ARLINGTON, Texas -- Greetings from Rangers Ballpark, where we're getting set for Game Three of the World Series between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers on an incredible, 80-degree night. I hear what's going on back there, I know. So I'll think of you right now if you think of me when I'm in Winnipeg in January. Deal? Good. Now let's move on.
The teams are tied at a win apiece and, frankly, I'm sick about all the talk of who's talking, who's not talking. Albert Pujols doesn't know why people are mad he didn't talk after Game Two (seriously?), Josh Hamilton isn't talking about his injury -- which may, in fact, be a sports hernia and not a groin problem. Nobody really cares what any of the starting pitchers say because no one figures Matt Harrison and Kyle Lohse will be around very long tonight.
Play ball already. And somebody score. The teams combined for just eight runs in frigid St. Louis, the lowest combined total in the first two games since 1950. Something tells me they'll heat up tonight.
The lineups look like this:
St. Louis: Furcal, ss; Craig, rf; Pujols, 1b; Holliday, lf; Berkman, dh; Freese, 3b; Molina, c; Jay, cf; Theriot, 2b.
Texas: Kinsler, 2b; Andrus, ss; Hamilton, cf; Young, dh; Beltre, 3b; Cruz, rf; Napoli, c; Murphy, lf; Torrealba, c
The wireless was basically a disaster in this ballpark last year but it's been terrific so far (knock on my work table). There are signs everywhere instructing people not to use their own networks or things like Verizon MiFi, which was a big problem during the 2010 NCAA Tournament in Buffalo and last year's Sabres-Flyers playoff series in Philadelphia (memo to Flyers beat writers -- very rude)
So assuming the techno end holds up, keep it here for thoughts and updates on Game Three.
End-1st: Who was the dope who mentioned the words Verizon MiFi? That was me. As soon as I said it, one popped up and the wireless popped down. We seem to be back up and I can tell you that nothing has interrupted Allen Craig in this series. Who is this guy? If the series ended right now, he'd be the most unlikely MVP ever. He gave the Cardinals a 1-0 lead in the top of the inning by roping the second pitch he saw from Harrison deep to left for a solo home run. That's 3 for 3 with three RBIs in three games. Harrison also gave up a single to Holliday. Lohse, meanwhile, pitched a 1-2-3 first. Cards lead, 1-0.
End-3rd: The Cardinals hold their 1-0 led as they have two hits and the Rangers have just one. Through 21 innings of this series, we have only played four outs where either team led by more than a run. That came in Game One, after Berkman's two-run single in the fourth gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. St. Louis made the next three outs and Texas made one out in the top of the fifth before Napoli's two-run laser to right tied the game. The Rangers are hitting just .174 in the series thus far (12-69), while the Cardinals are at exactly .200 (14-70). Nobody could have predicted this after the way the teams pounded the ball in the LCS.
Mid-4th: I have been saying all season MLB should institute a replay challenge system, perhaps one a game for each club. It would take less time that seeing a manager trot out to a base to argue. Case in point: The top of the fourth tonight, where a moment of blindness from first-base umpire Ron Kulpa has cost the Rangers four runs and put the Cardinals in command, 5-0. With no outs and a man at first, Holliday hit a routine 6-4-3 double play ball. But Kinsler's throw to first was high (no excuse for that). Still, Napoli brought it down and clearly tagged Holliday high on the way by, before the runner hit the base and tumbled to the ground. Napoli couldn't believe the call (left) and neither could Ron Washington.
Everyone in the park saw it except Kulpa. From there, the Rangers crumbled. A single by Berkman, an RBI double by Freese, an intentional walk to Molina, a crippling two-run error as Napoli threw wide of the plate to Torrealba's right, and an RBI single from Theriot. Inexcuseable. Washington challenges, Holliday is out and there's two out and nobody on.
Another aside: Kulpa is a St. Louis native. Bad appearance for MLB -- even if Kulpa correctly called Kinsler safe at second on a steal in the 9th inning Thursday. Cards lead, 5-0.
Bot-4th: Good for the Rangers to answer right back. Home run for Young, single for Beltre and a screaming line drive the other way to right over the wall by Cruz, his seventh of the postseason (one shy of Carlos Beltran's record of 8 in 2004). Napoli singles and Lohse is gone, replaced by Fernando Salas. Suddenly, Cards lead 5-3. In less than four innings, we have eight runs -- or, the total we had in 18 innings in St. Louis. The inning ends with the score 5-3 as Murphy grounds out, Torrealba singles to right (Napoli held at third) and Kinsler lofted a fly ball to left just inside the foul line, with Napoli gunned down at home on a great one-hop throw by Holliday. There were nine runs scored in the first 21 innings of the series and seven in the fourth inning tonight.
Mid-5th: Feldman is on for the Rangers and gives the three runs right back. A single by Pujols (his second in two innings after opening the series 0 for 7), two walks, an RBI groundout by Freese and a two-run double into the left-field corner by Molina. Kind of puts a damper on one of my favorite moments here, the "Deep in the Heart of Texas" sing-a-long. Here's a YouTube of what that sounds like, taken during last year's Series. Cards lead, 8-3.
End-5th: So lemme get this straight. In the first 21 innings of this series (counting the first three tonight), there were nine combined runs. Well, we've just put up 13 between the teams in the fourth and fifth tonight. The Rangers answered the Cards' three in the top of this inning with three more of their own so the Cards lead it, 8-6, through five. There were four straight singles in the inning, the first three off Salas including an RBI drive to left by Young, and the fourth one (by Beltre) drove in Hamilton, who had snapped an 0-for-18 drought in Series play the last two years with a single of his own. Napolis' sac fly made it 8-6 and Lynn walked the next two men to load the bases. But Kinsler popped to Furcal at short and the Cardinals escaped.
I'm listening to the Cards' radio broadcast on MLB.com because of the legendary Mike Shannon, whose steakhouse near Busch Stadium may be feeding me Tuesday night if I return to St. Louis. Said Shannon during Kinsler's at-bat: "This feels like a trip to the taxidermist and we're getting stuffed." The guy is a classic.
End-6th: Exactly three hours after the first pitch, we've played six innings and the Cardinals lead, 12-6. St. Louis got four runs in the top of the sixth off Alexi Ogando and there was some bitter irony for him in the inning as the only man he retired was Craig, who burned him twice in St. Louis. The key blow in the inning was a three-run homer to left by Pujols, a 423-foot moonshot that careened off the facing of the club level here, where only two visitors have reached in the ballpark's 18 seasons (one was Mark McGwire, then with Oakland). Cynics in the media horde, myself included, clearly believe Pujols will stick around to talk after this one. Boo.
Mid-7th: That's it for the suspense tonight as Pujols goes deep again, crushing the first pitch he sees from Mike Gonzalez 406 feet to dead center. The two-run shot makes it 14-6 and gives him five RBIs as part of his 4-for-5 night. Guess he'll be in the interview room tonight.
End-8th: It's 15-7 as the Cardinals are three outs away from taking the lead in the series and I'm pouding the print story.
Mid-9th: Pujols does it again. A solo homer to deep left (left) to make it 16-7. It goes 397 feet. The fourth three-homer game in Series history (Babe Ruth in 1926 and 1928 against the Cardinals and Reggie Jackson in 1977). The first by an NL player. Just the second in the postseason by an NL player (Bob Robertson of the Pirates in the 1971 NLCS against the Giants. He ties the Series record with five hits and six RBIs too. Wow.
FINAL SCORE: Cardinals win 16-7 in a game that will live in on in Series annals thanks to Pujols.
Game photos: Associated Press