No second-guessing Wilson's efforts
Cardinals outfielder excels in Series debut at No. 2 in lineup
ST. LOUIS -- Cardinals manager Tony La Russa went with his third different No. 2 hitter in three games on Tuesday in Game 3 of the World Series.This one proved to be an astute choice, even though the fact that Preston Wilson was 5-for-5 with two home runs in his career against Detroit starter Nate Robertson kind of stuck out like the beer sign at the top of Busch Stadium scoreboard. Wilson is no longer perfect against Robertson after lining out to second baseman Placido Polanco in the second inning. But he did start a two-run rally in the fourth inning with a single, and drew two walks in the seventh and eighth innings that were also pivotal in the Cardinals' 5-0 victory on Tuesday night. To top it all off, Wilson also had the play of the night in left field when he made a running catch on a ball hit by Curtis Granderson in the ninth inning. "It was just a great night for all of us," Wilson said. "But that team over there is tough. They have a lot of pride. It was nice to get that first one at home, but we have to come out and keep playing hard and executing." The walks were notable because they helped add three runs to the Cardinals' lead, and also because Wilson simply doesn't walk that much. Wilson had just one two-walk game all year, on May 10 against the Dodgers when he was still with the Houston Astros, and 29 walks on the season. He walked just once every 18.52 plate appearances, the 21st-highest ratio in the Major Leagues, while striking out once every 4.44 at-bats, the 13th-worst ratio in the Majors. "I'm never in a take mode. I'm always looking to hit," Wilson said. "I was trying to get something good to hit, and I was able to lay off some tough pitches."
Wilson also doesn't bat second very often. During the regular season he had just five at-bats there, and in his career, only 84 of 3,939 at-bats have come in the No. 2 spot. Chris Duncan and So Taguchi had the most at-bats for the Cardinals in that spot during the regular season."It doesn't matter to me," Wilson said. "I'm more accustomed to hitting down in the order, but if it translates into us winning games, I'm all for it." La Russa knew Wilson's numbers against Robertson, and he also knew he had to do something with a left-hander on the mound for Detroit. The Cardinals were 23-24 when an opponent started a left-hander during the regular season. "The first lineup I had penciled in had Preston in fifth," La Russa said before the game. "But you're going with a lot of short information, short history, and Preston has been tough on Robertson. We have a better chance with him second." That proved the case in the fourth, when Wilson singled to left for the Cardinals' first hit of the night.
|"It was just a great night for all of us. But that team over there is tough. They have a lot of pride. It was nice to get that first one at home, but we have to come out and keep playing hard and executing."|
|-- Preston Wilson|
"You never know, but I felt good facing [Robertson]," Wilson said. "He's just one of those guys that I see the ball well against. It's nice when you feel comfortable facing a guy. I thought we did a good job against him the first time through the order. We hit some balls hard. The second time, they started falling in."The hit led to the Cardinals' first two runs. Wilson went to third on Albert Pujols' double, and after Scott Rolen walked, Wilson was thrown out at home on Ronnie Belliard's grounder to third. But his table-setting abilities were rewarded when Jim Edmonds doubled home two runs. Wilson and David Eckstein gave the Cardinals the lift from the top of the order that they had been missing in the first two games. They were a combined 3-for-7 with three walks on the night. "They did a great job for us," Rolen said. Eckstein was 0-for-9 in the first two games, while Wilson went 0-for-4 against Kenny Rogers in Game 2 on Sunday. That left him 5-for-29 with one walk in the playoffs so far this season before coming up big for the Cardinals on Tuesday. "I just keep swinging," Wilson said. "I don't think I've had a tough postseason. I had some at-bats where I wish I had done better, but other times, I've felt I hit the ball hard. But the other team has great pitching; that's how you get to the World Series. You just hope you can go up there and get something going." He did so on Tuesday night.
T.R. Sullivan is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.