Posted on 28 October 2011.
The St. Louis Cardinals 10-9 eleven inning win over the Texas Rangers Thursday night was hardly a well-played game. Errors and planomas (plays not made) abounded. Throw in mental errors that gave each team openings, like Matt Holliday being picked off at third in the sixth or Elvis Andrus’ “rock” when he elected not to go for the force at second to end an inning and failed to get Descalso.
Yet, it was still one of the greatest World Series games ever played. The game ranked right up there with…or maybe even abovethe famed 1975 Boston Red Sox Game 6 win over the Cincinnati Reds. This time, however, the Cardinals are hoping the seventh game result is different.
Everyone remembers Carlton Fisk’s David Freese like, game winning home run in extra innings to send the Sox-Reds series to Game 7. But it did not help the Bostonians win the series. The Reds came back the next day to get the victory. The Rangers are hoping for the same resultvisiting team heartbroken in Game 6, but a bounce back and championship the next night.
They can do it, too. No team in recent Series history has had more home run power than Texas. One swing of the bat can mean a runor more. With St. Louis a home run is more of a surprise than an expectation, unless Pujols, Berkman or Holliday is the hitter. Pujols has had only one good game. Holliday has not really had any, and he may not get a chance in Game 7 after injuring a finger. Berkman has hit over .400, but only hit his first Series HR on Thursday.
Sometimes a team pays on the other side for being slugger-filled. Did Nelson Cruz’ less than gold glove outfielding help cost the Rangers the game on Thursday? Would a better outfielder have been able to get back to the wall in time to catch David Freese’ drive that resulted in a game-tying, two-out, two-run triple?
That is being debated on Friday. But really, there were enough misplays, or planomas, for both teams to play an extended game of “what if”. The bottom line is that the Rangers had to go deeper into their pen than they ever expected or wanted to, and Freese took advantage with his 11th inning home run to send the series to Game 7 for the first time in nine years. And remember, Freese contributed to the shoddy defense earlier in the game costing the Cards a run when he dropped a routine pop fly.
As for Game 7, Chris Carpenter is expected to start for St. Louis on three days rest. Until the rain out on Wednesday, he would not have even been a possibility. Will that work to the Cards’ advantage? Certainly a fully rested Carpenter would give the Cards a real edge. But even with the extra day, Carpenter has never been an especially effective starter after three days rest.
Earlier in the postseason, Carpenter showed that. Even so, Carps numbers are good. He has started twice with a 1-0 record and a 2.77 ERA. Three home runs allowed in just 13 innings pitched has been a blemish on his work, but the Rangers have not been able to work him for consecutive hits often. More than likely Friday will be one of those “whole staff” games. It also could turn out to be another high scoring game since nearly everyone worked some on Thursday. No one will be fully rested except for one key player. The Rangers are starting 26 year old lefty Matt Harrison who was 14-9 with a superb 3.39 ERA during the regular season. Those are the good numbers. The bad numbers come from this World Series. In one start, he only lasted 3.2 innings, allowing six hits and five runs. His World Series line is 0-1 with a 7.38 ERA and his postseason total shows a 1-1 record with a 5.02 ERA.
So the question is: how much of an advantage is a fully rested lefty who had been hammered in his only outing against St. Louis against a partially rested starter who has been much more effective?
One thing is for sure, Texas skipper Ron Washington and St. Louis manager Tony La Russa will have quick hooks if they need to use them. There really is no tomorrow. But tonight should be a whole lot of fun. That is why ailing players like Mike Napoli and his ankle, Nelson Cruz and his quad, Matt Holliday and his finger and the continuing struggle of Josh Hamilton and his groin, will do everything they can to be a part of the final performance. There is nothing like a Game 7 in the World Series. The odds, historical and otherwise, have now shifted to the Cardinals. In the last eight World Series going seven games, the home team has won them all. Former Astros, Lance Berkman and Octavio Dotel, who are keys to the Cards success, are hoping that stat holds up.