Sunday, October 23, 2011

Momentum is Unloyal and Fickle

The Texas Rangers were on their way to losing Game 2 of the World Series.  The St. Louis Cardinals had their closer, Jason Motte on the mound. Motte had pitched the equivalent of a complete game one-hitter up to the time he stepped foot on the mound in the ninth inning Thursday night. Home field, on a roll, who would expect that Motte couldn't keep, what I will now give the proper name, Momentum, happy? If you don't already know, let me explain that Momentum is not loyal and is very fickle.

Yes, Momentum shifts like the wind, especially in baseball. Ian Kinsler greeted Motte with a single. Kinsler then made a gutsy move and barely stole second base. Elvis Andrus singled moving Kinsler to third and Andrus ended up at second on the throw home which was cut off.

Momentum convinces managers to over think. Tony LaRussa who has managed over 5000 games in his career, decides to lift Motte, his best arm in the bullpen, for 41 year old left hander Arthur Rhodes to pitch to left handed hitting Josh Hamilton. Hamilton hits a drive to the warning track to score Kinsler and ties the game, Andrus moves to third. Another pitching change by LaRussa bringing in Lance Lynn to pitch to Michael Young. Young lifts a fly ball to the outfield and Andrus scores the go ahead run.  Four hitters and the two runs across with sac flies. Momentum walks across the diamond to greet his new friends.

The Rangers once on the brink on going down two games to none in the best of seven use closer Neftali Feliz to shut down the Cardinals in the bottom half of the ninth. Momentum decides to travel with the Rangers as the series heads to Texas.

So, you would expect that the Cardinals would have to be a little down after such a tough loss. Well, it became rather obvious that was the case when Albert Pujols, Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and Yadier Molina did not address the media after the game. But, they came into Texas and got on the board first with a home run from World Series MVP candidate Allen Craig. Then came a bad call on a double play ball as the first base umpire missed Mike Napoli tagging Holliday in the back as he was crossing first base. The extra out allows the Cardinals to get three more hits, a IBB along with a Rangers error to plate 4 runs and take a 5-0 lead. Momentum laughs and runs to the Cardinals dugout.

At this point, Keith Law, tweets, "I picture the press box in Arlington full of writers working on stories about the "momentum shift" from that play at the plate. #cliche".  I'm not quite writing on one momentum shift, so I will continue with Law's quote filed for later.

Bottom of the fourth and the Rangers are down big and Kyle Loshe looks under control. Rangers fan favorite Michael Young drills and opposite field home run. Next batter Adrian Beltre, singles bringing up home run machine Nelson Cruz, and of course, BAM he homers yet again. Now 5-3 and Momentum ushers Kyle Loshe to the showers.

The Rangers are back in the game and a shutdown inning is in order, except, of course it doesn't happen. A Pujols single and two straight walks loads the bases. David Freese grounds into a fielder's choice scoring a run. Yadier Molina drives in two with a double to left.  Lead is back up the five and Momentum can be seen sitting next to Tony LaRussa in the Cardinals dugout.

In the Rangers half of the fifth, Andrus leads off with a single, Hamilton singles moving Andrus to third.  Young doubles driving in Andrus, Hamilton to third. Pitching change by LaRussa after he notices Momentum chatting with Adrian Beltre.  Lynn on to pitch to Beltre. It doesn't work as Beltre singles driving in Hamilton making it a three run game again. After Cruz strikes out, Napoli hits a sac fly plating Young.  Now it is 8-6.Momentum gives a high five to Texas manager Ron Washington.

Washington brings in Alexei Ogando to draw Momentum closer, knowing full well the third batter in the inning is Allen Craig. Craig already has two RBI singles off Ogando in the series both giving the Cardinals the lead, and has become one of Momentum's favorite players in this World Series. Ogando quickly loses his grip and Momentum's patience by walking Ryan Theriot. A single by Rafael Furcal and now two on for Craig. Ogando throws slider after slider each one going further and further outside. Then a 97 mph fastball that Craig can't catch up with.  Ogando wins this battle. Momentum smiles.  Perhaps it new this inning was not over. The next batter, Pujols hits a mammoth homer and Momentum is in AWE like the rest of the ballpark and walks back with Pujols to the dugout.

The Cardinals have a five run lead and the Rangers have four more at-bats to convince Momentum it belongs with them. Bottom of the sixth and the first batter Andrus singles to right. Hamilton quickly grounds into a double play. Young strikes out and Lynn shakes hands with Momentum at te top of the dugout steps.

The Cards look to strengthen their grip in the seventh. Thank you once again Albert Pujols, who connects on a two-run two out homer to center and the Cardinals are up by 8. Momentum wonders if Washington should have made a pitching change the way Pujols is swinging the bat, but it doesn't care as it is now resting comfortably with the Cardinals during the seventh inning stretch.

The Rangers get one back in the seventh. Momentum yawns from the Cardinals bench as they get the run right back in the top of the eighth. One more chance for the Rangers after fail to score in the eighth. Momentum is seen with a Cardinals hat on.

In the ninth, Albert Pujols hits his third home run of the game and puts the odds of Momentum hanging again with the Rangers in this game at about ten million to one. The Rangers go quietly in the ninth and the game is over. Momentum readies itself for the press conference Pujols will not miss.

Momentum is fickle.  Momentum sticks with the team producing at a given moment in the game or series.  Momentum does not HELP a team win.  Keith Law was right all along.  Who will Momentum hang with tonight?