was not about the playoffs but finishing well.

Then something changed though it as imperceptible at first.  They took 3 of 4 from the Pirates and traveled to Milwaukee and swept three from the division leading Brewers and were now 8.5 games behind the Braves for the Wild Card.  But then the Cincinnati Reds took 2 of 3 and it looked like the Cardinals might fade. They got their groove back and took 2 of 3 from the Brewers at home and swept three from the Braves. On September 11th the Cardinals were 4.5 out of the Wild Card.  The Giants had fallen back to 7.5 out and like others I started to notice the Cardinals.

The Cardinals then made a road trip throughPennsylvaniaand took 2 of 3 from the Pirates and 3 of 4 from the Phillies before coming home to face the Mets. With just 9 games left the Cardinals were 2.5 games behind the faltering Braves with the Giants clawing at their heels just 4.5 games behind the Braves.

The Cards took two from the Mets on the 20th and 21st but then dropped a game to the Mets and lost 5-1 in Chicago.  On the 24th they were 2 behind the Braves with 5 games left.  They then won two one run games against the Cubs, 2-1 on the 24th and 3-2 on the 25th.  The morning of the 26th of September they were down by 1 game. The Cardinals had to face the lowly Houston Astros in Houston while the Braves had to face the Phillies.  Unbelievably the Cardinals lost to the Astros on the 26th but the Braves also lost so the lead was still one game, had the Braves won the best that the Cardinals could hope for was a one game playoff with the Braves. On the 27th they defeated the Astros 13-6 while the Braves lost yet again and with one game left the Cardinals had caught the Braves.

Down to the Wire: MLB’s Epic Wild Card September Continues to Amaze

September 28th dawned with two epic comebacks and two epic collapses in the making. In the American League the Boston Red Sox had lost a 9 game Wild Card lead and were tied with the Tampa Bay Rays in large part due to the lowly Baltimore Orioles who had taken 4 of 6 games from the Red Sox in the previous 9 days asTampa could not seem to lose.  While many experts thought a comeback by the Rays was possible none had thought that the Cardinals would be tied with the Braves on the final day of the regular season.

Two Tied Wild Card Races: Who would have Thunk It?

Braves stunned

On the 28th Chris Carpenter took the hill for the Cardinals and pitched a 2 hit shutout as the Cardinals pounded the Astros 8-0 with the Braves still playing the Phillies.  As the Cardinals waited in the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park the Braves had a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the 6th against the Phillies.  The Phillies scored 1 in the top of the 7th and with two outs in the bottom of the 9th tied the game.  They would go on to win in 13 as the Braves lost 18 of their last 27 games including the last 5 games of the season. The Cardinals won 23 of 31 games after August 24th.  It was incredible somehow the Cardinals had reached the playoffs.

UNBELIEVABLE! Braves and Red Sox Collapse Complete! Rays and Cardinals win Wild Cards, Orioles sink Red Sox with 2 Outs in Bottom of the 9th as Longoria hits walk off against Yankees

Improbable: Cardinals defeat Phillies in NLDS

An Icon is born…the Rally Squirrel

The Cardinals went into the NLDS as decided underdogs but despite that I had a strange feeling about this series. Philadelphia Phillies owned the best record in the regular season but were just 4-12 from September 11th to the 24th.   The Cardinals had taken 3 of 4 from the Phillies during that period and the Phillies hitters were struggling.

However in game one the Phillies seemed to be everything that they were advertised. The slammed Kyle Lohse and the Cardinals 13-6 but in game two the Cardinals defeated Cliff Lee 5-4 to tie the series.  That game was significant because Tony LaRussa stunned the experts by removing Chris Carpenter who had given up 4 runs from the game after 3 innings. He then used 6 relievers who shut out the Phillies as the Cardinals hitters plated 5 runs.

The series returned to St Louis and the Phillies took a 2 game to 1 lead in the series by defeating the Cardinals 3-2.  The Cardinals who had been living on the edge since August appeared to be looking at an early exit from the playoffs.  But the Cardinals were not dead, they won game four 5-3 powered by the hitting of Lance Berkman and David Freese. Freese drove in 4 runs hammering a two run double and to run home run off of Roy Oswalt.

This sent the teams back to Philadelphia for the decisive game five.  This was a battle of the best Roy Halliday on the hill for the Phillies and Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals.  The Cardinals struck first for the only run of the game when Rafael Furcal tripled to lead off the first and scored when Skip Schumaker doubled.  Halliday then shut down the Cardinals for 8 innings.  But Carpenter who had been battered by the Phillies in game two pitched a 3 hit shutout to win the game.  The Cardinals had done the improbable, they beat Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt and they had beaten the best regular season team in baseball, a team built to avenge their 2010 NLCS loss to the Giants and win the World Series.

Amazing: Cardinals defeat the Brewers

The Cardinals had taken out the Phillies but had to face the big bats of their division rival the Milwaukee Brewers to get to the World Series.  Most experts picked the Brewers to win because they had the home field advantage and were billed as the better team. They had Cecil Fielder and led the NL in home runs and slugging percentage and they had home field advantage.  Playing at home this was huge for the Brewers in 2011 they were 57-24 at home win percentage of .703 and their team batting average was 31 points higher at home than on the road.  The Brewers and Cardinals split their 18 regular season games evenly but Milwaukee was 5-4 at home against the Redbirds and had outscored them 48-39 at home. Despite this the Cardinals had a better team batting average and led the NL and Brewers in every major offensive category except home runs and the teams had an identical slugging percentage of .425 while the Brewers pitching was somewhat better than the Cardinals.

Game one went as many expected. Milwaukee won the game 9-6 and took a 1-0 lead in the series.  However the Cardinals turned the tables in a big way in game two shelling the Brew Crew 12-3 as Albert Pujols went 4-5 with a Home Run, three Doubles and 5 RBI while David Freese hit his second home run and 5th RBI of the series.  It was a stunning loss for the Brewers and the series moved back to St Louis tied.

The Cardinals took game 3 by a score of 4-3 as they scored 4 times in the top of the first inning and their LaRussa used Carpenter for 5 innings and then relied on his bullpen to shut the Brewers down and they did allowing no runs and no hits the remainder of the game.  Pujols and Freese each doubled and brought their RBI total to 6 each.  However the Brewers tied the series in game four winning the game behind the pitching of Randy Wolf.   In game five the Brewers defense imploded giving up 4 errors.  Matt Holiday went 3 for 5 with 2 RBI and the Cardinals beat Zach Greinke and the Brewers 7-1 taking a 3-2 lead but heading back to Milwaukee where the Brewers were expected to make a strong showing.

In game six it was the Cardinals that turned on the offense and not the Brewers.  The Cardinals scored 12 runs nine of which were earned.  They scored 4 runs in the top of the 1st inning and drove Brewers starter Shaun Marcum from the game, David Freese hit his third home run of the series.  The Brewers brought Chris Narveson into the game in the top of the 2nd inning hoping to stop the Cardinals onslaught.  Narveson faired worse than Marcum giving up 5 earned runs in 1.2 innings work and gave up home runs to Rafael Furcal and Pujols.  The Brewers managed a respectable 6 runs four of which came off Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson who pitched just 2 innings.  The Cardinals bullpen rose to the occasion, in 7 innings 5 relievers gave up just 2 runs on 3 hits.

Unbelievable: Cardinals defeat Rangers in 7 games to win the World Series

The expectation before the World Series began was the Cardinals and the Rangers would turn this series into an all out slugging affair.  The expectation was partially met but games one and two were low scoring affairs that featured plenty of great defense and pitching.  In game one it was solid defense and pitching which gave the Cardinals a 3-2 win over the Rangers.  Rangers catcher Mike Napoli hit a 5th inning home run and drove in the only Texas runs of the game and David Freese drove in the winning run with a 6th inning double off of C J Wilson.

 Cardinals take Game One 3-2: Defense and Pitching Key to Win

Game two was a pitching duel that it looked like the Cardinals would win. Starting pitchers Colby Lewis of  Texas and Jaime Garcia pitched extremely well. The Cardinals scored a run when Allen Craig singed off of Alexi Ogando who had come in to relieve Lewis with 2 outs in the 7th.  Craig’s single scored David Freese and gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.  But the Rangers managed a comeback win in the top of the 9th inning.

Comeback: Rangers Win Battle of the Bullpens

The series went to Texas tied and it was expected that scoring would go up but no one expected the carnage that the Cardinals would inflict on the Rangers in game three.  Albert Pujols tied the World Series single game home run record held by Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth with 3 and the most RBI in a World Series game with six.  The Cardinals defeated the Rangers 16-7 and took a 2-1 lead in the series.

