"I was just hoping I would find a way to put the barrel of the bat on the ball," Eckstein said. "And fortunately I was able to do it, and it felt good."
GAME 5 at St. Louis
CARDINALS 4, TIGERS 2
Every postseason team is armed with massive amounts of scouting information on opponents, compiled in thick binders and on DVDs and considered in daily meetings with scouts and coaches. The intelligence forms the basis of a preferred strategy of how best to exploit the opponent. Who knew that the Cardinals' shrewdest game plan for defeating the Tigers in the World Series could simply fit on a homemade placard by a fan at Busch Stadium during Game 5. It said, HIT IT TO THE PITCHER.
Game 5 proved a perfect coda to an imperfect Series, one in which a Detroit pitcher committed an error in every game, contributing to the allowance of eight unearned runs, the most in the Series in half a century. The deciding game turned when Verlander threw away a bunt in the fourth inning.
The Tigers led 2-1 at the time, having forged ahead on a two-run homer by Sean Casey off Weaver on the pitch after one of the Cardinals' own gaffes: a dropped pop fly by rightfielder Chris Duncan. With one out, Molina and Taguchi singled. That's when Weaver tapped a bunt to Verlander.
The pitcher fielded the ball cleanly and had an easy out at third. But, obsessed with not messing up yet another play, he whipped it wide of Inge, sending the tying run home and the potential go-ahead run to third base.
"I picked it up and said, Don't throw it away, instead of just throwing it," Verlander said. "I got tentative."
With runners at second and third, Leyland played his infield back. Eckstein capitalized on the concession and grounded out to shortstop, sending Taguchi in with the run that put St. Louis ahead for good.
Eckstein had driven home the first run, too, without getting the ball out of the infield. With two outs and a runner on third in the second, he shattered his bat on a grounder near third base. Inge snagged it with a dive and threw in time to get Eckstein--if only his throw had been on line. It was not, skittering past Casey for what was scored a single with an error that allowed Eckstein to advance to second. Including a run-scoring single by Rolen in the seventh, St. Louis scored eight of its nine runs in Games 4 and 5 with two outs.
Leyland said he was "a little embarrassed" that his Tigers did not represent the American League better, but he also was quick to praise St. Louis's pitching, saying, "They probably did the best job of anybody all year of pitching to us."
Weaver did something in the clinching game of the Series that he had not done all year: He pitched eight innings. He allowed only the two runs on Casey's home run--one unearned--while giving up four hits and one walk and striking out nine. Among the 30 batters he faced, only twice did he go to a three-ball count.