World Series Game 4 Live Blog: Cardinals vs. Rangers

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11:14: Feliz gets Holliday swinging to end it. The Rangers top the Cardinals 4-0 and tie the series at two games apiece. C.J. Wilson will take on Chris Carpenter in Game 5 tomorrow night. We have one heckuva World Series on our hands here, people.

11:11: Pujols skies one to Craig Gentry in center field for the second out. Matt Holliday will try to keep the Cards alive in this one.

11:10: Pujols popped one in foul territory, but neither Moreland or Cruz could catch up to it.

11:08: Uh oh. Feliz walks Allen Craig. Runners on first and second with one away for Albert Pujols.

11:04: Holland issues a one-out walk to Rafael Furcal and that’ll be it. The young left-hander pleaded his case with Ron Washington, but Neftali Feliz will come in to try to finish this one. Holland gets a well-deserved standing ovation from the Arlington faithful as he walks back to the dugout.

11:01: Nick Punto retired on a ground ball to Adrian Beltre. One away.

10:59: Derek Holland, currently at 105 pitches, will try to finish what he started. He’s back out there for the top of the ninth.

10:57: Moreland’s struggles continue, as he grounds into an inning-ending double play. Nicely turned by Punto and Furcal. Last licks coming up for the Cards as the Rangers lead this one 4-0.

10:56: Westbrook got David Murphy to ground out, but issued a walk to Mike Napoli. Runners on first and second with one down for Mitch Moreland.

10:50: Allen Craig misjudges a fly ball in right, resulting in a leadoff single for Nelson Cruz.

10:48: Jake Westbrook on to pitch for the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth while Skip Schumaker takes over in center field.

10:45: Wow. And he gets Theriot swinging, as well. Holland has allowed just two hits over eight shutout innings while striking out seven and walking just one.

10:44: Two quick outs for Holland. Here’s Ryan Theriot, pinch-hitting for the struggling Jon Jay.

10:41: Interesting. Derek Holland back out there for the top of the eighth.

10:38: Nice job by Boggs. He retired three straight after the leadoff double by Andrus to keep the score 4-0.

10:35: Boggs gets Michael Young swinging for the second out. It’s up to Adrian Beltre to keep the inning alive.

10:33: Zooey Deschanel and her FOX cohorts have left the building. What a shocker.

10:31: Nope. Hamilton lines out to center field. One away for Michael Young.

10:29: Allen Craig comes up empty attempting a diving catch in right, which results in a leadoff double by Elvis Andrus. Let’s see if Josh Hamilton can cash in again.

10:28: Mitchell Boggs remains in the game to begin the bottom of the seventh. Jake Westbrook up in the bullpen for the Cardinals.

10:24: Holland gets Lance Berkman looking on the inside corner to end the inning. Seven shutout innings. What a night for the young left-hander.

10:21: And now Matt Holliday bounces out to Holland. Two away for Berkman, who has both of the Cardinals’ hits tonight.

10:17: Derek Holland retires Pujols on a comebacker to begin the top of the seventh. Now he’ll face Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman.

10:14: Boggs gets Mitch Moreland to ground out and fans Ian Kinsler to end the inning, but the damage is done. 4-0 Rangers as we move to the top of the seventh.

10:09: And Napoli promptly crushes a high fastball from Boggs for a three-run bomb to left. There’s your No. 8 hitter, ladies and gentlemen. 4-0 Rangers.

10:07: The Cardinals stalled long enough so that Mitchell Boggs had enough time to get ready. He’ll come in to face Mike Napoli with runners on first and second and one away.

10:04: Oy. Make that seven walks for Jackson. Time for the hook?

10:02: Nelson Cruz draws a one-out walk. Edwin Jackson has now walked six batters tonight.

9:58: Adrian Beltre fouls a ball off his leg to begin the bottom of the sixth. That’s just what he does. Edwin Jackson is still out there, by the way.

9:55: Allen Craig strikes out swinging for the third out. Holland has thrown 77 pitches over six shutout frames.

9:51: Derek Holland issues a one-out walk to Nick Punto. While Edwin Jackson has been erratic, that was Holland’s first walk of the evening.

9:46: Michael Young flies out to right field to end the inning. Edwin Jackson is now at 94 pitches through five shaky innings of one-run ball. Good chance he’s done for the night.

9:42: Josh Hamilton goes down swinging for the second out of the inning. Big strikeout for Jackson, who is approaching 100 pitches.

