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

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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.

Cardinals shut down Carlos Martínez for two weeks due to shoulder issue

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MLB.com’s Jenifer Langosh reports that the Cardinals are shutting down pitcher Carlos Martínez from throwing for two weeks because his shoulder strength isn’t where it should have been at this point. Langosch added that an MRI showed no structural damage in Martínez’s right shoulder.

Interestingly, president of baseball operations John Mozeliak didn’t sound too happy with Martínez offseason training regimen. Per Mark Saxon of The Athletic, Mozeliak said, “Obviously, there’s a history with Carlos’ shoulder and it would be probably in everybody’s best interest if he maintained a constant or perpetual approach to that program.”

Martínez, 27, battled oblique and shoulder injuries last year. He accrued just 118 2/3 innings, making just 18 starts. He was moved to the bullpen when he returned from the disabled list in August and finished out the season in that role. Still, Martínez managed a 3.11 ERA with 117 strikeouts and 60 walks.

Langosch reported last week that the Cardinals were considering using Martínez in relief again in 2019. The latest news may push the Cardinals to indeed use Martínez out of the bullpen once again. He will be reevaluated in early March, but there is a chance he won’t be ready for Opening Day.