Strolling behind the batting cage, Matt Holliday watched his St. Louis teammates hit away Friday and offered a simple tip.
“Get a good swing!” he hollered.
Great advice for anyone with a Louisville Slugger in hand at this World Series.
Despite the presence of Josh Hamilton, Albert Pujols, Nelson Cruz and other top boppers, the Cardinals and Texas Rangers have hardly dented the scoreboard while splitting the first two games.
So far, a total of just eight runs. The last time there were fewer through the opening two games at a Series? Try 1950, when Joe DiMaggio and the New York Yankees combined with Philadelphia for four.
“A lot of people thought this was going to be an offensive World Series,” Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus observed before an off-day workout.
Blame the drought on a few factors: raw weather at Busch Stadium, good pitching and, perhaps most significantly, hitters facing arms they’ve never seen before.
Both teams have flailed away at the plate, chasing sliders and curves that bounced, shattering bats and seeming to guess wrong on what pitches were coming next.
“We need to give good at-bats and get deeper and quit swinging at balls out of the strike zone,” Mike Napoli said.
Napoli has hit the lone home run of the Series. He connected off Chris Carpenter, but maybe he had an edge – Napoli had been 3 for 3 lifetime against the Cardinals ace going into Game 1.
Fresh off their two-run rally in the ninth inning and a 2-1 win in Game 2, the Rangers start Matt Harrison on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark. Kyle Lohse will pitch for the Cardinals.
“It’s a tough place to pitch, especially when you see those flags blowing in. It usually means that jet stream is going to right-center,” Lohse said. “I think everyone in the league knows that.”
Each team adds a designated hitter, with the AL rule in effect at Texas. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa will make Lance Berkman the DH and put Allen Craig – already with a pair of key pinch-hit RBI singles – in right field.
The Rangers will likely use Michael Young at DH, move Napoli to first base and put Yorvit Torrealba at catcher.
At this point, it might take more than a wind tunnel to help the hitters.
Texas is batting only .186, St. Louis is stuck at .203. Hamilton and Pujols are hitless, and Cruz has been held to a mere single after tearing through the AL championship series.
On Friday, Cruz gave the Hall of Fame the bat he used to hit a grand slam in the ALCS. It was cracked – maybe Texas and St. Louis need new timber, too.
It seemed fitting, in fact, that when Texas scored those two runs Thursday night to even the Series, both crossed on sacrifice flies.
Each team has scored four runs overall. Back in 1983, Baltimore and Philadelphia also combined for eight through two games – it’s more than 60 years since the total was lower than this October.
“I think honestly we got out of our approach a little bit, maybe a little over aggressive trying to create things that necessarily weren’t there,” said Ian Kinsler, whose bloop single and daring steal keyed the Texas comeback. “If we can just relax and play our style of baseball, let the game come to us, we’ll be all right.”
Rangers outfielder David Murphy hopes it plays out that way, eventually.
“It’s the World Series. We’re going to face a guy tomorrow that most of us have never faced, if at all. Game 4 is a little different because Edwin Jackson has been in the American League enough to where most of us have probably faced him,” he said.
“I feel like just watching the first two games, offensively, it’s just a matter of who is going to make adjustments on the fly. We’re facing their guys that we’ve never before and it’s the same thing on their side. The pitching performances have been good, but we have confidence in our offense to put up runs, as well,” he said.
So does Texas hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh. He was promoted from the Triple-A job when Thad Bosley was fired two months into his first year with the team.
Coolbaugh watched Young swing through strike three from Jaime Garcia in Game 2, then saw Adrian Beltre wave at a couple of low off-speed deliveries.
“I think it was evident that some of our guys were seeing someone for the first time,” Coolbaugh said. “You can watch all the video you want and read all the scouting reports. But when you step into that batter’s box, it all looks different.”
Coolbaugh, however, was not surprised when the Rangers put together better at-bats in the ninth against Jason Motte and the St. Louis bullpen.
“That was two days in a row that we were seeing their relievers. The more we see them, the better off we’ll be,” he said.