9:38: Andrus fails to get the bunt down and then flies out to right for the first out of the inning. No advancement by Kinsler.

9:36: Ugh. Making Elvis Andrus bunt? Don’t like.

9:35: Edwin Jackson issues a leadoff walk to Ian Kinsler, who will no doubt be more careful at first base this time.

9:31: Yadier Molina lines out to Josh Hamilton for the final out of the inning. Make that five shutout innings for Holland.

9:28: Lance Berkman singled to lead off the top of the fifth, but David Freese grounded into a double play.

9:27: Anybody else see Baseball Reference and Rotoworld on that Google “perfect game” commercial? Neat.

9:25: And Edwin Jackson gets Moreland swinging to end the threat. The Rangers have a 1-0 lead going into the top of the fifth.

9:22: After a lengthy at-bat, Napoli draws a walk. Runners on first and second with two outs for the struggling Mitch Moreland.

9:18: Edwin Jackson issues a two-out walk to David Murphy. Here’s No. 8 hitter Mike Napoli. Did I mention he’s batting eighth tonight?

9:15: Jon Jay makes a leaping grab near the center field wall on a fly ball off the bat of Nelson Cruz. Two away.

9:10: Matt Holliday set aside on a grounder to third baseman Adrian Beltre. Derek Holland now has four shutout frames under his belt.

9:08: Albert Pujols pops out to first baseman Mitch Moreland in foul territory for the second out of the fourth. He’s slumping.

9:03: Michael Young skies out near the warning track in distant center field for the final out of the third. It’s 1-0 Rangers as we move to the top of the fourth.

9:01: Tim McCarver: “What are Sprockets?” Classic.

9:00: Dirk doing “The Wash.” Awesome.

8:55: Furcal retired on a comebacker for the final out of the top of the third.

8:53: Very close play on that Jay grounder to Andrus, but it looks like first base umpire Ted Barrett got it right.

8:50: Oh boy. Yadier Molina throws behind the runner and catches Kinsler napping off first base. Inning over.

8:47: Ian Kinsler reaches with a two-out single to left field. Here comes Elvis Andrus, who singled in the first inning.

8:43: Napoli flies out to the warning track in center field. That’s a long first out.

8:41: Eighth place hitter Mike Napoli. That sounds about right.

8:38: Good play by Ian Kinsler to catch up to a ground ball off the bat of Yadier Molina for the final out of the inning. At first it looked like Kinsler was going to eat it, but then he realized a Molina was running.

8:37: Holland goes to the insider corner again to get David Freese looking for the second out. Freese isn’t pleased with home plate umpire Ron Kulpa.

8:34: Lance Berkman goes the opposite way for a double, the first hit of the evening for the Cardinals.

8:32: Matt Holliday rung up on a fastball on the inside corner for the first out.

8:28: So much for that. Murphy put a charge in one, but Matt Holliday tracked it down near the warning track in left for the final out of the bottom of the first. It’s 1-0 Rangers as we move to the top of the second in Arlington.

8:27: Jackson walks Nelson Cruz to load the bases for David Murphy, who was moved up to seventh in the order tonight.

8:23: Adrian Beltre goes down swinging after being fooled badly on a slider. Runners on first and second with two away for Nelson Cruz.

8:21: Michael Young walks on four straight pitches. Just look at that classy stroll down to first base.

8:19: The Rangers strike first courtesy of an RBI double by Josh Hamilton. He turned around on a changeup from Edwin Jackson and yanked it into the right field corner. Andrus scampered home from first base.

8:17: Elvis Andrus singles to left for the first hit of the ballgame. Here comes the ailing Josh Hamilton.

8:15: Ian Kinsler breaks his bat on a groundout to begin the bottom of the first.

8:11: And Pujols is retired on a grounder to Elvis Andrus. It’s a 1-2-3 inning for Derek Holland to get us started.

8:10: Holland gets Allen Craig swinging for the second out. Oh boy, here comes Mr. Pujols.

8:08: Adrian Beltre snags a screaming liner off the bat of Furcal, robbing him of what was likely a leadoff double. One away.

8:07: And we’re off. Rafael Furcal fouls off the first pitch from Derek Holland.

8:03: Are we sure Zooey Deschanel can’t hang around and sing a few more tunes? Or just stand there for a while? Sigh. Anyway, first pitch is a minute or so away, so hang tight.

