Texas Rangers vs. St. Louis Cardinals
The World Series is in full swing, and the winner is anyone’s guess at this point. Given the outcomes of Games 1 and 2, this series is going down to the wire, with either side just as likely to come out victorious. The Cardinals eked out a victory in Game 1, but the Rangers came from behind to take the victory in Game 2. With two close games that have come down to battles of the bullpens, things are shaping up to go the distance in the coming week.
The Rangers came into Busch Stadium looking to make a statement against the Wild Card team of the National League, and prove that a team that wins its division is a much stronger playoff contender. And they’ve really kept gone toe to toe with the Cardinals every step of the way. Whatever momentum, whatever advantage the Cards may have had early on in this series never came to fruition. C.J. Wilson and Colby Lewis both pitched marvelously (far better than they did in the ALCS) in Games 1 and 2 respectively. Wilson gave up the only three runs that the Cardinals managed to score in Game 1, and Lewis only gave up one run in almost seven innings of work in Game 2. Both outings, especially for Lewis, are a far cry from what transpired in the ALCS against the Tigers. It’s definitely good for the Rangers—and a weight off their bullpen—to see the starters finally stepping up and pitching well.
One interesting change to the starting rotation is Derek Holland. Holland is still in the rotation, but he’s been bumped down to the number four man. This development isn’t all that shocking, really, considering that both the ALDS and ALCS saw him never quite find his groove. I’d say that the Rangers will most likely rely heavily on Matt Harrison in Game 3 to come up with a win, just to make sure that after four things remain, at worse, tied in the series.
From a hitting standpoint, both teams have struggled, each only putting up four runs in two games. The Rangers have been shut down by the Cardinals’ pitching staff, which is no surprise considering what that same staff did to both the Phillies and Brewers in the postseason thus far. Chris Carpenter only gave up two runs, and Jaime Garcia didn’t give up a single run in seven innings of Game 2. With those kind of outings from the opponent, it’ll be hard for any offense to get going, no matter how productive they can be, from top to bottom. Because of that, the hits have been spread thin, except for Ian Kinsler.
Kinsler has thus far been the prototypical lead-off man, just as he always has been. Two hits in each of the first two games have led the way for the Rangers’ offense. Unfortunately, the rest of the team hasn’t been able to cash in on that production. Yes, a few runs have crossed the plate, but certainly not in the volume that they managed in the ALCS. Luckily for the Rangers, the Cardinals have been just as starved for run support.
Overall, it has been two great defensive/pitching games played by the Rangers, and if they keep playing this kind of baseball, the run support will come in time.
St. Louis Cardinals
After making two very loud statements in the NLDS and NLCS, the St. Louis Cardinals wanted to take whatever edge they had and turn it into a sweep at home in Games 1 and 2. Unfortunately, the Rangers had other plans, and the starting rotations for both teams stepped up to keep the other off the board. Therefore, the Cardinals were kept to only four runs. Three of those four runs, however, were good enough for a victory in Game 1, owed largely to the outstanding pitching performance by Chris Carpenter. Interestingly enough, though, Jaime Garcia pitched much better than Carpenter in Game 2, and couldn’t come away with the win.
Just like the Rangers, the Cards’ offense has been kept off the board due to great pitching. This is especially discouraging when your offense has a weapon like Albert Pujols on its side, and Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman ready to spring to life at a moment’s notice. But when Pujols goes hitless in both games, you know you’ll be looking to the pitching staff to step it up and keep things close.
The Cardinals should have had the advantage at home, playing with National League rules in effect, but such wasn’t to be the case. Ron Washington and the Rangers played everything just right, and the Texas bullpen did what it’s been best at the entire playoff run—keeping the opposition completely at bay.
Fun fact: In Game 2, Gerald Laird came in to pinch run for Molina in the ninth inning. Laird played for two years in Detroit, and he was a pretty good defender, but certainly not much from an offensive standpoint. The point of this fun fact, though, is the fact that if I were looking for someone to pinch run in a do-or-die situation, down by one run, I would certainly not turn to the 300 lb Gerald Laird. (Note: Laird is not actually 300 lbs. However, he is a bit bigger, and not much of a runner.) I’d save Laird’s help if I were in a fight in the state of Arizona. Why La Russa decided that Laird would be the best choice for a pinch runner is beyond me. There are only three possibilities: 1) Molina got hurt and needed to come out; 2) There were absolutely no other choices available; or 3) La Russa has literally lost his mind. I’m pretty sure it was number three.
World Series – Games 1 & 2 Final Thoughts
This series is looking like a nail-biter right to the bitter end. I’m still giving the win to the Cardinals, though. Pujols can only be caged for so long. It’ll be interesting to see just how much damage he does when he finally comes around. In the mean time, it’ll be up to these starting rotations to keep both offenses at bay. Of course, they now head back to Arlington, and the designated hitter position becomes an option yet again. The Rangers are used to using this position, but for the Cardinals, it means one less bat has to only come into play in the later innings. No matter who benefits most, I think the DH position is going to be a swing factor in these next three games.