Cardinals And Rangers Go To Decisive Game 7
This year's World Series started off as a best-of-7 between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals. It then turned into a best-of-5 followed by a best-of-3.
It's now a winner-take-all with Game 7 set for Busch Stadium on Friday (8:05 p.m. ET). Ron Washington will send left-hander Matt Harrison to the mound for Texas; Tony La Russa has not announced St. Louis' starter, but he's expected to hand the ball to Chris Carpenter on short rest. Kyle Lohse and Edwin Jackson remain two more options for the Cardinals.
St. Louis forced the decisive finale with an 11-inning, 10-9 win in Game 6 on Thursday. David Freese delivered the deciding blow with a walk-off homer to center. Played 20 years and one day after the memorable 10-inning, 1-0 Game 7 of the 1991 Series between Minnesota and Atlanta, Game 6 of this year's Fall Classic will go down in MLB postseason lore as the antithesis to that game in terms of scoring, but equally exciting.
Twice the Rangers were a strike away from their first MLB title, and twice Cardinals batters denied them. The boxscore looks like it came from an All-Star Game as La Russa and Washington combined to use 42 players, 15 of them pitchers. You almost expected Washington to call in Rangers team president Nolan Ryan from the stands. There were 12 lead changes or ties, with Freese's triple in the ninth extending the game to extra frames before his walk-off clout.
A record crowd (47,325) at the latest Busch Stadium saw it all in person with millions more watching on TV. Friday's encore performance, the first Game 7 in the World Series in nine Octobers, will be hard-pressed to match Game 6. Instant classic indeed.
For all the twists and turns this year's Series has taken, one of the more interesting stats has to be Harrison closing as the chalkiest pitcher for any single game. Texas ended up on a -180 line for Game 3 which turned into the Albert Pujols show with neither Harrison nor Lohse making it through the fourth inning.
Harrison was partly done in by umpire Ron Kulpa's missed call at first base in the top of the fourth as well as a throwing error by Mike Napoli who was playing first that night for the Rangers. Washington said all week he was sticking with Harrison for Game 7 regardless of the situation. Wednesday's rainout means he could have gone with Derek Holland for this contest on regular rest, but the Rangers dugout commander instead used the lefty for two innings of relief on Thursday.
Holland only needed 23 pitches to get six outs for Washington, and should be available from the 'pen again tonight.
While Washington remained steadfast in returning Harrison to the mound in Game 7, La Russa has been evasive about who might be his hurler. He said Carpenter told him he could pitch in Game 7, but La Russa avoided making any official announcement.
Carpenter pitched on three days rest for the first time in his career nearly four weeks ago, taking the mound for Game 2 of the NLDS vs. Philadelphia and not faring well (3 IP, 4 ER). He burned through 101 pitches this past Monday in Game 5, a very similar count to the 106 he threw in his final regular season start before his first NLDS appearance.
Colby Lewis, who went through 95 pitches in his 5 1/3 innings in Game 6, is likely the only pitcher not available to Washington tonight. The Rangers are also monitoring two of their hitting stars, Napoli (ankle) and Nelson Cruz (groin), after both suffered injuries on Thursday. They are each listed as probable for Friday's game.
La Russa was not so sure about his slugger Matt Holliday who injured a finger in a slide while being picked off third base in Game 6. The Cardinals bullpen might also be short a couple of arms. In addition to the 59 pitches Jaime Garcia threw to begin Game 6, Fernando Salas (48) and Lance Lynn (32) worked a little extra on Thursday and may not be in the mix for Game 7.
The early MLB odds have Carpenter and the Redbirds -140 with an 8-run total. The last eight times a World Series has been pushed to a seventh game, the home team has won them all.
Crew chief Jerry Layne will be behind the plate on another crisp autumn evening in St. Louis, the thermometer starting around 50ºF and dropping to the low-40s by 10:00 p.m. local time. This will be Layne's third assignment under the mask this postseason, and all will have come here in St. Louis. He worked Game 3 of the NLDS between the Cards and Phils along with Game 1 of this Series. Both ended with identical 3-2 scores.