ST. LOUIS (AP) — A little bloop, a daring steal and a couple of fly balls.
May not sound like much. It was enough, though, for the Texas Rangers to inch their way back into this World Series.
Looking lost at the plate all game, Josh Hamilton and the Rangers suddenly resembled the team that bashed its way to Busch Stadium. They rallied for two runs in the ninth inning against the nearly spotless St. Louis bullpen, beat the Cardinals 2-1 Thursday night and evened things at 1-all.
“It wasn’t a Series-saving rally, but it was huge,” said Ian Kinsler, whose single and safe-by-a-hand steal set up the comeback.
Hamilton and Michael Young did their jobs, hitting consecutive sacrifice flies that completed the comeback.
For eight innings, this was looking a lot like last year, when Texas dropped the first two games at San Francisco and quickly got wiped out. Down to their last three outs in Game 2, the Rangers kept things interesting – for themselves, and for baseball fans all over yearning for some October drama.
“It was almost a great story for us, turned out to be a greater one for them,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
Now, after a travel day, Texas will host Game 3 on Saturday night. Matt Harrison is set to start for the Rangers against Kyle Lohse.
“It would have been hard,” Hamilton said of possibly facing an 0-2 deficit. “We would have been comfortable going back to our place, having three games. They’re just like we are, never say die, till the last out is made. It makes it fun.”
In a city excited by a Rally Squirrel, it almost looked like “Groundhog Day.”
For the second straight night, Cardinals pinch-hitter Allen Craig greeted reliever Alexi Ogando with a go-ahead single. This time, Craig did it the seventh to break a scoreless tie. In Game 1, his hit in the sixth sent the Cards to a 3-2 win.
Rather than an instant replay, the Rangers recovered.
The Rangers have not lost two straight games since Aug. 23-25. They sure waited a while to save themselves on this night that began as duel between starters Colby Lewis and the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia. Texas gained a split in St. Louis despite hitting a combined .186.
Kinsler opened the ninth with a bloop single against closer Jason Motte. Next up was Elvis Andrus, whose tremendous play at shortstop kept the game scoreless much earlier. Kinsler, though, wasn’t about to wait – he stole second, sliding in just ahead of three-time Gold Glove catcher Yadier Molina’s excellent throw.
“My hand just barely got in there,” Kinsler said. “It took everything I had.”
Andrus followed with a single to center, sending Kinsler to third. And when the throw from center fielder Jon Jay eluded the cut-off man, first baseman Albert Pujols, and went to catcher Yadier Molina, Andrus scampered to second.
More than an hour after the game, the three official scorers gave Pujols an error.
“I should have made a better throw right there. It was the big part of the game,” Jay said. “It was offline a little bit.
“It just tailed a little bit. I mean, it was inches. So it was just the way it went today,” he said.
La Russa, who’s been making all the right moves this October, brought in lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. But the slumping slugger, slowed throughout the postseason by a groin injury, hit a solid fly ball that scored Kinsler and moved Andrus to third.
La Russa went to his bullpen again, bringing in Lance Lynn to face Young. The steady Texas veteran lofted a fly ball that sent Andrus scampering home.
“I don’t care how they come. We just needed to score some runs,” Young said. “In that situation, sacrifice flies are what we needed. Josh’s job was to get the guy to third and my job was to get him in. Just team baseball. Something we’ve done all season long.”
It was the first time in Series history that the tying and go-ahead runs scored on sacrifice flies, STATS LLC said.
Then it was Rangers manager Ron Washington’s turn. He signaled for closer Neftali Feliz, who worked around a leadoff walk to earn the save.
“Classic ninth inning,” La Russa said.
Said Motte: “It stinks.”
The sellout crowd at Busch fell silent as Rafael Furcal flied out to end it. Moments earlier, the fans gave Pujols a big cheer in what could have been his final at-bat at home before he heads into free agency. Pujols flied out to the wall, leaving him 0 for 6 in the Series.
Mike Adams, the third Texas pitcher, got the win.
Up through the ninth, the Texas hitters were flailing.
Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP, seemed to be wearing down with every swing in his first three at-bats.
Hamilton shattered his bat the first time up and slowly jogged to first base. Later, he weakly waved and appeared overmatched as he struck out on three pitches. That left him with an 0-for-16 Series slump dating to last October.
The acrobatic Andrus made a sensational play in the fifth to keep the game scoreless.
After a two-out single by Nick Punto and a walk to the light-hitting Garcia, Furcal slapped a hard grounder up the middle. Andrus dived to his left to stop it on the edge of the outfield grass, got to his knees and flipped the ball with his glove to second baseman Kinsler, who barely beat Garcia to the bag for a forceout.
“I always say when you’re not hitting good, you better do something good defensively,” Andrus said.
NOTES: Garcia was the first Mexican-born starter in the World Series since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. … The Cardinals hit into the most double plays in the majors this year, Texas was second. … Rangers president Nolan Ryan, before the game, on why he thought Texas would win in six games: “When I looked at St. Louis’ pitching, I don’t look at their pitching like a (Detroit ace Justin) Verlander, where you say boy, ‘Verlander is on, we’re going to hope that something good has to happen.’ I’m not downplaying the
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