Beat Down in Texas: Pujols Sets Record as Cardinals down Rangers 16-7

The Rangers may have been down but they were not out and instead of another slugfest game four as Derek Holland shut out the Cardinals allowing just 2 hits.  Mike Napoli hit a 3 run home run off of Cardinals reliever Mitchell Boggs to ensure the win in the bottom of the 6th inning.

Shutdown! Derek Holland Silences Cardinals Rangers tie Series

Game five would be memorable for one inning, the eighth when it appeared that Tony LaRussa lost his managerial mojo and the Rangers scored a comeback win despite a strong performance by Chris Carpenter.  This time the St Louisbullpen imploded aided by on field miscues and errors, malfunctioning bullpen phones and perplexing managerial decisions by LaRussa.  The Rangers won the game 4-2 to take a 3-2 series lead into St Louis.

Where has the Managerial Mojo Gone? LaRussa Manages the Worst Inning of his Career as Rangers go up 3 games to 2

It was the most amazing World Series game ever played but the first few innings would not have indicated this.  They were marked a combined 5 errors and poor pitching and it looked like the Rangers were on their way to winning an unremarkable game six on their way to their first World Series championship.  The Rangers led 7-4 with back to back solo home runs by Adriane Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the 7th inning and the Cardinals were down to their last six outs.  But that changed in what became the greatest game in World Series history. The Cardinals came back 5 times in the game, a World Series Record. They were down to their last strike down by two runs twice and they won on a walk off home run in the bottom of the 11th.  They used two pitchers as pinch hitters and somehow they still won 10-9 to set up the deciding game seven.

Padre Steve’s live Game Six commentary on Facebook 

8:31 PM World Series Game 6 after an inning Cardinals 2 Rangers 1… 9:46 PM It’s a comedy of errors as Texas leads 4-3 in the top of the 5th inning…10:38 PM 4-4 bases loaded for the Cardinals, can’t believe 5 total errors in the game so far…10:36 PM Ogando is now O gone do another walk bases loaded again, Napoli saved the run by picking off Holliday. If the Rangers win the Series I spell MVP “NAPOLI”…10:44 PM The long ball, to solo home runs for Texas, Beltre and Cruz 6-4 Rangers… 10:58 PM 7-4…1100 PM ‎7-4 and the inning is done….Rangers now 9 outs from winning their first World Series….11:08 PM ‎2 outs bottom of the 7th…Pujols last stand as a Cardinal?…11:09 PM and he is out 0-4 tonight….unless the Cardinals get some base runners his St Louis career could end not with a bang but a whimper…11:19 PM 7-5 home run Allen Craig off Derek Holland…not done yet…11:27 PM 2 on 2 out are the Cardinals coming back?…11:28 PM bases loaded top of the order….Jon Jay gets his first hit since game 6 of the NLCS…11:29 PM Furcal bounces out…7-5 going to the 9th Pujols will bat again….11:43 PM Top of the 9th Neftali Feliz on the hill and top of the order up…11:43 PM 1 out…11:44 PM  Pujols steps up and has a stand up double, tying run at the plate…11:46 PM four pitch walk 2 on 1 out winning run at bat…11:50 PM Craig strikes out Rangers one out away from history…11:52 PM one strike away…11:54 PM Freese doubles, tie game, home town boy makes good…11:54 PM make it a triple, winning run at 3rd…11:54 PM extra innings….wow…12:01 AM 1 on 1 out and Josh Hamilton has his first HR of the post season Rangers lead 9-7…12:09 AM Down 2 Cardinals are again down to their last 3 outs with one aboard…12:11 AM ‎2 on with none out, and a pitcher pinch hits because the Cardinals have no position players left…12:12 AM tying run in scoring position with 1 out…12:20 AM 9-8 Rangers, runner on 2nd Pujols coming up and an intentional walk Berkman will come to the plate…12:22 AM down to the last strike again…12:24 AM Tie game Berkman singles, Pujols is winning run on third…can you say amazing?…12:25 AM to the 11th we go…12:30 AM  Napoli up… one out…base hit…Murphy coming to the plate…12:34 Rangers out in the 11th Cardinals coming to bat…12:40 AM Walk off home run David Freese, game 7 tomorrow! Do you believe in miracles? Cardinals win 10-9 Holy Cow!

