Mike Napoli

Mike Napoli, Adrian Beltre turn in the Rangers’ play of the game


It’s only fitting, as the two have been the Rangers’ best players in the World Series.

With the bases loaded, one out and the tying run having already touched home plate in the sixth, Mike Napoli and Adrian Beltre pulled off the perfect pickoff Thursday, retiring Matt Holliday at third in the Game 6 that the Rangers went on to lose in extra innings.

The Rangers entered the bottom of the sixth with a 4-3 lead, but with one out, the Cardinals loaded the bases on two grounders — one going for an infield single and the other turning into an error on Michael Young — and a walk. Alexi Ogando then replaced starter Colby Lewis and walked Yadier Molina on five pitches, tying the game.

It was at that point that Napoli, who suffered what initially looked like a season-ending ankle injury going into second base two innings earlier, took matters into his own hands. He fired down to third after an Ogando fastball and caught Holliday far enough off the base that Beltre was able to put his foot down and block the bag. Holliday dove right into Beltre’s foot and suffered a badly bruised finger that knocked him out of the game.

Ogando remained very shaky afterwards, so it seems very likely that the Cardinals would have taken the lead if not for the pickoff. A wild pitch advanced the two remaining runners, and Ogando loaded the bases again with a walk to light-hitting Nick Punto. Derek Holland took over at that point and preserved the tie by getting Jon Jay to hit a comebacker.

With 10 RBI in the series, including one tonight, Napoli will likely be World Series MVP should the Rangers prevail on Friday. Still, a big defensive highlight in a crucial situation added to his cause. He’s been one of baseball’s best players in his 129 games this season, and now everyone should know it.

NL Wild Card Game: Cubs vs. Pirates lineups

Jake Arrieta

Here are the Cubs and Pirates lineups for tonight’s Wild Card game in Pittsburgh:

CF Dexter Fowler
RF Kyle Schwarber
LF Kris Bryant
1B Anthony Rizzo
3B Tommy La Stella
2B Starlin Castro
C Miguel Montero
SS Addison Russell
SP Jake Arrieta

Cubs manager Joe Maddon wanted Tommy La Stella in the lineup over Jorge Soler or Chris Coghlan, so he starts at third base and Kris Bryant shifts to left field. Bryant started just four games in left field all season, compared to 136 starts at third base. Also of note: After batting Addison Russell ninth–behind the pitcher–116 times this season Maddon has him in the more traditional eighth spot tonight.

RF Gregory Polanco
3B Josh Harrison
CF Andrew McCutchen
LF Starling Marte
C Francisco Cervelli
2B Neil Walker
SS Jordy Mercer
1B Sean Rodriguez
SP Gerrit Cole

Pedro Alvarez started 119 games at first base for the Pirates and with right-hander Jake Arrieta on the mound he was the presumed starter tonight, but instead manager Clint Hurdle has benched the 27-homer slugger in favor of utility man Sean Rodriguez. Alvarez is vastly superior to Rodriguez offensively, especially versus a righty, but he’s also very shaky defensively. During the regular season Rodriguez started a grand total of one game at first base against a right-hander, so this qualifies as a hunch by Hurdle.

The Cardinals are optimistic about Yadier Molina’s status

St. Louis Cardinals' Yadier Molina celebrates as he arrives home after hitting a solo home run during the fourth inning of a baseball game against the San Francisco Giants Monday, Aug. 17, 2015, in St. Louis. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Leave a comment

Jenifer Langosch of MLB.com reports that Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina‘s bum thumb responded well after participating in baseball activities Tuesday, including catching, hitting, blocking balls and the like.

This morning Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said that he’s now even more optimistic that Molina will be on the NLDS roster. The Cards’ first game will be Friday against the winner of tonight’s Cubs-Pirates tilt.

Having Molina would obviously be a boon for the Cardinals on the field. For a look at what Molina means to the Cardinals off the field, however, take some time to go read Derrick Goold’s excellent story about what Molina’s teammates think of him. Short version: the world. It’s worth your time, even if you’re not a citizen of Cardinals Nation.