Rangers pass by Redbirds for Series lead
Posted: Tuesday, October 25, 2011 7:01 pm
By BEN WALKER
AP Baseball Writer
ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — Call it lucky, weird or just plain goofy. Whatever, Mike Napoli and the Texas Rangers are suddenly one win away from their first World Series championship.
And the St. Louis Cardinals? Perhaps next time they should try texting the bullpen.
In a Game 5 that took several odd twists at the end, Texas turned a grounder that got away and a telephone mix-up into its biggest victory ever. Napoli delivered the latest clutch hit of his charmed season, lining a tiebreaking two-run double in the eighth inning that sent the Rangers past St. Louis 4-2 on Monday night for a 3-2 edge.
Next up for Texas, a trip to St. Louis and a chance to capture that elusive crown.
“We certainly won’t be out there thinking about we’ve just got to win one game,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I’ve been there before, and that doesn’t work.”
Napoli’s go-ahead stroke came off Marc Rzepczynski, right after a potential double-play ball slipped away from the St. Louis reliever. More bruising, at least to the Cardinals: Rzepczynski wasn’t even supposed to face Napoli.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said he called down to the bullpen earlier in the inning and wanted Rzepczynski and closer Jason Motte to get ready. Instead, bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist heard only Rzepczynski at first. La Russa called again to ask for Motte and this time Lilliquist heard “Lynn,” as in reliever Lance Lynn.
“I was more frustrated the double-play ball went off the glove and the fact we had numerous chances to add runs. That’s probably more frustrating,” La Russa said.
“The other part just happens. I mean, it’s loud down there, and sometimes you call down there and you have to wait until the crowd and a guy gets up late. I mean, this is not unusual,” he said.
Said Lilliquist: “You get a bunch of people, and it’s loud.”
“He wanted Motte going easy to back Zep up and I thought I heard Lynn. It transpired from there,” he said. “It’s basically miscommunication. It was loud. A lot of places are like that. The phone is as good as any phone anywhere.”
The right-handed Napoli, meanwhile, was dialed in to face the left-handed Rzepczynski with the bases loaded, one out and the score 2-all.
“I didn’t really see anybody warming up in the bullpen, so I kind of figured I was going to face him,” Napoli said.
“Just trying to get something to the outfield, you know, get a sac fly, get that run across the board,” he said. “I was trying to stay short and I got a pitch I could handle over the middle of the plate and put it in the gap.”
Texas will try to wrap it up in Game 6 on Wednesday night in St. Louis, with Colby Lewis facing Jaime Garcia. The weather forecast for Busch Stadium is daunting, calling for rain and temperatures around 50.
After Napoli put Texas ahead, the slugging catcher capped off his night of double duty by throwing out a would-be base stealer in the ninth as Albert Pujols struck out.
“Pujols is going to put it in play, he’s a good contact hitter,” Napoli said, “and they were just starting the runner, 3-2. As soon as I got it, I just got rid of it and put it on the bag.”
In the seventh, Napoli threw out Allen Craig at second with Pujols at the plate. Apparently, Pujols put on his own hit-and-run, then didn’t swing.
If the Rangers eventually do win it all, the Texas fans who stood and chanted Napoli’s name may forever remember his two-run hit.
If the Cardinals lose, there’s no doubt which play will stick with La Russa for a long, long time.
It was tied when Texas put runners on first and second with one out in the eighth, and Rzepczynski was summoned. David Murphy followed with a bouncer back to the mound.
But the ball appeared to glance off Rzepczynski’s hand and trickled harmlessly away for a single that loaded the bases.
Napoli, who came close to a three-run homer in his previous at-bat and hit a big homer in a Game 4 win, sent a drive up the alley against the pitcher with the nickname “Scrabble.” The double off Rzepczynski sure spelled good things for Texas, with the excitable Washington waving the runners around from the dugout.
Published in The Messenger 10.25.11