ST. LOUIS (AP) – The first thing that comes to mind when Rangers fans think of no-hitters is that guy sitting somewhere near the dugout, the fireballer who pitched seven of them before moving into the front office and becoming the team’s president and CEO.
They certainly don’t think of Nelson Cruz, Josh Hamilton and the rest of their potent offense.
Yes, it seems “no hitters” takes on a different meaning when Texas is in the World Series.
The high-powered Rangers fizzled in Game 1 on Wednesday night, managing just six hits and their only two runs on Mike Napoli’s homer. The big guns were shooting blanks against Chris Carpenter and the St. Louis bullpen in a 3-2 loss on a blustery night at Busch Stadium.
“It’s tough,” Cruz said. “I mean, we didn’t do the job when we needed to. We need to deliver.”
They’d better start soon, too, especially after Nolan Ryan — he of the record seven no-hitters — predicted on a Dallas radio station Monday that the Rangers would win the series in six games.
Adrian Beltre and Ian Kinsler each hit 32 homers in the regular season, and both had a hard time getting the ball out of the infield against St. Louis. Hamilton pounded out 25 homers this year but was 0 for 4 with a strikeout, while Cruz was limited to a harmless single and a walk.
His night may have been the most perplexing for Rangers skipper Ron Washington.
The MVP of the AL championship series, Cruz pounded out six homers and drove in 13 runs in a historic win over Detroit. Both totals were the most by any player in any postseason series, and Cruz’s 21 extra-base hits through his first 26 playoff games surpassed Yankees great Lou Gehrig (18) for the most of any player in baseball history.
Cruz came into the game toting the second-best slugging percentage in postseason history, the most postseason homers over a two-year span, and with the memories of his game-winning grand slam against the Tigers in Game 2 of the ALCS still fresh in his mind.
“They pitched me totally different, and I was expecting that,” Cruz said. “Away and the breaking pitches. I didn’t see anything inside.”
Must have been the same formula San Francisco used last year.
Led by two-time Cy Young winner Tim Lincecum, the Giants’ pitching staff shut down the Texas offense in a World Series wipeout. The Rangers batted .190 for the series, Cruz and Hamilton went a combined 6 for 40, and San Francisco had things neatly wrapped up in just five games.
“Last year’s World Series is completely out of our memory bank,” insisted Michael Young, who went 0 for 4 on Wednesday night. “That has nothing to do with what we’re doing now.”
Like Young, Washington said earlier in the week he was confident last year’s World Series flop was in the past. And it looked like it the first few innings.
Kinsler hit a hard single his first time up, Beltre doubled off third baseman David Freese in the second inning, and Napoli connected off Carpenter in the fifth inning for a tying two-run shot that Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman didn’t even bother giving chase.
The Rangers had a chance to take a lead in the sixth inning but Kinsler was left stranded at third base. The Cardinals then pulled back ahead in the bottom half, and Texas’ bats went quiet.
The Rangers put runners on first and second with one out in the seventh and couldn’t score, and they went down in order in the eighth. