Two games in, this World Series has the look of an instant classic. Wednesday’s thrilling Game 1 saw late-inning heroics that sent a 3-2 victory St. Louis’ way. In Game 2 on Thursday, it was the Rangers who benefited from a dose of last-minute magic.
Facing a 1-0 deficit in the top of the ninth inning, and a closer in Jason Motte who had been nearly untouchable all postseason, the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler blooped a leadoff single over the head of Cardinals shortstop Rafael Furcal to get the ball rolling. Kinsler then swiped second base, beating Yadier Molina’s on-target throw by inches, and Rangers shortstop Elvis Andrus followed with a sharply-struck base hit to right-center field that advanced Kinsler to third.
Those back-to-back hits led Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who’s pulled correct string after correct string throughout these playoffs, to fall back into the trap of over-management. Opting for a lefty-lefty matchup on Rangers slugger and No. 3 hitter Josh Hamilton, he pulled Motte from the 1-0 game in favor of 41-year-old southpaw Arthur Rhodes, who promptly surrendered the tying run on a sacrifice fly to right field.
Hamilton only had to flick his wrist to do the deed on a floater from Rhodes. One has to wonder if the game-tying sacrifice would have been so easily converted against Motte, who can touch 100 mph.
Hamilton’s groin injury — the one he’s been battling since the final month of the regular season — limits his ability to turn his core quickly and effectively on pitches. He barely had to budge against Arthur.
Michael Young gave the Rangers their first lead of the Fall Classic one pitching change later, lifting a ball to deep center field against Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn to score the fleet-footed Andrus from third.
That 2-1 score would hold through the bottom of the ninth as the Cards failed to capitalize on a leadoff walk.
The loss shouldn’t fall solely on La Russa, just as Wednesday’s blame shouldn’t center completely around Ron Washington. Motte cracked against the top of the Texas lineup and the Cardinals couldn’t escape the jam. Jaime Garcia was great. Allen Craig again came through. But the results, in the end, weren’t there.
The Rangers awoke in the ninth and stole this one. They shocked a rocking Busch Stadium crowd and surely sent a sting through the St. Louis clubhouse. The Fall Classic is now a essentially a five-game series, and three of those games will be played in Arlington, Texas over the next four days. Advantage: Rangers?