Holy Cow! Do You believe in Miracles? Padre Steve Does… Cardinals refuse to Lose

When gave six was over I knew that the Rangers were done.  Once again it was a combination of Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals bullpen shutting down the Rangers and the clutch hitting of David Freese and Allen Craig which sealed the Rangers to a second consecutive World Series loss as they went down to a 6-2 defeat at the hands of the Cardinals. They had come so close.  They were a great team but lost to a team of destiny.  That is little comfort to Rangers players and fans, but some things seem almost destined. The Series MVP was local favorite David Freese who finished the postseason with a record 21 runs batted in and tied the postseason record with 25 hits. Freese is the first position player to be named both League Championship Series MVP and World Series MVP since Darrell Porter did so for the Cardinals in 1982.

The Cardinals lived on the edge for two months a time when every game mattered.  Their effort was a true team effort. When starting pitching faltered the bullpen got it done and when needed the starting rotation anchored by Chris Carpenter got the job done.  They overcame adversity to accomplish a feat that very few said they could do. They are Major League Baseball’s 2011 World Series Champions. Their feat was epic and will long be written about and spoken of by anyone that loves the game of Baseball.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Shutdown! Derek Holland Silences Cardinals Rangers tie Series

Derek Holland (Getty Images)

I said yesterday that in order to win game four a pitcher had to shut down the opposition.  Derek Holland who was solid in the regular season but struggled in the post season pitched a great game and was backed by strong defense.Hollandpitched 8.1 innings allowing just two hits while striking out 7 and walking 2 Cardinals as the Rangers evened their series defeating the Cardinals 4-0.

The game was close as Cardinals starter Edwin Jackson left the game in the top of the 6th inning with two runners aboard and the Rangers leading 1-0. Jackson had allowed three scattered hits but had given up 7 walks, the final two in the top of the 6th leading Tony LaRussa to pull him in favor of Mitchell Boggs who gave up a 3 run home run to Mike Napoli on his first pitch.  Holland on the other hand maintained his control, poise and kept the big right handed bats of the Cardinals silent by pitching aggressively on the inside portion of the plate. Albert Pujols who had set a World Series record on Saturday night went 0-4 and both Cardinals hits came from Lance Berkman who doubled and singled.  Neftali Feliz got the final two outs for the Rangers securing the win.

The Cardinals had no runs on 4 hits and committed no errors leaving four men on base. The Rangers had 4 runs on 6 hits with no errors and left 8 runners on base. Hollandgot the win andJacksonthe loss.

Tonight the Cardinals will send Chris Carpenter to the mound. Carpenter the victor in game one is probably the best pitcher in the series and I expect a strong outing from him especially if he mixes his devastating curve ball with his other pitches.  He will face Rangers ace C J Wilson who was 16-7 with a 2.93 ERA in the regular season but is 0-3 in four starts during the post season.  He has pitched 21.1 innings giving up 19 runs 17 of which were earned on 25 hits 6 of which were home runs and has walked 14 while striking out 21.  His post season ERA is 7.17.  In order to win the Rangers will have to get to Carpenter early and play thatWilsonhas a good start.  The Cardinals after having been shut down on Sunday night are certainly going to be out for blood with Wilson on the mound. If Wilson falters expect Ron Washington to pull him early.

One lineup change for the Cardinals is that Jon Jay will not start tonight and is being replaced in center field by Skip Schumaker who hit .283 in the regular season.

We’ll see what happens tonight.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Beat Down in Texas: Pujols Sets Record as Cardinals down Rangers 16-7

“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

Peace

Padre Steve+

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And so the Giants Can’t hit….tell me about it: Giants Crush Rangers 9-0 go up 2-0 in Series

Matt Cain dominated the Rangers (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

So the San Francisco Giants can’t hit….tell that to the Texas Rangers who have given up 20 runs in the first two games of the World Series.  Of course when the opposition scores no runs it makes it a lot easier to win and in game two of the 2010 World Series the San Francisco Giants not only shut down the hitting machine that has been the scourge of the American League but clobbered their pitching staff for the second night in a row.

