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Early chatter from Game Four

ARLINGTON, Texas -- We got through the traffic for the 3:15 Cowboys-St. Louis game and have made it to Rangers Ballpark for Game Four of the World Series. Naturally, most of the pregame talk continues to center around Albert Pujols.

Memo to the Rangers: Stop pitching to him! Let someone else beat you.

"He's a monster but he's a gentleman," Texas manager Ron Washington said during his pregame meeting with reporters. "He has awareness. He gives credit to his teammates. He's a monster."

The Rangers are playing Mitch Moreland, a much better defensive player at first base tonight. Mike Napoli, who made the key two-run error last night, is back at catcher and Michael Young is the DH.

Coming up in the interview room are Cardinals manager Tony La Russa and Game Five starter Chris Carpenter, MLB operations director Joe Torre (imagine Ron Kulpa's blown call may come up?) and a press conference later this evening where Ken Griffey Jr. will be presented with the Commissioner's Historic Achievement Award.

Speaking of achievements, MLB research did a little more overnight on Pujols' monster game and came up with this nugget: It's just the 12th time in history -- and the first time ever in the postseason -- a player totaled five hits with at least three home runs, four runs scored and six RBIs. 

It's only been done four times in the last 35 years -- by California's Dave Winfield in 1991, Los Angeles' Shawn Green in 2002 (in his four-homer game at Milwaukee) and Colorado's Shea Hillenbrand in 2003. Crazy.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Smashing records: Pujols and a postgame podcast

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Click below to hear my audio recap of Saturday's incredible Game Three of the World Series. Just call it the Albert Pujols Game.


Mike Harrington on Game Three

Here's a list of Pujols' accomplishments:

---Fourth three-HR game in Series history, joining Babe Ruth (1926 and 1928 vs. the Cardinals) and Reggie Jackson (1977 vs. the Dodgers).

---Eighth three-HR game in postseason history (Adrian Beltre of Texas had one this year against Tampa Bay), but just the second by a National League player (Bob Robertson of the Pirates vs. San Francisco in the 1971 NLCS

---Six RBIs ties the World Series record set by Yankees Bobby Richardson (1960) and Hideki Matsui (2009).

---Five hits ties the record set by Paul Molitor of the Brewers against the Cardinals in Game One in 1982.

---Pujols had a record 14 total bases (three HRs, two singles), breaking the mark of 12 set by Ruth and Jackson in their three-HR games.

---With hits in the fourth, fifth, sixth and seventh innings, Pujols became the first player in Series history with a hit in four straight innings in the same game.

That was one incredible night.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Live from Big D (OK, the suburbs), it's Game Three

DSCN1721ARLINGTON, Texas -- Greetings from Rangers Ballpark, where we're getting set for Game Three of the World Series between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers on an incredible, 80-degree night. I hear what's going on back there, I know. So I'll think of you right now if you think of me when I'm in Winnipeg in January. Deal? Good. Now let's move on.

DSCN1734We've got a crazy-looking red sunset and some heavy clouds moving in (right) There is up to a 40 percent chance of rain so we'll see how this goes.

The teams are tied at a win apiece and, frankly, I'm sick about all the talk of who's talking, who's not talking. Albert Pujols doesn't know why people are mad he didn't talk after Game Two (seriously?), Josh Hamilton isn't talking about his injury -- which may, in fact, be a sports hernia and not a groin problem. Nobody really cares what any of the starting pitchers say because no one figures Matt Harrison and Kyle Lohse will be around very long tonight.

Play ball already. And somebody score. The teams combined for just eight runs in frigid St. Louis, the lowest combined total in the first two games since 1950. Something tells me they'll heat up tonight.

The lineups look like this:

St. Louis:  Furcal, ss; Craig, rf; Pujols, 1b; Holliday, lf; Berkman, dh; Freese, 3b; Molina, c; Jay, cf; Theriot, 2b.
Texas: Kinsler, 2b; Andrus, ss; Hamilton, cf; Young, dh; Beltre, 3b; Cruz, rf; Napoli, c; Murphy, lf; Torrealba, c

The wireless was basically a disaster in this ballpark last year but it's been terrific so far (knock on my work table). There are signs everywhere instructing people not to use their own networks or things like Verizon MiFi, which was a big problem during the 2010 NCAA Tournament in Buffalo and last year's Sabres-Flyers playoff series in Philadelphia (memo to Flyers beat writers -- very rude)

So assuming the techno end holds up, keep it here for thoughts and updates on Game Three.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

End-1st: Who was the dope who mentioned the words Verizon MiFi? That was me. As soon as I said it, one popped up and the wireless popped down. We seem to be back up and I can tell you that nothing has interrupted Allen Craig in this series. Who is this guy? If the series ended right now, he'd be the most unlikely MVP ever. He gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning by roping the second pitch he saw from Harrison deep to left for a solo home run. That's 3 for 3 with three RBIs in three games. Harrison also gave up a single to Holliday. Lohse, meanwhile, pitched a 1-2-3 first. Cards lead, 1-0.

End-3rd: The Cardinals hold their 1-0 led as they have two hits and the Rangers have just one. Through 21 innings of this series, we have only played four outs where either team led by more than a run. That came in Game One, after Berkman's two-run single in the fourth gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. St. Louis made the next three outs and Texas made one out in the top of the fifth before Napoli's two-run laser to right tied the game. The Rangers are hitting just .174 in the series thus far (12-69), while the Cardinals are at exactly .200 (14-70). Nobody could have predicted this after the way the teams pounded the ball in the LCS.

