ST. LOUIS — After playing only four interleague games so far, the Cardinals will play nothing but AL opponents in their next 11 games. Up first are the Rangers this weekend at Busch Stadium.
You remember the Rangers. Though they never have been to St. Louis for the regular season, they played four games here in the fall of 2011. Those memories, of course, are better for the team that won one of the most memorable World Series in history.
“I’d be lying to you if I said I’m going to walk into that field and I’m not going to have some flashbacks to 2011,” Rangers outfielder David Murphy told mlb.com.
“I think the natural reaction and process is to think that they’re going to be negative thoughts, but really off the top of my head, I’m going to remember some of the greatest baseball that I’ve ever witnessed on that field. Things didn’t turn out the way that we wanted to, but there was some great baseball played there.”
As is the way in baseball, many of those who provided some of that great baseball have moved on. Both teams have undergone significant changes in the 20 months since the Cardinals’ seven-game victory. Among them:
* The man who had one of the biggest hits in Game 6 is now the Rangers’ designated hitter. That would be Lance Berkman, the 37-year-old slugger who can expect a warm welcome in his return to St. Louis. But because the DH doesn’t travel to the NL, Berkman is expected to be limited to pinch-hitting duties. The Rangers’ regular first baseman, Mitch Moreland, is scheduled to return from a hamstring injury today.
* Only one of the six starters scheduled to go this weekend appeared in the seven-game series. That would be the Rangers’ Friday night starter, Derek Holland, who pitched the game of his life with 8 1/3 scoreless innings in Game 4.
* The 3-hole hitters for both teams then now are collecting healthy paychecks from the Angels. Neither Albert Pujols nor Josh Hamilton, however, is having a whole lot of fun on the West Coast with the struggling Angels.
* Both closers have been shelved because of Tommy John surgery, though the Rangers’ Neftali Feliz underwent last summer, about nine months before Jason Motte.
* Neither bullpen, in fact, has a single reliever who pitched in the 2011 World Series. Kyle McClellan pitched in the National League Championship Series for the Cardinals, but he’s with the Rangers now.
Despite all the changes, both clubs still rank among the best in their respective leagues. The Cardinals, a season-high 21 games over .500, carry the majors’ best record into the weekend. The Rangers just won three of four against the A’s to close within one game of Oakland in the AL West. Before that, though, Texas had lost six in a row due to a slumping offense.
The Cardinals — and a national TV audience — will miss the Rangers’ top starter, Yu Darvish. The majors’ runaway leader in strikeouts, Darvish was in line to oppose Adam Wainwright on Sunday night, but the Rangers pushed back their ace’s next start until Tuesday. They instead will give the ball to Missouri product Nick Tepesch, who is 3-6 with a 4.84 ERA after the first 13 starts of his career.
You can follow Stan McNeal on Twitter at @stanmcneal or email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.