ST. LOUIS – Down to their last three outs and facing another serious World Series deficit, the Texas Rangers did some rallying of their own.
Lost at the plate, Josh Hamilton and the Texas hitters suddenly found their strokes. They scraped together two runs in the ninth inning against the vaunted St. Louis Cardinals bullpen and escaped with a 2-1 win Thursday night that evened the Series at 1-all.
“It wasn’t a Series-saving rally, but it was huge,” said Ian Kinsler, whose single and safe-by-inches steal set up the comeback.
Hamilton and Michael Young did their jobs, hitting consecutive sacrifice flies that completed the comeback.
A year after they dropped the first two games at San Francisco and got wiped out in the World Series, the Rangers kept things interesting – for themselves, and for baseball fans all over yearning for some October drama.
“It was almost a great story for us, turned out to be a greater one for them,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
Now, after a travel day, Texas will host Game 3 on Saturday night. Matt Harrison is set to start for the Rangers against Kyle Lohse.
“It would have been hard,” Hamilton said of possibly facing being 0-2. “We would have been comfortable going back to our place, having three games. They’re just like we are, never say die, till the last out is made. It makes it fun.”
Up until the ninth, Hamilton and the Texas boppers were in serious danger. They chased pitches that bounced, broke their bats and seemed totally overmatched.
In a city excited by a Rally Squirrel, it was Groundhog Day – almost.
For the second straight night, Cardinals pinch-hitter Allen Craig greeted reliever Alexi Ogando with a go-ahead single. This time, Craig did it the seventh. In Game 1, his hit in the sixth sent the Cards to a 3-2 win.
The Rangers have not lost two straight games since Aug. 23-25. They sure waited a while to save themselves on this night that began as duel between starters Colby Lewis and the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia. Texas gained a split in St. Louis despite hitting a combined .186.
Kinsler opened the ninth with a bloop single against closer Jason Motte. Next up was Elvis Andrus, whose tremendous play at shortstop kept the game scoreless much earlier. Kinsler, though, wasn’t about to wait – he stole second, sliding in just ahead of three-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina’s excellent throw.
“My hand just barely got in there,” Kinsler said. “It took everything I had.”
Andrus followed with a single to center, sending Kinsler to third. And when the throw from center fielder Jon Jay eluded first baseman Albert Pujols and went to catcher Yadier Molina, Andrus scampered to second.
More than an hour after the game, the three official scorers gave Pujols an error.
“I should have made a better throw right there. It was the big part of the game,” Jay said. “It was off-line a little bit.
“It just tailed a little bit. I mean, it was inches. So it was just the way it went today,” he said.
La Russa, who’s been making all the right moves this October, brought in lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. But the slumping slugger, slowed throughout the postseason by a groin injury, hit a solid fly ball that scored Kinsler and moved Andrus to third.
La Russa went to his bullpen again, bringing in Lance Lynn to face Young. The steady Texas veteran lofted a fly ball that sent Andrus scampering home.
“I don’t care how they come. We just needed to score some runs,” Young said. “In that situation, sacrifice flies are what we needed. Josh’s job was to get the guy to third and my job was to get him in. Just team baseball. Something we’ve done all season long.”
Then it was Rangers manager Ron Washington’s turn. He signaled for closer Neftali Feliz, who worked around a leadoff walk to earn the save.
“Classic ninth inning,” La Russa said.
The sellout crowd at Busch Stadium fell silent as Rafael Furcal flied out to end it. Moments earlier, the fans gave Pujols a big cheer in what could have been his final at-bat at home before he heads into free agency. Pujols flied out to the wall, leaving him 0 for 6 in the Series.
E—Kinsler (1). LOB—Texas 3, St. Louis 9. 2B—Furcal (1). RBIs—J.Hamilton (1), Mi.Young (1), Craig (2). SB—Kinsler (1). SF—J.Hamilton, Mi.Young. RLISP—Texas 1, St. Louis 4. GIDP—Andrus, Holliday. DP—Texas 1, St. Louis 1.
|M.Adams W, 1-0||1||1||0||0||1||0||0.00|
|Salas H, 2||1/3||0||0||0||0||1||0.00|
IR-S—Ogando 2-1, Rhodes 2-1, Lynn 1-1. T—3:04. A—47,288 (43,975).