ST. LOUIS (AP) ? Nolan Ryan must have been getting a tad uncomfortable as the innings ticked by Thursday night and the Rangers crept ever closer to a two-game World Series deficit.
The team’s president and chief executive had boldly predicted on a Dallas radio station that Texas would need six games to wrap up the series, but the St. Louis Cardinals had already taken the opener and were leading Game 2 by a run heading into the ninth inning.
That’s when Ian Kinsler and Elvis Andrus delivered back-to-back singles, and Josh Hamilton and Michael Young followed with back-to-back sacrifice flies. Texas went on to win 2-1.
Rather than needing four straight wins to back up their boss, the Rangers just need three more in four.
“Our offense is such that every night, we can break out and have a big inning like we did against Detroit,” Ryan said before Game 2 at Busch Stadium. “When I looked at St. Louis’ pitching, I don’t look at their pitching like a (Justin) Verlander where you say, ‘Boy, Verlander is on. We’re going to hope that something good has to happen.’
“I’m not downplaying the Cardinals’ pitching by any means,” Ryan said. “I feel every night that we should score some runs and give our pitchers the opportunity to win some ballgames.”
Rangers manager Ron Washington said he didn’t feel any added pressure by the prediction coming from the team’s most visible face. But the entire team certainly feels a little more comfortable going back to Texas with the series knotted a game apiece.
Last year, Texas dropped the first two games of the World Series against San Francisco and never managed to recover. The Giants went on to win the series in five games.
“It’s the World Series, last two teams. Every victory is huge,” Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said. “It was a big win for us. We’re just happy the series is tied up and we’re going back to Texas and in front of our crowd.”
FREESE TAG: Cardinals third baseman David Freese, the NL championship series MVP, singled in the seventh inning Thursday night and has a 12-game postseason hitting streak that began with Game 2 of the division series.
It’s the longest single-season streak for the franchise and ties Yadier Molina (2006-11) and Mike Matheny (2001-04) for the longest stretch overall. Freese, who hit sixth in the order, is batting .422 (19 for 45) in the postseason with four homers, six doubles and 14 RBIs.
Not bad for a hometown hero.
“It feels good,” Freese said. “Hitting streaks are great as long as those hits help the team, so that’s what I’m going to try to keep doing.”
GLOVE ME TENDER: Elvis Andrus ranged as far as he could to his left, diving at the edge of the outfield grass behind second base, and snared the hard grounder off the bat of Rafael Furcal.
In one fluid motion, the Rangers shortstop scooped the ball with his glove to Ian Kinsler as the second baseman glided over the bag, ending the inning and preventing St. Louis from scoring a run.
Little did he know how critical that run would be.
The defensive gem in the fifth inning Thursday night kept things scoreless, and the Rangers managed to get two sacrifice flies in the ninth inning to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 2-1 and send the series back to Texas tied at one game apiece.
Naturally, it was Andrus who scored the go-ahead run on Michael Young’s flyball to center.
But it was Andrus’ play with the leather that allowed Texas to stick around. Kinsler said the glove-toss was perfect, and he struggled to come up with a better defensive play he’d seen.
“The situation that was in, and being that it was a World Series game and just the run-saving play, that play was ridiculous,” Kinsler said with a chuckle. “It was probably one of the best I’ve seen, not just him, but one of the best defensive plays.”
“When we get home tonight,” Josh Hamilton added, “I’m going to watch it again.”
‘CZYN MUSIC: Marc Rzepczynski’s stuff has been tough enough for the Texas Rangers to hit.
Manager Ron Washington wasn’t even going to try pronouncing his last name.
For the record, it’s zep-chin’-ski. But the Rangers would just as soon not have to learn it. The left-hander struck out consecutive pinch hitters to end the seventh in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory in Game 1, and then retired two more batters without trouble in their 2-1 loss in Game 2.
“I don’t know how to pronounce his last name, so I’m not even going to try,” Washington said before Game 2 on Thursday night. “You’ve got to give credit to Marc. Marc executed his pitches, and when pitchers execute, usually the results that we got is what you get.”
Washington doesn’t need many pinch hitters in the regular season because of the DH, and Texas was just 12 for 61 (.197) with a homer and 12 RBIs as a team. Three Cardinals had more than 20 pinch hit at-bats and St. Louis was 51 for 224 (.228) with three homers and 32 RBIs.
Pinch hitter Allen Craig delivered the go-ahead RBI in the sixth inning Wednesday night, and came through with another pinch hit single for the Cardinals’ only run in Game 2.
NOT GONNA MISS THIS: Country music star Trace Adkins is originally from Louisiana, but it turns out he’s a big Cardinals fan.
The Grammy-winning singer of such hits as “You’re Gonna Miss This” is friends with St. Louis assistant trainer Barry Weinberg, and has become close to manager Tony La Russa. So it made sense that Adkins was on hand to sing the national anthem before Game 2 on Thursday night.
“American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery performed the anthem before Game 1 on Wednesday night, and Ronnie Dunn is scheduled to sing it when the series shifts to Texas for Game 3 on Saturday.
Adkins didn’t flaunt his fandom when he took in batting practice Thursday, though he did greet Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols on the field. Adkins stuck with his trademark cowboy hat, black boots and a beige World Series jacket, and said he was pleased the weather was better than Game 1.
Temperatures were still in the low-50s, but any chance of rain had moved away.
“I had this all planned,” Adkins said.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this report.