Guts, Not Gaffes Give Texas an Opportunity for the Kill Shot: Rangers-St. Louis Cardinals World Series Game 6 Preview and Open Thread

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Napoli_GWdoubleclapping_Rangers_facebook.jpg
Texas Rangers
Mike Napoli celebrates his game-winning double in the eighth inning of Game 5.
The intellect of one of the best managers and greatest players in baseball history short-circuited at the worst possible times for the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series, but Monday night's match-up wasn't won or lost on brain farts by Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols.

In a game the Texas Rangers had to win to avoid needing victories in Games 6 and 7 on the road to claim their first championship in franchise history, the guts of C.J. Wilson and Ron Washington and bat of Mike Napoli prevailed.

Wilson was hardly efficient or dominating in what I expect to be his last start in a Rangers uniform, but his ability to minimize the damage in the second inning and wiggle out of third- and fifth-inning jams kept Texas alive.

As I watched the top of the second inning unfold from the third deck in right field at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington, I couldn't have imagined myself giving Wilson credit for much of anything upon his eventual exit from the game.

It sure looked like the beginning of yet another postseason meltdown by the team's supposed ace, as Wilson walked Matt Holliday (hitting only .167 in the series) and Lance Berkman after retiring the Cards in order to begin the game.

With NLCS MVP David Freese at the plate, Wilson threw a 91-mph fastball on the inside part of the plate that Freese turned into a harmless fly ball to Nelson Cruz. But a single to left field by Yadier Molina brought Holliday home to give St. Louis an early 1-0 lead, and then the Rangers defense started looking like it was falling apart too.

Molina's slow roller to David Murphy slipped past his glove, and he dropped the ball after retrieving it. The error enabled Berkman to take third base, but Molina, who's never been mistaken for Elvis Andrus on the base paths, didn't advance to second.

The once frenzied crowd became silent as everyone braced for the worst.

Light-hitting Skip Schumaker followed with an easy grounder down the first-base line to Mitch Moreland, but the ball deflected off the top of his glove and fell in front of him. Had Moreland fielded the ball cleanly and thrown to second, there's no question it would have been a double play to end the inning. At the very least, he would have nailed Berkman heading home, but the error (although technically not ruled one) allowed Berkman to score and extended the lead to 2-0.

Murphy stopped the bleeding and began his path to redemption by making a diving catch on a liner by Nick Punto to end the inning, but Wilson was at it again in the top of the third.

Rafael Furcal bunted to Wilson, who could have had the out at first with a good throw, but his toss bounced in front of Moreland, and Furcal advanced to second on the error (although the bunt itself was ruled a base hit). A sacrifice bunt by Allen Craig moved Furcal to third, and then Pujols was intentionally walked for the first of three times, putting runners at the corners with one out for the cleanup hitter.

Wash, who has been hesitant in the postseason to be proactive with his bullpen, wisely had Scott Feldman warming up, but he wouldn't be needed, at least not at this point in the game. After Wilson threw nine pitches to Holliday, he grounded a 3-2 Wilson offering into a double play to Adrian Beltre.

I took a really deep breath, and it felt like most of the stadium did too. Whew. Tragedy avoided -- for now.

Moreland neutralized his early gaffe with a 446-foot blast -- the longest World Series homer since MLB began tracking them in 2006 -- in the bottom half of the third to cut the lead to 2-1, but Wilson found himself right back into trouble in the top of the fifth.

This is when I was absolutely convinced Wilson's wheels were about to fly off.

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Photo by Sam Merten
Albert Pujols warms up before Game 5.
He began by allowing a single to Schumaker -- a career .210 hitter against left-handers. Not a good way to start an inning. Then he issued a four-pitch walk to the ninth-place hitter, Punto. Really not a good way to start an inning. Furcal predictably sacrificed them to second and third base, and Pujols headed to the dish. Using more smarts than guts this time, Wash walked him intentionally again.

Wilson got ahead of Holliday 1-2, but he threw two out of the strike zone to make the count full. Holliday undoubtedly had the upper hand, yet somehow, someway Wilson induced another double play to end the threat.

Unbelievable. Two DPs on full counts from a five-time All-Star and .315 hitter with runners on first and third. That's some ballsy pitching right there to get outta both of those situations without allowing a run.

Had I known before the game that Wilson would allow nine base runners (four hits and five walks) and throw 108 pitches in 5 1/3 innings, I would have guessed the Cardinals would put at least four runs on the board, if not more. But Wilson made pitches when he had to, and Wash refused to let Pujols beat him. Wilson managed to give up just one earned run, with an unearned run resulting from miscues by Murphy and Moreland. No Rangers fan could have reasonably asked for much more from Wilson given his postseason history.

