Missed Opportunities Doom Cardinals In Game Five

We used this picture a lot in August. It seems fitting to use it again.

It was a trip down 2011 Cardinals memory lane in game five of the World Series, back to a time we didn’t want to revisit.

Missed opportunities and strange communication ultimately led to a Rangers 4-2 win over the Cardinals in a game that looked like it was straight out of August.

Where to even begin?

Let’s start with the starter. Chris Carpenter pitched seven innings, and pitched very well — except for two pitches. One of those mistakes was hit out of the park by Mitch Moreland, the other by Adrian Beltre. Actually, the pitch to Beltre wasn’t necessarily a mistake — Beltre’s knee hit the ground as he swung and connected. Carpenter left the game with the score tied 2-2.

The Cardinals had plenty of chances to take a lead, however. Many, many opportunities — four intentional walks, for instance, with three to Albert Pujols and one to Lance Berkman. No runs scored from those. Five other walks. They left 12 runners on, went 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position, showed impatience in swinging at the first pitch in crucial situations, of course grounded into a double play …

Oh, and Allen Craig was caught stealing, easily. Twice. Once was the result of a failed hit-and-run play that Albert called himself.

Pujols was up front about his own decision to have Craig moving when asked about it in a one-on-one interview situation outside the main portion of the clubhouse on Monday.

“A hit-and-run was put on,” Pujols told MLB.com.

“By who?” he was asked.

“By me, is that a problem?” added Pujols, who apparently relayed his signal through third-base coach Jose Oquendo.

Hey, at least he talked to the media afterward.

Then there was the bottom of the eighth inning. Specifically, Tony La Russa’s management of the bullpen — or, rather, the communication of who he wanted warming up and ready. And this is what the media is talking and talking and talking about. It was definitely strange.

Here are the facts of the inning. Octavio Dotel was the first reliever out there and gave up a lead-off double to Michael Young, then struck out Beltre. An intentional walk to Nelson Cruz was next before La Russa removed Dotel for Marc Rzepczynski. David Murphy hit it directly at Rzep, with the ball glancing off him and then toward Nick Punto. Neither could field it, so the bases were loaded.

Time for another pitching change with Mike Napoli coming up, correct? Not this time, as Joe Strauss explains:

Bullpen madness then ensued. In a perfect world, La Russa would have turned to closer Jason Motte to replace Rzepczynski against Napoli. But because of crowd noise, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist did not hear the righthander’s name.

So Rzep faced Napoli, which Strauss also described.
Napoli destroys lefthanded pitching. However, Rzepczynski’s sinking fastball represented an effective out pitch against a hitter most dangerous against high fastballs. Napoli drove a flat slider through the right-center field gap.
Of course he did, and two runs scored. Rzep then struck out Moreland before being removed for … Lance Lynn. Except it wasn’t supposed to be him.

Lynn was supposed to be off limits for a second straight game Monday. When he came through the bullpen gate, La Russa chose to have him intentionally walk second baseman Ian Kinsler rather than attack him. As called upon, Lynn’s entrance did not affect the inning …

Pitching coach Dave Duncan said he had not communicated to Lilliquist that Lynn was unavailable Monday.

Finally, Jason Motte was actually warmed up and entered the game — and promptly struck out Elvis Andrus to end the messy, unbelievable inning.

And while it was bad, it wasn’t the game-killer like all the runners left on base were. Not that the legions of La Russa haters — Cardinals fans, other team’s fans and national media alike — will be talking about that today.

So now the Cardinals season comes down to game six. There is definitely precedent for teams that are down 3-2 coming back and winning it all — it’s happened 18 different times, as outlined on the chart here. The Cardinals have done it four times: 1926, 1934, 1946 and 1982. And, most notably, the last two times the World Series has gone to seven games — 2001 and 2002 — both the champion Diamondbacks and Angels lost game five.

Is there another backs-against-the-wall win left for the 2011 Cardinals? We’ll find out tomorrow night.

Christine Coleman is the senior St. Louis Cardinals reporter for Aaron Miles’ Fastball. Follow her on Twitter, @CColeman802, or email aaronmilesfastball@gmail.com. Also follow @AMilesFastball for the latest updates.

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