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Cardinals Put The Big Freese On Rangers, Win Game 1 Of World Series 3-2

(Recap via SB Nation and Sports Network)

St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) – The Cardinals used a similar script they followed while capturing the National League pennant in Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday.

Behind a go-ahead, pinch-hit single by Allen Craig in the sixth and another solid performance by their bullpen, St. Louis earned a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers for the early edge in the Fall Classic.

"I think…that’s what you want to try and accomplish is set the tone, get ahead," said David Freese, who scored the go-ahead run.

Baseball’s biggest stage has been overtaken by the wild card-winning Cardinals, who received a quality start by Chris Carpenter (3-0) and three one-hit innings by their suddenly vaunted relievers.

Carpenter lasted six frames and allowed five hits and two runs — both coming on Mike Napoli’s game-tying homer in the fifth. His counterpart, C.J. Wilson (0-3), remained winless this postseason after getting charged for three runs on four hits and six walks in 5 2/3 frames.

The winner of the World Series opener has won the title 61 percent of the time. Game 2 is scheduled for 8:05 p.m. (et) on Thursday, as Jaime Garcia tries to maintain homefield advantage opposite Colby Lewis.

The weather was quintessential Midwest, a climate apparently suitable for the underdogs and depleting for the two-time American League champions.

With the score tied, Freese, the NL Championship Series MVP, doubled his way into scoring position by sending a line drive into the right-field gap with one out in the sixth, then moved to third when Wilson uncorked a wild pitch.

Wilson settled down by striking out Yadier Molina, then pitched around Nick Punto with Carpenter on deck. After the walk, the managerial chess match began. Tony La Russa brought Craig off the bench, and Ron Washington countered with righty Alexi Ogando.

Craig, down 1-2 in the count, sent a slicer down the line in right that fell just out of the reach of a sliding Nelson Cruz. Freese scored easily for a 3-2 lead, and the rest was up to St. Louis’ bullpen.

For reasons unknown, St. Louis’ relievers, which ranked 21st in the majors in the regular season with a 3.95 ERA, went 4-0 with a 2.55 ERA in the divisional and championship rounds and continued their dominance against the heavy- hitting Rangers.

Fernando Salas took over for Carpenter and was pulled following a one-out single and walk. Marc Rzepczynski got out of the jam by striking out a pair of pinch-hitters, first freezing Craig Gentry on a 1-2 chanegup before fanning postseason newcomer Esteban German.

Octavio Dotel and Arthur Rhodes combined to set down the top of Texas’ lineup in order in the eighth, and Jason Motte retired Michael Young, Adrian Beltre and Cruz in succession to lock down his fifth save of the postseason.

"We certainly didn’t lose tonight; we got beat," said Washington, the 15th manager in AL history to lead his club to the World Series in consecutive seasons. "They had an opportunity to push a run across. The pinch hitter got it done, and ours didn’t. Got to give them credit, they beat us. We didn’t give that game away tonight."

Carpenter and Wilson held the opposition off the board through the first three frames, but the Cardinals put their first three hitters on in the fourth to jump ahead.

Wilson, who had pitched to an 8.04 earned run average this postseason, lost control of a 2-1 slider against Albert Pujols and plunked the slugger on the left shin. Wilson’s next pitch was sent into the right-field corner by Matt Holliday, and Pujols gingerly advanced to third.

Lance Berkman, who was coveted by the Rangers in the offseason before signing with the Cardinals as a free agent, brought home both runners with a chopper down the first-base line.

The two-time American League champions tied things in their next turn — also behind a pair of offseason additions.

Carpenter kept pitching to the outside part of the plate, and the Rangers began going the other way, starting with Beltre lining a single to right. Cruz, the AL Championship Series MVP, struck out, but Napoli followed with a no-doubter deep into the right-field bleachers.

Texas stranded a runner on third in the sixth when Pujols made a sliding grab to his left and in one motion spun and tossed to Carpenter to nab Young by a step.

"Defensively [Pujols is] a Gold Glover several times now and he’s clutch. He knows exactly who the runner is, who the hitter is, the situation. He’s so aware of how the game is being played," La Russa said. "Carp getting over to first base is the second part of that good play. … That’s the play of the game, really, for us."

The duo paired for a similar play against Elvis Andrus in the opening frame, with Carpenter getting the out by making a head-first dive to the bag.

"[Pujols] threw that ball, it was a little out of my reach, and I dove. I was like, I’m going to go get it, and it turned out to work out," Carpenter said.

The AL owns a 62-44 record in the Fall Classic, though wins have alternated between leagues for the last six years, with the San Francisco Giants winning it last year for the NL…St. Louis, playing in its 18th World Series, has won three NL League pennants in the last eight seasons…The Cardinals surpassed the Dodgers and Giants for second place on the all-time World Series games played list with 106…Rhodes became just the third player in Major League history to play in the World Series against a team that he played for earlier in the same season…Motte has allowed one hit with seven strikeouts and no walks in nine innings this postseason…Freese has hit safely in 11 straight games, the longest ever postseason streak by a Cardinals player…The Rangers are the first American League team to win back-to-back pennants since the Yankees won four straight from 1998-2001…Young, who turned 35 on Wednesday, went 0-for-4…The only time these clubs met before this finale was a three- game set in June 2004.

Photographs by spatulated, Triple Tri, and chrischappelear used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.