Though they likely owe an assist to Tony La Russa, the Rangers are now just one win away from winning their first ever World Series title.
The Rangers defeated the Cardinals 4-2 on Monday night in Arlington and now hold a 3-2 lead in the series going into Game 6 on Wednesday night in St. Louis. Mike Napoli was the offensive star for the second straight day, delivering an opposite field two-run double off left-hander Marc Rzepczynski in the bottom of the eighth to put the Rangers in front.
C.J. Wilson danced in and out of trouble over his 5 1/3 innings of work, allowing two runs (one earned) on four hits, five walks and a wild pitch. The Cardinals had plenty of opportunities on offense, but went just 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position and left a total of 12 men on base. They also gave away three outs via sacrifice bunts, which resulted in zero runs crossing the plate. Scott Feldman, Alexi Ogando, Darren Oliver and Neftali Feliz combined for 3 2/3 shutout innings in relief of Wilson.
While the Rangers walked away with the victory, this game will likely be remembered for some real head-scratchers on the part of La Russa, some of which he chalked up to miscommunication in his post-game press conference.
Allen Craig was gunned down twice at second base with Albert Pujols at the plate while Rzepczynski was strangely left in the ballgame to face Napoli, who has a .955 career OPS against southpaws. La Russa said in the postgame that he actually wanted right-hander Jason Motte to face the right-handed hitting Napoli, but that he wasn’t able to communicate that information to his bullpen. Whether that’s true or not really doesn’t matter at this point, because leaving Rzepczynski in resulted in the decisive play of the ballgame.
With their backs against the wall, the Cardinals will send Jaime Garcia to the mound against Colby Lewis on Wednesday night as they attempt to force a Game 7.
All spring training there was at least some mild confusion about Nationals first baseman Ryan Zimmerman. He played in almost no regular big league spring training games, instead, staying on the back fields, playing in simulated and minor league contests. When that usually happens, it’s because a player is rehabbing or even hiding an injury, but the Nats insisted that was not the case with Zimmerman. Not everyone believed it. I, for one, was skeptical.
The skepticism was unwarranted, as Zimmerman answered the bell for Opening Day and has played all season. As Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal writes today, it was all by design. He skipped spring training because he doesn’t like it and because he thinks it’ll help him avoid late-season injuries and slowdowns, the likes of which he has suffered over the years.
It’s hard to really judge this now, of course. On the one hand Zimmerman has started really slow this season. What’s more, he has started to show signs of warming up only in the past week, after getting almost as many big league, full-speed plate appearances under his belt as a normal spring training would’ve given him. On the other hand, April is his worst month across his entire 14-year career, so one slow April doesn’t really prove anything and, again, Zimmerman and the Nats will consider this a success if he’s healthy and productive in August and September.
It is sort of a missed opportunity, though. Players hate spring training. They really do. if Zimmerman had made a big deal out of skipping it and came out raking this month, I bet a lot more teams would be amenable to letting a veteran or three take it much more easy next spring. Good ideas can be good ideas even if they don’t produce immediately obvious results, but baseball tends to encourage a copycat culture only when someone can point to a stat line or to standings as justification.
Way to ruin it for everyone, Ryan. 😉