Saturday, October 29, 2011
World Series live blog: Game SevenPosted by Greg Simons
Hardball Times copy editor Greg Simons is not one of those people the TV moguls feared would be put off by a Middle America World Series. He's a lifelong Cardinals fan. As with Games One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six, we asked him to put on his red cap and share his observations as he watches.
Writing this about an hour before game time, I'm reminded that within a few hours, regardless of which team you root for—St. Louis, Texas or another franchise—the baseball season will be over shortly.
After six wonderful months, with the last several weeks giving us some of the most memorable games of my lifetime, the fields will go silent as winter looms. There will be other diversions, in sports and otherwise, but for those of us who give our loyalty first and foremost to baseball, tonight is our last chance to witness the best of the best playing the greatest game ever created.
Will we see all the best players on the field tonight? Well, we know we won't see the Cardinals' Matt Holliday. His injured finger had led to him being deactivated Friday morning. Allen Craig will take his spot in left field, while Adron Chambers now occupies his spot on the active roster and serves as a potential pinch runner and defensive replacement.
For the Rangers, somehow Mike Napoli didn't destroy his ankle at second base Thursday night and looks to start with little or no ill effect. Nelson Cruz has a tweaked hammy, but he's also in the starting lineup. Derek Holland pitched last night, so he may not be available for Game Seven, but this is a kitchen sink game, so you never know.
Now let's get to the action.
Ian Kinsler again is a thorn in the Cardinals' side with a leadoff single.
Yadier Molina, perhaps upset by Napoli upstaging him last night with his pickoff of Holliday at third, nabs Kinsler as he tries to get back to first base after slipping on the basepath.
Early on, it looks like shaky-on-short-rest Chris Carpenter as he walks Elvis Andrus and surrenders a run-scoring double to Josh Hamilton. How long will Tony La Russa stick with his ace? At this rate, not long.
And now a double by Michael Young brings in Hamilton. Hey, Tony, never start Carp on short rest again, okay? NEVER. Good grief.
Strikeout and groundout to finish the inning, but Texas has put St. Louis in an early hole.
La Russa significantly shuffled his lineup. Let's see how his maneuvering works out.
So far, so bad, with two quick outs.
An unintentional intentional walk—or whatever you want to call it—to Albert Pujols. Don't the Rangers remember how good Lance Berkman has been?
Or maybe Matt Harrison is just wild, as he walks Berkman, too.
The crowd gives David Freese plenty of love—obviously with good reason—as he is introduced.
How does this young fella keep doing it?!?! Freese's double to left-center knots the ballgame at two.
And the Rangers bullpen is active early with C.J. Wilson loosening up.
Yady nearly joins the fun, driving one just shy of the wall that Hamilton reins in.
This commercial about the gamer who pitched a perfect game is a rather bizarre. First, he knows nothing about baseball. Second, he mispronounces "Halladay" as "Holliday." Third, Bill Hall is his biggest threat. Really?
My boss and I discussed today whether Napoli, who just singled, should win the World Series MVP even if the Rangers don't win. He said Napoli will have been the most valuable player for either side regardless of what happens in this game. I argued Freese or Berkman would win if the Redbirds take tonight's contest, and Freese is making an early push for his candidacy.
A forceout and bunt move the runner to second with two outs, then Carpenter gets wild, walking Kinsler.
Molina and Pujols maybe try too hard to repeat their pickoff from the first, and David Murphy advances to third as the ball trickles away. However, a nubber back to the mound ends things.
Tim McCarver on the physics of little guys swinging for power. Um, yeah. Meanwhile, Rafael Furcal shoots a single past a diving Andrus. (Pasta Diving Andrus tastes nothing like Past Diving Jeter.)
McCarver now chimes in with, "Normally, the sacrifice would be in order." In the second inning? Runs, man, teams need to score multiple runs!
A smooth twin killing erases Furcal. The replay of that close play at first showed the ball nearly squirting through Young's glove. I would say he needs to get that fixed, but I would be fine with the ball slipping through that hole later tonight.
Furcal still has a cannon of an arm, firing to first to get Hamilton.
And Carp looks so good when he's on, striking out Young.
It sounds like Hugh Jackman needs to set his DVR and focus on his stage performance. Besides, what baseball fan would be at a play when the World Series is on?
Fly to left puts down the heart of Texas' order.
Craig goes opposite field with a solo shot for St. Louis' first lead of the night.
Pujols still with no homers, or even an RBI, in the World Series aside from Game Three's blitzkrieg assault. That foul ball didn't go through a hole in Young's glove, but it gives Pujols new life. But Beltre kills the opportunity by making a play from one knee—this time defensively.
Young atones for his drop by snagging Berkman's liner.
Is it just me, or does Napoli seem to be batting every other inning all October long?
Texas is retired, uno-dos-tres.
Pero no, San Luis, as Molina singles.
Hey, a lucky seven joke. Funny. Or not. Okay, I'll grant McCarver this one. That is too big a swing for Furcal. But that dink into right for a single works just fine.
Skip Schumakerr needs to find a new bat manufacturer, breaking two in one at-bat. He moves the runners up, but Carpenter flies out meekly.
Kinsler on for the third time with a single, this time just under Freese's glove. He's made some good plays, but he's also missed a few. I'm beginning to understand the Daniel Descalso defensive substitutions very well.
You know what makes me uncomfortable? A one-run lead against the Texas Rangers. Of course, Ron Washington's repeated small-ball tactics ease that discomfort ever so slightly. He gives away outs like households give away candy on Halloween.