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765 comments
Haretip
Haretip

IF YOU OR SOMEONE YOU KNOW HAS SUFFERED A HEART ATTACK, STROKE OR OTHER SERIOUS MEDICAL CONDITION OR IMPAIRMENT FROM GAME 6 OF THE WORLD SERIES, CALL THE TEXAS HAMMER, JIM ADLER AND GET THE COMPENSATION THAT YOU DESERVE!!! CLASS ACTION SUIT FORMING TODAY!

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I read this in the Boston Globe this morning....fitting:

Capping the collapse, Lowe allowed Freese's leadoff homer the landed halfway up the center-field grass in the 11th inning, giving the Cardinals an incredible 10-9 victory Thursday in one of baseball's greatest meltdowns."That," Feldman said, "was definitely up there as one of the craziest games I've seen."Bill Buckner made only one error as the Boston Red Sox wasted a two-run lead in the 10th inning in Game 6 in 1986.

DuckDuckGoose
DuckDuckGoose

I will watch Game 7, dammit.  It cannot be worse than Game 6 and it has a 50-50 chance of being the best Rangers game ever.

Yeah, 50-50.  Both teams hurting, showing their nerves and exposing their late in the season rag-armed pitching staffs... but Harrison, CJ, Holland (sure, he pitched last night, but why not?), and some combination of bull pen guys. 

It can happen. Will it? maybe

Potrzebie Fonebone
Potrzebie Fonebone

I'm not sure if I will watch the game tonight. I don't know if I can sit through another 6th inning where Wash puts in Ogando to pitch to the heart of the Cardinals order, followed by an  8th when he pulls a pitcher who has just retired 4 in a row to put in Oliver because a lefty is coming to the plate, followed by the 9th where Wash intentionally walks someone who hasn't hit in a week so he can pitch to a guy who only needs a single to hit for the cycle. I seriously don't know if its worth it. I love Wash for a lot of reasons, but a big game manager he is decidedly not.

suck it up
suck it up

so.. so you think you can tell? heaven from hell... but seriously folks, who already ordered their 2011 world series autographed baseball from nolan? tsk, tsk..

smijca
smijca

Can Matt Harrison pull a Holland now that the final game of WS rests on his shoulders?

smijca
smijca

Well, Rangers are seeming more calm than I would have expected. No hang dog expressions. We'll see how that plays out tomorrow. Damn that rally squirrel! Must've been hiding in a dark corner somewhere. 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Holland: "Tomorrow's a new day, dude." No doubt.

Sidewalkastronomer
Sidewalkastronomer

This game was so nerve racking I had to take my blood pressure meds and almost had a panic attack. It seem like our pitchers didn't know where the strike zone was. Way too many balls thrown. We even gave away a point with that walk with the bases loaded. I fear for my health if I watch game 7. My son used to think baseball was boring, not anymore.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Michael Young very calm in an interview with Fox -- a good sign.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Nappy's ankle is OK, but Cruz has a strained right groin. Maybe Nellie and Josh can combine for one healthy groin.

smijca
smijca

R.I.P. Ann Short, devoted Rangers fan until the end. Lost her battle with cancer at the age of 76. Hope the Rangers can pull together a win for her tomorrow. Hope she's up in heaven chuckling at how we're all spazzing because she knows what we don't. 

primi timpano
primi timpano

I made my lucky completely homemade Texas chili.  It never failed me until tonight.  I'm going to drink till I puke.

jfpo
jfpo

The Fox4 post game show is one long E-brake. I think Eagar just said "anus."

Jason
Jason

Sam. I enjoy your write-ups. Just want to make sure i say that. They really do go beyond words. You put your heart in them. Thanks for that. I look forward to the, every game. They help a novice sports fan know what to look for.

Now, what I came here to write about. I enjoy reading these threads after the game is over,(Disqus sucks for this forum to follow during a game, especially when you spend half of it at a bar),but it's going to kill me to read over 700 comments right now... Thanks, though!

smijca
smijca

So...same time same place tonight? C'mon, boys. We've got to brush this off and just hope for the best tomorrow. Nobody expected Cards to go without a fight. I for one am aiming to see if our Rangers can pull a win out of their butts tomorrow. It's backs against the wall for both teams tomorrow. Should be a hell of a game. C'mon, GROUP HUG! 

jfpo
jfpo

It's always good to blame Leppert.

smijca
smijca

On a positive note: Hamilton hit a home run. Hope Napoli didn't injure that ankle too bad, though. Hope Harrison is on his A game tomorrow. Hope the Rangers can produce hits early. In the end, I realize that I'm not so worried about the Rangers being so discouraged by tonight's loss that they f up tomorrow. No, I worry about Cardinals being so high on the win tonight that they just run over us tomorrow. 

