10/20/11 1:58 AM ET
Washington's moves met with mixed results
Game 1 turns for Rangers after starters exit in decisive sixth
By John Schlegel / MLB.com
As their tight 3-2 loss to the Cardinals on Wednesday progressed, managerial maneuvers -- most reserved for the National League style of play -- were flying all over the place, and Washington's calls and the Rangers' strategic approach wound up having mixed results.
A couple of intentional walks worked out great. An unintentional intentional one, not so much. And when it came to a battle of pinch-hitters, it was advantage St. Louis -- and ballgame.
"We certainly didn't lose tonight. We got beat," Washington said. "They had an opportunity to push a run across. [Their] pinch-hitter got it done, and ours didn't."
Then again, the Rangers didn't find a way to wrest Game 1 from the home squad by making the best of the situations that arose in what turned into a tightly contested battle of wills and wits.
The two intentional walks wound up working out well for the Rangers, one leading to a strikeout of Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter to end the fourth and the other to a double play off the bat of Matt Holliday to end the fifth. But beyond that, the chess moves Washington made against baseball's Bobby Fischer -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa -- wound up in checkmate.
Most telling of all, the moment -- or actually moments -- of truth as the starting pitchers exited the game and pinch-hitters came into play did not turn out well for Texas, which lost the World Series opener for a second straight year.
After Rangers starter C.J. Wilson put No. 8 hitter Nick Punto on base with two outs and a runner on third in the sixth inning, both starters were knocked from the game. With Carpenter on deck, Wilson fell behind 2-0 on Punto on curveballs that started over the plate, trying to get the veteran to swing and miss.
"He didn't chase. What am I going to do, throw a fastball down the middle?" Wilson said.
In the end, though, Wilson said he actually accomplished what he'd hoped with the four-pitch walk of Punto.
"I wanted to force them to bring in a pinch-hitter and force Carpenter out of the game," Wilson said.
The results were not positive for the Rangers, however. The Cardinals went to pinch-hitter Allen Craig (exit Carpenter) and the Rangers countered with hot reliever Alexi Ogando (exit Wilson). Craig got the better of that one, fighting off a 98 mph Ogando fastball to place the game-winning RBI single just out of reach of a sliding Nelson Cruz in right field.
Then, when the bottom of the lineup came up for the Rangers in the top of the seventh with the tying run on second, pinch-hitters Esteban German - - who hadn't had an at-bat since Sept. 25 -- and Craig Gentry -- a right-hander subbing for left-handed David Murphy -- both struck out against Cards lefty Marc Rzepczynski.
"Gentry, generally when I take the outfielder out, which was Murphy, he's usually the guy I put in there. I thought Gentry had a pretty good swing, Rzepczynski beat him," Washington said. "And in German's case, he's a contact hitter. I thought he can handle Rzepczynski's offspeed stuff. He beat us."
One other option available to Washington at the time was catcher Yorvit Torrealba, but he made it clear afterward that wasn't how he wanted to handle the situation.
"Can you guarantee me that if I used Torrealba he would have done anything different? I used the guy that I thought could get me the base hit," Washington said.
One item to note there: Torrealba is 1-for-26 as a pinch-hitter for his career, that one hit coming in 2006.
It was evident very early Washington would have some say in how this game evolved, with Washington sending Ian Kinsler on a hit-and-run after he'd led off the game with a single. That wasn't something new and different the Rangers broke out for the NL park, but it didn't pan out. No. 2 hitter Elvis Andrus swung through the 0-1 sinker from Carpenter, and catcher Yadier Molina pegged a perfect throw to nail Kinsler, who was caught stealing only four times in 34 attempts during the regular season.
"Wash likes to put action on with me and Elvis," Kinsler said. "That's something we've been doing all year, but that time it didn't work out."
The same certainly could be said for other moves later in the game, and in a tight contest with everything on the line, the Cardinals came through with each move they made and the Rangers didn't.
"Got to give them credit, they beat us," Washington said. "We didn't give that game away tonight."
John Schlegel is a national reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.