The St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers shifted to Rangers Ballpark for Saturday night's Game 3 of the World Series. The Cardinals wound up winning the game 16-7. We expected to see a lot more offense with the teams playing under AL rules in a hitter-friendly environment, and indeed, that's how things played out, with the Cardinals doing the bulk of the damage.
But I still have to wonder. Yes, the Cardinals won big, but let's go to the top of the fourth. In the top of the fourth, the Cardinals were leading the Rangers 1-0, on the strength of Allen Craig's solo shot in the first. Albert Pujols was on first base when Matt Holliday hit a grounder to Elvis Andrus. Andrus tossed the ball to Ian Kinsler for one out, and then Kinsler threw a little wide of first, where this happened:
Clearly out. Yes? Umpire Ron Kulpa didn't think so. Instead of a double play, Holliday wound up on base, and everything else that happened happened. The Cardinals scored four runs in the inning and won big. What happens if Kulpa gets that call right? I don't know, but the Cardinals probably don't score four runs in the inning. So much changes. Probably everything changes. Maybe the game's close. Maybe the Rangers win. Who knows! Bad calls change paths, and once you go down one path, the trip is irreversible.
But anyway, let's not dwell on that. Ultimately, Kulpa made the call he made, and the game kept going. Lance Berkman followed the Holliday play with a line drive single, and then David Freese tucked a double just fair the other way to score a run. After an intentional walk to load the bases, Jon Jay bounced a grounder to Mike Napoli at first base, but Napoli's attempted throw home got away on account of being terrible, allowing two more runs to score. That made it 4-0 St. Louis, and Ryan Theriot singled home a fifth run minutes later. Starter Matt Harrison would not survive the frame.
5-0 is a pretty comfortable lead, right? Ordinarily, yes. But this was a 5-0 lead over the Rangers, in Rangers Ballpark. Michael Young led off the bottom of the fourth with a solo home run to right-center to get Texas on the board. Then, a single, then, a homer, as Nelson Cruz took Kyle Lohse out to right-center as well. Just like that it was 5-3, and the Rangers weren't finished. A single chased Lohse from the game, a single two batters later put runners on the corners, and the inning only ended when Ian Kinsler lifted a fly to left, and Matt Holliday gunned down a tagging Napoli at the plate. Napoli made a poor slide, where a better slide might've cut the deficit to 5-4.
Momentum on the Rangers' side, right? Well, in Rangers Ballpark, momentum is on the side of the team at the plate. The Cardinals got all three of those runs right back in the top of the fifth. How? Scott Feldman loaded the bases with nobody out. David Freese hit an RBI grounder, and then Yadier Molina pulled a two-run double just inside the line to left. 5-0, 5-3, 8-3. No more damage was done, but the Rangers were sufficiently demoralized.
And then they scored more, too! Fun times at Rangers Ballpark! With runners on the corners, Michael Young ripped a double right by Freese at third base to score a run. Adrian Beltre followed by dropping a flare just behind short for another run, and a third run scored when Napoli lifted a sac fly. The inning finally ended when Lance Lynn retired Ian Kinsler with the bases loaded. He did so with a high, tight fastball.
So it was 8-6 going into the top of the sixth, and Ron Washington called on Alexi Ogando to try to slow the Cardinals down. The good news for Ogando was that, during the inning, he struck out Allen Craig. The bad news for Ogando was that he didn't retire anybody else, and he pitched to seven guys.
The big blow? Ogando faced Albert Pujols with two guys on. He wanted to throw this pitch:
This is the pitch he actually threw:
That is how you miss a spot, and when you miss a spot to Albert Pujols and the ball stays in the strike zone, bad things can happen. Pujols punished the ball, and the ball, in turn, punished the facade of the upper deck in left field. That made the score 11-6, and there was a sense that the Cardinals had finally taken control of the game.
And they basically did. From there, things settled down, by which I mean Albert Pujols kept being amazing while the Rangers fell relatively silent. The Cardinals scored another run in the sixth to make it 12-6. Then in the seventh, Pujols came up against Mike Gonzalez with a runner on and blasted a first-pitch grooved fastball out to left-center for his second homer in two innings. The Rangers got one run back in the bottom half, but it didn't mean much - the Cardinals' lead was just too big.
And, what the hell, why not make it bigger? Molina doubled home a 15th run in the top of the eighth. Then, in the top of the ninth, for no reason at all, Pujols stepped in against Darren Oliver and drilled just another shot, his third homer of the game and his fifth hit. In the end, it didn't turn out that the Cardinals needed a single one of Pujols' homers, but he turned himself into the story with an unbelievable effort.
Pujols is just the third player in World Series history to hit three homers in a game. Reggie Jackson did it once, and Babe Ruth did it twice. Never forget that Adam Kennedy did it in the ALCS. Never forget.
So the Cardinals have picked up a huge win on the road, and now they need to win only one of the next two in Texas to return home with the series advantage. Game 4 will take place Sunday night at 8:05pm ET, with Edwin Jackson opposing Derek Holland. Expect runs.