MLB Playoffs - Cardinals Take Game 3, Rangers Win In Extras
Here are some things you may have missed in Wednesday’s League Championship Series action.
Texas Rangers 7, Detroit Tigers 3 (11 Innings) - Texas up 3-1
CRUZ-IN TO VICTORY - Coming off a walk-off grand slam in Game 2, Nelson Cruz hit a three-run home run in extra innings to help lift the Rangers to victory, in the process becoming the first player in MLB history with two extra inning home runs in the same postseason series. It has been a tale of two series for Cruz, who went a mere 1-15 against Tampa Bay. Cruz leads the Rangers in the ALCS with four homers and nine runs batted in.
As important as Cruz’s bat has been for the Rangers, they wouldn't have had a chance to win this game without his arm. The Tigers were threatening to take the lead in the eighth and had men on first and third with one out when Delmon Young lifted a ball to right field. Though it looked deep enough to score Miguel Cabrera, Cruz delivered a perfect throw to home plate, retiring Cabrera and preserving the tie game.
NAPOLI DELIVERS - Right before Cruz’s blast gave the Rangers insurance, Texas catcher Mike Napoli hit a clutch single to center field that scored Josh Hamilton and put the Rangers ahead.
The catcher also played a pivotal part in the eighth inning play that saw Cabrera retired at the plate. Napoli held on to the throw even after the hulking 6-foot-4-inch, 240-pound Cabrera barreled into him.
Later in the inning, Rick Porcello threw the ball away on a pickoff attempt to first base. After advancing to second on the play, Elvis Andrus scored on a single by Michael Young, putting the Rangers ahead.
BULLPEN BRAVADO - The Rangers bullpen put together another outstanding performance, allowing only one run on two hits in six innings, keeping that unit's ERA under one for the series.
GAME OF INGES - One bright spot for the Tigers was the play of Brandon Inge, who struggled mightily in the regular season and hit only .197. However, Inge put together a 2-for-4 game, including a game- tying home run in the seventh inning, his first all year against a right-handed pitcher.
VERLANDER OR NEVER- Needing to won three games in a row, the Tigers have their backs against the wall. They are expected to have their ace, Justin Verlander, on the mound in Game 5. After a memorable regular season, Verlander has struggled in the postseason, posting a 5.54 ERA in his first three starts. If this series is to return to Texas, Verlander must pitch well.
QUOTE OF THE GAME - "It’s one of the best baseball games I’ve ever been involved in. Just didn’t come out the right way." - Detroit Manager Jim Leyland
St. Louis Cardinals 4, Milwaukee Brewers 3 - St. Louis up 2-1
FEELS LIKE THE FIRST - The Cards collected all four of their runs in the first inning off Brewers starter Yovani Gallardo. Let's just give the sequence: Rafael Furcal single, Jon Jay RBI double, Albert Pujols RBI double, Matt Holliday walk, Lance Berkman walk, Yadier Molina double play (Pujols scores), Ryan Freese RBI double. Gallardo settled in after a rough beginning, scattering four Cardinals hits in innings two through five.
THE KOTSAY FACTOR - Milwaukee's Mark Kotsay made his first start of the 2011 postseason on Wednesday, hitting second and playing center in place of the struggling Nyjer Morgan (3-for-21, .440 OPS). Kotsay certainly made his presence known. In the first, he was doubled off by Jon Jay's throw to second base after he strayed too far on a fly ball to center. The veteran made up for it, though, by homering in the third to put the Brewers within a run.
SECRET SAUCE - Cardinals closer Jason Motte was dynamite for St. Louis in the regular season (2.25 ERA, 0.96 WHIP in 68 inning), so why wouldn't he be the same in October? The righty has been nearly perfect in the playoffs, tossing 5 2/3 scoreless innings, striking out six and allowing only one baserunner. He got the four-out save for the Cards (and hit 99 mph) on Wednesday, including strikeouts of Rickie Weeks, Yuniesky Betancourt and Casey McGehee.
PUJOLS UPDATE - Yep, Albert Pujols is still good at hitting baseballs. He went 2-for-2 tonight with a single and a double, and was intentionally walked twice. That brings his 2011 postseason numbers up to 14-for-31 with seven doubles, and a ridiculous 1.288 OPS.
FREESE FRAME - Would anyone have guessed that the Cardinals' Ryan Freese would be leading all playoff hitters in runs batted in? With his RBI double in the first, he has 11 this postseason.
A SPECIAL COMMENT - I really hate that "Beast Mode" sign the players put up every time they do something of impact. I am a Pirates fan, so I'm naturally predisposed to dislike the Brewers, but it just irks me. Now get off my lawn and read Grant Brisbee's hilarious piece over at SB Nation on how other teams can implement their own celebration.
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