World Series Game 5 preview: Carpenter gives Cardinals edge
The only pitcher this postseason to turn in a better performance than the 8 1/3 scoreless innings thrown by the Rangers' Derek Holland in Game 4 will take the mound in tonight's Game 5 for St. Louis. Chris Carpenter gives the Cardinals the advantage over the Rangers' C.J. Wilson, who has struggled mightily this postseason, but tonight's game isn't as pivotal as one might expect.
Remarkably, though a tie-breaking win in the fifth game of a best-of-seven series puts the victor just one out away from a series win, just two-thirds of the teams that have won a tie-breaking Game 5 in a best-of-seven World Series (26 of 39) have gone on to win the series, and just three of the last nine teams to break a Series tie with a Game 5 win went on to win the championship. That's a testament to how closely matched any series that gets to 2-2 is, and is certainly reflected in this year's Series, which is developing into one of the best in recent memory.
Indeed, this is the first Series to be tied after four games since 2003, and only one other series has gone six games, the minimum length for this series, since then. It is also the first Series in which the two teams have alternated wins through the first four games since 1997. In that Series between the Indians and Marlins, the two teams alternated all the way through Game Seven, when the Marlins, who won Games 1, 3 and 5, won on a 11th inning walk-off single by Edgar Renteria.
• Chris Carpenter has made four starts this October. The first, in Game 2 of the NLDS on three days' rest, was a dud, but in this last three, he is 3-0 with a 2.25 ERA, including a quality start win in Game 1 of this World Series (6 IP, 2 R). Also included in those last three starts was the only pitching performance of this postseason better than Holland's Sunday night, a Game 5 shutout in the Division Series that handed the Cardinals a 1-0 victory over Roy Halladay and the Phillies.
• C.J. Wilson has also made four starts this postseason, but not one of them has been quality and he has walked 14 men and allowed six home runs in his 21 1/3 innings over those four starts. The best of that bad bunch was his Game 1 start in this series in which he held the Cardinals to three runs over 5 2/3 innings and kept the ball in the ballpark. He walked six men against four strikeouts in that game, but two of those walks were intentional: one to Nick Punto with two outs and the pitcher on deck, one to Albert Pujols with two outs and the tying run in scoring position. On both occasions, Wilson got the third out to strand the runners. No Cardinal had multiple hits against Wilson in that game.
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• Despite Pujols record-breaking performance in Game 3, the Cardinals leading hitter in this Series after four games is Lance Berkman, who had the only two hits off Holland in Game 4 and is now 7-for-15 with a double and a .500 on-base percentage. With the lefty Wilson on the mound in Game 5, Berkman should move back into the cleanup spot ahead of Matt Holliday.
• Cardinals centerfielder Jon Jay, who was dropped to eighth in the order when this Series shifted to Arlington, is now 0-for-14 in the Series without so much as a walk. He has only struck out once, but he hasn't even gotten the ball out of the infield since Game 2. The Cardinals likely would have benched him by now if they had a decent alternative at that position, but Jay remains a strong defender, and with the Rangers throwing lefty after lefty the Rangers don't have a right-handed outfielder on their bench. Their only real option is fellow lefty Skip Schumaker, though with the groundballing Carpenter on the hill in Game 5, they may finally decide to make that change.
• The only other player to make multiple starts in this series without picking up a hit is the Rangers' platoon left-fielder David Murphy, who is 0-for-7, but has drawn three walks.
• Speaking of struggles, Ian Kinsler looked like a potential Series MVP coming home from St. Louis, where he keyed the rally that won Game 2 for Texas, but he has had an awful first two games in Arlington, making two bad plays in the field in Game 3 (one an error, one setting up Ron Kulpa's blown call at first base), going 1-for-7 at the plate, and getting picked off first base after his only hit. That said, he has drawn two walks in the last two games and still leads the Rangers in on-base percentage in this series with a .471 mark.
• In Game 4, Rangers manager Ron Washington hit Mike Napoli eighth between Murphy and Mitch Moreland, who is now 2-for-23 in this postseason, in an attempt to "break up the lefties." It worked out in that Napoli was at the plate at just the right time to hit a game-breaking three-run home run, but that was dumb luck. Napoli has now driven in seven of the Rangers' 15 runs in this series. To have him hitting eighth between two hitters who aren't hitting is absurd.
• That was Napoli's second home run of the World Series. The first came in Game 1 off Carpenter, a two-run shot that accounted for all of Texas' scoring that night. Napoli is now 4-for-5 with two home runs in his career against Carpenter, both home runs being opposite field shots, and all five of those at-bats coming in the last two seasons.
• Despite the Cardinals' 16-run outburst in Game 3, these two teams have the same OPS (.699) after four games. The Cardinals have hit just .225/.327/.372 with four home runs, 19 walks and 26 strikeouts, while the Rangers have hit .244/.317/.382 with four home runs, 15 walks and 29 strikeouts.
• Baserunners are 1-for-4 on stolen bases in this Series, with Kinsler's steal in the ninth inning of Game 2 the only successful attempt.
• Tony La Russa said before Game 4 that Fernando Salas would be unavailable until Game 6. Salas has been ridden hard this season and postseason and retired just two of the six men he faced in Game 3. The Cardinals should also be without Lance Lynn again tonight after his 47-pitch outing in Game 3. The Rangers 'pen, meanwhile, got the night off Sunday night with the exception of Neftali Feliz, who threw 17 pitches to close out the game, so everyone should be available for Texas, though Washington and pitching coach Mike Maddux might decide to give Alexi Ogando the same treatment as Salas.