Rangers Head Home With Series Even

For those who fell asleep after the eighth inning, the Cardinals are not heading to Texas with a 2-0 series lead. The Rangers managed just three hits through seven innings before mounting a ninth-inning comeback in a rather unusual manner.

Ian Kinsler singled to open the frame and subsequently stole second base. The play was extremely close, but Kinsler’s hand appeared to touch the base a split second before the tag was applied. In real time, however, the quick tag after a tremendous throw looked to have gotten Kinsler. Kudos to the umpires for getting the call right in spite of the dramatic tag designed to obscure their perception of the play.

Elvis Andrus lined a single to center, sending Kinsler to third. Andrus advanced to second on a missed cutoff/missed catch error, putting runners at second and third with nobody out. The previously lifeless Rangers had a pulse, and with Josh Hamilton, Michael Young and Adrian Beltre due up, odds were slim that the Cardinals would escape the frame sans-damage.

While Hamilton and Young didn’t exactly plate runners in a sexy way, their consecutive sacrifice flies got the job done. The Rangers took a 2-1 lead and turned the ball over to Neftali Feliz. After walking leadoff man Yadier Molina — walking the first batter is never a good omen — he struck Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker out and retired Rafael Furcal on a flyball to right.

In a matter of moments the Rangers turned the course of the series. Though three straight games in Texas certainly gave them a shot if down 2-0, taking home field advantage from the Cardinals and then heading back to Texas is a much sweeter feeling.

While the phantom foul ball and odd usage of Esteban German were the Game One storylines, the Rangers baserunning in the ninth inning of Game Two was headline-worthy. Kinsler blooped his way on, but had to time his jump perfectly to steal second. Molina is obviously the best fielding catcher in baseball and likely sports the strongest, most accurate arm. Jason Motte‘s non-traditional windup doesn’t allow much time for the runner to jump either. If Kinsler leaves an eighth of a second later, he’s out at second base.

While Andrus’s liner to center was a clear base hit, it was shallow enough for the Cards to nail him at home. Kinsler wisely held at third, but Andrus then took advantage of a lackadaisical play on the part of Albert Pujols. I’m not entirely sure what he was watching, but it sure appeared as if he wasn’t ready for Jon Jay‘s cutoff throw. Either that, or he expected the throw to go to third for some reason and was caught off-guard.

Pujols was rightly charged an error on the play, but Andrus still had to take advantage of the miscue. Many runners would fail to realize the error occurred until it’s too late to get a good jump. He was then able to advance to third on Hamilton’s sac fly on another heady play, putting him in position to score the go-ahead run. Andrus displayed the perfect amount of baserunning acumen in arguably the biggest game of his life.

Without Kinsler’s well-timed stolen base and Andrus’s heads-up baserunning, the Rangers have a harder time scoring the tying and go-ahead runs. That sounds straight out of the mouth of Captain Obvious, but baserunning like that simply isn’t seen everyday.

Some will say the Cardinals bullpen blew it, but realistically, the combination of Jason Motte, Arthur Rhodes and Lance Lynn did little incorrectly. Kinsler’s single was a perfectly placed bloopy popup that fell right out of Furcal’s reach, but was too close to Furcal for the surrounding outfielders to have a play. The Andrus liner was legitimately hard-hit, but after that the Rangers went flyout, flyout, groundout. It just so happened that two of those flyouts occurred with runners on third base.

The bullpen couldn’t prevent tremendous baserunning, a bloop hit, or the Pujols error. Really, the Cardinals bullpen trio made one joint mistake to Elvis Andrus, and that was it. It’s terribly difficult to fault Rhodes and Lynn for getting their batters out the wrong way when they were able to get batters out, period.

Games 3, 4 and 5 will take place in Texas from Saturday-Monday at 8:05 PM EST. On Saturday we’ll probably see Kyle Lohse oppose Matt Harrison in a battle of pitchers with eerily similar numbers. Both made 30 starts. Lohse was 14-8 while Harrison went 14-9. Both had 3.39 ERAs, both averaged 5.2 innings per start.