Napoli-kulpaMid-4th: I have been saying all season MLB should institute a replay challenge system, perhaps one a game for each club. It would take less time that seeing a manager trot out to a base to argue. Case in point: The top of the fourth tonight, where a moment of blindness from first-base umpire Ron Kulpa has cost the Rangers four runs and put the Cardinals in command, 5-0. With no outs and a man at first, Holliday hit a routine 6-4-3 double play ball. But Kinsler's throw to first was high (no excuse for that). Still, Napoli brought it down and clearly tagged Holliday high on the way by, before the runner hit the base and tumbled to the ground. Napoli couldn't believe the call (left) and neither could Ron Washington.

Everyone in the park saw it except Kulpa.  From there, the Rangers crumbled. A single by Berkman, an RBI double by Freese, an intentional walk to Molina, a crippling two-run error as Napoli threw wide of the plate to Torrealba's right, and an RBI single from Theriot. Inexcuseable. Washington challenges, Holliday is out and there's two out and nobody on.

Another aside: Kulpa is a St. Louis native. Bad appearance for MLB -- even if Kulpa correctly called Kinsler safe at second on a steal in the 9th inning Thursday. Cards lead, 5-0.

Bot-4th: Good for the Rangers to answer right back. Home run for Young, single for Beltre and a screaming line drive the other way to right over the wall by Cruz, his seventh of the postseason (one shy of Carlos Beltran's record of 8 in 2004). Napoli singles and Lohse is gone, replaced by Fernando Salas. Suddenly, Cards lead 5-3. In less than four innings, we have eight runs -- or, the total we had in 18 innings in St. Louis. The inning ends with the score 5-3 as Murphy grounds out, Torrealba singles to right (Napoli held at third) and Kinsler lofted a fly ball to left just inside the foul line, with Napoli gunned down at home on a great one-hop throw by Holliday. There were nine runs scored in the first 21 innings of the series and seven in the fourth inning tonight.

Mid-5th: Feldman is on for the Rangers and gives the three runs right back. A single by Pujols (his second in two innings after opening the series 0 for 7), two walks, an RBI groundout by Freese and a two-run double into the left-field corner by Molina. Kind of puts a damper on one of my favorite moments here, the "Deep in the Heart of Texas" sing-a-long. Here's a YouTube of what that sounds like, taken during last year's Series. Cards lead, 8-3.

End-5th: So lemme get this straight. In the first 21 innings of this series (counting the first three tonight), there were nine combined runs. Well, we've just put up 13 between the teams in the fourth and fifth tonight. The Rangers answered the Cards' three in the top of this inning with three more of their own so the Cards lead it, 8-6, through five. There were four straight singles in the inning, the first three off Salas including an RBI drive to left by Young, and the fourth one (by Beltre) drove in Hamilton, who had snapped an 0-for-18 drought in Series play the last two years with a single of his own. Napolis' sac fly made it 8-6 and Lynn walked the next two men to load the bases. But Kinsler popped to Furcal at short and the Cardinals escaped.

I'm listening to the Cards' radio broadcast on MLB.com because of the legendary Mike Shannon, whose steakhouse near Busch Stadium may be feeding me Tuesday night if I return to St. Louis. Said Shannon during Kinsler's at-bat: "This feels like a trip to the taxidermist and we're getting stuffed." The guy is a classic.

End-6th: Exactly three hours after the first pitch, we've played six innings and the Cardinals lead, 12-6. St. Louis got four runs in the top of the sixth off Alexi Ogando and there was some bitter irony for him in the inning as the only man he retired was Craig, who burned him twice in St. Louis. The key blow in the inning was a three-run homer to left by Pujols, a 423-foot moonshot that careened off the facing of the club level here, where only two visitors have reached in the ballpark's 18 seasons (one was Mark McGwire, then with Oakland). Cynics in the media horde, myself included, clearly believe Pujols will stick around to talk after this one. Boo. 

Third home runMid-7th: That's it for the suspense tonight as Pujols goes deep again, crushing the first pitch he sees from Mike Gonzalez 406 feet to dead center. The two-run shot makes it 14-6 and gives him five RBIs as part of his 4-for-5 night. Guess he'll be in the interview room tonight.

End-8th: It's 15-7 as the Cardinals are three outs away from taking the lead in the series and I'm pouding the print story.

Mid-9th: Pujols does it again. A solo homer to deep left (left) to make it 16-7. It goes 397 feet. The fourth three-homer game in Series history (Babe Ruth in 1926 and 1928 against the Cardinals and Reggie Jackson in 1977). The first by an NL player. Just the second in the postseason by an NL player (Bob Robertson of the Pirates in the 1971 NLCS against the Giants. He ties the Series record with five hits and six RBIs too. Wow.

 

FINAL SCORE: Cardinals win 16-7 in a game that will live in on in Series annals thanks to Pujols.

Game photos: Associated Press

Weather watch: It's a little iffy for Game Three

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's spectacularly bright and sunny this morning in the Dallas area and temperatures should be close to 80 -- 80! -- around the 7:05 CT first pitch tonight for Game Three of the World Series. But there's a growing chance of rain during the game, with a 30-40 percent chance on this hourly forecast at Weather.com and upwards of 50 percent according to some other sources.

It was two weeks ago tonight, during Game One of the ALCS against Detroit, that there were two rain delays in Arlington that pushed the final out to about 1:30 a.m. Eastern time. Let's hope that doesn't happen again.

