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Cardinals make all the right moves, win World Series opener

October 19, 2011 |  8:16 pm

Lance Berkman
Tony La Russa played a hunch Wednesday. Or perhaps he was just managing by the book.

Then again, maybe it was really an educated guess from the most educated of baseball managers.

Whatever word you choose to define the moves the Cardinals manager made in Game 1 of the World Series, there is only one way to describe the outcome: successful.

St. Louis rode pinch-hitter Allen Craig's two-out, run-scoring single in the sixth inning and a parade of relievers to a 3-2 victory against the Texas Rangers, drawing first blood in the best-of-seven series before a sellout crowd on a frigid night at Busch Stadium.

Photos: Rangers vs. Cardinals in World Series

The two previous postseason series in the American and National leagues were slugfests that averaged nearly 10 runs a game. But playoff baseball was back in vogue Wednesday, when managing and pitching -- some of it done from a tightrope -- dominated the World Series opener

C.J. Wilson, who hasn't won a game since the Rangers clinched their division last month, started for Texas and struggled early, throwing five of his first six pitches for balls, walking batters in each of the first two innings and giving up a single to start the third. But the left-hander, wearing short sleeves despite a 43-degree wind chill -- five degrees colder than it was at the start of the NHL's Winter Classic on Jan. 1 in Pittsburgh -- didn't allow any of those runners to get past first base.

That all changed in the fourth when he hit Albert Pujols on the foot to start the inning, gave up a double to Matt Holliday, then watched both runners score on Lance Berkman's single.

The Cardinals' Chris Carpenter, who hasn't lost since August, also started slowly, with Ian Kinsler grounding a single off third baseman David Freese in the first inning and Adrian Beltre lining a double past Freese in the second. But the right-hander escaped trouble both times; Kinsler was erased trying to steal to end the first, while Mike Napoli bounced into a double play to end the second.

Still, Carpenter, who has repeatedly denied reports of a nagging elbow problem, was far from sharp. He fell behind five of the first six Rangers hitters while staying completely away from his breaking pitches the first two innings.

Then, after retiring six batters in order in the third and fourth, he gave up a single to Beltre to start the fifth. An an out later, Napoli drove an 0-1 pitch into the bleachers in right field to tie the score, 2-2. It was Napoli's fourth hit -- and second home run -- against Carpenter in five career at-bats.

Both pitchers were gone an inning later, though, after Wilson walked Nick Punto intentionally with two out in the sixth inning, leading La Russa to lift Carpenter for a pinch-hitter -- a move Washington countered by going to his bullpen for right-hander Alexi Ogando.

It was a chess match that quickly went La Russa's way, with Craig slicing a two-strike line drive to right field that eluded a sliding Nelson Cruz just inside the foul line, scoring David Freese from third.

The bullpens took over after that. Four Rangers relievers kept the Cardinals off the scoreboard, keeping the Rangers within striking distance. But the Cardinals quintet of Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Octavio Dotel, Arthur Rhodes and closer Jason Motte was even better, combining to hold Texas to one hit over the final three innings and preserve the win.


Rangers-Cardinals box score

For Texas and St. Louis, relief is a phone call away

Chris Erskine: This is baseball writing that soars out of the park

Cardinals' bullpen moves also deserve credit for success

-- Kevin Baxter in St. Louis

Photo: Cardinals' Lance Berkman hits a two-run single during the fourth inning of Game 1 of the World Series on Wednesday. Credit: Dilip Vishwanat / Getty Images