Their K/BB ratios were similar as were their ERA estimators. Harrison pitching in the AL gave him a WAR advantage, but their numbers side by side is pretty fun to look at. Sunday will likely pit Edwin Jackson against Derek Holland, with Monday serving as a Game One repeat of Carpenter-Wilson.

The World Series has been very interesting so far, with unusual storylines emerging as potential reasons for victory. Maybe in one of the weekend games we’ll have an old-fashioned ball-demolishing contest.




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Eric is an accountant and statistical analyst from Philadelphia. He also covers the Phillies at Phillies Nation and can be found here on Twitter.

32 Responses to “Rangers Head Home With Series Even”

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  1. JDanger says:

    Just about the best ninth inning you can ask for last night.

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  2. hk says:

    “Kinsler’s single was a perfectly placed bloopy popup that fell right out of Furcal’s reach, but was too close to Furcal for the surrounding outfielders to have a play.”

    When will announcers change the name of the “No Doubles Defense” to the “Increased Likelihood of Singles Defense”?

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    • Antonio Bananas says:

      lol, speaking of that sort of things, are there articles about that sort of defensive positioning? I know that sabermetically (simplified), one base in any way = good, off base in any way = bad, for an offense obviously. So if a team is sort of giving you a single and hoping that you don’t hit a double, which is less likely, I’d think that it helps you out.

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      • hk says:

        Yes, that’s my point. To make a football analogy, it sort of like the old comment about the prevent defense that all it does is prevent you from winning. I have the same feeling about guarding the line. By placing two defenders right on the line, you are effectively cutting their range in half and I’d be willing to bet guarding the line gives up many more bases than it saves.

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    • Will H. says:

      This should be studied. Excellent point.

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  3. Jose says:

    Pujols looks to me like he is hurt-injured near his left foot and is moving rather gingerly. Like Hamilton and his obvious issues with the groin injury, Pujols looks limited. Didn’t Pujols foul off a ball in that same area during game one?

    Anyway, the Cardinals should have switched assignments and had the Ponto cover the throw from the outfield leaving Pujols to cover 1B and not allow Elvis to take that big an advance off the unguarded 1B bag. Furcal to take the throw into 2B, if necessary. Poor execution by the Cardinals made the play possible.

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    • Chris R says:

      Easy to say now, but hard to do on the fly.
      It seemed to me that Pujols saw Kinsler’s big turn at third and was indecisive about whether to let the throw go through or cut it and throw behind Kinsler.

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      • David K says:

        It sure looked to me like when Pujols deflected the throw, the throw was on a path that would have taken the ball significantly off-line from where it was supposed to go. Pujols seemed to be lined up between the outfielder Jay and home plate pretty well, and had to go out of his way to field the ball. Even Jay himself stated afterwards that the throw was offline. I don’t think it’s fair to give all the blame to Pujols on this.

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  4. CircleChange11 says:

    the throw from the outfield leaving Pujols to cover 1B

    If the middle IF takes the cut, then the 1B literally “trails the runner”. If Pujols foot is injured the last thing you want is him shadowing Andrus.

    The play happened so quickly that a fast runner on 2B could not score on a single.

    I think you may be right that Pujols foot bothered him a bit and he didn;t get to the spot in time, or at least didn;t make the last step fast enough.

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  5. Bob Loblaw says:

    FWIW, the Rangers advance scouts were convinced after timing him that Motte is pretty slow to home plate. That’s why Kinsler was sent.

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  6. f says:

    I’m confused now. Do the rangers have momentum now? Did the cardinals lose it? Does momentum matter one iota in baseball?

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  7. B Schmidt says:

    Plenty of things could have been done in order to limit the opportunity for Andrus to advance to second, but can we really believe that had he held at first he wouldn’t have been running first pitch? Good chance he swipes 2B. Seems like a moot point, the timely hit by Andrus and execution to get the sac flys are the big factors here.

