It’s been a total team effort that’s gotten the St. Louis Cardinals to the World Series. So it’s not a surprise that their 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in game one was a result of contributions by many.
Starting pitching, relief pitching, great defense, timely hitting — each played a role in the win.
Chris Carpenter did something no Cardinals starter did in the NLCS: pitched six innings. He likely could have gone an inning or two longer, but was removed for pinch-hitter Allen Craig (which worked out perfectly). Carpenter allowed the two runs on a monster homer by Mike Napoli, but otherwise was very much his typical self. (So maybe next time he says his elbow is fine people will believe him?)
Last night was CC’s fourth start of the postseason, and the Cards have won every game. And Lance Berkman captured the thoughts of many when he said after the game:
“He’s our guy. When he takes the mound, I think we’re going to win the game every time. You want to win the games that your ace pitches.”
CC’s reply to LB’s praise also expressed a common feeling: “I love you, Lance.”
In addition to his pitching, though, Carp also had a great — yet scary — defensive play in the first inning. Elvis Andrus grounded between first and second, with Albert fielding the ball. He made a low and wide throw to Carp, who had to dive to tag first … and then hope that Andrus didn’t step on him. (Thankfully, he didn’t.) See the play again here.
Albert and CC also combined on another nice play to retire Michael Young in the sixth.
It was a pitchers duel between CC and C.J. Wilson into the bottom of the fourth. Albert was hit by a pitch to lead off the inning, then Matt Holliday hit a double to right. LB made the LB Fan Club proud by singling down the right field line to score both runners. The Rangers quickly tied it up in the top of the fifth on Napoli’s homer, and it stayed tied until the sixth.
That’s when NLCS MVP David Freese — the new favorite of millions of women across the country — doubled deep to right-center. Freeser now has an 11-game hitting streak in the postseason. He moved up to third base on a wild pitch, then waited there while Yadi struck out and Nick Punto walked. Then CC’s night was over, as Allen Craig stepped in.
And suddenly people all throughout the country know that Allen is more than just the owner of a pet tortoise — he also comes through in the clutch. He launched it down the right field line, where Nelson Cruz attempted yet failed a diving catch. Freeser strolled home to give the Cards the lead. Torty was excited over his master’s accomplishment too.
Then it was bullpen time. Just like during the NLCS, Tony La Russa had his relievers in and out often — and they came through. Fernando Salas was first. He got Adrian Beltre to ground out before giving up a Cruz single and walk to Napoli. Two on, one out? No problem for Marc Rzepczynski. Scrabble struck out Craig Gentry and Esteban German (although he might have been a little rusty — he hadn’t batted since Sept. 25).
The eighth belonged to the two bullpen veterans who, after 33 combined years in the majors, were making their World Series debuts. Thirty-seven-year-old Octavio Dotel (and his high socks) was in first, and he retired Ian Kinsler on a grounder and struck out Elvis Andrus. Then it was time for 41-year-old Arthur Rhodes — the man released by the Rangers earlier in the season.
As he took the mound, he first bent to write something in the dirt on the pitchers mound. It was a gesture I’d noticed him making before, but we finally found out the reason for it. He writes “J.R.” in the dirt, the initials of his son Jordan who died at age 5 in 2008. You can read more about that here (from last night) and even more from July 2010, when Rhodes was an All Star for the first time at age 40.
(And, as a total aside, he’s been on the Cardinals since August. Why did none of the St. Louis sports media ever report on this? I was not the only Cardinals fan both touched yet surprised to find this out.)
Anyway, Rhodes did what he came in the game to do: he got Josh Hamilton out on a fly to center.
The ninth inning, of course, belonged to Jason Motte. The Not Closer quickly earned his fifth save of the postseason.
So, that’s one big win down. Game two is tonight in St. Louis, with Colby Lewis facing Jaime Garcia with first pitch scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Central and the pregame at 6:30 p.m. Central on FOX.
Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email email@example.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.