Twining’s Take on the week in sports: World Series-only edition

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Tuesday was supposed to be the last off-day of the Major League Baseball season. Yesterday, however, rain storms and bad weather in St. Louis prompted the postponement of game six of the World Series until today. Jaime Garcia takes the mound for the home-team Cardinals, while Colby Lewis takes the reigns for the visiting Texas Rangers.

With the one extra day, I thought I’d take this edition of Twining’s Take on the week in sports to recap the first five games of the World Series.

Two years ago, the Rangers were one of four teams who had never been to the World Series. Last year, they made it to the end but lost to the San Francisco Giants in six games. This year, not only did the Rangers make the World Series for the second year in a row, they are one win away from winning their first championship. Not bad for a team that played for 49 years before making it to the World Series.

Before the World Series began, I predicted the Rangers would win but in an irrelevant number of games. I made it clear that I wanted the series to go a full seven games and for that reason I will be rooting for the Cardinals to win game six tonight.World Series Trophy

After the Rangers overcame a 1-0 deficit and a 2-1 deficit to tie the series and take a three games to two lead in the seven-game series, the Cardinals can take solace in the fact that they have home field advantage because the National League won July’s All-Star Game. Instead of playing in the heat of Texas, games six and seven will be played in 40+ degree conditions in Missouri.

One thing that makes this series so intriguing, or lackthereof as some would argue, is because the Rangers and the Cardinals have only met once – ever.

Baseball is a sport steeped in tradition and which dates back one hundred years – it’s America’s Past Time. It’s unusual then, that a matchup between St. Louis and Texas, two long-tenured franchises, contains little in terms of rivalry. Fans stuck in the middle, like myself, must then rely on a competitive, seven-game series to hold our focus.

Major League Baseball hasn’t had a seven-game World Series since 2002 when the Los Angeles Angels beat the San Francisco Giants. The Angels trailed 3-2 similar to the Cardinals this year. If the Cardinals can force a game seven, they will steal momentum from the Rangers at a valuable time. Game seven has been won by the home team in the last 8 World Series that have gone to seven games

Because of this rich history, baseball is filled with historial statistical projection and is dominated by what has occurred and what should occur based on circumstance.

I wanted to use this Twining’s Take to focus on projections and predictions of the first five World Series games and discuss what history would indicate is “supposed to happen” in this World Series-only edition of Twining’s Take.

Game OneCardinals 3, Rangers 2
Game one has been an indicator of success in recent decades: The winner has captured seven of the last eight titles, 12 of the last 14 and 19 of the last 23. In addition, the team hosting Game 1 has won 20 of the last 25 World Series.

After St. Louis edged out a 3-2 win in game one to open the World Series, history would say that the Cardinals are likely to win it all. The scoring all took place in the middle three innings. Lance Berkman started in the fourth with a two-run single. In the fifth, Mike Napoli tied it with a two-run homer for the Rangers. Then, an inning later, Allen Craid played hero when he singled in David Freese.

Mike NapoliIt’s interesting that game ones have been so pivotal in the recent past. I’d attribute this to the many off-days that previously extended World Series in November. This year, with only two scheduled off days, a teams ace, such as the Cardinals’ Chris Carpenter, is unlikely to pitch three times in the series.

Game TwoRangers 2, Cardinals 1
Of teams that won Game 2 to even the Series, 29 of 54 have gone on to win — but just two of the last seven, the 2002 Angels and the 2009 Yankees.

The Rangers “desperately” needed to win game two in order to tie the series. It doesn’t matter that even with a 2-0 deficit there are still five games remaining in the series. I wonder if historical analysis is a burden to the players? Do you think they think about historic stats. You know they at least watch Sportscenter where they’ll talk about this. Could you imagine? Top of the ninth, Cardinal reliever Jason Motte on the mound…

“Man, I can’t believe I just allowed two-straight singles to open the ninth inning. I hope I don’t give up consecutive sacrifice flies to Josh Hamilton and Michael Young, lose the game 2-1, and then be a main catalyst in my team being the second team in nine years to lose the World Series after winning game one.”

Game ThreeCardinals 16, Rangers 7
The 2003 Florida Marlins were the last team to go on to win a World Series following a 2-1 deficit.

This was clearly the Albert Pujols show. Pujols erupted a day after not talking to the media following game two. Leading the Cardinals to a 16-7 victory, Pujols was 5-6 with three homeruns, three runs scored and six RBI. Each of his marks – homers, runs and rbi – matched World Series records.

It was a game for the ages. 23 runs scored in total, all but one scored during or after the fourth inning. In the fourth and fifth inning alone, both teams combined to score 13 runs. This is the 3rd game in postseason history in which each team scored at least six runs over the same 2-inning span.Albert Pujols courtesy SD Dirk via Flickr

Game FourRangers 4, Cardinals 0
From pre-game show on ESPN Radio: Derrek Holland will most likely only go four or five innings, but the Rangers need him to go six so they can get to the back end of their bullpen … One thing we know for sure is that Albert Pujols is going to be on base. How Ron Washington chooses to coach around that will be important.

Boy were the announcers way off in their assessment of Holland. Far surpassing their prediction of four or five innings, Holland lasted 8 /3, struck out seven and allowed only two hits and two walks. He stymied the Cardinal offense that had erupted the night before. The Cardinals set the record for the biggest drop-off preceding a shutout in the World Series, the worst since the 1993 Blue Jays dropoff of 15 runs to the Phillies.

Not only did the announcers whiff on Holland, Pujols projection was also a swing-and-miss. Prior to his five-hit outburst in game three, Pujols was 0-7 to start the series. Not only did Pujols not draw a walk, he went hitless in four at bats. From 0-7, to 5-12, back to 5-16. Pujols production is obviously hit or miss at this point.

Game FiveRangers 4, Cardinals 2
The Cardinals have won four of five World Series when trailing 3-games-to-2. The only loss was to the Philadelphia Athletics in 1930.

Like the double-switch in the National League, maybe blowing two hit-and-runs in pivotal situations was a strategic move for the Cardinals. Even though Mike Napoli emerged as a potential MVP candidate after throwing out Allen Craig at second base in the seventh and another would-be base stealer in the ninth. Both times, Pujols was at bat in hit-and-run situations.

Napoli hit the game-winning two-run homerun in the bottom of the eimghth and became only the second player, since Mickey Mantle in 1960, to have four multi-RBI games in a single World Series.

The real story of game five was the mis-communication, allegedly due to the noise from the Texas crows, the resulted in Lance Lynn entering the game for the Cardinals when Manager Tony LaRussa was expecting Jason Motte. Lynn was not supposed to pitch and intentionally walked the only batter he faced.

Photos courtesy Monikalel42, theseoduke and SD Dirk via Flickr.

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