While anticlimactic after Game Six, the final game of the World Series capped off one of the most exciting postseasons in recent memory
That Game Seven of the 2011 World Series couldn't match the drama of Game Six was almost a given even before the first pitch was thrown. We don't talk about the finales of the 1975 or 1986 World Series in the same reverential tones as we do their penultimate contests, great though they may have been on their own merits. So unsurprisingly, we were not treated to a Jack Morris-level performance or an extra-inning walk-off win to complete the neat historical parallel provided by the Buck family’s "We'll see you tomorrow night!" calls following game-winning homers. Nonetheless, the first Game Seven in nine years required one more come-from-behind effort—down 2-0 before their starter had retired a single hitter—as well as heroics from some familiar names for the Cardinals to complete one of the most unlikely comebacks in baseball history en route to winning their 11th world championship via a 6-2 win over the Rangers.
If you tuned out when the Rangers led 7-5 in the ninth, you missed quite a finish
It was the best worst World Series game—or perhaps the worst best World Series game—I've ever seen. Four and a half hours, 11 innings, 42 players, 19 runs, 23 men left on base, six home runs, five errors, two final-strike comebacks, a handful of bad relief performances, some managerial howlers including a cardinal (not Cardinal) sin… and it all ended with the much-maligned Joe Buck giving a fitting nod to history by emulating one of his father's most famous calls. As David Freese's game-winning blast landed in the grass beyond the center field wall of Busch Stadium, Buck exclaimed, "We'll see you tomorrow night!" Game Six of the 2011 World Series will be remembered as a classic—a Game Six that can sit alongside those of 1975, 1986, and 1991, among maybe a couple others—as the Cardinals staved off elimination to beat the Rangers 10-9, forcing a Game Seven.
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A series of questionable moves, bloopers, and blown calls to the bullpen were pertinent in the outcome of Game Five.
Given not only his history but the clinic in bullpen management that Tony La Russa put on in the NLCS, it’s difficult to believe that he could wind up botching a situation as badly as he did in the eighth inning of Monday's Game Five of the World Series. But thanks to a miscommunication between the Cardinals' dugout and their bullpen, a manager who has spent his career chasing the platoon advantage ad nauseam was left with lefty Marc Rzepczynski facing righty Mike Napoli with the bases loaded and one out. Meanwhile, the pitcher he wanted to face the Rangers' best hitter at the game’s pivotal moment wasn't even warmed up. Napoli, whose three-run homer had broken the game open the night before, pounded a double off the right-center field wall, breaking a 2-2 tie and helping the Rangers take a 3-2 lead in the Series.
Albert Pujols makes history in the process of putting the Cardinals up 2-1.
"When you have the bat in your hand, you can always change the story," said Reggie Jackson years ago. Mired in the controversy regarding a post-Game Two no-show following his ninth-inning relay flub, Albert Pujols changed the story on Saturday night, becoming just the third player ever to hit three home runs in a World Series game and collecting five hits en route to a Series-record 14 total bases. Before hitting his first home run, Pujols had already collected two hits while helping the Cardinals build an 8-6 lead; his three-run, sixth-inning homer off Alexi Ogando broke the game open en route to a 16-7 rout and a 2-1 Series lead. The Cardinals' 16 runs tied the 2002 Giants and 1960 Yankees for the second-highest single-game total in Series history.
After seeing poor starting pitching in both Championship Series, the World Series began with relatively strong starting performances.
After two League Championship Series full of slugfests, slopfests, and short starts—the four teams scored 5.5 runs per game while their starters averaged 4.8 innings per turn—the opener of the 2011 World Series between the Rangers and the Cardinals gave us a tight, low-scoring ballgame with solid-to-good starting pitching. True to LCS form, both managers emptied their bullpens with mostly-effective processions, but the Cardinals' bench and relief corps got the upper hand on two key plays, one of them a pinch-hit single by Allen Craig that Nelson Cruz almost caught, scoring the decisive run, the other an awful call that cost the Rangers a ninth-inning out. Behind those, and a few big hits from the middle of their lineup, the Redbirds took Game One in chilly, 49-degree St. Louis, 3-2.
Wrapping up the Fall Classic with some quick hits about the Giants and Rangers.
The 2010 World Series is in the books with the Giants having won their first world championship since 1954, back when they called Upper Manhattan's Polo Grounds home and no major-league team played ball west of the Mississippi River or south of the Ohio River. While the series certainly provided a handful of memorable moments that shone the spotlight on deserving superstars, unlikely heroes, and freaks with ill-considered beards, this fall classic didn't exactly fall into the “classic” category. For the sixth time in the past seven years and the ninth time in a baker's dozen, the series was over before a Game Six could be played. The team that scored first won every game after Game One, and in fact not a single lead changed hands after the fifth inning in any game. While the match-up may have meant the world to the long-suffering fans of both the Giants and the Rangers (who'd never even won a playoff series before this fall), to those of us without a dog in the hunt, it was notable mostly as the last oasis of baseball for the next three-and-a-half months.
This year's World Series showcased the dominant Giants' pitching staff, but was it a real classic?
At some point during Derek Holland’s third batter faced in Game Two of the World Series, I realized that the level of play on display was not especially high. Holland had come into a relatively tight game—which the Rangers trailed by just two runs—and promptly doused the infield with gasoline. Theretofore entrusted to the right hand of Darren O’Day, the bottom of the eighth had gone like this: K, K, 1B. Holland, called upon by Ron Washington to record a solitary out against a lefty—the one thing you ought to be able to count on in a lefty reliever—walked Nate Schierholtz on four pitches. Then he walked Cody Ross on four pitches. Then Aubrey Huff on five.
There is celebration in San Francisco, while the Rangers are left to continue the hunt for their first world championship.
Fandom of the game itself provides a few reliable rewards. If you love baseball, you can simultaneously enjoy the beauty of a well-pitched ballgame and a game-winning three-run shot. Indeed, both things represent classic features, the stuff of victory and of defeat, now and forever. We all inevitably happen upon other elements, of course, and sample and promote them as a matter of discretion: bullpen hyper-specialization, little ball, the speed game, even the virtual oxymoronics of "productive outs." But the mechanics of the game reward the same things now that it did five years ago or 50: great starting pitching and three-run homers.
Tim Linceum tries to clinch the title for the Giants while Cliff Lee tries to keep the Rangers alive in a matchup of No. 1 starters.
Cliff Lee: 3.18 ERA, 3.03 SIERA Lee looked like he might be on his way to another playoff gem through the first two innings of Game One of the World Series against the Giants, but things immediately soured. He gave up seven runs (six earned) en route to a shortened 4 2/3-innings start. He allowed eight hits, including five doubles. Of course, Lee’s peripherals from Game One look like a patented Cliftonian performance: seven strikeouts, one walk. This is where the philosophy of DIPS Theory and metrics like SIERA face a real challenge, because the Saber Orthodoxy would declare that Lee was unlucky in Game One and leave it at that. They would say that pitchers do not exert much control over balls in play, and the fact that he allowed 15 batted balls and eight went for hits would be an indication that he had bad luck. Well… he certainly was not receiving any good luck.
Pitching has helped to carry the Giants to the brink of their first world championship since moving west.
In yesterday's space, I speculated about Game Four being more of a pitcher's duel than people anticipated. The Rangers certainly gave it a solid shot at making it so. If you had suggested beforehand that they would allow just two runs through the first six innings, we'd probably figure things had gone about as well as they possibly might in a Tommy Hunter start. Even down 2-0 doesn't sound so bad in the abstract.