And we should all remember the time-tested caveat of Bisons GM Mike Buczkowski: If the weather man says there's a 50 percent chance of rain, that means there's a 50 percent chance it won't rain!

---MIke Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Workout Day podcast: The scene shifts to Texas

ARLINGTON, Texas -- A long day of workouts and interviews at Rangers Ballpark, and there was basically no news of any note from either side.

Josh Hamilton stayed home to nurse his sore groin for Texas and Rangers veteran Michael Young and Cardinals vet Lance Berkman were named the DHs for Game Three. If I had some news, I'd share it. Not much going on except for the relatively bizarre on-field sniping session between Albert Pujols and dozens of reporters. That was a bit of a spectacle to say the least.

The Rangers hosted a gala Friday evening at the Fort Worth Zoo but, frankly, after a 4:30 a.m. wakeup call and a long day of travel and writing, I'm not up to the 30-mile plus drive in the dark on the crazy Texas freeways. No armadillo races to share this year. Sorry about that.

Click below for a podcast of some of my thoughts heading into Game Three:


Workout Day

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

Game Two audio recap: Rangers rally to pull even

ST. LOUIS -- Click below for Mike Harrington's analysis of Game Two of the World Series, the Texas Rangers' come-from-behind, 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals.


Download the audio

Live from Busch: Rangers-Cards Game 2

ST. LOUIS -- Greetings from Busch Stadium, where we had a bright, sunny day and will be enjoying a clear, crisp night for Game Two of the World Series. The wind doesn't seem to be nearly as harsh as it was last night, when it was swirling around the park. Seems to be blowing more out to center, which means the park is blocking some of it from the fans and us media types on the outdoors.

(I'm in the Stan Musial room in Section 313 down the right-field line. A terrific view, and we have a dedicated Diet Coke line in the suite behind me so that's clutch!).

I've been tied up on early print duties so be sure to read my report in Wednesday's paper on Josh Hamilton's nagging groin and the unusual season of Cardinals reliever Arthur Rhodes, who started the year with Texas and is just the third player in history to play for both Series teams in the same year (Bengie Molina, 2010; and Lonnie Smith, 1985).

Funny pregame scene: Cardinals outfielder Allen Craig, whose pinch single drove in the winning run in Game One, was brought into the media interview room prior to Thursday's game. Reporters were told Craig was not fielding any questions about his pet tortoise, which actually has its own Twitter account (@TortyCraig).

Tweeted the tortoise on Thursday: "The media's focus should be on Master Allen's high level of play & not on me. During the regular season he hit .315 with a .917 OPS!"

Then he followed with this recap of a "conversation: "Merry World Series, Master Allen." "Did you like your gift?" "The hit?" I asked. "Yep," he said. I'm a bit misty eyed."

Odd. Anyway, we're getting set to go and I'll give you some updates and thoughts as this one gets going.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Top-1st: We're under way at 7:06 CT as Jaime Garcia throws a strike to Ian Kinsler. It's warmer than last night's 48 degrees but I didn't hear the announcement of the temp (muffled PA..sorry)...Update: In fact, it's a balmy 50. The Rangers went down 1-2-3. Hamilton ended it with a broken-bat grounder to third. The bat shattered everywhere and Hamilton barely ran to first. He checked a swing a pitch earlier -- something he said before the game he was no longer going to do -- and the FOX camera clearly caught him exhaling and in pain after  it.

Almost forgot to relate the best pregame scene: The famous Budweiser Clydesdales paraded around the warning track and the crowd roared as flashbulbs popped and the organist rocked the famous Bud ditty. Great fun.

End-1st: Both teams go 1-2-3 in the first. There is a Hardee's hamburger stand here on the upper level behind third base with a beautiful red Cardinals marquee on either side of the Hardees sign. Smells great. How do I know? Some burgers must be well done because there is a ton of smoke coming out of that side and wafting across the field.

CardsEnd-2nd: Two hitless innings so far. Closest call was when Texas' Cruz missed a home run by inches with a low line drive that screamed barely outside the left-field foul pole.

We're so peppered with Yankees and Red Sox on the East Coast that it's easy forget what a great baseball town this is. I loved their statue garden by the team shop I blogged about yesterday (you didn't see it? Go back and check it out!). And I love how they can trot out legends.

Bob Gibson and Bruce Sutter threw out first pitches last night and tonight's turn went to 88-year-old Red Schoendienst, left, and Lou Brock, who is now 72. (72?? I grew up watching him in the 70s. Not possible). And they just announced that Stan Musial is here and put his picture on the jumbotron. The 91-year-old gave a big wave. They should have left his picture on the board longer so the ovation would have been stronger. Adam Wainwright got a bigger roar last night when he threw a first pitch. Kind of like when Bernie Williams and Tino Martinez can bring the house down at Yankee Stadium and guys from the 60s and 70s, other than maybe Reggie Jackson, get barely a ripple. People simply think of them all as "old fossils", one of the great Jeff Manto-isms I learned in the late 90s Bisons clubhouses.

GarciaEnd-3rd: Locked in a scoreless duel. Furcal got the game's first hit for the Cardinals, a two-out double down the RF line,  but was stranded there. Garcia (right) has thrown only 35 pitches (21 strikes). Lewis is at 45-29. Great job by both thus far. Garcia, the first Mexican to start a Series game in 30 years, is doing Fernando Valenzuala proud.

