Rhodes makes World Series debut, Cardinals win 3-2
After 20 years in the majors and 900 games on the mound, Arthur Rhodes finally got his first chance to pitch in the World Series.
He did his job, too. Brought in to face left-handed slugger Josh Hamilton, Rhodes retired last year's AL MVP on a lazy fly to center for the final out of the eighth inning, keeping the Cardinals ahead by a run.
St. Louis hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 1.
What a wild journey it was for Rhodes.
The 41-year-old lefty signed a $4.1 million, one-year contract before the season with the Rangers, of all teams. But they released him on Aug. 8 and he signed with St. Louis three days later.
Texas remained responsible for almost all of his salary this year. So the Rangers really paid for that out -- in more ways than one.
Neat trivia answer on TV: John Franco was the only pitcher to appear in more regular-season games (940) than Rhodes before reaching the World Series. Franco finally made it in 2000 with the New York Mets.
The chess match has begun, and the Cardinals grabbed a lead with the first big move.
With the score tied at 2 in the bottom of the sixth inning, David Freese doubled and went to third on a wild pitch by C.J. Wilson. Yadier Molina whiffed for the second out, and Wilson pitched around No. 8 batter Nick Punto, who walked.
That forced the hand of St. Louis manager Tony La Russa. He lifted ace Chris Carpenter for pinch-hitter Allen Craig and Texas went to the bullpen, bringing in right-hander Alexi Ogando, who has been outstanding during the postseason.
La Russa's move paid off. Craig hit a sinking liner toward the right field line that dropped in front of a sliding Nelson Cruz for an RBI single. Fortunately for the Rangers, the ball hit Cruz's foot and stayed in front of him, preventing another run from scoring.
St. Louis nearly broke it open, but Cruz ran down Rafael Furcal's drive to deep right-center, ending the inning.
The Cardinals led 3-2 in the seventh when the Rangers put two on. With David Murphy coming up, La Russa pulled Fernando Salas in favor of lefty Marc Rzepczynski. So the Rangers sent up pinch-hitter Craig Gentry, who struck out looking against Rzepczynski.
Pinch-hitter Esteban German then struck out in his first at-bat of the postseason, ending the inning.
Joe Buck makes a good point on TV. Why not use Yorvit Torrealba in that situation? Isn't that why the Rangers added Matt Treanor to the World Series roster, giving them three catchers? That way, it's easier to bring Torrealba off the bench for a big at-bat.
Now, it's up to the bullpens. Both were brilliant during the playoffs, a big reason these teams are here.
With a runner on third and two outs in the sixth, Albert Pujols made a sliding stop on Michael Young's grounder down the first base line and tossed to Carpenter covering the bag.
The play saved a run and kept the score tied 2-all. Pujols pumped his fist before heading to the dugout.
Wilson made a big pitch when he needed one.
After an intentional walk to Pujols put runners at first and second with one out in the fifth, Wilson got in on the hands of Matt Holliday and included a grounder right to third baseman Adrian Beltre.
Always a slick fielder, Beltre started an around-the-horn double play to end the inning.
Could be a confidence-booster for Wilson. Score tied at 2.
Mike Napoli just ripped a two-run homer to right field, tying the score at 2 in the fifth inning.
You don't see many opposite-field homers that sail that far over the fence. It was a no-doubter right off the bat. Napoli knew it was gone, and so did Rangers manager Ron Washington. Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman hardly moved.
Must be something about that No. 7 spot in the Texas lineup. That's where Cruz was during the ALCS against Detroit. He moved up a spot in the World Series opener, with Napoli dropped to seventh.
The Cardinals broke through first, in the fourth inning.
Pujols was hit on the foot by a pitch from Wilson and Holliday doubled into the right-field corner. Berkman also went the other way, bouncing a two-run single over first base for a 2-0 lead.
It was an unusual swing. Odd to see a right-handed hitter bounce a chopper down the first base line.
Berkman tagged up and went to second on a deep flyout by Freese. Wilson avoided further damage, though. He's throwing the ball pretty well -- much better than his previous postseason starts this year.
The Cardinals got a leadoff single in the third from Punto. Carpenter tried to bunt him over but fouled off strike three and St. Louis failed to score.
Carpenter and Wilson appeared to be settling in. Both pitchers were finding their rhythm and getting groundballs. The cool weather could be helping, too. Game-time temperature was 49 degrees and it's windy. Doesn't look like a fun night for hitters. Infielders are being careful with their throws, too.
Quite a contrast for the Rangers. They played 27 home games this season when the temperature was 100 degrees or more at first pitch. But in the World Series opener, even Washington was wearing gloves, and shortstop Elvis Andrus had a ski hat under his cap to keep warm.
Carpenter is fired up, yelling at himself on the mound after missing with a pitch. He got pumped up again after getting Napoli to ground into a double play to end the top of the second.
Just before that, Carpenter was pretty careful with Cruz, walking him with first base open and one out. No surprise, after the record-setting series Cruz had in the ALCS against Detroit -- six homers and 13 RBIs.
Beltre's one-out double went off the glove of a diving Freese at third base, the second ball that Freese got his glove on but couldn't corral.
Did someone fail to turn the microphone on when "American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery started singing the national anthem? Or maybe the Busch Stadium public address system wasn't on? Seemed that way. His lips were moving, couldn't hear a thing on TV.
Nice recovery, though.
A couple of notable tweaks to the lineups tonight. La Russa went with Punto at second base instead of Ryan Theriot -- even against Wilson, a lefty.
Washington moved Cruz up from seventh to sixth in the lineup.
Ian Kinsler almost spun himself into the ground on his leadoff single for Texas. Freese, playing in at third, could have had it. So much for that NLCS magic.
Kinsler promptly was caught stealing by Molina. What an arm!
Dangerous play at first base, with Carpenter diving to catch a low throw from Pujols at first. Carpenter hits the bag with both hands, ahead of Andrus. Carpenter was lucky he wasn't spiked on the hand. Nobody was hurt.
The weather was crummy for a bunch of playoff games this year, so why would the World Series be any different?
Because of some light rain in the late afternoon, there was no batting practice on the field for the Texas Rangers or St. Louis Cardinals before Game 1.
Temperatures were in the 40s at Busch Stadium and winds were gusting up to 27 mph.
Game 2 may not be much better.
Should be an interesting matchup on the mound. Anyone who watched Carpenter outduel Roy Halladay in Game 5 against the Phillies knows Carpenter can rise to the occasion when the pressure is on.
Let's see about Wilson. He can be a free agent this fall, but he's probably cost himself a few bucks already this postseason -- he entered 0-2 with an 8.04 ERA in three outings. He's on the hook for a loss tonight, too.