World Series Game 5 - Napoli Nails Cardinals 4-2
What did Napoli do for his team in Game 5? Just won it offensively and defensively, is all.
Things weren’t looking good for Texas in the bottom of the seventh. After a rough second inning for C.J. Wilson that saw St Louis’ Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday score off Ranger errors, the home team was down by a run.
Alexi Ogando was at the plate—not a big confidence booster for Texas fans, who watched the reliever give up the winning hit in Game 1 and an Albert Pujols dinger in Game 3.
The stadium held its collective breath as Pujols stepped up to bat, with Allen Craig at first.
Then, in one of the more inexplicable decisions this series, Craig took off for second. Napoli wasn’t fooled for a second. No sooner had Ogando’s fastball grazed his glove than the catcher flung to ball to second, to catch Craig for the out.
The momentum took a noticeable shift.
Pujols was walked and reached third on a Matt Holliday single, but David Freese’s subsequent fly ball to center would leave the 10th runner in scoring position stranded that inning (all told, the Cardinals stranded 11 RISP).
Michael Young led off the bottom of the eighth with a double into the gap. Nelson Cruz and David Murphy both reached base, loading it up for Texas.
From then on, it was all Napoli.
The right-handed batter smacked one deep into right off the glove of the hapless Marc Rzepczynski. Just like that, the score was 4-2. Ranger fans waved their towels like the stadium was on fire.
Cardinal relievers managed to fend off the rest of the Texas bats that inning, but Napoli wasn’t finished with his showcase.
Top of ninth, and the Rangers found themselves in a familiar situation—Pujols up to bat with Craig on first, Napoli behind the bag. When Craig—somewhat predictably this time—made a run for it on what looked like a clear strike, Napoli didn’t miss a beat.
The final out of the game was his, too. Napoli ran up the line to deliver a lightly tapped Berkman ball to Mitch Moreland at first, and Game 5 belonged to the Rangers.
“I was just trying to get something into the outfield,” Napoli said of his game-winning RBI in a post game interview with FOX Sports. He was also “just trying to get an out” on both of his remarkable defensive plays.
It isn’t just tonight that the catcher has humbly excelled. Napoli hit .320 with 30 home runs during the regular season, and has been responsible for 14 RBI during the playoffs. Yes, that’s almost one third of the 44 total runs Texas has scored this postseason.
Now, the Rangers are one win away from the prize eluded them last year, and for that matter, since they became a team exactly 50 years ago.
It won’t be a gimme.
The Cardinals batters looked sharp, unlike the Rangers’ error-ridden infield. Were it not for Napoli’s skill on both sides of the ball, this game could quite easily have gone a different way.
Wednesday’s Game 5 matchup will see Colby Lewis (1-1 with a 2.95 ERA this postseason) take the mound against Jaime Garcia (0-2, 3.97).
The Cardinals are counting on Albert Pujols to have another Game 3 type performance, where he went 5-6 with four runs. Pujols fared well in his one prior at-bat against Lewis, but the righty has largely shutout the rest of the St. Louis bats.
Napoli, meanwhile, has been effortlessly electric this entire postseason, and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down.
After all, he’s just trying to win.
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