Mid-4th: Garcia is no longer perfect and he had to work hard -- throwing 21 pitches -- to escape without a run. He walked Kinsler on 3-2 pitch to end the perfect game and lost his no-hitter on Young's two-out single that Jay short-hopped in center as Kinsler went first-to-third. Beltre then fanned on a full-count pitch with the crowd roaring and waving their white towels. During their at-bat, Beltre scorched a one-hopper foul down the third-base line and it rocketed off the back of Kinsler's right shoulder. Undaunted, Kinsler got up and gave the brush-off motion to his teammate like it was no biggie. Sorry. That's gotta hurt.

Halfway home: Still zip-zip through 4 1/2. The Rangers have one hit and they're 7-46 thus far in the series, or a robust .152. They hit .190 last year and said they would definitely do better. Uh-huh.

End-5th: Elvis Andrus flashing a GOLD GLOVE two innings in a row. He ended the fourth by starting a spectacular 6-4-3 double play, with Kinsler taking his flip and firing bare-handed to first. This was even better as Furcal lashed what looked like an RBI single up the middle with men on first and second and two out. Andrus gloved it behind second and flipped with the glove to Kinsler, who took the ball in stride and ran to the bag to beat Garcia after the pitcher had kept the inning going with a walk. Sensational play.

End-6th: Still scoreless and, for once, some starters are going to the seventh inning in this postseason. Huge outings from both guys as each is spinning a two-hit shutout. Garcia has struck out six, walked one and is at 75 pitches (47 strikes). Lewis has fanned three walked two and is at 86-46. So he's looking at one more inning most likely.

This just in from MLB: This is just the second time in Series history (joining Reds-Yankees, 1961) that Games 1 and 2 have been scoreless through three innings. And at God Bless America, we're still scoreless and the Rangers are batting .170 for the series.

Bot-7th: Suddenly, both pitchers are out. With two out and Freese on first, Punto lined a one-hopper that Young butchered at first on the backhand. Freese went first to third on the ball, somehow scored a hit and not an error. With Garcia's spot up, the Cardinals are pinch-hitting Game One hero Craig. And Ron Washington comes out to lift Lewis for Alexi Ogando. Same matchup as last night. And Craig does it again with an RBI single to right to put the Cardinals up 1-0 and the place is absolutely shaking. Just like last night, a decent pitch, down and away. A fastball at 96 mph and Craig beats Ogando.

Rangers winEnd-7th: So it's 1-0 for St. Louis. Final lines are:
Lewis 6 2/3 IP, 4-1-1-2-4/96-65;
Garcia 7-3-0-0-1-7/87-56

End-8th: Another 1-2-3 inning for the Cards bullpen. Three outs away from a 2-0 lead.

RANGERS WIN 2-1. Sorry, folks. When the game changes, you're hitting the delete key on large chunks of your print story and you won't hear from me here. Motte blows the save, sac flies in the ninth by Hamilton off Rhodes and Young off Lynn gives Texas a clutch victory. The series is tied. First time a team reversed a deficit in its final at-bat since Arizona came back on the Yankees in Game Seven in 2001.

Photos: Associated Press

Hamilton sore but no way he's coming out

ST. LOUIS -- Josh Hamilton has been dealing with a balky groin for nearly two months and hasn't hit a home run since Sept. 23. The Texas outfielder bluntly told us at Tuesday's Media Day, "it hurts" when asked about the injury. Sure looked it in Game One, when he was clearly limited and grimacing after swings.

Hamilton will be in left field tonight instead of center but Texas manager Ron Washington was actually asked during his pregame presser today if he thought about taking him out of the lineup.

In the World Series? Seriously? You should have seen the look Washington shot that questioner.

"You know, at this point of the year we've all got nagging injuries," Washington said. "He had one, and he'll figure out a way to get through it, and we'll figure out a way to help him get through it. ... I can't afford to take Hamilton out of my lineup. Even if Hamilton doesn't do anything, he makes a difference just with his presence in our lineup, and I want his presence in it, and it's in there tonight. Don't be surprised if he comes up big, because I certainly won't."

No other major news. Washington said he's going with Matt Harrison and Derek Holland in Games 3-4 in Texas. Stay tuned for the first pitch at 8:05. Back to writing print stories.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

No weather issues for Game Two

ST. LOUIS -- It's cold again and the wind is howling downtown but it's been bright and sunny all day and it's expected to stay clear tonight for Game Two of the World Series. Keep it here for some updates from the pregame pressers of Ron Washington and Tony LaRussa, which begin in the 5 p.m. ET hour.

---Mike Harrrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Game One audio recap: The Cardinals do it again

Click below to hear Mike Harrington's audio recap of Game One, a 3-2 win for the St. Louis Cardinals over the Texas Rangers at chilly Busch Stadium.


Download the audio

Live from Busch: Rangers-Cards Game 1

IMG_0212ST. LOUIS -- Brrrr. Greetings from Section 313 here at Busch Stadium for tonight's World Series opener between the Cards and Rangers. I like the setup here. They have us in a bunch of suites down the right-field line (I'm in the Stan Musial Room. ... cool). You can go inside to watch the game on TV, where the Internet isn't really working, or sit outside where there's ethernet cables and they work perfectly (memo to the Sabres and all teams -- hard-wire your press areas, please).

I'll be providing plenty of thoughts as the night goes on but please understand we're also working on the print product on some tight deadlines. It's an intriguing matchup but you wonder how both teams are going to deal with this weather. It's freezing and the wind is blowing hard. Looks like it's swirling all over the place and not really heading in one direction.

