Did the Texas Rangers essentially win the World Series on Thursday night? By coming back to win in the top of the 9th inning on two sacrifice flies thanks in large part to a daring steal of second base and a misplay by St. Louis first baseman Albert Pujols, not only did they put a loss and blown save on the record of Jason Motte, but they moved the odds on who might win the eventual championship drastically.
Baseball fans were being inundated with the stats showing how rare it is for a team to lose the first two games of the World Series and be able to come back and with the title. Without going over the numbers just consider what the Texas Rangers would have had to do. Without the comeback win in game two they would have had to win four of five. Now, we have a best of five series with the home field and momentum in the Rangers' favor. But snatching a victory at the last minute has more value than just a win. It changes the attitude in both camps.
If this series has proven one thing so far it is the value to good pitching. Now, that is not to say that either team is loaded with best pitchers in baseball over a long season. The stats show that. Neither team's starters were consistently unhittable all year. But they had their moments. And in the World Series they are having very good outings.
The fact that the St. Louis relief pitching had been so good is simply amazing to those who followed the team from within the NL Central all year. The bullpen which had been almost unhittable in the whole post season, until the 9th inning Thursday, was a major weakness for the first half of the season. Even into August it was not dependable. It was the team's Achilles heel. One ninth inning blown save and game is not the end of the world for the Cardinals. But it really hurt.
The Rangers lineup is absolutely scary for opponents because so many of those in it can hit the ball out of the park. Yet they pulled out the win Thursday with a single in front of the outfield to lead off the inning, a key stolen base, aggressive baserunning and two sacrifice flies.
That bit of "small ball" may turn out to be the most important half inning in the whole series.
There is still a lot of baseball to be played, but now the Cardinals are the team that absolutely must win the opening meeting in Arlington on Saturday. I would not want to be in St. Louis' shoes facing a loose Ranger team with a two game to one lead and two more games to play before friendly home fans.