The second game of the World Series came down to the ninth inning Thursday night, as the Texas Rangers used a string of base hits, sacrifices and a stolen base to beat the St. Louis Cardinals, 2-1. It was the second tight game of the series, which is now tied, 1-1.
NPR's Tom Goldman calls Ian Kinsler's steal of second in the ninth inning "a key moment" in the win. At that point in the game, the Rangers were down 1-0. But then Kinsler reached first base, on a bloop single to shallow left field. And he was determined to make it to second base.
Coming against a fastball pitcher and a defensive stalwart in catcher Yadier Molina, Kinsler's steal was anything but easy — very few sprints from first base to second warrant their own story, but that's what they decided the ninth-inning steal deserves, over at Yahoo.
With Kinsler safely at second, the Rangers' Elvis Andrus was saved from the unenviable task of trying to bunt against the Cardinals' closer, fireball pitcher Jason Motte.
The stolen base "changed the whole approach, changed the whole game — and changed my approach at the plate, too," Andrus said afterwards.
Andrus sent a pitch into right field, then took second after Albert Pujols failed to cut off the throw from the outfield. That left the Rangers with men on second and third, with no outs. With Josh Hamilton and Michael Young delivering long pop flies, the runners worked their way around to score — and take a 2-1 lead.
Goldman says that Cardinals manager Tony La Russa "who we've been praising to the hilt for all his decision-making.. made what appears to be his first major mistake" when he replaced Motte with Arthur Rhodes — who then allowed the sacrifice flies that made the difference in the game.
"He's the boss and he makes the decisions, and he does things how he does them, why he does them," Motte said after the game.
Before that point, the game had been a pitchers' duel, with the Rangers' Colby Lewis and the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia controlling most batters.
Garcia, as Goldman notes, became the "first pitcher from Mexico to start a World Series game since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981; he was brilliant."
And just as in Game 1, St. Louis pinch-hitter Allen Craig thrilled the home fans by giving his team the lead. But this time, it wasn't enough.
The teams are now heading to Texas, where they will play Game 3 of the series Saturday night.