WORLD SERIES GAME 2: Deja Voodoo
A tense, scoreless affair turned into a desperate, late-inning bullpen rush, with the Texas Rangers scraping just enough runs against Jason Motte to squeeze out a white-knuckle 2-1 victory over the Cardinals. In other words, the game reminded Cardinal Nation of the frustrating losses of earlier this summer – unfocused at bats, missed opportunities, and meltdown relief pitching. Now the Series is knotted at one a piece as they head down to the warmer, homer-friendly confines of Rangers Ballpark in Arlington. This thing is far from over, folks.
PSYCHOSIS RESOLVED: Who knows what has been bewildering Jaime Garcia over the last three weeks of ineffective, fidgety starts; a butterfly fluttering past the mound was enough to send Jaime into a tailspin of despair and confusion. But tonight the enigmatic lefthander unfurled his best start in months, blanking the powerful Rangers on three hits while striking out seven in (GASP!) seven innings of work. Jaime hasn’t seen the seventh inning of a baseball game since his Dad promised him milk and cookies if he stayed up through the seventh-inning stretch when he was five years old. It looked like Jaime was ready to come out of the game in the fourth, when Ian Kinsler walked and Mike Young singled, setting up the classic Garcia meltdown. However, the refurbished Garcia twisted his way out of the jam, striking out Adrian Beltre to the end the threat. Who knows what’s different, but hopefully Garcia can build on that for next year.
TIP OF THE CAP: The Rangers made some spectacular defensive plays tonight, killing potential scoring opportunities and shifting momentum constantly. My favorite defensive play came in the fifth, when Furcal grounded sharply up the middle with Nick Punto and Jaime Garcia on base and two outs. Elvis Andrus ranged up the middle, gloved the ball, and flipped the ball with his glove to second baseman Ian Kinsler for the force out. A hell of a play, one of many from a team that clearly came to compete.
Allen Craig HAS A 12 INCH COCK: How can anyone really describe the job done by Allen Craig in this postseason? EVERY SINGLE TIME he’s come to the plate in a tough situation, he’s delivered. Craig did it again in the seventh. While pinch hitting for Jaime Garcia with David Freese and Nick Punto on base, Craig ripped a clean single to right field to score Freese with the game’s first run. Craig is magical, and he needs to find his way into this lineup, dammit!
DEAD ZONE: There just isn’t any way around this – Rafael Furcal and Jon Jay are batting a combined .190 with an OBP somewhere around .270. That’s awful. The Rally Squirrel could probably post a better batting average while using its tail as a bat. TLR could post a more effective at bat while swinging his Fungo. How long can this team keep trotting these two out there in the two most important spots in the lineup when they are collectively worse than Ryan Theriot? Hell, they’re collectively worse than ME. It’s time for a change.
PUNTO WATCH: The line score for our little Punto bean says that he went 2-4 with a rally-generating single in the seventh. But I say that the guy is a potato-headed idiot who does everything wrong at the best possible time. For instance, the “single” that extended the inning for Craig’s heroics was a bouncing grounder that shouldv’e been an out had Kinsler fielded it cleanly. Then, in the ninth, Punto had the single worst at bat of the World Series by failing to bunt Gerald Laird to second FIFTEEN TIMES before striking out on a pitch three feet above his dwarfish head. Punto has enthusiasm, I’ll give him that … I just wish that little gremlin had a clue to go with it.
RUNNY APPLE SAUCE: We should’ve known that Jason Motte’s incredible streak of destroying everything in his path would eventually come to an end. Unfortunately, it happened in the ninth inning of Game Two of the World Series. Motte put Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus on base in the ninth with singles, setting up a disaster-in-the-making. I have all of the faith in the world in Motte, so this little hiccup means nothing in the greater scheme of things. Still, it kinda sucks.
HIGH RHODES: With runners on first and third, TLR decided to go with Arthur Rhodes as relief of Motte in the ninth. This is like choosing gasoline to extinguish a fire. Rhodes (who has the dubious distinction of being the only left-handed reliever to never have retired a lefthanded batter) came on to face Josh Hamilton, who has been hobbled by a muscle strain. Of course, even an injured Hamilton knew what to do with a 93 mph Rhodes meatball floating in chest-high: lace it into the outfield for a run-scoring sacrifice fly to tie the score. Which is, of course, why you don’t bring in Rhodes. LAGENIUS.
LANCED: Can you really fault Lance Lynn for surrendering the final run on a sacrifice fly (number two in a row)? The pitch he made was virtually unhittable; if I could’ve thrown even one pitch like that in my life, I would be enjoying the good life as a retired baseball star instead of cranking out these boring baseball recaps. Lynn threw the pitch he wanted, but Michael Young reached out an tapped Lynn’s low, outside slider for a run-scoring sac fly. Give credit where it’s due, my mammy always said.
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Jaime Garcia, for not scaring under pressure and delivering the kind of start we’ve been expecting all along. Too bad we couldn’t give him any runs.
CONCLUSION: The Cards can’t expect to win this Series without scoring runs. The three games in Texas need to feature better, smarter at bats and some concentrated hitting with runners on. This Texas team is the real deal, and beating them is going to require more discipline for sure.