7:55 p.m. ET: The Cardinals hold a 2-1 advantage over the Rangers in the World Series going into Game 4 tonight in Arlington. We’ll have all the action covered in a live blog, beginning right around first-pitch at 8:05 p.m. ET.

Here are tonight’s lineups and starting pitchers, as mentioned by Drew earlier this afternoon:

ST. LOUIS CARDINALS             TEXAS RANGERS
1. Rafael Furcal, SS            1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Allen Craig, RF              2. Elvis Andrus, SS
3. Albert Pujols, 1B            3. Josh Hamilton, CF
4. Matt Holliday, LF            4. Michael Young, DH
5. Lance Berkman, DH            5. Adrian Beltre, 3B
6. David Freese, 3B             6. Nelson Cruz, RF
7. Yadier Molina, C             7. David Murphy, LF
8. Jon Jay, CF                  8. Mike Napoli, C
9. Nick Punto, 2B               9. Mitch Moreland, 1B

SP Edwin Jackson, RHP           SP Derek Holland, LHP

Feel free to join the conversation in our comments section. Let’s do this.

2017 World Series Preview: How the Astros and Dodgers match up

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The Dodgers are seeking their first World Series championship in 29 years. The Astros are seeking their first in the franchise’s 56-season history. Clayton Kershaw is making his first appearance on baseball’s biggest stage. Justin Verlander is making his third, but looking for his first ring. The Astros two aces are facing the Dodgers’ deep lineup. The Dodgers power throwing bullpen will face off against the Astros powerful lineup. For the first time in 47 years each team in the World Series won 100 games in the regular season.

Stars taking on stars. Power facing power. History, of one kind or another, somewhere between five and nine days from being made. It’s the Fall Classic, and it gets underway tonight. Here’s how it all breaks down:

 

THE ROTATIONS

It’s a bit of a shame that the rotations didn’t line up in order to give us a Verlander-Kershaw battle in Game 1, as it’s not every day you see two pitchers who each won an MVP Award face off. We’re still going to get some great matchups of staters here, however, as Kershaw — who still has something to prove as a big-game pitcher, his pennant-clinching Game 5 NLCS victory notwithstanding — meets 2015 Cy Young Award winner Dallas Keuchel in tonight’s Game 1. Game 2 gives us Rich Hill, who has remade himself into one of baseball’s best in the latter stages of his career, against Verlander, who many though his best days were behind him. That was before his trade to Houston and his 9-0 run for the Astros that culminated in a couple of the most dominant postseason starts in recent memory.

The back end of the rotations, featuring Yu Darvish and Alex Wood for L.A. and Charlie Morton and Lance McCullers for Houston, are pretty evenly matched. At their best the Dodgers back two are probably better, but they have each been touched at times late in the season while both Morton and McCullers found a new gear in the ALCS. Whether driving at that gear has them low on gas at the moment is an open question. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

THE LINEUPS

The Dodgers’ lineup has been top heavy in the postseason, but the top has been really, really heavy, so it’s been just fine. Chris Taylor, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Yasiel Puig have been nearly impossible to pitch to. Fill-in shortstop Charlie Culberson was a revelation in Corey Seager‘s injury absence, but Seager’s back is better and he will be back for the World Series. The bottom half of the lineup has not come through too often — Kiké Hernandez’s big NLCS Game 5 notwithstanding — with left field (Andre Ethier/Hernandez/Curtis Granderson) second base (Logan Forsythe/Chase Utley) and catcher (Austin Barnes, who has pushed Yasmani Grandal to the bench) struggling. The Dodgers can win it all if the top half of the lineup continues doing what it’s doing, but given how slumps can hit at any time, Dave Roberts would like to see a new postseason star emerge.

The Astros bats need no introduction, but they could use a bit more consistency in the postseason. Houston led the majors in runs, batting average, on-base percentage, slugging, were second in homers and struck out less than any team in baseball. The Yankees kept them quiet in the first five games of the ALCS but they roared back to life in Games 6 and 7. The attack will be keyed, as always, by possible AL MVP Jose Altuve, leadoff power source George Springer and shortstop Carlos Correa. As Houston showed all season, however, almost everyone in this lineup is dangerous.  ADVANTAGE ASTROS.

