Saturday, October 21, 2006

World Series: Cards take Game 1, 7-2

SCORE: 7-2
SERIES: 1-0, St. Louis
WP: Reyes
LP: Verlander
HRs: DET: Monroe; STL: Rolen, Pujols


Tigers hurler Justin Verlander was not on top of his game in this one. After being handed a 1-run lead in the first on a RBI double by Carlos Guillen Verlander gave the lead up on a Scott Rolen HR in the top of the 2nd. That was the last time the Tigers would be in the game as Verlander's night went from bad to worse in a hurry. In the 3rd inning he gave up a leadoff single to Yadier Molina, and then got two quick outs. But 2 out trouble came back to bite him: he allowed a double to Chris Duncan that scored Molina, and then he had to face Phat Albert with first base open. No brainer, right? You walk Pujols and pitch to Edmonds. Wrong. Verlander decided to challenge Pujols, and we all know what happens when pitchers try to challenge the best player in the game. Albert took the first pitch he saw from the rookie to rightfield for a momentum-swinging 2-run homer that made it 4-1 Cards and effectively ended the night for Verlander & Detroit.

Meanwhile Cardinal rookie Anthony Reyes, sporting old-school striped socks (nice touch) and a flat brim hat looked like the second coming of Cy Young. He shut down the potent Detroit lineup for the next 8 innings, retiring 17 in a row at one point, pitching with a calmness & authority that belied the fact that he was a veteran of only 18 career starts. The Tigers could do nothing with Reyes and the Cards tacked on a few insurance runs in the 6th. After Pujols walked he was moved to third on a botched pickoff by Verlander and scored on a single by Edmonds. Two more would score that inning, one on an interference call, and by the time Verlander exited he had a linescore that was a far cry from his previous postseason outings:5IP, 6H, 7R(6ER),2BBs, 8Ks. Yeah, I don't know how a guy mowing 'em down with strikeouts gives up 7 runs, either.
Speculation will abound that the Tigers were rusty from their long layoff; they committed 3 errors, had the interference call on Brandon Inge cost them a run and generally looked stale all night. But this is a long series and it's only one game.

The decision not to walk Pujols with first base open will come back to haunt Detroit, Leyland & Verlander if the Tigers lose this series. Although it only made the score 4-1 & it was still early, there is something about the combination of a big home run from your MVP & the boneheaded decision by another team not to pitch around him that hurts like a sucker punch to the grill. It was a timely hit from a great player, and it set the tone for the entire night for St. Louis.

Anthony Reyes. The Cards couldn't have asked anything more of the youngster, and he didn't disappoint. The kid came through with the game of his (brief) career on the sport's grandest stage and made a name for himself with a performance that could be the stuff of legend. His line:
8IP, 4H, 2ER, 1BB, 4Ks, 1 awesome story to tell the grand kids.

Verlander. The Tigers and their fans had high hopes that he could start them off on the right foot in the series; he proceeded to shoot himself in said foot. After cruising through the postseason up to that point he picked the worst possible time to have a meltdown like this. Oh, and he shouldn't have pitched to Albert (how many times you think he's gonna hear about that one?)

Reyes' string of setting down 17 straight batters was the longest in a World Series game since Cincinnati's Jose Rijo retired 20 in a row in Game 4 against Oakland in 1990...Inge was charged with 2 errors on the interference play, one when he bobbled the grounder in the first place and another when he let Rolen barrel into him allowing the run to score.

"We didn't play well." Tiger manager Jim Leyland with the understatement of the moment.

Game 2 will be played Sunday night in frigid Detroit. Kenny Rogers will take his 15 inning postseason scoreless streak to the hill as he faces former Tiger Jeff Weaver. Weaver has pitched above his head in the playoffs to date, but I'll take my chances with the Gambler over him any day.
MY PICK: Tigers will win Game 2, 4-2.

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