Napoli Leads Rangers to a Game 5 Victory Over Carp and the Cards

With the World Series tied at two games apiece, the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers met for Game Five at Rangers Stadium in Arlington, Texas. The pitchers from Game One – Chris Carpenter for the Cardinals, and C.J. Wilson for the home team Rangers – met again for a rematch, and as the game began, it looked like it was going to be a game that closely resembled the first of the Series. Both pitchers dealt 1-2-3 half-innings, and both seemed to be in control of their best stuff.

But as the second inning dawned, Wilson found himself in a bit of trouble as the Cardinals jumped ahead to a 2-0 lead after a rally started by Matt Holliday, the Cardinals’ left-fielder, who led off with a walk, then safely reached second base as Wilson delivered a wild pitch to Lance Berkman, acting as the DH for Tony LaRussa’s Redbirds. Berkman also walked, and after David Freese made the first out of the inning, catcher Yadier Molina delivered a line drive single to the Rangers’ left fielder Murphy that allowed Holliday to score, and Berkman to advance to second. When Murphy dropped and misplayed the ball (twice), Berkman advanced to third. The Cardinals tacked on another run when center fielder Skip Schumaker grounded out to first base, but Mitch Moreland misplayed the ball, allowing Berkman to score as Molina scrambled to second. The inning ended when Nick Punto flew out to Murphy, who, seeking redemption, made a spectacular diving catch that robbed Punto of what would have been at least a base hit.

That was the last time that any Cardinals would come across home plate to score a run, despite chances coming often.

The bottom of the third inning saw Moreland hammering a lead-off, solo home run to right field, followed by a pop-out from second baseman Ian Kinsler, a bunt single by shortstop Elvis Andrus, and a base hit by center fielder Josh Hamilton to load the bases, but no runs would cross the plate for the Rangers.

Wilson and Carpenter resumed their pitchers’ duel in the fourth, when both men once again set their opponents down in order. Wilson’s future in Game 5, however, would be questioned in the fifth inning when the Cardinals threatened after a hard-hit single up the middle by Schumaker and a four-pitch walk to Punto. A perfectly-executed bunt by shortstop Rafael Furcal (who was celebrating his birthday) advanced the runners to second and third, and brought right-fielder Allen Craig to bat. With action in the Rangers’ bullpen, it was imperative that Wilson regain control; he did, striking Craig out, and opening a base up for “King Albert.” Pujols was intentionally walked for the second time in the game, and Holliday struck out to end the inning.

Though both teams seemed to be having a hard time coming up with a big hit when it was most needed, Adrian Beltre took care of that for the Rangers in the bottom of the sixth inning, when – after a swing that brought him to his knees – he belted a solo home run to deep left center that tied the game.

It was the eighth inning that saw the Cardinals’ hopes for a victory slipping away, however, when Rangers catcher Mike Napoli smashed a line-drive double into right field that allowed two more runs (Michael Young and Nelson Cruz) to cross the plate. The painful inning ended with a swinging strikeout by Andrus, but the damage had been done.

For the top of the ninth, Neftali Feliz, the Rangers’ closer, stepped into the game. He hit Craig with a pitch, and Craig took first base. Pujols, who represented the tying run, and therefore, forced Feliz to pitch to him, stepped to the plate. Craig was off and running with the pitch; Pujols took a swing and struck out, and Napoli fired the ball to second baseman Kinsler, who tagged Craig out well before the Cardinals’ right fielder could make contact with the base.

Holliday entered the batter’s box after Pujols, walked, and once again brought tying run to the plate in the form of Berkman. “Big Puma” ultimately took a big swing and missed for strike three. Napoli, however, didn’t get a handle on the ball right away, and went scrambling after it as it bounced away. Gloving it, he threw it to Moreland at first base to record the final out of the game – an out that brought the Rangers one game away from their first World Series title in franchise history.

Game 6 returns to St. Louis, where the Cardinals will have to rely on the magic provided by a home crowd if their World Series dreams are going to stay alive. It airs Wednesday, October 26, 2011, at 8 PM Eastern, 7 Central, on FOX.

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