With the World Series all evened up to a clean slate, tied at two games a-piece after Derek Holland's mustache took center stage in Game 4, the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers took to Game 5 with both of their aces on the hill.
Chris Carpenter lasted seven solid innings, surrendering just two runs on six hits with four strikeouts before reliever Octavio Dotel coughed up the eventual winning runs on a Mike Napoli two-run double in the eighth. Opposing pitcher C.J. Wilson tossed just over five innings with little control, walking five with two runs (one earned) on four hits. Four Rangers relievers combined for three hits to save the game and bring the series back to St. Louis with a one-game Texas lead after the 4-2 win.
It was a totally normal playoff baseball game up until the seventh inning. With Allen Craig on first base after a walk and Albert Pujols at the plate with one out, the Cardinals appeared to be on the brink of a tiebreaking rally. Apparently, Craig saw a hit-and-run sign, and took off on the very next pitch. This would have been super great for the Cards, except Pujols never swung at the high and outside ball. Oops. Craig was promptly thrown out on what ended up being ruled a caught stealing for the second out of the inning.
Pujols was then intentionally walked for a third consecutive time before Matt Holliday hit a single and Lance Berkman was intentionally passed to get to David Freese, who flied out to end the inning without scoring. Total failure.
It's a mystery who called the hit-and-run play that inning, but it's rather doubtful that Craig had the balls to make the call himself. However, neither Pujols, the bench, nor The Great Tony La Russa Himself will take responsibility for the botch. The most genius skipper of all time had this to say post-game:
“It was just a mix-up. On our team nobody gets thrown under the bus, so it was a mix-up."
Furthermore, there was a bit of miscommunication in the bottom of the eighth between La Russa and bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist. With the game on the line once again, the Cardinals found themselves in a less-than-favorable matchup between left-handed reliever Mark Rzepczynski and right-handed slugger Napoli with one out and the bases loaded. Obviously, this resulted in the game-winning double.
What La Russa apparently told Lilliquist was to have Rzepczynski and closer Jason Motte warming up. When Tony saw that Motte was nowhere to be found, he phoned the pen again, to ask Motte to get his ass off the bench and get loose. Lilliquist heard "Lance Lynn" rather than "Jason Motte" -- an honest mistake if you're completely deaf. He blamed the ballpark noise for the misunderstanding, which lead to them blowing Game 5. Small blunder.
Game 6 is all set for Wednesday night at Busch Stadium with Colby Lewis on the mound against Jaime Garcia at 8:05pm ET on FOX. The last time the Cards won both Games 6 and 7 of a World Series was back in 1982 against the Milwaukee Brewers. But get this: they also came back from a 3-2 deficit in 1946 against Boston, 1934 against Detroit and 1926 against the New York Yankees. Meanwhile, the Rangers have never won a Championship, with their only other Fall Classic appearance coming last season when they blew it against the San Francisco Giants.
P.S. My apologies for the lack of content on BLB so far this week. We have the Packers-Vikings game and a long, un-swift recovery (in which I've done literally nothing but breathe) to thank for that. I'm lucky to be alive.
[Jeff Passan at Yahoo! Sports]