mike-napoli-game5

World Series 2011 Game Five: Napoli-onic

On Monday, October 24th, the World Series 2011 offered up a scintillating pitching match-up, a repeat of game 1. The 2 aces of their respective staffs, Chris Carpenter for the St. Louis Cardinals and C. J. Wilson for the Texas Rangers baseball club hooked up for what promised to be a nail-biter! Neither pitcher disappointed.

Napoli has 2 home runs and 9 RBIs in the 2011 World Series; his teammates have 4 homers and 10 RBIs.

Napoli has 2 home runs and 9 RBIs in the 2011 World Series; his teammates have 4 homers and 10 RBIs.

Though it could be said that Carpenter slightly out-pitched Wilson, the game was knotted at 2 runs apiece going into the 8th inning. The tie was partially due to the Rangers once again kicking the ball around on defense. Wilson, 1B Mitch Moreland and LF David Murphy contributed miscues. Of course, the Cards didn’t help their cause either with a couple of botched hit-and-run plays. Moreland helped redeem himself with a towering home run into the upper deck in right field. 3B Adrian Beltre also homered.

Gene Tenace hit 4 home runs (1972) with 17 walks in World Series play. Known primarily as a catcher, he also played 1B over 600 times. Lifetime, Tenace had 201 home runs and 984 walks.

Gene Tenace hit 4 home runs (1972) with 17 walks in World Series play. Known primarily as a catcher, he also played 1B over 600 times. Lifetime, Tenace had 201 home runs and 984 walks.

In the bottom of the 8th inning, “Mr. Clutch”, Michael Young, started the winning rally with a double to right-center off Cards’ reliever Octavio Dotel. Beltre then struck out, and Nelson Cruz was intentionally walked. Cardinals Manager Tony LaRussa then brought in left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski to face left-handed hitting David Murphy. Rangers Manager Ron Washington let him bat, and Murphy hit a shank shot ground ball off Rzepczynski’s glove which skidded past Cards’ 2B Nick Punto for an infield hit…to load the bases.

Then LaRussa, inexplicably, let Rzepczynski face Rangers catcher Mike Napoli. Napoli–that’s right, the guy with the Superman cape on–promptly hit a clutch double to right-center, scoring 2, making the score Rangers 4, Cardinals 2. The score held up for a Rangers win. The MLB championships now show the Rangers with a 3 games to 2 lead.

The Cardinals have overcome four 3-2 World Series deficits: in 1982 vs. the Milwaukee Brewers, in 1946 against the Boston Red Sox, 1934 vs. the Detroit Tigers and in 1926 against the New York Yankees. The only season the Cards lost a 3-2 deficit was 1930, when they lost to the Philadelphia A’s in 6 games.

LaRussa later explained that he had trouble communicating on the bullpen phone due to the crowd noise. He was trying to get reliever Jason Motte ready to face Napoli, but the message was garbled due to the noise from the crowd. Motte did not get up, leaving Rzepczynski to face Napoli.

Napoli now has 2 homeruns and 9 RBIs, as a catcher, in one World Series… and there is still at least game 6 to go. In looking at the record book for catchers, only the Hall Of Famer New York Yankee Yogi Berra, with 3 HRs in 1956, and the Oakland Athletics’  Gene Tenace, who had 4 HRs in 1972, have ever hit more than 2 HRs in a single World Series. And, only Berra and the 1997 Cleveland Indians’ catcher, Sandy Alomar, Jr., ever had 10 RBIs in a single World Series. The amazing Napoli is threatening to rewrite Series’ records for catchers.

Texas relievers now have 6 wins in the postseason 2011, matching the figure achieved by both the 2002 Anaheim Angels and the 1996 Yankees. The record of 7 is held by the 2003 Florida Marlins.

Here’s an amazing stat: the Cardinals have now set a Major League record for relief appearances in a postseason with 65.

Tuesday, October 25th, is a travel day, with the Series reconvening again on Wednesday. Game 6 will match game 2 Rangers’ starter Colby Lewis against the Cards’ game 2 starter, lefty Jaime Garcia. Expect a closely-contested game. The weather at Busch Stadium is forecast to be cold and drizzly.

Though the pundits point out that the Series’ game 5 winner (in a 2-2 World Series) wins the championship 66% of the time, remember that the Redbirds are at home.

What a great World Series!

You should follow Paul on Twitter here.