We're going to have the anthems shortly (check the pic). Here's tonight's lineups:

Rangers: Kinsler,  2b: Andrus, ss; Hamilton, cf; Young, 1b; Beltre, 3b; Cruz, rf; Napoli, c; Murphy, lf; Wilson, p
Cardinals: Furcal, ss; Jay, cf; Pujols, 1b; Holliday, lf; Berkman, rf; Freese, 3b; Molina, c; Punto, 2b; Carpenter, p.

Keep it here for updates from the opener. The coldest Game One was 41 degrees in Baltimore in 1979. We're going to be close. Yeesh.

---Mike Harrrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Top-1st: The first pitch from Carpenter to Kinsler, a ball, came at 7:06 CT and the temperature is a frosty 48 degrees. The Rangers are retired thanks to some great defense, something that was not a Cardinal hallmark for much of the season. Kinsler opened with a single that hopped past Freese at third (should have been scored an error), but Molina threw him out trying to steal. Andrus was then retired on a great play by Carpenter, who bellyflopped to catch Pujols' throw while covering the bag and had the presence of mind to pull in his pitching hand to his body so Andrus wouldn't step on it on the way by. Hamilton then grounded to short.

Mid-2nd: We stay scoreless as Carpenter makes another great pitch in the clutch, a 93-mph sinker to Napoli that turns into a routine 6-4-3 double play that kills a first-and-second rally. Beltre got it started with a double past Freese at third, who looks like he's stuck in the mud. A guy with name should be able to play fine in the cold, right? 

Bottom-2nd: Earlier today, it seemed MLB had nixed the idea of Dirk Nowitzki throwing a first pitch in Texas due to the NBA lockout. Come on, that's silly. He's the FIRST guy I would think should be doing that in Dallas this year. Well, it seems Bud Selig stepped in and Dirk will be throwing this weekend according to this ESPNDallas.com story. Good call, Commish. The game remains scoreless.

End-3rd: I accept the best wishes from a good friend of the blog, longtime Cleveland Plain Dealer columnist Bill Livingston. Our man Livy penned this piece that gives you a good idea of what it's like for columnists at the World Series. I saw Sully have a few of these meltdowns in his day (think Game One in 2000, when the Mets blew a ninth-inning lead at Yankee Stadium and lost in the 12th. Sully was apoplectic). We're scoreless through three, the Rangers have two hits and Punto's third-inning single was the Cardinals' first. Carpenter has thrown 42 pitches Wilson has thrown 40. Both have thrown 23 strikes.

BerkmanEnd-4th: The Cardinals make the first breakthrough and it makes sense since Wilson has been living on the edge far more than Carpenter, who has retired seven straight. Wilson hit Pujols with a bouncing slider in the dirt and Holliday drove a double to the corner in right that sent the obviously hobbled Pujols into third (barely). Berkman then drove a fastball to right (right) for a two-run single to give St. Louis the lead. What a season Berkman has had as the NL Comeback Player of the Year. He looked done last year with the Yankees. Now he has a $12 million deal for 2012. Cards lead, 2-0.

Mid-5th: The Rangers come right back as Beltre leads off with a single and, one out later, Napoli pummels an outside sinker that tailed back over the plate deep into the seats in right. A no-doubter. Looked like about a dozen rows up. Big momentum boost for the Rangers to answer the Cardinals' run and big downer for Carpenter to give his lead right back. Game tied, 2-2.

End-6th: My fingers are frozen. I had to relocate inside. Didn't pack gloves for this trip. Never figured they'd be needed. My bad. Anyway, both starting pitchers are out. The Cardinals pinch hit for Carpenter with two out and man on the corners, sending Allen Craig to the plate. Rangers manager Ron Washington immediately yanked Wilson for Alexi Ogando but Craig lined one past the glove of Cruz for an RBI single. Good thing Cruz blocked it with his leg on a dive or it would have rolled all the way to the wall. Furcal then took Cruz to the wall in right for the final out that was nearly a three-run homer. Cards lead, 3-2.
Final lines: Wilson 5 2/3 IP, 4 H, 3 R, 3 ER, 6 BB, 4 K, 94 pitches, 50 strikes
                 Carpenter  6-5-2-2-1-4-87/49

CardsEnd-7th: Still 3-2. Love the Clydesdale video with the Budweiser ditty they play here on the board. A signature like "Deep in the Heart of Texas" is in Arlington. 

It's over: Like I said earlier,  print work has to come first and the game got over so quickly that I got way behind on my story. Blame the St. Louis bullpen, which retired the final eight Texas hitters in order to finish up a 3-2 win. Cardinals lead the series, 1-0.

Game Two is Thursday night at 8:05.

To the top of the Arch

DSCN1717ST. LOUIS -- Tonight will be the opener of my 14th World Series for The Buffalo News -- including every pitch in this century (a cool stat I like).

It's a lot of travel, a lot of hotels and a lot of long, late nights. And, as you probably guessed, I would not trade it one iota. You don't have a lot of time to do much but go to the games, but I try to carve a couple hours at least one day in each place and I've been pretty fortunate in that regard.

I've taken a boat out into San Francisco Bay and escaped from Alcatraz with colleague Bob DiCesare after visiting the famed prison in 2002, walked Miami's South Beach in 2003 and to the end of St. Petersburg Pier in 2008, talked about ex-Bison and Angel Bartolo Colon during a chance lunch meeting with former Angels owner and honorary AL President Jackie Autry at the famous food counters of Boston's Faneuil Hall in 2007.

