Cards Down Tigers; Take 1-0 World Series Lead
Rest can be overrated.
The St. Louis Cardinals managed just fine in Game 1 of the World Series without much.
And maybe those hard-throwing Detroit Tigers, who had a week off, aren’t so tough after all.
Rookie Anthony Reyes pitched brilliantly into the ninth inning, Albert Pujols made Detroit pay for pitching to him, and Scott Rolen also homered to help St. Louis cruise past the ragged Tigers 7-2 in the World Series opener Saturday night. “Nobody expected us to win here,” Pujols said. “They have a great team out there. The last thing we want to do is just show up and just embarrass ourselves.”
The Cardinals have already put up more of a fight than their previous World Series, when Pujols and Rolen came up empty as Boston swept them two years ago.
Game 2 is Sunday night, with Kenny Rogers pitching for Detroit against ex-Tiger Jeff Weaver.
With the Tigers hosting their first World Series game in 22 years, fans showed up hoping to see rookie Justin Verlander buzz through a Cardinals team that scraped its way past the New York Mets in a seven-game NL championship series that had wrapped up less than 48 hours earlier.
But instead, Reyes easily outpitched Verlander in the first Game 1 matchup between rookies, taking the crowd out of it early and ending Detroit’s seven-game postseason winning streak.
“We didn’t play well,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said.
And he made a curious decision that cost his team dearly.
First base was open when Pujols stepped to the plate with two outs in the third inning and St. Louis ahead 2-1.
Chris Duncan was on second after an RBI double, but the Tigers pitched to Pujols anyway and Verlander challenged him right away with a 93 mph fastball that the slugger drove over the right-field fence for a 4-1 lead.
When Pujols came up with runners in scoring position and first base open during the regular season, he was walked in 31 of 73 plate appearances (42 percent), according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Twenty-five of the walks were intentional.
“Obviously, he burned us,” Leyland said. “I’ll take the heat for that.”
The three-run cushion was more than enough for Reyes, who retired 17 consecutive batters before Carlos Guillen’s seventh-inning single. The right-hander was lifted after Craig Monroe’s homer on the first pitch of the ninth.
“I don’t know if I can top this,” Reyes said.
Braden Looper finished off St. Louis’ first World Series victory since 1987, stopping an eight-game Series losing streak for NL teams.
Carrying only two players with World Series experience, the young Tigers appeared a little jittery, making wild throws and key mistakes.
Detroit, which completed a four-game sweep of Oakland in the ALCS last Saturday, was supposed to have the edge on the mound in Game 1. Verlander is a leading candidate for AL Rookie of the Year, while Reyes went 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA in 17 regular-season starts.
In fact, the Cardinals only turned to him in the opener because none of their three top pitchers was ready to go.
“He doesn’t scare, he’s got great composure – and when he gets it rolling he’s got great weapons,” St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
Reyes had the fewest wins of any Game 1 starter in World Series history and was the first in 33 years with a losing regular-season record. He wasn’t even on the Cardinals’ roster for their first-round series against San Diego.
But he pitched like a poised pro.
Peering from under a starch-stiff cap and with his red-and-white socks pulled high, Reyes allowed only four hits and one walk.
“That style is … not that attractive,” La Russa said, referring to that hat. “I don’t think it’s going to be copied widely by the kids of America.”
Soon after, Reyes explained his whole get-up.
“The socks I’ve had up since Little League, so I don’t feel there’s any reason to change now,” he said. “But the hat helps me see a little bit, gets more light in, helps me see signs.”
Reyes’ performance wasn’t as dominant as Bob Gibson’s 17-strikeout effort for St. Louis in Game 1 of the 1968 World Series against the Tigers, but it was just as effective.
“I was just trying to be as focused as I can,” Reyes said.
Rolen tied the score at 1 with a solo shot in the second, a no-doubt drive to left that proved his swing really is coming around – just as he’s been saying.
Playing with soreness and fatigue in his surgically repaired left shoulder, the All-Star third baseman began the night batting .188 without an RBI this postseason. His first trip to the World Series was no fun at all – he went 0-for-15 against Boston two years ago.
“It’s a completely different series,” Rolen said.
Yadier Molina, the home run hero in Game 7 of the NL championship series, got St. Louis going again in the third with a leadoff single. He scored on Duncan’s two-out double before Pujols connected against the 23-year-old Verlander.
The pitch he threw was a big mistake, but Verlander smiled for some reason right after Pujols teed off.
“The pitch to Duncan with two outs in the third was a pivotal point because then Albert came up and hit the home run,” Verlander said. “It was a bad pitch and it was probably the biggest pitch of the night. If I made a different one, it might’ve been a totally different ballgame.”
Verlander walked Pujols leading off the sixth – not such a good idea in that situation, and three innings too late anyway.
The right-hander then threw away a pickoff attempt, and Pujols hustled to third on his ailing right hamstring.
Jim Edmonds singled to make it 5-1, and Rolen’s double deep into the right-field corner chased Verlander.
The rookie flashed his outstanding stuff all night, striking out eight in five-plus innings. But he also showed his inexperience, throwing too many fastballs in the middle of the plate while giving up seven runs – six earned – and six hits.
Jason Grilli relieved, and Juan Encarnacion hit a grounder that kicked up off third baseman Brandon Inge, who then threw wildly past the plate.
Rolen rounded third and crashed into Inge in foul territory, tumbling to the ground in a heap. Rolen was ruled safe at the plate because of obstruction, making it 7-1, and both players appeared fine.
Inge was charged with two errors on the play.
Detroit got on the board early in its first World Series game since 1984, momentarily delighting the crowd of 42,479. Monroe, an unheralded player showing off a wealth of skills this postseason, doubled in the first inning and scored on Guillen’s two-out single.
“We aren’t worried. We lost the first game to the Yankees, too,” Detroit’s Magglio Ordonez said of the four-game, opening-round win over New York. “We just have to come back and play well tomorrow.”
Notes: Rogers pitched 15 scoreless innings in the playoffs, going 2-0. … Verlander has allowed five homers in three postseason starts. … 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