More offense expected as World Series shifts to Texas
The Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals are tied at one game apiece
The warmer weather and a hitter's ballpark should boost the run scoring
There have been 12 one-run games this postseason, tying the most ever
ST. LOUIS -- Albert Pujols launched a 94-mile-per-hour fastball to deep right field, tracking the ball closely as he left the batter's box, his eyes not even blinking as he ran toward first base.
When his eighth-inning shot fell into the glove of Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz near the top of the fence, a few feet from the 375-foot sign, Pujols forcefully clapped his hands together in disappointment, knowing the Cardinals could have used the insurance run.
Instead of extending St. Louis' lead from 1-0 to 2-0 with three outs separating the Cardinals from a two-game edge in the World Series, the Rangers rallied in the ninth, scoring two runs on two singles, a stolen base, a runner advancing on an error by Pujols and two sacrifice flies, a bit of millwork manufacturing from a club used to assembling bigger numbers on the scoreboard.
The Rangers thus tied the Series at 1-1, as both teams relocate south to Texas for three games that may barely resemble the low-scoring, tightly-played baseball we've seen thus far. Pujols' ball, for example, if it had been hit in Arlington rather than St. Louis, had a strong chance of leaving the yard.
There's been a paucity of runs, just eight in total. That's an average of four combined runs per game; the Rangers, meanwhile, in the regular season averaged 6.1 runs per game at home by themselves. Before the series resumes with Game 3 on Saturday night, here are some of the historic notes from Thursday night's Game 2 of this year's Fall Classic:
First World Series game in which the game-tying and go-ahead runs were both scored on sacrifice flies.
Fourth World Series inning with two sacrifice flies
First homerless World Series game since 2007's Game 2.
Don't expect such low-scoring to persist. Like a fire that only ignites and spreads under the right conditions, the below factors are all conducive to these lineups exploding.
Consider the four major changes that will affect play in Games 3, 4 and 5:
1. Different ballpark: St. Louis' home plays as a pitcher's paradise, while Texas' can be more of a launching pad. During the regular season Busch Stadium tied for the 21st most home runs at 1.6 per game; the Rangers' Ballpark in Arlington was the majors' most homer-happy venue with 2.8 home runs per game.
2. Designated hitters. The National League rules with the pitcher batting (and subsequently being pinch-hit for and double-switched with) have made for a second-guesser's paradise, but the American League rules of adding a ninth position player to the lineup ought to boost run scoring. The Cardinals can feature pinch-hitter extraordinaire Allen Craig, who has delivered run-scoring base-hits off the bench in both of the first two games, for four at bats instead of one; the Rangers can either add lefty Mitch Moreland for more pop or allow injured Josh Hamilton to focus only on his offense with David Murphy and Craig Gentry manning the outfield in his stead.
3. Better weather. The ball tends to travel better in warmer climes. The first two games in St. Louis had first-pitch temperatures of 49 degrees in Game 1 -- tied for third-lowest in a World Series game since they began tracking them in 1975 -- and then 50 degrees in Game 2. Current forecasts for the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex call for high temperatures during the day between 79 and 85 on the three game days, meaning the first-pitch temps are likely to be at least 70.
4. Back-end-of-the-rotation starters. Certainly any starter on either team is capable of spinning a career game, but the pitchers were lined up in the order they were for a reason. The Cardinals' best two starters all year, Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia, began Games 1 and 2; Texas threw its best starter, C.J. Wilson, in Game 1 and its starter with the best postseason track record, Colby Lewis, in Game 2. St. Louis will use right-handers Kyle Lohse (7.45 ERA this postseason) in Game 3 and Edwin Jackson (8.53 ERA in two NLCS starts) in Games 4 against Texas lefties Matt Harrison and Derek Holland (8.59 ERA in two ALCS starts).
Bonus change: a shred of experience. These two teams have only played three times in their histories, with that series occurring in 2004, so many of the batters had never seen the opposing pitchers. While only the Game 1 starters will take the mound in Texas (in Game 5), both managers will want to use many of the same relievers. After Game 2, for instance, the Rangers' Josh Hamilton, who hit the game-tying sacrifice fly, acknowledged that having seen Cardinals' lefty Arthur Rhodes two straight nights was helpful in planning his at bat.
Of course, both offenses could just be sleeping giants ready to awaken anyway. The Cardinals led the NL in runs scored with 762 this season, and the Rangers ranked third in the AL with 855, with 58.2 percent of their runs and 60.0 percent of their homers coming in Texas.
"We both have good offensive teams," Craig said, "so I know we're looking forward to getting down there and hopefully breaking out with the bats and scoring some more runs."
At Busch we had two straight games clawed out in the late innings, the 11th and 12th one-run games of the postseason -- matching the most such games in history -- but this was the first with a lead change in the ninth inning. And, given how little scoring there's been, it was the first lead change of the World Series.
With a lot more offense expected in the next few games -- everything is, after all, bigger in Texas -- that likely won't last.