Ninth inning ruins night for Cardinals

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jason Motte (30) reacts as manager Tony La Russa takes him out of the game during the ninth inning of Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, in St. Louis.

St. Louis Cardinals relief pitcher Jason Motte (30) reacts as manager Tony La Russa takes him out of the game during the ninth inning of Game 2 of baseball's World Series against the Texas Rangers Thursday, Oct. 20, 2011, in St. Louis. Photo by The Associated Press.

ST. LOUIS (AP) — Albert Pujols and the St. Louis Cardinals let one get away.

In a messy ninth inning, Pujols failed to handle a cutoff throw after Jason Motte faltered for the first time this October, aiding the Texas Rangers’ two-run rally for a 2-1 victory Thursday night that evened the World Series at a game apiece.

Motte had been virtually untouchable, allowing one hit in nine innings in the postseason, before the ninth. Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff single, stole second and went to third on Elvis Andrus’ base hit to right-center.

Pujols, a two-time Gold Glove winner, ran toward second to take the relay throw from center fielder Jon Jay but the ball nicked off his glove and rolled toward the mound. Andrus, who made an aggressive turn at first, easily advanced to second to put runners on second and third.

Manager Tony La Russa has steadfastly refused to name Motte the Cardinals’ closer — he has five saves this postseason after earning nine in the regular season — and he pulled him after the two singles in favor of Arthur Rhodes.

Josh Hamilton hit a sacrifice fly to tie it and Andrus advanced to third. Lance Lynn relived and gave up another sacrifice fly to Michael Young.

It was a rare failure in the postseason by the St. Louis bullpen, which had given up just four runs in 31 2-3 innings since the start of the NLCS.

The ninth ruined a stellar performance from Jaime Garcia, the 25-year-old lefty who’s a lot more comfortable on the Busch Stadium mound than on the road.

Garcia had seven strikeouts and outdueled Colby Lewis for seven innings of three-hit ball, totally taming the Rangers’ big bats and setting the stage another big pinch hit from Allen Craig. Garcia has a 1.93 ERA in three home starts in the playoffs, and allowed six runs in four innings in his lone road appearance.

Garcia was a 14-game winner and finished third in the NL rookie of year balloting last season and the sophomore season was almost as good, moving the Cardinals to sign him to a four-year contract in June. He’s the first Mexican-born pitcher to start in the World Series since the Dodgers’ Fernando Valenzuela in 1981.

Garcia’s home-road splits were fairly drastic in the regular season, 9-4 and 2.55 at home with a pair of shutouts, but only 4-3 and 4.61 on the road. The Rangers got only three singles, and only Adrian Beltre’s two-out hit in the seventh tagged.

Craig’s pinch-hit RBI single off Alexi Ogando in Game 1 was the first go-ahead pinch RBI in World Series play since Wade Boggs drew a bases-loaded walk in 1996. The circumstances in Game 2 were eerily familiar, two men on, two out and the Rangers going to the bullpen to counter the right-handed hitting Craig, just one inning later.

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