ARLINGTON – It’s been so long, and yet, it doesn’t feel like it was eight years ago that the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals met in the 2011 World Series. Texas lost games six and seven of that Fall Classic, sending the team back to DFW without the elusive first championship it’s still chasing.
Rangers fans surely wish the team could’ve put forth a performance in those losses resembling the one Texas did in a 7-3 win Friday night over St. Louis.
Friday’s game between the two teams was the first matchup in Arlington since game five of that seven-game series, and the first regular season tilt between the two in the Lone Star State since 2004. According to Elias Sports Bureau, the 15-year gap between that interleague series was the longest in Major League Baseball.
So much has changed for both teams since that postseason. Texas’ Elvis Andrus and Lance Lynn are the only players who played in a game in that seven-game series, but neither played Friday. St. Louis catcher Yadier Molina is the only remaining Cardinal still on the roster.
The concept of a “bullpen game,” that is a game started by a normal relief pitcher who works the first inning, certainly wasn’t around in 2011, is an example of what’s changed in the game itself since then.
But in that capacity Friday, Texas couldn’t have asked more out of Jose Leclerc, who retired the side in order and struck out two in his only inning of work. The Rangers have used “the opener” twice in 2019- and starters have retired all six batters faced.
St. Louis didn’t intend to use an “opener,” but Texas effectively forced them to do so. The Ranger bats continued their torrid pace and chased Mikolas after just one and a third, highlighted by seven-run frame in the top of the second inning. It was the shortest outing in his Cardinal career, and forced St. Louis to use four relievers.
“I probably believe in momentum more than anybody,” manager Chris Woodward said postgame. “There’s truth to it. You have to ride those good times out, and we did that tonight.”
The outburst saw Rougned Odor hit his third homer in two days, and Shin-Soo Choo followed suit. The seven runs and nine hits in a single inning were both season highs for Texas.
“I’ve been feeling good the last two weeks,” Odor said. “Right now, I’m looking for my pitch and feeling good on fastballs.”
That run support was more than enough for Adrian Sampson, who followed Leclerc with five solid innings of relief on the way to his first career MLB win.
“It won’t be something we do every time out,” Woodward said on opening for Sampson. “With a top-heavy team like (St. Louis), it made a lot of sense to let him get a look the second and third time through the order.”
The series continues Saturday with a 3:05 start. Ariel Jurado is slated his first start of the season for Texas opposite fellow rookie Dakota Hudson for St. Louis.
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