 

THE BULLPENS

This is probably the biggest separator between the clubs, with the Dodgers sporting a big advantage. Unlike in postseasons past, Dave Roberts has not had to use Clayton Kershaw or his other starters as relievers. This is due in part to the Dodgers taking care of their business quickly, sweeping the Dbacks in the NLDS and beating the Cubs in five in the NLCS. It’s mostly, though, due to the uncharacteristic depth and power of L.A’s relief corps. They didn’t allow a run against the Cubs in 17 innings of work in the NLCS.

Kenley Jansen needs no introduction. He continues to be one of the best if not the best closer in the game. Roberts will not hesitate to use him for multiple innings if need be. Has retired 24 of the 28 batters he has faced in the playoffs. He’s yet to be challenged. Hard throwing Brandon Morrow looks like an ace closer this postseason. Kenta Maeda has been a revelation as a setup man who can go multiple innings if need be. Tony Cingrani, Tony Watson and Josh Fields have not been used heavily, but each provides Roberts with an embarrassment of matchup possibilities.

Houston has talent in their pen, but it’s been somewhat shaky in the postseason. Chris Devenski, Will Harris and Joe Musgrove were all gotten to by Yankees hitters in the ALCS. Ken Giles has been OK, but not dominant, and A.J. Hinch has leaned a bit heavier than usual on him at times. More tellingly, Hinch has leaned on starters in relief, using Justin Verlander in that role in the ALDS against the Red Sox and using McCullers for four innings of relief in Game 7 of the ALCS. Hinch’s best hope is that he gets a lot of innings from Keuchel and Verlander in Games 1 and 2 and then has everyone in the pen well-rested for he middle games of the Series. If not, he’s going to be doing a lot of shuffling and, yes, we may see a lot of short rest work from starters in relief roles. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

THE MANAGERS

Dave Roberts is the reigning NL Manager of the Year and both he and A.J. Hinch has a good shot of winning the award this year. Neither man has been second guessed very often in this postseason, as Roberts has not had to gamble at all and Hinch’s gambles have largely paid off. Unlike in some years, there are few dramatic storylines and little philosophical tension at play here. Both of these guys played the game, both work well with analytically-minded front offices yet both have shown that they have a free hand to use their instincts to make changes on the fly and manage the game on the field rather than simply carry out a game plan. If either of these two guys make themselves into a big story in this series it’ll be pretty surprising. EVEN.

 

THE BENCHES

The Dodgers lineup is a bit more fluid than Houston’s, with Roberts subbing in different guys at left field and second base in various postseason games. As such, if they’re not starting they may be a bit more game-ready than your usual benchwarmer. Houston tends to roll with the same lineup most nights, but Hinch has some flexibility at catcher where Evan Gattis and Brian McCann are both options and at DH in the home games, where either of them or Carlos Beltran can see action. ADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

X-FACTOR

We don’t put much stock in intangibles, history or dramatic storylines when it comes to the World Series. We’ll leave that to the producers at Fox. Buy we will throw one wild card into the mix: home field advantage.

It’s not often the most important thing going in baseball, but it’s been an usually big boost in the 2017 postseason. Home teams are 23-8 (.742) this October, which is the best mark since the playoffs expanded to include Wild Card teams. So far the Astros are 6-0 in Houston and the Dodgers are 4-0 in Dodger Stadium. The Dodgers, likewise, had the best home record in all of baseball in the regular season. L.A. hasn’t yet had to bring a playoff series back home after it began, but the chance to host four home games in a best of seven may loom a bit larger this year than most. Oh, and keep an eye on guys’ stamina levels in Games 1 and 2. It’s gonna be close to 100 degrees at Dodger Stadium at game time for each of those tiltsADVANTAGE DODGERS.

 

PREDICTION

This is the matchup many of us were hoping for as early as late July. The Dodgers swooned in late August and early September, but the fact that they still won 104 games tells you just how dominant a club they were in 2017. While the Indians had the AL’s best record thanks to their late season winning streak, the Astros were, in our view, the best team in the American League all season long. This is the first matchup of 100-win teams in the Fall Classic in 47 years. It is, quite simply, the best on-paper World Series matchup we’ve had in many, many years. It’s sad someone has to lose this thing, but that’s how it goes.

Los Angeles hasn’t had to come back to Dodger Stadium to finish off a series yet. We don’t think they’ll be that lucky this time around, but we do think that their bullpen gives them a clear advantage and will work to neutralize those dangerous Astros bats in the final 3-4 innings of every game. That’s enough daylight for us to say that, in our view it’ll be . . .

DODGERS IN SIX