I got a tour of the humidor and climbed to the mile-high row of seats at Coors Field in 2007 (OK, so that was at the park, but it was still cool), watched the bleachers at Wrigley Field get quietly rebuilt as Chicago was crazy over the White Sox in 2005. There was also a haunting trip to the smoldering ruins of Ground Zero in 2001, just a month after the planes downed the Twin Towers.

Last year was a good one, as I strolled a quiet McCovey Cove in San Francisco and then found time in Texas for a Dallas Cowboys game and a media/sponsor party at a Texas ranch, complete with armadillo races.

Today's side trip -- the ride up the famous Gateway Arch on the banks of the mighty Mississippi.

Before you head inside though comes the requisite photos from directly underneath the thing (above left), which is 630-feet high at its apex. How in the world does it stay up?

CapsuleYou ride up to the observation deck in these tiny capsules (left), five people to a car and eight cars to a ride. There's no room for claustrophobia here. It's tight. When the door shuts, you can see out to the steel innards of the Arch and the emergency stairs (hope we don't need those!). It's a jerky, over-and-up ride for a bit and then the final part of the four-minute jaunt is straight up to the observation deck.

Once you get up there, it's really a set of portholes looking out on either side. It's not a large deck like you'd have atop a tall buliding like the CN Tower in Toronto for instance. It's only about three people wide! Again, claustrophobics need not apply. And it's not flat either. The floor is curved so you kind of hold on to the wall as you walk up and down.

DSCN1691They tell me you can see 30 miles on a clear day. I still got great views of downtown at least today even though it was cloudy. Busch Stadium (tarp on today at right), the famous old court house and the Edward Jones Dome, home of the Rams, on one side. The river on the other, with the casinos of Illinois and a large barge being pushed by a riverboat. Pretty cool.

When it's time to go, you head down a few stairs and line up again for the same tram back. At the base (it's all underground between the two legs) is a large Museum of Westward Expansion, movie theaters,  gift shops and the like.

It's a must-do in St. Louis, akin to riding the Maid of the Mist if you're in Niagara Falls. 

Add it to the list. And enough talking. It's time to play ball soon. Stay tuned for more on the pregame press conferences and our live blog from Game One, which begins at 8:05.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Cardinals have a statue garden to behold

Musial i

JackbuckST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals sure know how to preserve their legacy for future generations. All around Busch Stadium are statues of their greats, as well as a fabulous display on late broadcaster Jack Buck (right).

I made reference to all this in my story today about Albert Pujols, who will certainly join them one day and might get a likeness bigger than everybody except Stan Musial (above) if he stays and doesn't leave in free agency.

Check out the displays (remember to click on the pix). Awesome.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington)

Statues I

A podcast and your picks on the World Series

ST. LOUIS -- Click below to hear my thoughts on Media Day and the opening of the 2011 World Series and then make your pick in our poll below. I got the Rangers in six but five wouldn't surprise me either.


Mike Harrington on Media Day

Media Day quick hits

Ham pix

ST. LOUIS -- Media Day at the World Series is great. You have tremendous access and don't have a lot of people who don't belong there getting in the way. One negative: You have a lot of notes and tape recordings to transcribe.

Still have a lot of print edition work I'm in the midst of and we're an hour behind here, of course. So here's some quick updates on what the teams said:

---Rangers manager Ron Washington goes with C.J. Wilson in Game One and Colby Lewis in Game Two. Tony LaRussa counters with Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, the first Mexican starter in a series since Fernando Valenzuela. Neither team has announced starters for the games in Texas. There were a lot of questions about Carpenter having a sore elbow. Said Carpenter: "Everybody has got soreness and everybody has got aches. {LaRussa and pitching coach Dave Duncan) would not throw me out there if it wasn't good and neither would the trainers or doctors. ... I'm fine to go Wednesday. I wouldn't go out there if I wasn't."

---Look for the Rangers to move Nelson Cruz up out of the No. 7 hole in the lineup, at least for the games here where pitchers will hit. Six homers and 13 RBIs in the ALCS probably warrant a boost up the card, don't you think?

---The teams haven't met in interleague play since 2004, quite a scheduling quirk. So there's plenty of video work and poring over advance scouting reports.

---Albert Pujols again pushed away questions about his impending free agent status as he has all season. I was in a small group that had a great chat with hitting coach and former home run king Mark McGwire about Pujols. Cheap Plug Alert: Be sure to read McGwire's comments in my story about Pujols in Wednesday's paper.

---The Rangers feel their offense will be ready this time. Remember, they hit just .190 last year against the Giants and Josh Hamilton (above) was 2 for 20.  The whole experience of going to the Series last year for the first time really helped them. They were a confident group today.

"When you play for an organization that's never been that far, never got into that kind of territory, you think you're making history and it all becomes bigger than it should be," second baseman Ian Kinsler told me when I asked about the club's swagger. "To be able to experience that is huge for us coming into this year. We didn't panic or got out of our element but there was a little lack of focus."

---Lots of questions to the Rangers about president Nolan Ryan, who predicted his team would win its first title in six games during an interview earlier in the day on a Dallas radio station. Ryan's predictions the last two years have all been pretty good, other than last year's World Series.

"If he says it, trust him," said Cruz. "He's good at that."

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Photo: Hamilton gives an answer to, lo and behold, the Buffalo News! The shot is from the MLB PR department's Twitter account. Also there is MLB Network reporter Matt Yallof, who formerly worked at Ch. 7.

