ARLINGTON – Game 5 of the World Series didn’t feature the superb pitching performance of Game 4, or the historic offense of Game 3, but the final game Texas will play at Rangers Ballpark in Arlington this season was an accurate representation of the 2011 team.
“It wasn’t a flawless game by any means, but it’s a win,” outfielder David Murphy said. "We’ll take whatever we can get.”
Texas’ 4-2 Game 5 win began with a starter getting into trouble.
C.J. Wilson walked the first batter of the second inning, then allowed the runner to advance on a wild pitch before walking a second Cardinal. Yadier Molina drove in the game’s first run on a single, then Lance Berkman advanced to third on an error before scoring himself on a ground out.
The Rangers were in a 2-0 hole early, but another trait of the Texas starters shone through for Wilson after the second; The ability to fight out of jams.
“[I]t was a battle for [Wilson] all night,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I mean, every inning he was out there. But that’s the type of warrior he is. When you’ve got warriors on your team, you let them fight, and I let him fight and kept him around.”
Wilson had runners at first and third before escaping the third inning with a double play, then got out of the fifth with a ground out while the bases were loaded.
In all, the Cardinals left 12 runners on base and were 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position. The Rangers nullified Albert Pujols’ bat with three walks.
“We took the bat out of Albert’s hands and did what we had to do to pitch around some of the guys and attack the other guys,” Wilson said. “And it paid off for us.”
Pitching around Pujols was one of numerous moves that paid off for Washington and his Rangers. Shortstop Elvis Andrus said making the right moves in a game of this magnitude may not have been possible when the Rangers were in the World Series a year ago.
“[Washington] was good,” Andrus said. “I think for everybody last year was a learned lesson for us, [including the manager.] I think this year, he’s making the perfect moves at the right moment. And as a team and as a player you’re always really happy when they make a good move.”
Texas first baseman Mitch Moreland cut the lead in half in the third on a solo home run, and the Rangers still trailed 2-1 in the sixth when Wilson exited the game with one out.
Then it was up to the Rangers bullpen to showcase their pitching depth – another key component in 2011 that allowed Texas to win 105 games coming into Monday’s match up.
The Texas relief managed three and two-thirds scoreless innings, despite allowing three hits and four walks.
“My bullpen has been great for me since the 31st of July,” Washington said.
That left it up to the other two keys of the 2011 Texas Rangers – power and clutch hitting.
In the bottom of the sixth, Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre found an off-speed pitch in the zone and dropped to one knee as he blasted the pitch out of the park to tie the game.
Beltre said the pose he dropped into after his first-career World Series home run, the same one he has dropped into many times after hard swings, is not for dramatic flair.
“[Going to one knee is] just some bad habits,” Beltre said. “He left a breaking ball up in the strike zone and I was able to put a good swing on it.”
Teammates were more complimentary of the play.
“Beltre’s home run was huge,” Murphy said. “That’s definitely gotten overlooked tonight because [Texas catcher] Mike Napoli is such a big-game player and deserves so much attention for what he’s done. But yeah, Beltre definitely got us going there after Carpenter had thrown a great game.”
The third baseman’s homer set the stage for Napoli’s clutch hit in the bottom of the eighth.
With the game still tied at two and the bases loaded, Napoli ignored the chants of his name and fired a double to right center-field, scoring the game-winning runs.
As usual with this edition of the team, Napoli wouldn’t take the credit.
“I’m glad I can help to contribute,” Napoli said afterward. “Anybody in this lineup can do it. You’ve got to give Beltre credit for hitting the homer to tie the game up.”
Neither would Beltre.
“I think the clutch guy tonight was Napoli,” Beltre said.
In the end, it was Mike Napoli’s emergence – the team’s biggest story this year – that provided the punch to go back to St. Louis with a 3-2 series lead.
“[Napoli] has been everything we’ve asked and more,” Beltre said. “Hopefully he can help us to win one more game.”