Motte emerges as Cardinals' shutdown closer
Thursday, October 20, 2011
ST. LOUIS (AP) — Hard-throwing Jason Motte was the fifth pitcher to audition for the St. Louis Cardinals' closer job. He's nailing down that role, even if manager Tony La Russa is steadfast in his refusal to make it official.
Handed a one-run lead in the ninth inning Wednesday night, Motte seemed immune to pressure in Game 1 of the World Series. He needed only 10 pitches to put away the Texas Rangers, feeding off a sellout crowd that roared more with each success.
"Those fans were behind me the whole time. I heard them cheering, heard them going, 'Let's Go Cards!'" Motte said. "You have to throw strikes, that's the name of the game."
La Russa turned to Motte only after going through Ryan Franklin, Mitchell Boggs, Eduardo Sanchez and Fernando Salas. Motte had nine saves in September and has been virtually untouchable in the postseason, allowing one hit with seven strikeouts in nine innings. He's 5 for 5 in save chances.
La Russa coaxed two scoreless innings out of four relievers to get the game to Motte.
"I don't want to give up runs whether we're up by 10 runs or whether it's a one-run ballgame," Motte said. "I don't really care what the score is, I don't want anybody to score."
BUNDLE UP: One by one the Rangers emerged from their dugout for pregame introductions, spreading out along the third base line. Just about everybody wore an extra sweatshirt over his uniform.
Manager Ron Washington even came out with gloves on his hands.
The temperature at the start of Game 1 at Busch Stadium on Wednesday night was 49 degrees, with a brisk wind and intermittent drizzle. It matched the third-lowest game-time temperature for the opening game of the World Series since records were kept starting in 1975.
The tarp was down during the afternoon and the teams did not take batting practice on the field as the sellout crowd of 46,406 huddled for warmth in the stands.
While the Rangers looked as if they were freezing, the Cardinals trotted out for introductions dressed in their crisp, white uniforms — no extra parkas, sweatshirts or balaclavas needed.
Rangers first baseman Michael Young insisted the weather wasn't an issue, even though there were only six hits by each team.
"I think both sides were making pitches," Young said. "Simple as that."
ARTHUR GETS HIS CHANCE: After 20 years in the majors and 900 appearances on the mound, Arthur Rhodes finally got his first chance to pitch in the World Series.
He did his job, too. Brought in to face left-handed slugger Josh Hamilton, Rhodes retired last year's AL MVP on a lazy fly to center for the final out of the eighth inning, keeping the Cardinals ahead by a run. St. Louis hung on for a 3-2 victory over the Texas Rangers in Game 1.
What a wild journey it was for Rhodes.
The 41-year-old lefty signed a $4.1 million, one-year contract before the season with the Rangers, of all teams. But they released him on Aug. 8 and he signed with St. Louis three days later.
Texas remained responsible for almost all of his salary this year. So the Rangers really paid for that out — in more ways than one.
ON THE MOUND: Cardinals manager Tony La Russa played the numbers for Game 2, carefully examining home and road statistics before choosing Jaime Garcia as his starting pitcher.
The decision puts Garcia in line to return for Game 6 at Busch Stadium. He went 9-4 with a 2.55 ERA during the regular season in 15 starts at Busch and was just 4-3 with a 4.61 ERA on the road.
"You don't have a lot of information with a guy like Jaime, who's in his second year. The one thing you do have is he's pitched well at home, so you go with that," La Russa said. "When you're trying to find an edge, that's one of the angles you play."
Garcia is 0-2 with a 5.74 ERA in three postseason starts. He lost 3-2 at home against Philadelphia in Game 3 of the division series and 9-6 at Milwaukee in the NL championship series opener. Garcia didn't get a decision in Game 5, allowing one run in 4 2-3 innings as the Cardinals won 7-1.
Colby Lewis will pitch Game 2 for Texas. He started Game 3 in the first round of the AL playoffs at Tampa Bay and at Detroit in the ALCS, beating the Rays 4-3 and losing to the Tigers 5-2.
He was 5-5 with a 5.54 ERA at home this season and 9-5 with a 3.43 ERA on the road. Last year, he was 6-4 with a 3.41 ERA at home and 6-9 with a 3.95 ERA away.
"Just a new year. Things are different," Lewis said.
Unlike his counterpart, Rangers manager Ron Washington said he didn't pay attention to stats.
"It just was coincidence," he said. "It's not anything I look at because at this point I trust every one of my guys."
LIFELONG FAN: St. Louis Rams wide receiver Mark Clayton grew up in Dallas just a short bicycle ride away from Rangers Ballpark, and as a youngster took in his share of Texas games.
Clayton was at Busch Stadium for Game 1 of the World Series and there was no question which team he was rooting for. The team that played "literally right around the corner."
"I like the Rangers, I do," Clayton said. "I've always enjoyed going to the ballpark, it's just what I grew up knowing."
On the other hand, he's become pals with a couple of Cardinals.
"So, you know, my heart is torn right now," Clayton said.
During the Cardinals' postseason run, Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo has often prefaced post-practice comments with a shout-out to the city's baseball team, and had a telephone chat with manager Tony La Russa on Wednesday morning.
"Go Cardinals, right?" Spagnuolo said. "I wish Tony and his team a lot of luck. It's awesome what they're doing, great for the city. Our guys are feeling it, they're into it. I think it's great."
Rams rookie tight end Lance Kendricks, a Wisconsin product, wore a Brewers cap to practice last week during the NLCS. The Rams, coincidentally, visit the Dallas Cowboys on Sunday, right across from where Game 4 of the Series will be played.
AP Sports Writers Ben Walker, Mike Fitzpatrick and Dave Skretta contributed.
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