Forgettable anniversary for Teufel; Manto may get the call from White Sox as hitting coach

ST. LOUIS -- MLB just announced a change in the Media Day schedule, shifting the Rangers' time from 1:45 Central to 4 p.m. Central. Later dinner for all of us tonight. So now things don't start until C.J. Wilson and Ron Washington hit the podium at 2:15 CT.

So while we wait to mine some nuggets at Media Day, here's some reading material for you to peruse:

---Today is the 25th anniversary of Game One of the 1986 World Series,  a 1-0 win for the Red Sox over the Mets in Shea Stadium. The only run scored in the seventh inning on an error by Mets second baseman Tim Teufel, who let a routine groundball go through his legs. ESPN has a look back at that game and also provides a fascinating link to a career retrospective on Teufel, who managed the Bisons last season and will be Terry Collins' third-base coach in New York in 2012.

Interesting to note the child that Teufel was celebrating the berth of when he and teammates were arrested in a celebrated 1986 bar fight in Houston was Shawn, the Toledo Mud Hens pitcher who threw against Teufel's Bisons this season in Coca-Cola Field.

---Buffalo Baseball Hall of Famer Jeff Manto and ex-Bisons catcher Tim Laker appear to be the candidates for the White Sox vacant hitting coach job. Manto was the team's roving instructor last year while Laker was at Triple-A Charlotte under manager Joe McEwing, who has been hired as Robin Ventura's third-base coach. But remember this: McEwing is regarded as one of Manto's best friends in the game and another is Sox minor-league director and former big-league manager Buddy Bell. Interesting.

Then there's this: Owner Jerry Reinsdorf is apparently gauging Jim Thome's interest.

---The Fallout at Fenway continues. The Boston Globe got a hold of fried-chicken-eating and beer-drinking pitcher Jon Lester and he admitted to doing just that in the clubhouse during games as the paper reported last week. Columnist Dan Shaugnessy says it's time for Josh Beckett and John Lackey to issue similar mea culpas. Wrote Shaughnessy: "Time for the rest of the beer-swillin’, biscuit-eatin’, fried-chicken munchin’ Red Sox starting pitchers to fess up. The 1919 Chicago White Sox had Eight Men Out. The 2011 Red Sox have Three Men and a Bucket of Popeye’s."

---Speaking of the Red Sox, if they don't make a deal today with the Cubs for compensation for GM Theo Epstein, it's got to be put off until after the World Series. Alex Rodriguez circa 2007 aside, you're not supposed to make any announcements during the Fall Classic.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

It's World Series Media Day

DSCN1651ST. LOUIS -- Greetings from the Gateway to the West as we're under the shadows of the famed Arch at Busch Stadium for Media Day of the 107th World Series. The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals will both hold Super Bowl-style sessions today with reporters -- minus the usual freeks and geeks and alleged "media" that show up at the NFL's event a few days before the game. The managers and Game One starters (C.J. Wilson and Chris Carpenter) will hold separate sessions in an adjacent interview room.

The National League won the All-Star Game so that's why we're here but let's just assume that no one figured we would be in this town. Not with the Cardinals 10 1/2 games out of the wild-card on August 24. Not when they faced the Phillies in the division series. And not when they faced the Brewers in the NLCS. But lo and behold, here we are in The House that Albert Built. One of the best managerial jobs of Tony LaRussa's career.

DSCN1653And Albert Pujols figures to be a major center of attention today. He's spent most of the season not talking about his impending free agency but good luck to him on that front today. There are statues of famous Cardinals all around the park and Pujols would get one for sure someday -- if he stayed and finished his career. He's almost the kind of free agent that it seems the team can't possibly let go but we'll  see how that goes.

It's chilly and dank here today. But the weather is supposed to be fine for Game Two on Thursday night and likely fine (only a 20 percent chance of rain for Game One tomorrow). Well, fine provided you like the cold. We're talking lows dipping into the 30s. Brrrr. Look for plenty of FOX shots of fans bundled up in red hats and scarves.

Keep it here all day for updates. Here's today's schedule, with the times listed as Eastern:

2:45-3:30 -- Rangers team availability
3:15 -- C.J. Wilson news conference
3:30 -- Ron Washington news conference
3:30-5:00 -- Rangers workout
4:00-4:45 -- Cardinals team availability
4:45-5:15 -- Tony LaRussa and Chris Carpenter news conferences
5:00-7:00 -- Cardinals workout 

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

(Photo reminder: Any pictures I post on the blog during the series will be clickable for a bigger view.)

AL champions: The Rangers do it again

CruzAfter a summer of talk that was basically all Yankees and Red Sox all the time, after a September marked by the dominance of the Tigers, the rise of the Rays and the colossal fall of the Sox, we are left with this:

The Texas Rangers are the best team in the American League. Again.

No AL club has gone to the World Series in back-to-back years since the Yankees went to four straight from 1998-2001. No AL West team, in either the two- or three-division setup, has been a repeat pennant winner since the A's took three straight from 1988-1990.

That all changed Saturday night as the Rangers pounded the Detroit Tigers, 15-5, to win the ALCS in six games. Texas will open the World Series Wednesday night in either Milwaukee or St. Louis. Pretty awesome accomplishment.

I'll admit I slept on the Rangers as a team that could get back to the Fall Classic. I picked them to lose against both the Rays and the Tigers. Yikes. Still, it is hard to gauge a team that played 38 games against the Mariners and A's and has the Astros as a chief interleague rival. They were clearly the best in the AL West but how far could they go after that?

