Five Years Ago Tonight: A Game One World Series Victory

Certain images immediately come to mind when thinking back to October 2011 and the road to the St. Louis Cardinals 11th World Series championship. The squirrel dashing near home plate in Game Four of the NLDS against the Philadelphia Phillies. Chris Carpenter’s primal scream at the end of Game Five. David Freese spiking his batting helmet as he ran toward home plate in Game Six of the World Series. Lance Berkman raising the World Series trophy.

And, when recalling Game One of the World Series, there is this.

cc-5

Yes, Chris Carpenter’s dive toward first base in the first inning to retrieve the throw by Albert Pujols (oops … I mean That Guy Who Used to Play First Base) after he fielded a grounder by Elvis Andrus.

The play, and the Game One win, was five years ago tonight. Knowing now, of course, how the entire Series plays out it’s very interesting to read again about Nelson Cruz missing a catch that allowed a crucial run to score on a play involving David Freese. (Foreshadowing!) So relive the memories — especially of how cool it was for Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes to each finally pitch in a World Series game. They are forgotten, bit-part heroes of that incredible October five years ago.

Team Effort In Cardinals Game One Win

Allen Craig had the game-winning hit, just for Torty

Allen Craig had the game-winning hit, just for Torty

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 canread 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.

 

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