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    • hk says:

      It would probably have been tougher to steal 2nd off Rhodes, a LHP, than off Motte. He may have done it, but with a lefty on the hill and Molina behind the plate, it’s not a sure thing.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        IMO, if Rhodes is in the game Kinsler just goes on first move.

        What a lefty does well in the baserunning game is cause the runner to lean back to 1st. If Kinsler decides to just go on first move, he may steal second on a throw over to first.

        Yadi’s throw to second was amazing.

        We could always time “Motte to home” and “Rhodes to home” to see.

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  8. Ed says:

    Am I wrong in thinking that LaRussa blew it by pulling Motte too early in order to get the heralded “lefty-lefty” matchup? I think Motte’s overpowering stuff has a much better chance at stopping an injured Josh Hamilton than Arthur Rhodes with his slow junkballs. At worst, you limit the Rangers to only one run and take your chances in extra innings.

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    • hk says:

      Although Curt Schilling apparently agrees with you, a case can be made that LaRussa did the right thing. A healthy Hamilton had a 21.9% K% and a .347 wOBA vs. LHP’s and a 15.4% K% and a .377 wOBA vs. RHP’s. And, it’s not like the at bat produced a horrible result as Rhodes did retire him. Unfortunately for STL, Hamilton hit it well enough to get the run in and the fast runner to 3B. If LaRussa had left Motte in and Hamilton had hit a SF that also moved Andrus to third, the other half of the 2nd guessers would be saying he should have brought in a lefty to face Hamilton.

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  9. stratobill says:

    I agree with you about the Cardinal’s bullpen not deserving to be blamed for the Ranger’s 9th inning comeback. These kind of things happen all the time through no fault of the pitchers.

    But there’s a bullpen related issue that came up last night which I haven’t heard anyone mention yet, and that’s how carrying 8 relievers leaves the Cardinals with a very skimpy bench.

    In the bottom of the 9th, the slow-footed Yadier Molina led off with a walk. As Molina represented the potential tying run, Larusa went to his bench for a pinch-runner. But the best that he could come up with was backup catcher Gerald Laird. I have a hard time believing that a 31 year old backup catcher like Laird represented that much of an upgrade from Molina, but Larussa’s options were limited by the sparcity of position players on his bench.

    Would a legitimate base-stealing threat have changed the outcome? That’s impossible to say, but it’s certainly possible. It would of provided a distraction for pitcher Perez, it might have opened up holes in the Ranger defense, or it might have allowed the Cardinals to steal 2nd with no outs. Speed is what won the game for the Rangers last night. If the Cards had had a speed option in the 9th it might have changed the outcome in their favor.

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    • stratobill says:

      Oh, and I forgot to add that if Larussa carried 1 fewer pitcher on his roster he’d have had one more potential pinch-hitter and would of been
      able to replace Punto or Schumacher in the 9th inning.

      As you can tell, I’m no fan of carrying a bus-load of relievers on a roster!

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      • Jeff C. says:

        If LaRussa had carried 1 fewer pitcher on his roster, he wouldn’t be in the World Series at all right now.

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      • stratobill says:

        Jeff C said, “If LaRussa had carried 1 fewer pitcher on his roster, he wouldn’t be in the World Series at all right now.

        Oh really? Based on what? I don’t think it’s at all obvious that LaRussa and the Cardinals would not be in the W.S. had they carried one fewer relief pitcher. It’s entirely possible that LaRussa got to the World Series DESPITE carrying so many relievers, and not as a result of carrying so many relievers.

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  10. Jose says:

    I’m just saying that Tony should have taken into account that possible scenario BEFORE the play ever materialized. Pujols has been clearly limited by some left foot ailment; you can see how he runs to first and even exist the field as though he were stepping on eggs shells. That foul ball off the inner back part of his left foot sure hasn’t helped matters either. And he needn’t have trailed the runner, just stayed close enough to the bag to make Elvis Andrus respect a possible throw back to the bag. Punto could have easily taken the throw in from the outfield. When Andrus saw there was no cover on 1B he knew he could take a very wide turn around first base.