But the Rangers are so balanced offensively with speed, for-average hitters and power numbers, and have such a deep bullpen that they've been by far the best team in the playoffs in either league. They're the favorite no matter who the NL produces.

No one gives manager Ron Washington much credit either but he's been terrific. You have to love, for instance, what he did with Alexei Ogando. A reliever with a 1.30 ERA last year, Ogando started 29 games this year and went 13-8, 3.51 with 126 strikeouts in 169 innings. With fewer starters needed in the postseason, he's back in the pen. He made three scoreless appearances in the division series against the Rays, and pitched to a 1.17 ERA with two wins against the Tigers.

In a bizarre regular season, the Rangers survived the discord about whether to bring back the beloved Michael Young, some of the worst heat in Dallas' history and even the trauma of seeing the fatal fall from the bleachers of one of their fans. They won their division, took out the Rays and got a postseason all-time record six home runs in a series from Nelson Cruz (above). Now they're four wins away from their first title.

The Mavericks. TCU in the Rose Bowl. And now the Rangers. Pretty good run for Big D.

Cheap plug alert: I'll be somewhere (either Milwaukee or St. Louis) for Media Day on Tuesday. Follow all our World Series coverage in print and online. Game One is Wednesday night.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

AP Photo: The celebration is on for ALCS MVP Nelson Cruz in the Rangers' clubhouse.

Pick your bizarro LCS winners

Tigers-Rangers and Cardinals-Brewers. Did you have that LCS combo in March? Heck, did you have it two weeks ago? This has become one bizarro October.

The Red Sox and Braves, who looked solid all summer, went bellyup before we even got out of September. The Cinderella Rays were gonzo. Then the Yankees went down -- and you'll note I picked that one. But the biggest shocker of all was the Phillies losing to St. Louis.

They were the best team in baseball all year but their offense failed them. That eight-game losing streak after they clinched the NL East was, in fact, a bad omen. And Cliff Lee blowing a 4-0 lead in Game Two when they were in complete control of the NLDS was another major issue.

Phil Sheridan of the Philadelphia Inquirer correctly says this is the lowest point for the Phillies since they won the World Series in 2008. And it appears Ryan Howard may have a torn Achilles tendon after making the last out.

So while the Phillies and Yankees try to figure out what's next (Cheap plug: Read more on the Yankees in Sunday's Inside Baseball column),  the final four play on. The ALCS opens tonight in Texas with the NLCS opening Sunday in Milwaukee. Here's my thoughts:

Tigers vs. Rangers -- Big loss for the Tigers came out today with Delmon Young being taken off the roster with a strained oblique. He's been huge since he was acquired at the trade deadline. Still, I like the roll this team is on.  I like Justin Verlander in Game One and potentially going three times.  Doug Fister and Max Scherzer provide great help in the rotation and the bullpen has been solid led by Jose Valverde. The Rangers looked terrific against the Rays, like they completely expect to go back to the World Series. Think the Red Sox still wish they had Adrian Beltre? FOX may wish this was Yankees-Red Sox but they will still get a great series. Tigers in seven.

Cardinals vs. Brewers -- All the momentum in the world has me wanting to pick the Cardinals but I have questions about their rotation after Chris Carpenter. The Brewers, meanwhile, are just about unbeatable at Miller Park. Great offense,  great bullpen,  solid rotation. Plus they know this is their one chance with Prince Fielder having one foot out of the door en route to free agency. Prince and old man Cecil have long been estranged so it will be interesting to see how he deals with all the questions about his father if he meets the Tigers, Cecil's old team, in a World Series. The Cardinals have been a great story but the road ends here. Brewers in five.

Now you make your picks.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

Teufel, Bones get call to Mets; Backman likely to manage Bisons in 2012

The New York Mets announced major changes in their coaching staff for 2012 Wednesday afternoon and it means the Buffalo Bisons are going to have a new field staff for their 25th anniversary season in Coca-Cola Field.

Bisons manager Tim Teufel has been promoted to third-base coach in New York and pitching coach Ricky Bones,  who has directed the Buffalo mound staff for all three years the Mets have been here, will be heading to Citi Field as the bullpen coach.

4:15 p.m. update: Just got off a Mets conference call where GM Sandy Alderson said Double-A Binghamton manager and Teufel's 1986 Mets platoon partner Wally Backman is "a very strong candidate" to be named Bisons manager.

The Mets announced that bench coach Ken Oberkfell -- who managed the Bisons in 2009 and 2010 -- first-base coach and longtime former Met Mookie Wilson, third-base coach Chip Hale and bullpen coach Jon Debus will not return to Terry Collins' staff next season.

Hale has signed a two-year contract to be the third-base coach in Oakland. Wilson and Debus will be offered other positions in the organization. Oberkfell's status remains uncertain. Hitting coach Dave Hudgens and pitching coach Dan Warthen will retain their roles in New York.

So what does this mean for the Bisons? Maybe Oberkfell returns as manager. Or maybe, the Mets now have it set up to promote Wally Backman, Teufel's 1986 platoon mate, as the manager in Buffalo after he spent last year at Double-A Binghamton. 

Stay tuned. The Mets are having a conference call at 4 and I'll be listening in.

---Mike Harrington
(www.twitter.com/bnharrington) 

 

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington | mharrington@buffnews.com


Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz | amoritz@buffnews.com

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