Griffin: World Series Game 3 proves to be Pujols personal playground
ARLINGTON, TX-There could be no avoiding talking to Albert Pujols after the 16-7 Cardinals win over the Rangers in Game 3 on Saturday. The slugging first baseman posted the fourth three home run performance in World Series history. Babe Ruth did it twice -- in 1926-28 -- and, of course, Reggie Jackson in the '77 Fall Classic against the Dodgers. Pujols also banged out five hits, tying Paul Molitor's record set in 1982 and equalled the World Series record with six RBIs, set by a pair of Yankees -- Bobby Richardson in '60 and tied by Hideki Matsui in 2009.
“It's pretty special,” Pujols admitted of joining Hall-of-Famers Ruth and Jackson. “Those guys are great players and to do it at that level and on this stage is amazing. But at the same time you need to enjoy this for a minute and be ready to play tomorrow.”
In the space of just four innings, the 2011 World Series became Pujols' personal showcase. The soon-to-be free agent already had two singles when he stepped to the plate in the sixth and crushed an Alexi Ogando fastball off the facing of the Club Level in left field where only 15 home runs had gone in the ballpark's 18 years. An inning later against Mike Gonzalez, he slammed a two-run shot to straightaway centre giving him five RBIs -- and counting.
Pujols completed what was arguably the greatest offensive performance in World Series history lining his third homer into the front of the left field stands off of lefthander Darren Oliver completing the scoring in a 16-7 victory. His 14 total bases stands alone as a record. The Rangers super bullpen has apparently met its Kryptonite.
“I mean with Babe and Reggie that's good company right there,” Cardinals' manager Tony LaRussa said. “According to some of the stats it's the greatest of any World Series in 120 years. I think the best thing to do is you make that statement and ask somebody, okay you show me one that was better.”
While Pujols was reluctant to talk about his own accomplishments, he praised LaRussa for passing Bobby Cox into second place on the all-time list of post-season managerial wins.
“I just thank God every day that I'm able to wear this uniform and share a special moment with Tony,” Pujols said. “I've been with him for 11 years and he's been like a dad to me. It's pretty special.”
First base umpire Ron Kulpa can thank Pujols later. Every once in a while at the World Series there is a call by an umpire that overrides what happened in the game. Think Don Denkinger in 1985. Such was the case in the fourth inning Saturday. It was a missed call by Kulpa on the back end of a double play grounder by Matt Holliday that opened the door to a four-run inning that could have been the story of the game, but thanks to Pujols power display, it will be forgotten.
Here's how it went. Holliday grounded to Elvis Andrus who flipped to Ian Kinsler for the force on Pujols. Kinsler's relay pulled first baseman Mike Napoli off the bag, but his swipe tag bounced off Holliday's shoulder as he was still a stutter-step away from safety. After a brief argument and a brief umpires tete-a-tete, Rangers' manager Ron Washington returned to the dugout still unsatisfied. Kulpa was asked about the play after the game and admitted he had made a mistake.
“I saw a replay when I walked off the field and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag,” the St. Louis native, Kulpa told a pool reporter. “At the time of the play I had him on the base at the time of his tag. I had a tag, but I had him on the base. On that type of play, I'm not going to ask for help. Ron (Washington) didn't ask me to get any help either.”
After that, Rangers starter Matt Harrison and his defence fell apart. Lance Berkman singled. David Freese doubled home a run. Yadier Molina was walked intentionally setting up a key defensive gaffe that may have been the game's early turning point.
Jon Jay bounced a ball towards first, charged by Napoli. On the run his throw was to the foul side of the plate. Yorvit Torrealba, with an epic display of poor footwork, fanned on the catch, getting a piece of leather on it with two runs scoring. Ryan Theriot followed with an RBI single. It all started with the umpire. Won't matter to Rangers fans that Kulpa was born and raised in St. Louis will it? Fans don't look at things like that. Right?
"We still had an opportunity to get off the field with maybe them just pushing one tun across the plate," Washington said. "We just didn't make the plays."
Down 5-0, with the four-spot tacked on to the first inning homer by Allen Craig, the Rangers roared back in the bottom of the fourth against starter Kyle Lohse. Michael Young led off with a home run, his first in two World Series. Adrian Beltre singled and ALCS hero Nelson Cruz homered into the first row in the right field seats. It was the fourth straight playoff game at home in which Cruz had homered. He had also homered in Game 5 of the 2010 series, making him the first Ranger with multiple World Series homers. It was his seventh homer of this post-season.
But the difference in the two stadiums became apparent, with Arlington extremely hitter friendly compared to the cold and blustery conditions of Busch Stadium. Scott Feldman was now working for the Rangers in the fifth. The Cards loaded the bases with nobody out. Freese broke his bat but drove in a run, then Molina delivered a two-run double to regain a five-run advantage.
The Rangers were not done either. They closed to within an 8-6 score with three of their own against Fernando Salas and Lance Lynn, who ended up the winner. The rally was keyed by an RBI double by Young, a single by Beltre and a sacrifice fly by Napoli. They left the bases loaded in the fifth. Both teams combined to score 13 runs in the fourth and fifth innings.
In the sixth it was Pujols time to step up and leave his mark. With his three-run blast, the Cards had once again re-established a five run lead. The price of playing poker with Pujols just went up.
“Between him and (Miguel) Cabrera, you need to outlaw them,” Washington said with no hint of humour. “They're just that good. He's a super player, no doubt about it.”
One of the pluses for LaRussa as the series shifted to Texas was that he would be able to find a spot in the batting order for his super-sub, Craig. With Berkman becoming the DH after consultation with the manager, Craig was in the lineup in right field and batting second. He will play all three games deep in the heart of Texas, perhaps a great equalizer for the Cards.
The Series continues on Sunday with the Cards leading two games to one