World Series Game 3 Preview: History sides with winner in Texas
The last 16 of 18 Game 3 winners in a 1-1 World Series have gone on to win it all
Starters Kyle Lohse and Matt Harrison could meet again in a potential Game 7
The Cardinals have an advantage at DH with Allen Craig over the Rangers' lefties
After two tense games in St. Louis, the World Series resumes in Arlington on Saturday night with the Cardinals and Rangers tied at one game a piece. Of the last 18 World Series to open with a two-game split dating to 1969, the winner of Game 3 went on to win 16 of them, the two exceptions being the Orioles in 1979 and the Yankees in 2003. No other game in those 18 Series had nearly as strong a correlation with the eventual Series outcome. So, Saturday night's Game 3 is a big game for both teams, arguably the most important non-elimination game of the Series. The Rangers, who stole Game 2 with two runs in the top of the ninth, are looking to build on that sudden swing in momentum, while the Cardinals are hoping that Friday's day off and the change of scenery can help them shake off that dispiriting defeat. Of course, momentum in baseball is only as good as the next game's starting pitcher.
Series: World Series, Game 3, series tied 1-1
Time: 8:05 p.m. EST
Starters: Kyle Lohse (0-2, 7.45 ERA) vs. Matt Harrison (1-0, 4.22 ERA)
Harrison has allowed two runs in five innings in both of his starts this postseason, both of which came on the road in Game 4s. That works out to a 3.60 ERA, but his overall mark above is inflated by the one run he allowed in less than an inning of relief in Game 1 of the Division Series. Dating to the beginning of September, Harrison has gone at least five innings and allowed no more than three runs in each of his last seven starts. The 25-year-old lefty had a lower road ERA during the regular season, but that was largely the result of an abnormally low opponents' average on balls in play away from Arlington. Harrison's strikeout and home run rates were consistent across that split, and his walk rate was significantly lower at home.
Lance Berkman (0-for-3, BB), Nick Punto (1-for-1), and Gerald Laird (2-for-9, 2B) are the only Cardinals who have faced Harrison.
Lohse retired the first 10 men he faced in Game 1 of the Division Series and allowed just one run through his first five innings but retired just one of the six men he faced in the sixth inning of that game, quickly giving up five runs on home runs by Ryan Howard and Raul Ibaņez. That prompted a quicker hook from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa in Game 4 of the NLCS, Lohse's lone start in that series. La Russa let Lohse work out of a fourth-inning jam in that game against the bottom of the Brewers' order but pulled him just two batters into the fifth with the heart of the Milwaukee lineup due up. Lohse was one of the unexpected reasons for the Cardinals' success during the regular season and posted a 1.37 ERA in September with strong starts against both the Phillies and Brewers but has yet to pitch in a Cardinals win this postseason.
Michael Young has three home runs in 31 career plate appearances against Lohse but hasn't faced him since 2006. The only Rangers to face Lohse in the last three seasons are catchers Mike Napoli and Yorvit Torrealba, neither with much success.
Harrison and Lohse are lined up to face each other in Game 7 if this series goes that far.
After playing such a large role in their team's League Championship Series victories, both bullpens have allowed winning runs to score through the first two games of this Series.
Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando has allowed game-changing hits in three of his last four appearances, including go-ahead singles by pinch-hitter Allen Craig in both games of this Series.
Craig, who will likely be the Cardinals designated hitter in all three games in Texas, is 6-for-20 with a triple, homer and four walks in this postseason, which translates to a .300/.417/.550 line, not far from his .315/.362/.555 regular-season performance. That regular-season line includes a .657 slugging percentage against left-handed pitching. The Rangers will be starting lefties in each of the next three games.
Despite being the American League team, the Rangers don't have a DH who can measure up to Craig. Ron Washington has said Josh Hamilton will continue to play the field in Texas, so with the Cardinals starting three right-handed pitchers in these games, the Rangers will likely keep Hamilton in center field and play lefty David Murphy in left, leaving lefties Mitch Moreland and Endy Chavez to split the DH duties. Moreland is 2-for-19 in this postseason and hasn't played since Game 5 of the ALDS. Chavez, a good-field/no-hit outfielder, started at DH in place of Moreland in Game 6 of the ALDS, went 0-for-4 and hasn't come to the plate in any other game this postseason.
Hamilton was ordered to skip Friday's workouts in order to rest his groin injury (which may actually be a sports hernia), but the Rangers have no plans to limit his playing time going forward, in part because, as per the above, they don't have a player who is clearly better than a hobbled Hamilton except perhaps in the field, where Hamilton's injury has yet to have a significant impact on his play. Hamilton is hitless in eight plate appearances in this series, but he did drive in the tying run in Game 2 with a sac fly and was 8-for-22 with four doubles in the final five games of the ALCS.
Albert Pujols, Jon Jay and Yadier Molina are hitless through the first two games of this series.
Both teams have scored just four runs through two games in this series, but it wouldn't surprise me to see the Game 3 winner match or even exceed the total number of runs scored in this series to this point. Teams, including the Rangers, averaged 5.5 runs scored per game at Rangers Ballpark during the regular season, compared to 4.2 runs per game at Busch Stadium.
Neither team has hit much during this series, with both team batting averages hovering around the Mendoza line and both team slugging percentages being exactly .254, but the Cardinals have drawn 10 walks to the Rangers' three and thus have a team on-base percentage 110 points higher than the Rangers'. However, two of the Cardinals' walks were intentional, a surprising development given that only one American League team issued fewer intentional walks during the regular season than the Rangers.
The star of this series thus far has been Craig, who delivered a go-ahead hit in each of his two at-bats, but among the starters, Ian Kinsler has been the most valuable player, going 4-for-7 and igniting the Rangers' Game 2 rally with a single and a stolen base. Kinsler has also excelled in the field, despite a questionable error call in Game 2.
Among the Cardinals starters, the hitting leader has been Punto, who is 3-for-6 with two walks (one intentional, the benefit of hitting ahead of the pitcher). The switch-hitting Punto was the unexpected starter at second base in each of the first two games and will likely draw the start again in Game 3.
The Dallas-Fort Worth area will have hosted the Super Bowl and NBA Finals already this year and with the first pitch of Game 3 will become the first metropolitan area to host all three league championships in the same calendar year.
Join me for my live blog of Game 3 on Saturday night at 8 p.m. ET here at SI.com.