ST. LOUIS (AP) — Pinch-hitter Allen Craig singled in the go-ahead run off reliever Alexi Ogando in the sixth on a sinking line drive that dropped just in front of right fielder Nelson Cruz, and the St. Louis Cardinals led the Texas Rangers 3-2 after six innings Wednesday night in a chilly World Series opener.
On a night when all the runs were driven in with opposite-field hits to right, Lance Berkman put St. Louis ahead with a two-run single in the fourth against C.J. Wilson. Catcher Mike Napoli watched in dejection as Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday scored but a few minutes later celebrated in the top of the fifth when he tied it 2-all with his drive off Chris Carpenter.
Pujols had Cardinals’ fans cheering in the top of the sixth when he slid to stop Michael Young’s grounder behind first and threw to Carpenter for the out, stranding Ian Kinsler at third.
Then in the bottom half, NLCS MVP David Freese hit an opposite-field double to right with one out and took third on a wild pitch. Wilson struck out Yadier Molina, then pitched carefully to Nick Punto and walked him on four pitches.
Ogando relieved, and with many of the red-clad Cardinals’ fans standing and waving white towels, Craig sliced a 1-2 pitch down the right-field line. Cruz, the ALCS MVP, tried for a sliding catch, but the ball bounced just in front of his glove for a single as Freese scored. Texas was lucky that the ball struck Cruz on a foot; otherwise, it would have rolled to the fence.
Carpenter became the first St. Louis starter to reach the sixth inning since the division series. He allowed two runs and five hits in six innings, struck out four and walked one.
Wilson, who has a 7.17 postseason ERA, gave up three runs and four hits in 5 2-3 innings with a career-high six walks — two intentional — and four strikeouts.
After limiting the Cardinals to one hit in the first three innings and preventing any runners from getting past first, Wilson was hurt by three misfired pitches during a four-pitch span in the fourth.
After falling behind Pujols 2-0 in the count, Wilson bounced a 2-1 pitch that hit the three-time NL MVP on the left foot. He tried to go inside on Holliday but left the next pitch over the plate, and Holliday hit an opposite-field double into the right-field corner as Pujols took third. Then, with the count 1-0 to Berkman, Wilson tried to go inside again but allowed the ball to drift over the plate. Berkman went the other way and chopped the ball over first base and into right field as the Cardinals took a 2-0 lead. Wilson shook his head back and fourth as he walked back to the mound.
The lead was short-lived.
Adrian Beltre singled leading off the fifth and, one out later, Napoli turned on a high pitch and sent it about 10 rows deep into the right-field seats for his second home run of the postseason. A fired up Carpenter had escaped a two-on, no-outs jam in the second inning when Napoli hit into an inning-ending double play.
The starters entered with differing October results. Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young Award winner, was 2-0 with a 3.71 ERA and helped the wild-card Cardinals avoid first-round elimination with a three-hitter than beat Philadelphia 1-0 to win the division series.
A sellout crowd of 46,406 filled the ballpark for a game with a temperature of 49 degrees at the start, tied for the third-coldest for a Series opener since Major League Baseball started keeping records in 1975. All the Cardinals’ starters wore long-sleeve undershirts, but Cruz, Young and David Murphy of the Rangers were in short sleeves. The three infield umpires all wore dark gloves.
The World Series had not been played in St. Louis since 2006, when the Cardinals won the title in the first year of new Busch Stadium. Game 1 has been an indicator of success in recent decades: The winner has captured seven of the last eight titles, 12 of the last 14 and 19 of the last 23. In addition, the team hosting Game 1 has won 20 of the last 25 World Series.
While the Cardinals were seeking their 11th title — leading to 11 in ‘11 promotions — Texas was looking for the first championship in the history of the franchise, which began in 1961 as the expansion Washington Senators and moved to Texas for the 1972 season. The Rangers made it to the World Series for the first time last year, losing to San Francisco in five games.
It was an uncommon matchup, the first World Series between the NL Central and AL West since baseball split each league into six divisions for the 1994 season. The teams were playing for the first time since St. Louis won two of three during their only regular-season meeting, at Texas in June 2004.
NOTES: The NL is seeking first consecutive World Series titles since winning four in a row from 1979-82 (Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, Los Angeles and St. Louis). ... The Cardinals moved ahead of the Dodgers with their 106th World Series game, trailing only the Yankees (225). ... It was the earliest date the World Series started since 2003.