Edgar Renteria hits a 2 RBI single (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Giants’ starter Matt Cain was dominant in the second game of the series while Rangers’ starter C. J. Wilson pitched well but not well enough until handing the game over to the Rangers bullpen which imploded in the 8th inning.  Wilson allowed just two runs on 3 hits, one a costly solo shot with two outs in the bottom of the 5th by Edgar Renteria. Cain on the other hand was masterful getting hitter after hitter out allowing just 4 hits and giving up two walks in 7.2 innings work allowing just 1 hit in 8 attempts by Rangers’ sluggers Josh Hamilton and Nelson Cruz.

The game was a pitcher’s duel with the only mistake being committed by Wilson in the bottom of the 5th inning when he left a fastball in the middle of the plate for Renteria to put into the left field seats to give the Giants a 1-0 lead which it would remain until the bottom of the 7th when the Giants Juan Uribe singled to score Cody Ross who Wilson had walked to lead off the inning.  The walk to Ross was the end for Wilson who ceded the mound to Darren Oliver.  Oliver gave up the single to Uribe and the Giants led 2-0 after 7 innings.

Cain pitched into the 8th inning and after giving up a walk to Elvis Andrus was relieved by Javier Lopez with two outs.  Lopez got Josh Hamilton to fly out to end the Rangers’ half of the 8th inning. In the bottom from it all came apart for the Rangers’ bullpen. Darren O’Day got the first two Giants he faced, Andres Torres and Freddy Sanchez out on strikes before giving up a two out single to Buster Posey.  Ron Washington chose not to use Neftali Feliz and instead sent in Derek Holland to relieve O’Day with Nate Schierholtz coming to the plate. Holland walked Schierholtz and followed with a walk to Cody Ross to load the bases and yet another to Aubrey Huff to score Posey.  That walk was enough for Washington who replaced Holland with Mark Lowe.  Lowe walked Juan Uribe to score Schierholtz and then gave up a single to Renteria which scored Ross and Huff.  With the game rapidly slipping away the Rangers reacted to Bruce Bochy sending up Mike Fotenot which Ron Washington countered not with Neftali Feliz but Michael Kirkman and Bochy once again countered with Aaron Rowland instead of Fotenot.  Rowland delivered a triple which scored Uribe and Renteria and then a double to Andres Torres which scored Rowland.  The inning ended with the Giants scoring 7 runs to make the game 9-0.  The Giants put Guillermo Mota into the game and Mota despite allowing a walk put the Rangers away.

It was another stunning blow to the Rangers who now go back to Arlington down 2-0 in the series and seemingly having no answer to Giants hitting or pitching. Matt Cain has not allowed an earned run in 21.1 innings and on Saturday the Rangers will send Colby Lewis against Jonathan Sanchez.  The Giants have done well on the road this post season closing out both Atlanta and Philadelphia in their houses. This could be a tough climb for the Rangers unless they dramatically turn things around.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Rangers Hammer Yankees 10-3: Take 3-1 ALCS Lead

Josh Hamilton belts his 2nd home run of ALCS Game 4 (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

It looked like A. J. Burnett and the New York Yankees had turned the corner against the pesky Texas Rangers.  Well that was until they saw what they thought might be victory disappear in a barrage of Rangers runs leaving Yankee Stadium nearly devoid of Yankees faithful for the second night running. The feeling among Yankees fans is symbolized by the reaction of their fans, they know that they are done and baring an improbable comeback the Yankees will not repeat as either American League or World Series champs.

Nails in the coffin, Nelson Cruz hits 2 run homer in top of 9th inning to give the Rangers a 10-3 lead (Photo by Nick Laham/Getty Images)

The Yankees got out to an early 1-0 lead on a home run by Robinson Cano that on review should have been ruled as fan interference but was allowed without video review by the umpiring crew. Lance Berkman came up next and hammered a shot down the right field line that was initially ruled as a home run but was reviewed and disallowed passing narrowly to the right of the right field foul pole. The Rangers wasted no time getting those runs back as in the top of the 3rd inning Burnett seemed to lose his edge. David Murphy walked and took second on a wild pitch. Burnett then nailed Benji Molina in the back as Molina was attempting t bunt. Mitch Moreland then hit a sacrifice fly ball to send Murphy to third base and Molina to second. Elvis Andrus grounded out to score Murphy and was followed by Michael Young who singled to plate Molina to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead.

