10/22/06 12:47 AM ET
Rookie Reyes delivers Game 1 victory
Rolen, Pujols go deep as Cardinals manhandle Tigers
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
One of baseball's top offensive teams was no match for the Cardinals rookie with six career wins, as Reyes stifled the Tigers over eight-plus innings in a 7-2 win over the Tigers in Game 1 of the 2006 World Series on Saturday night. The 25-year-old righty was making the second postseason start and first Fall Classic appearance of his career.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven series will be here on Sunday night.
Reyes was touched for a run on two hits in the first inning, then set down the next 17 batters in order. He ended up with a four-hit masterpiece, all against a team that ranked eighth in the Majors in runs, sixth in homers and sixth in slugging percentage in the regular season.
"He was unbelievable," said Cardinals third baseman Scott Rolen. "The presence he had out on the mound and the confidence that he was throwing the ball with, I think, is what everybody was most impressed with. He seemed to attack the hitters tonight. He went after everybody. He threw the ball great. He never wavered at all."
In a game reminiscent of his eye-opening one-hitter against the White Sox in June, Reyes cruised. He induced a string of weak popups while striking out four and issuing only one walk. Reyes worked heavily off his lively four-seam fastball with an occasional perplexing changeup.
"It just means they're not on the ball," Reyes said. "I'm trying to use the defense the best I can."
Reyes was backed by the stars at the heart of the Cardinals order, three players eager to erase memories of St. Louis' 2004 World Series sweep at the hands of the Red Sox.
Rolen's first career World Series hit was a homer that got his team on the board. Albert Pujols' first career World Series home run was the key blow in a three-run third inning. And Jim Edmonds added an RBI single in a three-run sixth that put the game away for the visitors.
The win ended a two-year, eight-game National League losing streak in the World Series, as well as an eight-game World Series losing streak for manager Tony La Russa. It also began to bury the frustrating memories of the Cards' 2004 showing against the Red Sox.
"I don't think you can change anything that happened two years ago," Pujols said. "That was then, this is now. What can you do to help out your team to win? I'm here to try to do my best. I don't want to put any pressure on myself."
Reyes, of course, wasn't around in 2004. He finished that season with the Double-A Tennessee Smokies. But you'd never have known on Saturday.
The Cardinals were essentially forced to use him after going with their other three starters in the final three games of the NL Championship Series, yet Reyes turned in a game as strong as anything Chris Carpenter, Jeff Suppan or Jeff Weaver has done this October.
"What happens is when a guy's moving the ball around and doing a good job of changing your eye level, he's going to keep you off-balance," said Craig Monroe, whose homer and double provided two of few Tigers highlights on the night.
Not that Reyes didn't get some help from his offense. The Cards exhibited a trait that has served them well throughout the '06 playoffs, responding in the next half-inning to the first Tigers run.
Rolen hit his first home run of the postseason off Justin Verlander in the top of the second, to make it 1-1. It was the 11th time in 12 games this postseason that an opponent has taken a lead against the Cardinals. On seven of those occasions, St. Louis has scored at least one run in the ensuing half-inning.
Cardinals Rookie World Series Wins
|Game 1 marked the seventh time that a Cardinals rookie has earned a victory in a World Series game.|
|Anthony Reyes||2006||Game 1||Detroit|
|John Stuper||1982||Game 6||Milwaukee|
|Blix Donnelly||1944||Game 2||St. Louis (AL)|
|Johnny Beazley||1942||Game 2 & 5||New York|
|Paul Dean||1934||Game 3 & 6||Detroit|
The homer marked Rolen's first career World Series hit; when the Cards were swept in 2004, Rolen went 0-for-15 while fighting a calf injury.
"It's a completely different series," Rolen said. "And if you can concentrate and grind from at-bat to at-bat, there are no numbers, there are no stats, there is nothing that makes any difference when you're out there competing."
An inning later, the Redbirds took the lead for themselves, and never relinquished it. NLCS hero Yadier Molina led off with a single, but had only advanced to second after out No. 2. However, Chris Duncan poked a double down the right-field line, giving St. Louis the 2-1 advantage. Pujols followed with a two-run homer, and it was 4-1.
"I just go out there and just try to see the ball and put a good swing, and that's what I did," Pujols said. "It's so tough when you have a guy throwing 95, 99 miles an hour to think too much when you're at the plate. I just try to see the ball."
Verlander was lifted in the sixth, after which a defensive meltdown betrayed him and reliever Jason Grilli.
With runners on second and third and no outs, Juan Encarnacion hit a routine chopper to third. Brandon Inge had a hard time corralling it, then threw wild to home plate, allowing Edmonds to score. As Rolen came around third, Inge got in his way and was charged with obstruction, allowing Rolen to score.
"I don't even know what happened," Encarnacion said. "I don't know. You tell me what happened. I just hit it and ran. I wanted to make contact and hit the ball and make something happen."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.