Base running, defense key to Rangers’ ninth inning comeback against Cardinals in Game 2 of World Series

Texas Rangers Ian Kinsler steals second against St. Louis Cardinals Rafael Furcal during the ninth inning of game 1 of the World Series in St. Louis on October 20, 2011. UPI/Brian Kersey

For the second straight night, the Texas Rangers’ powerful bats were silenced by a St. Louis starter.

Jaime Garcia pitched seven strong innings while allowing zero runs on just three hits and striking out seven. Everything was going right for the right-hander and manager Tony La Russa, who lifted Garcia for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the seventh, which produced the Cardinals’ only run of the night when Allen Craig singled home David Freese.

But it was the Rangers’ work on the base paths in the top of the ninth that allowed Texas to come from behind by scoring two runs and propel them to a 2-1 victory in Game 2 on Thursday night.

Down 1-0 and facing a 2-0 hole in the best-of-seven series, Ian Kinsler led off the ninth with a single to center. Had the Cardinals not been playing doubles defense, Kinsler’s shallow fly ball probably would have been caught by Matt Holliday in left field. Instead, it brought the go-ahead run to the plate for the Rangers, who were threatening for the first time all night.

With Elvis Andrus up to bat, Kinsler took off for second and appeared to be gunned down by St. Louis backstop Yadier Molina. But second base umpire Ron Kulpa called Kinsler safe to the dismay of the ground. Replays showed that shortstop Rafael Furcal swiped the ground as Kinsler got his hand to the bag safely, proving that Kulpa’s call was correct.

With Kinsler now in scoring range, Andrus delivered a single of his own off closer Jason Motte. While his hit wasn’t enough to score Kinsler from third, Andrus headed for second on a heads up play after he saw the ball get past cutoff man Albert Pujols, putting two men in scoring position for Josh Hamilton. The left-handed slugger then delivered a sacrifice fly to right field, scoring Kinsler and moving Andrus over to third. Michael Young then did his job by hitting another sac fly to score Andrus and all of a sudden the Rangers had a lead for the first time all series.

Texas closer Neftali Feliz wound up walking the first batter he faced in the bottom of the inning, putting Molina on base and the potential game-winning run up to bat. But Feliz struck out Nick Punto and Skip Schumaker and then retired Furcal on a fly out to right to end the game and send Texas home with a split in the series.

Of course, base running wasn’t the only thing that saved the Rangers on the night. Andrus made two outstanding defensive plays in back-to-back innings in the fourth and fifth. In the fourth, he and Kinsler retired Holliday on a slick double play, as Andrus went to his left and flipped the ball back to Kinsler, who made a bare-handed catch while tossing the ball to first to complete the play. In the fifth, Andrus made an even better play while diving to his left to halt a potential base hit by Furcal, then flipping the ball to Kinsler using only his glove to register a force out at second. Both plays stopped potential scoring rallies for St. Louis.

With things tied at one game apiece, the series now shifts to Texas for three games, starting with Game 3 on Saturday night.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

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