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

I'm outta here. Can't believe that just effin' happened.

smijca
smijca

We were all so sure that this run would be like the Maverick's run for the 2011 title. Just weren't banking on it being more like the heartbreak that was during 2006. Ok, I'm exaggerating but damn, Rangers! DAMN!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

The scapegoat:

@TomLeppert Get the ginger ale ready! #worldserieschamps #Rangers

smijca
smijca

Although Rangers have not lost a game back to back since Aug 25th-ish (the pain is keeping me from remembering correct date) my heart says it would add insult to injury if the last game of the WS were the time when this streak is broken. Not trying to be Chicken Little but...man. 

jfpo
jfpo

Dammit, I've got Parks and Rec as well as other funny shit backed up on the DVR I was looking forward to watching tomorrow night. Now, against my better judgment, I'm going to go through this again.

smijca
smijca

I fear that our boys left it all out on the field tonight. I really, really do. 

GaryE
GaryE

Mark Lowe?  I would have forced Feliz to save the game in the 10th, figuring he wouldn't blow 2 saves.  Then the old school idiot once again brings in Esteban to pinch hit instead of Yorvit, but he should have never taken out Feldman for Lowe, who was good this year until he got hurt and was God-awful afterward.  Incredible.  He may inspire the players, but he makes really stupid moves.  And Nefti and Feldman gagged in the big spots before that.  Again, worst loss in DFW sports history, but will be fondly remembered if they can win tomorrow.  Will Cruz even play?

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

I'm callin' the lawyer that sends flowers.... the Texas Hammer scares me, and may give me ANOTHER heart attack.  I'm suing Nellie, because that play was the gaffe of the century.  That Billy Buckner like. 

Kergo 1 Spaceship
Kergo 1 Spaceship

If this doesn't happen, I'm taking my Jeff Burroughs and Lenny Randle posters down-FOREVER!

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

He doesn't need to pull a Holland, but something close would be nice with Carpenter likely to take the hill for St. Louis.

Wf5e
Wf5e

Sam, how do they come back from this?  Don't you think this franchise is cursed? 

suck it up
suck it up

as you should... sick karma, the lot. cards stealin' yo hardware'n'shit...how's the shoulder, josh? pipe's gonna make it feel much better....

primi timpano
primi timpano

Leppert is and has always been a douche bag tool.

Wf5e
Wf5e

This may go down in history like "The Catch".  A famous sports moment played over and over that breaks our heart every time we see it.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

I thought the same thing last night but later on MLB Harold Reynolds reported that he was in the right field corner when that play happened.  According to Reynolds, the hit was a missle and Cruz had no play.

primi_timpano
primi_timpano

So who is left in the ranger and cards bullpens?

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

They come back the same way they did after getting their asses handed to them in Game 3. If any team can come back from this, it's the Rangers. And, no, I don't think the franchise is cursed.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

This feels so much worse. That was just an NFC Championship. This was for everything.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Yup, whether Texas wins or loses tomorrow, this one ranks up there as one of the most memorable losses ever.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

On his fly out in the top of the 11th.

Sam_Merten
Sam_Merten

Worse than Game 3 for sure, an epic loss. But it shows what they're capable of.

Wf5e
Wf5e

I'm glad you have faith.  I hope it happens, but this is soooo much worse than Game 3 though. 

smijca
smijca

Feeling better now? Once the intial shock wears off you realize that we're still getting more baseball. Too bad about Cruz's sprained groin. Which of his plays was to blame for the injury? 

Wf5e
Wf5e

I still remember balling my eyes out as a 10 year old kid watching Dwight f'in Clark destroy my childhood.  I kind of feel that way right now.

Robert Wilonsky
Robert Wilonsky

I just said the same thing to my wife. I don't know if I can bear it. May take in a movie. Or hide in a dark crawl space.

Wf5e
Wf5e

I just cannot bear to watch this tomorrow night.  I will set the DVR and take a four hour drive somewhere or go to a library.  I think this is going to hurt worse than 2006.

Wf5e
Wf5e

How many catastrophic moments did we have tonight?  I just don't see how they can come back from this.  It has never been clearer to me that the Baseball Gods hate this franchise.

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