Rangers’ starter Tim Hunter struggled giving up another run in the bottom of the third inning when Derek Jeter tripled and scored on Curtis Granderson’s single.  Burnett held the Rangers in the top of the 4th inning and the Yankees made things very interesting in the bottom half of the inning.  Hunter hit Alex Rodriguez with a pitch to lead off the inning and Robinson Cano singled and advanced him to 2nd base. Hunter the struck out Nick Swisher for the first out and Lance Berkman singled to load the bases.  The Rangers’ brought in Derek Holland to attempt to stop the bleeding. Holland got Brett Gardner on fielder’s choice which scored Rodriguez to give the Yankees a 3-2 lead.  Holland then took command striking out Francisco Cervelli to end the inning.

The Rangers loaded the bases in the top of the 5th inning but did not score and Holland despite giving up a leadoff double to Jeter shut down the Yankees in the bottom half of the inning. In the 6th the wheels came off of the Yankee Express. Vladimir Guerrero singled to lead off the inning and Burnett got the following two batters out before intentionally walking David Murphy with Guerrero on second. The brought Benji Molina to the plate and the Rangers’ catcher seized the moment pounding a 3 run home run into the left field seats.  Burnett got Mitch Moreland to foul out but the damage was done, the energy that had been gathering in Yankee Stadium was gone. 

Derek Jeter in the Yankees dugout in the 8th (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)

In the 7th inning the Yankees’ relievers were handed the task of trying to shut down the Texas assault on Gotham. David Robertson after a horrific night on Monday got the first two batters out and was relieved by Boone Logan who promptly surrendered a solo home run to Josh Hamilton to bring Joba Chamberlian into the game. Joba fared no better giving up a double to Vladimir Guerrero and walking Nelson Cruz before giving up a RBI single to Ian Kinsler before striking out David Murphy to end the inning with the Rangers ahead of the lifeless Yankees by a score of 7-3.

Holland set down the Yankees in order in the bottom of the 7th inning.  In the 8th Chamberlain allowed a single to Benji Molina but got out of the inning without giving up another run.  In the bottom of the the Yankees threatened again loading the bases on a series of walks by Holland, Darren O’Day and Clay Rapada before bringing in 40 year old veteran Darren Oliver who closed out the inning without giving up a run.   

Benji Molina celebrates after the game (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Yankees woes continued in the top of the 9th as the Rangers put the noose around the Yankees in game four. Sergio Mitre relieved Chamberlain and gave up a leadoff home run to none other than Josh Hamilton, his 4th homer against the Yankees in 4 games.  Guerrero singled and was lifted for pinch runner Julio Borbon but Borbon’s speed would not be needed as Nelson Cruz took Mitre yard for another Rangers home run. The Yankees got a leadoff single from Brett Gardner in the top of the 9th but Jorge Posada, Derek Jeter and Curtis Granderson went down in order leaving the Bronx in a state of shock for the 2nd straight night.

The Rangers scored 10 runs on 13 hits making their total 31 runs for the series on 43 hits agains an anemic 11 runs on 26 hits for the Yankees.  To make matters worse for the Yankees the team lost Mark Teixeira to a season ending hamstring pull while trying to leg out a ground ball. Derek Holland got the win and the 82 million dollar bust, A. J. Burnett took the loss.  The Rangers now lead the Yankees 3 games to 1 and have to have C. C. Sabathia make the performance of his life to stay alive this afternoon.  That will be a tall task as the big right-hander has not done well this post-season.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Blown Away or Thrown Away: Yankees Come Back defeat Rangers 6-5

Ron Washington has some ‘splaining to do about his management of the Rangers’ pitching staff (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The Texas Rangers looked like they were about to win their first playoff game at home in their history last night, well until the top of the 8th inning that is then it all went away like a tumbleweed going across the prairie.  The Rangers jumped out to a 5-0 lead over the Yankees and looked to have the game in hand as C. J. Wilson was pitching a gem which Rangers hitters took off where Minnesota left off against Yankee’s workhorse C.C. Sabathia chasing the 20 game-winner off the mount at the end of the 4th inning.  Sabathia gave up 5 runs on 6 hits with four walks and a balk in 4 innings in which he made 95 pitches.  He struggled to get the ball over the plate as only 51 of those pitches were strikes. In Minnesota he got the win and in Texas a no decision but his playoff ERA is now 7.20 which should give the Yankees concern. Sabathia avoided disaster when with the bases load with 2 outs in the bottom of the first inning he threw a wild pitch which luckily for him bounced back directly to Jorge Posada who tagged Nelson Cruz on the arm as he slid into home. Had Cruz scored it might well have opened up the opportunity for a really big inning against Sabathia.