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  11. CircleChange11 says:

    TLR went from an absolute genius for leaving carpenter in for Game 5 in the LDS to just merely a genius for his bullpen usage and platoon in LCS, to still a genius for PH Allen Craig at the right time in G1 and 2, to just another idiot because his bullpen moves did not get StL out of a 2nd and 3rd with no out situation.

    I find it a bit disappointing that at a sabermetrivc analysis site there was more about run expectancy based on this situation, and perhaps looking at all similar outcomes over say the last 25 years to see just how many times a team got out of a situation like this AND how they did it.

    [1] The cardinals were likely to give up 2 runs that inning. The actual run expectancy may be 1.5.

    [2] TLR was going to take the blame for those runs regardless.

    The only way TLR is “still a frickin genius” is if StL gets extremely lucky and TEX makes 3 outs before they score those runs. If StL retakes the lead, then they will have “bailed out their manager”.

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    • hk says:

      Circle,

      I posted the following in the comments section of another website today:

      Re LaRussa, I think TLR gets too much credit when his teams win and too much blame when they lose. Whether you want to look at it in the big picture (winning with WC teams and losing with huge favorites) or the small picture (he was a genius for how he handled the bullpen in Game 1 and, according to Curt Schilling, his decision to pull Motte for Rhodes may have cost his team the series). To me, the job of the manager is to put his players in a reasonable position to succeed and as long as the manager does this, the players (plus luck and randomness) should get the lion’s share of the credit or blame for the results. For instance, to me, you can make a reasonable argument for and against replacing Motte with Rhodes…Motte has a higher K% vs. LHB’s, but Hamilton has a higher K% vs. LHP’s. LaRussa went with his gut, chose between two reasonable choices and the results didn’t work out in his favor.

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      • CircleChange11 says:

        LaRussa went with his gut, chose between two reasonable choices and the results didn’t work out in his favor.

        Whether TLR leaves Motte in or goes to a reliever, StL still most likely loses the lead.

        2nd and 3rd no outs is not a situation the defense usually escapes.

        If you IBB to load the bases, you can be assured that it’ll bite you in the ass and the pitcher will walk one of the next 3 guys. That’s not based on data, just my feeling of the “damned if you do, damned if ya don’t” situations.

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    • Will H. says:

      You are right here…

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  12. Jeff C. says:

    FOX and ESPN kept showing the stat about teams blowing a 1-0 lead in the 9th inning of a World Series game, but the best comparison to last night’s game, in terms of the kind of swing it represented in the Series, was Game 2 of the 1992 World Series, Toronto at Atlanta. Exact same situation: Home team won Game 1, took 1-run lead into 9th inning of Game 2, closer gives up 2 runs, and home team suffers agonizing loss and missed opportunity to grab a commanding lead that was oh so close the home fans could taste it. I remember it well: I was at the game in Atlanta 19 years ago. Most demoralizing loss I can ever remember. I’m rooting for Texas in this World Series, but I feel for the Cardinals fans right now.

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  13. Richie says:

    Really, if you’re not going to pinch-run Theriot in that 9th inning, why is he on the roster? If he could still hit decent, he’d be starting ahead of Punto. They wouldn’t have had to trade for Furcal. Running is the one and only thing he now does well as a ballplayer.

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  14. David K says:

    I think it just came down to, in that situation, if he PR for Molina with Theriot, if the game ends up tied, he will have been forced into using both of his last two players on the bench (since Laird would have to come in to catch). My theory is generally, when you’re losing in the 9th, you do what you can to get the game tied, and then worry about extra innings later. If Theriot significantly increases your chances of winning over Laird, then TLR should have bit the bullet and used up both guys. I guess his thinking was that he didn’t plan to have Theriot steal 2nd, so if Punto was successful at sacrificing, they had two shots to get either Laird or Theriot in from 2B, and the speed delta from 2nd to home wasn’t that large of a factor in TLR’s mind. I can see the argument both ways on this one.

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  15. CircleChange11 says:

    I think everyone was anticipating another “bullpen series” given the strength of both offenses.

    Otherwise Chambers is on the rostee for PR and defense.

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