It was a messy game for the Texas Rangers tonight, with defensive lapses, walks, and bobbles. Texas pitchers kept putting ‘em on, but – after allowing an early pair of runs – kept leaving ‘em there, stranding a total of 12 Cardinals in a 4-2 comeback victory.
Chris Carpenter undeniably outdueled CJ Wilson, pitching 7 innings to Wilson’s 5.1 and walking 2 to Wilson’s 5. But two mistakes wound up in the seats to erase St. Louis’ lead, and the bullpen couldn’t hold off a big eighth inning in which the Rangers sent eight hitters to the plate. Texas now leads the series, 3 to 2, and the two teams will square off in St. Louis on Wednesday.
Both aces looked sharp in the first inning, but the top of the second saw CJ Wilson – and the Rangers’ typically solid defense – break down. Wilson walked Holliday, who took second on a wild pitch to Lance Berkman. Puma ultimately walked, putting two on with none out for dangerous David Freese.
Freese flied out harmlessly to right, but Yadier Molina would get it done with a single into left. David Murphy booted the ball, letting Berkman advance to third and scoring Holliday for the first run of the game. The second came shortly thereafter, when Skip Schumaker grounded to first. The Rangers might have had a shot at a double play, but Mitch Moreland, usually surehanded, dropped the ball.
The Rangers’ defensive trouble continued in the top of the third, though they would nevertheless keep the Cardinals from adding on. Rafael Furcal bunted back to Wilson, who flipped a low throw to first that Moreland couldn’t handle.
The ball rolled past and rattled around against the padding, allowing Furcal to go to second. Allen Craig sacrificed him to third, but he would go no further, as the Rangers turned an inning-ending double play on Matt Holliday’s grounder to Beltre.
Moreland redeemed himself in the bottom of the third, cutting the Cardinals’ lead in half with a towering home run into the second deck in right. The Rangers threatened more when Andrus legged out a bunt single and Hamilton floated a humpback liner to left center; but Michael Young grounded out to short to strand them both.
Wilson seemed to recover in the fourth, but had to work around a jam in the next inning. He loaded the bases with a leadoff single to Schumaker, a walk to Nick Punto, and an intentional BB to Pujols. With two outs, Matt Holliday stepped in. The battle was tense, the crowd chanting “Let’s go CJ!” – and Wilson came through, getting a grounder to short to end the threat.
The long ball came through for the Rangers again in the bottom of the sixth. With two out, Adrian Beltre took a knee-buckling curveball deep to left field to tie the game. No exaggeration – he watched it fly from a knee, which is not unheard of with Beltre, who has intimidating power.
Texas finally grabbed the lead in an 8-batter eighth inning. Young doubled off of Octavio Dotel to start the inning, and Dotel would be pulled in favor of Marc Rzepczynski after an intentional walk to Cruz.
Murphy reached base on a liner back through the box that Rzep knocked down and away from Punto. With the bases loaded, Na-Po-Li! doubled off the right-field wall to drive in two.
Rzep was lifted for Lance Lynn, in a strange – but oh-so-LaRussa – delay tactic; Lynn was tasked with intentionally walking Kinsler, and then was lifted for the still-warming Motte. The Cardinals’ not-closer struck out Andrus to leave them loaded.
Neftali Feliz gave Rangers fans some heartburn in the ninth, hitting Craig to lead off. With Pujols at the plate, Craig took off; Albert struck out, and Napoli rifled the ball to Kinsler to get Craig for a double play. The out mirrored a blown hit-and-run earlier in the game that saw Craig out at second by a mile with Pujols not swinging.
Holliday drew a walk to extend the inning and bring the tying run, in Berkman, to the plate. Feliz got ahead of Berkman and struck him out on a sharp slider, which bounced off Napoli’s shinguard. The catcher scurried down the first base line to grab the ball and underhand it to Moreland, sealing a 3-2 series lead for the Rangers.
Game 6 takes place Wednesday night at 8pm ET. St. Louis sends Jaime Garcia to the hill to face Colby Lewis in an elimination game.