I want to apologize to David Freese for what I just typed. Nice job of staying with that foul pop.
Carpenter simply has Young's number.
Ryan Theriot's nickname might need to change from The Riot to The Nag, as he keeps fouling off ball after ball from new Rangers pitcher Scott Feldman before grounding out.
Craig has to be sad to see Harrison gone, as he launched two bombs against him this series. Against Feldman, he fails to make contact. Of course, Feldman failed to throw the ball in the strike zone, issuing a Craig a free pass.
McCarver, "That was not a hit and run." LOL! If they pull that garbage again, I'll drive to St. Louis and choke Pujols and La Russa.
That's the way to take a hit-by-pitch, letting it graze your jersey. It sure beats a 95 mph fastball in the ribs.
Berkman is turned around to bat from his (and Cards fans') preferred left side, but this time all he does is get the equivalent of a sacrifice.
IBB to Freese? I can't blame Washington.
I'm disappointed that Fox's "Right Now" graphic now longer includes an exclamation point. We needed it to let us know what was important "Right Now!"
Um, Tim, getting the full count and starting the runners is a significantly lesser break than scoring a run would be. It's all irrelevant, as Molina walks on a very questionable call
Let's review the sequence that led to that run, using only abbreviations. BB, HBP, IBB, BB.
Zoinks, Scooby. Another hit batsman plates another run. That makes the fastball to the ribs well worth it. Welcome to the game, C.J. Wilson, and thank you.
Wilson whiffs Schumaker to staunch the bleeding, though the Cardinals' lead is now 5-2.
Oh, Nellie! Craig robs Cruz of a home run. Everything's coming up roses so far for the Gateway City faithful. Even Napoli is being contained to this point.
Letting Carpenter bat after his strong six innings? I'm not sure about that. I am sure I should apologize for my earlier disparagement of Carp's short-rest performance. He's settled down after a rough first four batters to cruise through five scoreless frames. I still wonder how much he has left tonight.
McCarver is displaying the full range of his incompetence tonight. "Maybe (Arthur Rhodes) is just up throwing...instead of warming up to come into the game." So he's throwing just for the heck of it in Game Seven of the World Series? Sure, that makes sense.
Well, the ground-rule double by Murphy to lead off the inning indicates pinch-hitting for Carp and bringing Rhodes would have been a wise move.
And now La Russa goes to the pen? After one batter? My word. that man can be exasperating. He does force Washington to burn Endy Chavez as a pinch-hitter, but is that worth a double? I'll say an emphatic no.
And the reliever train has been left the station, with Octavio Dotel quickly replacing Rhodes and Marc Rzepczynski already getting loose—or maybe he's "just throwing."
Dotel strikes out righties. That's just what he does. That and gets them to fly out.
Just in case this is Pujols' final at-bat as a Cardinal, take a moment to look at his numbers. A .328 average, 445 homers and 1,329 RBI in 11 seasons. Beyond those gaudy Triple Crown stats, he has 1,291 runs, 2,073 hits, a .420 on-base percentage and a .617 slugging percentage, yielding a 1.037 OPS that translates to a 170 OPS+. His bWAR total is 89.1, while his fWAR is 87.8. My goodness.
A whiff is definitely not how Pujols wants to go out, but a three-run lead with six outs to go lessens the blow. Of course, as last night showed, that type of lead is anything but comfortable.
Berkman looks a bit like Babe Ruth gingerly running down the line on his spindly legs, but it works on that play, as he beats out a 70-foot grounder that Andrus has to charge a mile to get.
I think Mike Adams just wanted to see how dirty he could get Berkman's jersey with all those throws to first. Maybe if he'd been paying less attention to the runner, he wouldn't have walked Freese.
Yady produces another insurance run with a liner up the middle. I'm not sure how Freese didn't take third as the ball got away, but I'll cut him some slack.
It's St. Louis' second unintentional sacrifice of the night, as Furcal's 3-1 chopper moves the runners up, but it's to no avail as Schumaker strikes out looking.
And why isn't Rzepczynski pitching to the lefty Hamilton? Oh, yeah, he was just throwing, not warming up, so Lance Lynn is pitching. But it works, as Hamilton grounds to second.
Three up, three down, and three more to go!
Mike Gonzalez appears to pull something throwing a pitch, so Alexi Ogando comes in, throws one pitch, and retires the side.
This leaves Pujols on deck, but the fans are cheering for something bigger than any single player now.
La Russa is getting everyone he can into the game now, changing defensive positioning for four players. And Jason Motte is throwing smoke.
Jon Jay gets to record a putout.
And Daniel Descalso gets an assist.
A fly to left, and that's the ballgame!
The St. Louis Cardinals, in one of the most improbable, unbelievable runs of all time, are the World Series champions!!!
Freese sets a record with 21 postseason RBI and wins the World Series MVP trophy to go along with his NLCS MVP award, the sixth time that has happened. The St. Louis area native has left an indelible mark on baseball's playoff record book.
From 10.5 games back on Aug. 25, to capturing the Wild Card on the regular season's final day. From a five-game defeat of the 102-win Philadelphia Phillies in the Division Series to a six-game victory over the 96-win Milwaukee Brewers in the NLCS. From one strike away from elimination—twice—in Game Six to a World Series title over the 96-win Texas Rangers.
In 2011, the Cardinals win the franchise's 11th title. Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals and all their fans.
Greg Simons finally, sadly has conceded that he won't have an MLB playing career. However, in his dreams, he's still the second coming of Ozzie Smith. Please don't wake him up, though you can e-mail him at gregbsimons AT yahoo DOT com.