Pitcher Allen Craig showed his merits with bat and ball to get the St. Louis Cardinals off to a winning start in the 107th World Series Wednesday against Texas Rangers.
Righthander Chris Carpenter fanned four batters in six strong innings and outfielder Craig delivered a timely winning run as St. Louis edged past Texas 3-2 in game one of the best-of-seven series.
“You love to get off to a start like that,” said Cardinals’ infielder David Freese. “There’s three more (wins) that we got to grab but this is important because it puts us in a good position.”
The 27-year-old Craig, hitting for Carpenter, sliced an RBI single off Rangers relief pitcher Alexi Ogando in the bottom of the sixth for the Cardinals, who are seeking the 11th World Series title in the history of the franchise.
Texas outfielder Nelson Cruz slid for Craig’s blooper but the ball bounced off Cruz’s leg allowing Freese to score on a cold, damp evening in front of a sold-out crowed of 46,406 at Busch Stadium.
Both teams carved out their reputations throughout the 2011 post-season with explosive offences but there was just one home run hit in game one.
“We don’t want to get into gorilla ball with these guys,” said the Cardinals’ Lance Berkman. “I feel like we have to win the National League style games. This was a game with good pitching, good defence and timely hitting.”
Cardinals starting pitcher Carpenter tossed six innings, giving up five hits, striking out four batters and walking just one. He also got plenty of help Wednesday from the bullpen which has been one of the Cardinals biggest assets in the post-season.
Relief pitcher Jason Motte recorded the final out, getting Cruz to fly out to left-centre field to end a game.
The Cardinals are looking for their second championship in six seasons and their 10 World Series titles are the second most behind the New York Yankees’ 27.
By the time the game started temperatures in downtown St. Louis had dipped to a chilly nine degrees Celsius (49 F) with a stiff breeze adding to the wind-chill.
Rain that had been falling for most of the day stopped by the time the first pitch was thrown but returned in the later innings as temperatures continued to fall over the course of the game, dropping as low as seven Celsius.
After a scoreless first three innings, the Cardinals broke through for the first runs of the 2011 World Series as outfielder Berkman belted a two-run single into short rightfield to give St. Louis a 2-0 lead in the bottom of the fourth.
Berkman’s chopper down the first-base line scored Albert Pujols from third base and Matt Holliday from second.
Pujols had reached first when he was hit in the foot by Rangers starting pitcher CJ Wilson to start the fourth inning and then Holliday doubled into the rightfield corner.
After pulling Carpenter, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa went to his bullpen which pitched three shutout innings. Five relief pitchers took the mound with Motte earning his fifth playoff save.
Rangers catcher Mike Napoli blasted a two-run home run deep into right field seats to tie the game 2-2 in the top of the fifth.
Napoli also hit into a inning-ending double play in the second.
“We didn’t give that game away tonight. We got beat,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “They had an opportunity to push a run across and the pinch hitter got it done.”
Rangers lefthander Wilson, who is a potential free agent at the end of the series, gave up three runs on four hits over 5 2/3 innings and walked six batters.
The Rangers are in their second consecutive World Series after being strangers to October success for the club’s first 49 years. The Rangers lost last year’s World Series in five games to San Francisco.
The last team to win the World Series one year after losing it was Oakland (1988-89).
This is the first time these two Major League Baseball clubs have faced each other in a World Series.
The Rangers and Cardinals have played just three games against each other in the history of the two franchises. In 2004, the Cardinals won two games of a three-game regular season series that was played in Dallas.