Texas Rangers left it late to to tie the World series at a game apiece, leaving it until the ninth inning to come from behind and beat St. Louis Cardinals 2-1.
Michael Young combined with Josh Hamilton to hit back-to-back sacrifice flies in the top of the ninth on Thursday for the Rangers, who rebounded from a game one loss to the Cardinals the night before.
Starting pitcher Colby Lewis held off the Cardinals explosive offence for 6 2/3 innings and shortstop Elvis Andrus turned a couple of clutch defensive plays early in the game for Texas, who haven’t lost consecutive contests since late August. But they didn’t get their bats going until late in game two in front of a crowd of 46,606 at Busch Stadium.
“I think you have to give credit to the pitching out there tonight,” said Texas manager Ron Washington. “You just have to keep grinding and good things started to happen for us.”
The best-of-seven series now shifts to Dallas, Texas, for the next three games with game three set for Saturday.
Thursday’s contest started as a duel between Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia and the Rangers’ Lewis before St. Louis pinch hitter Allen Craig broke open the scoreless game by driving in another go-ahead run.
“We had a lot of good at-bats,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “They showed in the ninth inning they can play the game correctly to make two guys come around and score.”
For the second night in a row, Craig sliced an Alexi Ogando pitch to right field, his RBI single in the bottom of the seventh giving St. Louis a 1-0 lead.
But the Rangers didn’t give up, especially Young, who turned 35 on Wednesday, and a hobbled Hamilton, who is playing with an injured groin. Young delivered the eventual winning run with his sacrifice to centre field that scored Andrus.
Hamilton had belted a sacrifice fly moments earlier to right field that plated lead off batter Ian Kinsler to knot the score at 1-1.
Hamilton said earlier that his strained groin is so troublesome that if it wasn’t the World Series he probably wouldn’t be playing.
“I am trying not to do too much,” Hamilton said. “Just reacting instead of trying to make it happen. That’s a good thing sometimes.”
The game was scoreless through three innings for the second night in a row thanks to some brilliant defence by the Rangers. In the bottom of the fourth Andrus worked some magic with his glove, grabbing a sharply hit ball on the run and then back-handing it to Kinsler for an out.
Andrus made another superb defensive play to end the fifth frame, with a diving stop then a similar flip pass out of his glove to Kinsler who had raced over to get his foot on the bag just in time to beat a sliding Cardinals baserunner Garcia.
“I mean, the play was ridiculous,” Kinsler said of Andrus’ diving stop and backhand throw. “It was one of the best I have ever seen. Glove flip was right on the money.”
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).
The Cardinals appeared to be headed to a 2-0 series lead after finally grabbing the advantage, but the Rangers bullpen kept their explosive offence at bay.
“They did some good classic baseball stuff,” La Russa said of the Rangers.
Garcia tossed seven scoreless innings for the Cardinals, becoming the first Mexican-born pitcher to appear in a World Series in 30 years.
He is the first since Los Angeles Dodgers Fernando Valenzuela started game three of the MLB championship series against the New York Yankees in 1981.