MLB

World Series Game 7: Five storylines

Rosenthal and Morosi preview Game 7
Rosenthal and Morosi preview Game 7
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Tracy Ringolsby

Tracy Ringolsby is a Hall of Fame baseball writer. He is in his 37th year covering Major League Baseball, is a co-founder of Baseball America, and is in his fourth year as pregame and postgame analyst for Colorado Rockies games on Root Sports.

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Albert Pujols could leave St. Louis as a free agent in the off-season.

But he has one more game to make an impact for the Cardinals.

With the Cardinals scoring two runs in the ninth and 10th innings to tie up Game 6 of the World Series, and then winning the game on David Freese’s leadoff home run in the 11th, a Game 7 will be played tonight.

Pujols is only 6-for-23 in the World Series, and five of those hits came in six at-bats in St. Louis’ 16-7 win in Game 3.

Pujols will be on center stage, as always, and here are five other storylines for Game 7:

All the tools

Chris Carpenter didn’t take anything for granted. He went to St. Louis manager Tony La Russa and asked to start Game 7, even though he will be working on three days rest. How could La Russa say no?

When the Cardinals went into the 162nd game of the season, needing a win to claim the wild card, it was Carpenter who responded with a two-hitter at Houston, capping the Cardinals’ charge from a 10-1/2 game deficit to Atlanta in the wild card race that began Aug. 26.

When the Cardinals went into the fifth and final game of the National League Division Series at Philadelphia, it was Carpenter who accepted the challenge of facing Roy Halladay in Philadelphia’s ballpark, and responded with a three-hit, 1-0 victory that sent the Cardinals to the NLCS.

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Now, with the season set to end tonight, it’s Carpenter who gets the call. He is 8-2 in his postseason career, and his team is 11-3 in games he has started. The Cardinals did suffer a 4-2 loss in Carpenter’s Game 5 start on Monday, but it wasn’t his fault. He came out after seven innings with the scored tied 2-2, having given up two bases-empty home runs.

There is one hitch, however. Carpenter is working on three days of rest. It’s only the second start in his 14 big-league seasons on less than four days of rest, both in this post-season. Brought back to start Game 2 in the NL Division Series against Philadelphia, four days after the two-hitter in Houston, Carpenter was gone after three innings, giving up four runs, although the Cardinals rallied for a win.

Short armed

Both teams will be a little arm weary in Game 7. Texas used eight of its 11 pitchers in Game 6, including closer Neftali Feliz, who threw 22 pitches in blowing the save in the ninth. The only pitchers who didn’t appear for Texas were Game 7 starter Matt Harrison, Game 5 starter C.J. Wilson, and left-handed reliever Mike Gonzalez.

St. Louis used seven pitchers, including closer Jason Motte, who worked two innings, threw 27 pitches and gave up two runs. Cardinals pitchers who did not get to the mound were left-hander Arthur Rhodes, Game 7 starter Chris Carpenter, right-handed reliever Mitchell Boggs and right-handed starter Kyle Lohse, who did get into the game as a pinch-hitter, and right-handed starter Edwin Jackson, who was announced as a pinch-hitter.

Both teams also will make game-time decisions on their lineups. Texas catcher Mike Napoli, likely MVP if the Rangers win, twisted his ankle on a base-running play in Game 6, but stayed in the game and X-rays afterward were negative. Right fielder Nelson Cruz suffered a strained groin.

St. Louis left-fielder Matt Holliday, picked off third when he tried a head-first dive back to the bag, was wearing a splint on the little finger of his right hand after the game.

Pressure’s on

Texas suddenly finds itself in a no-win situation.

The Rangers have pretty well been in control all season. But not now.

They spent 168 days of the regular-season in first place, taking over the top spot in the AL West for good on May 16. The Rangers were an impressive 40-2 on the road when leading after eight complete innings.

Yes, the Rangers and Cardinals split the first six games of the World Series, and yes, the Rangers have not lost back-to-back games since Aug. 24-25 against Boston. That’s 46 consecutive games without back-to-back losses, the longest such streak in the big leagues since Cleveland in 1995.

But now …

What will the emotions be like for Game 7 after the way St. Louis rallied in the ninth and again in the 10th to tie the score, then won Game 6 when Freese led off the 11th with the fourth walk-off home run in World Series history for a team facing elimination?

The Cardinals became the first team in World Series history to overcome two-run deficits twice in the ninth inning or later. And the Cardinals erased ffive different Texas leads in that Game 6 win.

Seventh heaven

This is the first Game 7 since 2002, the year before baseball began awarding home-field advantage in the World Series to the team from the league that won the All-Star Game.

If past history is an indication, give the edge tonight to St. Louis. The last eight seven-game World Series have been won by the home team — Anaheim (2002), Arizona (2001), Florida (1997), Minnesota (1991), Minnesota (1987), New York Mets (1986), Kansas City (1985), and St. Louis (1982).

Three of those eight came with walk-off hits: Gene Larkin singled to give Minnesota a 1-0, 10-inning Game 7 win over Atlanta in 1991 (rewarding Jack Morris, who at the age of 37 pitched a complete game); Edgar Renteria singled home Craig Counsell for Florida in a 3-2, 11-inning win against Cleveland in 1997, and Luis Gonzalez singled off Mariano Rivera to lift Arizona to a 3-2 win against the New York Yankees in 2001.

All or nothing

St. Louis has won 10 world championships, most of any NL team, and second overall to the New York Yankees, who have won 27. And this is the fourth time in the last 30 World Series that the Cardinals have been involved in a Game 7. St. Louis beat Milwaukee in seven games in 1982, but lost to Kansas City in 1985 and Minnesota in 1987.

Texas is one of eight teams that have never won a world championship. Along with Texas, Houston, Montreal/Washington, San Diego, Seattle/Milwaukee, Seattle Mariners, Colorado and Tampa Bay have not won a World Series.

Seattle, created out of expansion in 1977, and Washington, which was formed as the Montreal Expos in 1969, have never even appeared in a World Series.

Tagged: Yankees, Rangers, Cardinals, Chris Carpenter, Albert Pujols, David Freese

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