October 19, 2011: Cardinals win World Series Game 1

The Cardinals opened the 2011 World Series using the same recipe that got them there in the first place: dependable starting pitching, timely hitting, and sparkling relief.

Thanks to a diving play from starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, a two-run single by Lance Berkman, and three shutout innings from the bullpen, the Cardinals beat the Rangers 3-2 in front of 46,406 Busch Stadium fans in Game 1 of the 2011 World Series.

“I feel like we have to win the National League style of game if we’re going to win this thing, and tonight was a National League-style game – 3-2, good pitching, good defense, timely hitting,” Berkman said. “I don’t think we want to get into a gorilla-ball type series with these guys.”[1]

After beating the Brewers in six games in the NLCS, the Cardinals were able to turn to Carpenter, their ace, for the series opener. Through 17 innings that postseason, Carpenter had posted a 3.71 ERA, including a complete-game shutout of the Phillies in Game 5 of the NLDS.

“He’s our guy,” Berkman said. “When he takes the mound, we feel like we’re going to win the game every time.”[2]

The Rangers countered with their own ace, C.J. Wilson. The 30-year-old left-hander had gone 16-7 with a 2.94 ERA in 223 1/3 regular-season innings, but was roughed up in Game 1 of the ALDS when the Rays scored eight runs – six earned – in five innings. Wilson allowed two earned runs in 4 2/3 innings in Game 1 of the ALCS, but received no decision in the Rangers’ victory. In Game 5 of that series, the Tigers scored six earned runs over six innings as Wilson took his second loss of that postseason.

In the early innings of Game 1, both Carpenter and Wilson looked sharp. Wilson worked around a two-out walk to David Freese in the second and a leadoff single by Nick Punto in the third. Carpenter, meanwhile, relied on the Cardinals’ defense, as Yadier Molina threw out Ian Kinsler attempting to steal for the first out of the game and Rafael Furcal started a 6-4-3 double play to end the second.

Wilson got into trouble in the fourth when he hit Albert Pujols with a pitch to lead off the inning and Matt Holliday doubled down the right-field line. On a 1-0 count, Berkman hit a chopper past Michael Young at first base to give the Cardinals a 2-0 lead.

“Give up a ground ball right there that scores two runs, that’s unfortunate,” Wilson said. “Other than that, I thought I minimized damage and pitched strategically.”[3]

The Rangers tied the score in the top of the fifth. Adriane Beltre led off the inning with a single, and after Carpenter struck out Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli launched a two-run homer to tie the game.

Texas threatened to tie the score in the sixth. Kinsler reached on an infield pop fly and advanced to third on a sacrifice bunt and a sacrifice fly. With two outs, Young hit a ground ball that Pujols fielded cleanly. However, with Young racing down the baseline, Pujols’ throw was offline and Carpenter was forced to dive headfirst to catch the relay before landing face-first on the base for the final out of the inning.

“I think we need to work on that one next spring,” Carpenter said. “It was just instinct. He threw the ball, it was a little out of my reach, and I dove. I was like, ‘I’m going to get it,’ and it turned out to work out.’”[4]

After six innings and four strikeouts, Carpenter had allowed two earned runs on five hits and one walk.

“The thing about Carp, he was exactly what we needed,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.[5]

While Carpenter’s diving play got him out of the inning, Wilson wasn’t able to escape the sixth for the Rangers. David Freese got things started with a one-out double, then advanced to third on a wild pitch. After Wilson struck out Molina for the second out, he walked No. 8 hitter Punto on four pitches.

“I’m not going to let him get a hit,” Wilson said. “I know the situation there with the pitcher’s spot coming up.”[6]

With Wilson up to 94 pitches, Rangers manager Ron Washington turned to Alexi Ogando, the 27-year-old all-star who had started 29 of his 31 regular-season appearances. La Russa, in turn, called upon Allen Craig to pinch-hit for Carpenter.

Craig smacked a 1-2 pitch from Ogando into right field, just inches in front of a sliding Cruz, to score Freese and give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

“Man, he’s tough,” Craig said of Ogando. “He came right at me with fastballs and I missed the first two. Then that last one, I was trying to get the barrel on it, make the defense make a play.”[7]

“Craig is the best pinch-hitter we’ve got,” La Russa said, “but to come off the bench, in your first World Series, in your first at-bat, against that guy? Wow.”[8]

For his part, Washington refused to second-guess the decision to bring Ogando into the game.

 “He was my best pitcher I felt in that situation,” he said. “You have to give Craig credit. He beat him. We didn’t lose tonight. They beat us.”[9]

Before the Cardinals could claim that win, however, their bullpen needed to fend off the Rangers’ dangerous offense. In the seventh, Cruz singled and Fernando Salas walked Napoli to put runners at first and second with one out. Marc Rzepczynski entered the game and struck out Craig Gentry and Esteban German to end the inning.

In the eighth, Octavio Dotel retired Kinsler and Andrus before left-hander Arthur Rhodes got Hamilton to fly out to center field. In the ninth, Jason Motte retired Young, Beltre, and Cruz in order for his fifth save of the postseason.

“They had the pitching tonight,” Young said. “That was about it. Carpenter was really sharp and their bullpen pitched well. … They made pitches when they had to.”[10]

Enjoy this post? Find similar stories listed by decade or by player.

[1] Bernie Miklasz, “‘La Genius’ lives up to that label,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 2011.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Quality Start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 2011.

[3] Drew Davison, “Postseason frustration builds for Rangers’ ace,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 20, 2011.

[4] David Thomas, “Cardinals build confidence with opening victory,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 20, 2011.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Quality Start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 2011.

[6] Drew Davison, “Postseason frustration builds for Rangers’ ace,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 20, 2011.

[7] Ben Walker, “Craig’s single in 6th lifts Cardinals to win,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, October 20, 2011.

[8] Joe Strauss, “Quality Start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 2011.

[9] Joe Strauss, “Quality Start,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 2011.

[10] Tom Timmermann, “Lumber Slumber,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 20, 2011.

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