Wilson was solid through 7 innings giving up a solo home run to Robinson Cano in the top of the 7th but then collapsing in the 8th along with 4 relievers sent in by Ron Washington to try to stop the Yankees, only one of which, Derek Holland got anyone out.  Why Washington did not put his closer Neftali Feliz in with the game on the line even though it was not initially a save situation puzzled me as much as it did most experts. Also why Washington seemed to panic with Wilson still throwing hard after a walk and a double that went by a less than stellar third baseman is beyond me. Wilson was to face the heart of the Yankees order but he had dominated Jeter, Teixeira and Rodriguez  who were 0-8 against him with 3 strikeouts and two pop-ups in those 8 at bats. Washington had to remember or had he forgotten that this was the same bullpen that melted down in game three against the Rays.

Brett Gardiner slides into 1st to ignite the Yankees’ 8th inning rally (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

In the 8th the Yankees rally started with Brett Gardiner beating out a ground ball for an infield hit diving into first base to beat Wilson to the bag. He scored on a double to left by Derek Jeter.  This brought set up man Darren Oliver into the game and Oliver walked Nick Swisher and Mark Teixeira. Oliver was then lifted for Darren O’Day who gave up a single to Alex Rodriguez that scored Jeter and Swisher. Washington then trotted out Clay Rapada who gave up a single to Robinson Cano to score Teixeira.  This brought Holland into the game and Holland gave up a single to Marcus Thames to score Rodriguez to give the Yankees the lead a lead that they did not relinquish.

Derek Jeter and Nick Swisher congratulate each other after scoring in the 8th inning comeback (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

By contrast the Yankees bullpen was solid with Dustin Mosley picking up the win and Mariano Rivera the save. Darren O’Day got the loss for the Rangers. The Rangers gave this one away; Ron Washington seemed to be out of his league last night and made some really questionable decisions.  Now the Rangers have to win today or go to Yankee Stadium with a two game deficit.  The Rangers will send Colby Lewis to the hill to face Phil Hughes. Lewis had a no-decision in game 3 against the Rays giving up just 2 hits in 5 innings work before Washington pulled him and gave the game to the bullpen which just as they did last night melted down. Hughes dominated the Twins in game 3 of their series pitching 7 innings giving up no runs on 4 hits.

If the Rangers do not win tonight, it will take more than heroic efforts by Cliff Lee to get them past the Yankees. It will take a miracle.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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Rays Bounce Back Even Series in 5-2 Win

Derek Holland watches Even Longoria after Longoria hit a two run homer in the top of the 5th inning Sunday

The Tampa Bay Rays after losing the first two games of their series against the Texas Rangers at the Trop have come back to even the series at two as they won game four of the series at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. The Rays had excellent pitching from Wade Davis and the bullpen quartet of Randy Choate, Grant Balfour, Joaquin Benoit and Rafael Soriano which limited the usually hot hitting Rangers to just 2 runs on 8 hits. The Rays were lifted by the clutch hitting of Evan Longoria who broke out of his slump with a 2 run homer in the 5th inning off of Rangers’ starter Eric Holland.  Carlos Pena and B.J. Upton add RBI doubles and the Rays were aided by an error by Ian Kinsler which allowed Carlos Pena to score in the 2nd inning. The Rangers offense was hamstrung by their inability to drive in runs when they needed them the biggest chance having the bases loaded in the bottom of the 5th with two outs but not scoring when Vladimir Guerrero struck out swinging to end the inning.

The teams will now go back to Tampa and Tropicana Field for the finale of their series on Tuesday evening. The Rays have the momentum; the Texas bench looked defeated on Sunday afternoon. However, the Rangers will start Cliff Lee who held the Rays to one hit and a run in 7 innings work against the Rays in Game one.  Lee will face David Price who gave up 4 earned runs including two home runs against the Rangers in game one.  Momentum goes to the Rays, but the pitching edge goes to the Rangers. This one is anybody’s series to lose. I picked the Rangers to win the series and still stand by that because of Cliff Lee.  We’ll see if I am right on Tuesday night.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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