WORLD SERIES GAME 3: Pujols Is Bigger In Texas
After abandoning his teammates both on and off the field during the first two games of the World Series and being called out for it, Albert Pujols had one of the most transcendent offensive performances in his impressive history. Going 5-6 with three homers and six RBI’s, Pujols led a clutch 15 hit attack as the Cardinals pulverized a stunned Rangers team 16-7. The Cards take a decisive 2-1 advantage in the seven game series.
A MIGHTY CRAIG: This much is true: The Cardinals haven’t developed a hitter as exciting as Allen Craig since Albert Pujols tore up baseball in 2001. The strapping outfielder can flat out hit, and he’s picking a terrific time to show off the goods. On a national stage in the biggest series of the year, Craig has already set a record for pinch hitting with two pinch hits in the first two games. Tonight, our positionless stud absolutely crushed the second pitch he saw for a no-doubt go-ahead homer in the first inning. Someone please find a place for this guy – his time is NOW!
LEAD TURNED OFF: I’ve asked it before, and I’ll say it again – how much longer can we suffer Rafael Furcal doing nothing in the postseason in the leadoff spot? His .150 average and .230 OBP has been brutal for this team. I like him, really I do. But if he must play, then he should bat eighth (or ninth in Texas) and out of the way of the hitters who are actually hitting the baseball.
DENKINGER 2011: Bad umpiring calls happen in quick moments during high pressure situations like the World Series. I get that. But I really don’t like when they severely affect the outcome of a game, good or bad. Had I been a Kansas City Royals fan in 1985, I would’ve been bummed that we beat the Cardinals on a shitty call in the ninth inning by Don Denkinger. Tonight, the Cardinals were the beneficiary of a terrible call by Ron Kulpa in the fourth. After a hit by Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday (of course) grounded to short. When Ian Kinsler‘s throw sailed high and wide, Mike Napoli spun and tagged Holliday as he passed – in fact, the play wasn’t even close. But Kulpa called Holliday safe! With Rangers fans booing loudly, the Cardinals proceeded to put four runs on the board solely because of this stupid call. While I’m glad we scored the runs, it still sucks that it came because of bad umpiring. Umpires should not be affecting the outcome of a competitive sport at this level, and I’d rather win fair and square rather than be given the win because some idiot made the wrong call.
MR FREESE: The NLCS MVP came through again! Following a terrible umpiring call and a single by Lance Berkman, the Cards had runners on first and second with David Freese at the plate. And Freese did not disappoint. He made profit from the bad call by stroking a double down the line to score Holliday. Maybe we should let him play an entire game, eh?
DETROIT, 2011: Remember how we won the Series in 2006 due in large part to the Detroit Tigers tossing the ball into the stands constantly? The Rangers came unglued in similar fashion following the umpiring error. A grounder from Jon Jay to Napoli at first was turned into a two-run error when Napoli threw the ball past catcher Yorvit Torrealba. You could feel the frustration on the faces of the Rangers as their game fell apart; even Nolan Ryan had his head down behind the plate. A mess of an inning.
LOHSER: For a while, it appeared that Kyle Lohse was going to tap dance like a leprechaun through the Rangers’ lineup with his fastball floating in the middle of the plate. However, his luck ran out in the fourth. Given a five run lead, Lohse had yet another meltdown. The Rangers ripped two home runs and four straight hits for three runs to chase Lohse. This guy is making $11 million this year for essentially two months of solid pitching, and no quality starts in the postseason. Really disappointing.
MORE BREAKS: The Rangers really made several bizarre and poor plays all night; perhaps they really didn’t deserve to win this game. They made a really bad judgement in the fourth after scoring three runs and having runners on first and third with one out. Torrealba skied a shallow ball to left field, and Holliday gloved it for the second out. But for whatever reason, Napoli (a catcher , not the fastest guy) tagged up and started for home. Holliday made a terrific one hop throw, and Yadier Molina applied a quick tag for an important, rally-killing double play. HUGE MISTAKE by the Rangers, benefiting the Cardinals.
RESPONSE: Good teams respond to adversity; when the opposition scores, it’s important for good teams to respond to that. The Cardinals did just that in the fifth. Two hits and two walks converted into three runs. The big hit came from Molina, who stroked a two-run double for his first RBI’s of the Series (nice to see him in the action finally – we missed you, Yadi!). This is exactly what needed to happen.
NO GO, TOO SLOW: Has Jon Jay ever successfully stolen a base? He might be the worst baserunner since Lonnie Smith.
FACEPLANT: You gotta love Lance Berkman. Berkman came rolling into third base in the sixth inning with a pretty dubious slide that ended with Berk’s face sliding across the infield dirt. He crawled to his feet, face covered in dirt, laughing in embarrassment. That’s the great thing about Berk – he’s clumsy, and he has no shame. Just a fun, terrific, self-effacing guy.
POURING IT ON: The Cardinals ripped into Alexi Ogando in the sixth. Poor Ogando. He’s a fastball pitcher who easily throws nearly 100mph. However, the Cards can hit a fast ball as well as any team in baseball, and they haven’t missed much that Ogando has thrown in this series. Craig hurt him in the first two games, but Pujols really ripped him open with a monstrous, 432-foot three-run bomb to really put the Rangers away. It was Pujols’ third hit, and easily his biggest of the Series. Huge.
REVENGE OF THE MANG: I guess Pujols really WAS pissed after being ripped in the national media over the off day! Two singles and a two run homer apparently weren’t enough for the big Dominican, who crushed another two-run blast in the sixth. Then he pounded another home run in the ninth. It’s almost impossible to believe – 5-6 with three home runs and six RBI’s. A monumental performance from one of the great postseason players in the history of the game. Perhaps we should rile him up more often!
PLAYER OF THE GAME: Daniel Descalso. I kid, I kid … Um, Pujols? Maybe?
CONCLUSION: One of the greatest postseason performances in history by Pujols overshadowed an excellent team effort from almost all quarters. No, we didn’t have sufficient starting pitching again, but everything else was humming. Any doubts about the Cardinals being able to bang with the Rangers has been pulverized into powder and blown into the dry Texas wind.