Rangers, Cardinals World Series Game 3 Preview
Two stellar pitching efforts from starters Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia should have netted the St. Louis Cardinals a 2-0 lead in the 2011 World Series before the venue changed to Arlington for Game 3.
Instead, a late Texas rally in the ninth inning of Game 2 might have dramatically changed the course of this year’s Fall Classic that now sits level at one game apiece.
We’ll see what unfolds in the next chapter on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark, when Game 3 pits the Cards’ Kyle Lohse against the Rangers’ Matt Harrison, priced as a rather hefty -180 favorite at the majority of Las Vegas wagering shops. Texas and Harrison are also listed at +110 minus the digit on the Run Line, with Lohse at -130 plus the extra run.
The Don Best odds screen has the total at a solid 9½ runs, priced at -115, at the vast majority of outlets.
First pitch for Game 3 is 8:05 p.m. (ET) on Saturday night, with Joe Buck and Tim McCarver calling the action on FOX.
And if psychology plays any part in baseball proceedings, it would seem as if the Rangers have the edge heading home to the Metroplex. Keep in mind that Texas was unable to forge a breakthrough on the road in last year’s Fall Classic at San Francisco, losing the first two games at Candlestick Park before returning home.
But Thursday’s comeback win was the Rangers’ first on the road after three World Series losses away from home and could further embolden Texas, whose Series win price dropped to around even-money after the Game 1 loss. Now, however, it is listed at -180 or thereabouts to win the Fall Classic, with St. Louis priced in the +160 range.
Moreover, the aura of confidence surrounding the Redbird bullpen, and closer Jason Motte in particular, could have been shattered in the ninth-inning meltdown on Thursday night. More on that angle in a moment.
Indeed, pitching was the story, somewhat surprisingly, in the first two games of the Series. Surprising because both the Rangers and Cardinals had been involved in high-scoring League Championship Series matchups vs. the Tigers and Brewers, respectively. Perhaps the cooler weather conditions had a bit to do with the offensive slowdown in the first two games in which only eight runs total were scored. Solid starting pitching on both sides could also have accounted for the lower scores.
With the action shifting to Arlington, however, the back ends of the respective rotations due to be featured in Games 3 and 4, and the reintroduction of the Designated Hitter into each lineup should result in some higher scoring over the weekend.
Lohse would seem a risky proposition to help St. Louis reclaim home-field edge in Game 3. The veteran righty has not been fooling anyone in the postseason, reflected in short stints in the NLDS vs. Philadelphia and NLCS vs. Milwaukee. Lohse didn’t last beyond 5 1/3 innings in either outing, surrendering nine runs (eight earned, for a 7.45 ERA) and 13 hits in the process.
Moreover, Lohse has also never pitched very well vs. the Rangers, posting a 6.66 career ERA in nine previous starting assignments from earlier in his career.
Meanwhile, Texas counterpart Harrison has been a bit steadier, though hardly dominant, in the playoffs, allowing five runs and nine hits in 10 2/3 IP in the AL playoffs. Southpaw Harrison has had the strikeout pitch working, however, with 12 Ks in those outings against the Rays and Tigers. He also hasn’t allowed over three runs in any of his seven starts since the beginning of September.
Still, we wonder if that St. Louis bullpen el foldo in the ninth inning on Thursday could be a bad omen for Tony La Russa’s side. Motte, in particular, had been nearly untouchable in the playoffs, allowing just one hit and no walks in his eight previous playoff outings, and 10 straight if going back to the end of the regular season and Sept. 24-25 games vs. the Cubs.
But in Game 2, the bearded Motte allowed hits to Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus to open the ninth and both turned into runs when neither Arthur Rhodes nor Lance Lynn could shut the door after La Russa pulled Motte. Josh Hamilton and Michael Young delivered clutch sacrifice flies to score Kinsler and then Andrus from third base.
Further ominous signs for St. Louis involve key hitters Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday, a combined 1-for-12 in the Series to date. The likes of Allen Craig and David Freese have emerged as the Cardinal hitting stars (such as they are) in the Series, and even the most-diehard Redbird backers would admit that prospects are bleak if neither Pujols nor Holliday emerge from their recent funks.
The Rangers, who scored 55 runs in their 10 postseason games prior to the World Series, can be expected to find their groove in Arlington, where they posted an AL-best (along with the Yankees) 52-29 mark this season. Texas is also waiting for its big bats to awaken, as ALCS hero Nelson Cruz, Adrian Beltre, Kinsler and Hamilton were relatively quiet in the two games at Busch. Mike Napoli, however, did homer in Game 1, and though Hamilton is now 2-for-27 in World Series at bats since last season and continues to be hampered by a groin injury, he was able to lift a key sacrifice fly in the ninth inning of Game 2.
Kinsler also responded with a key hit to open the ninth inning in Game 2, suggesting he might be ready for a breakout performance when the action returns to Arlington on Saturday night.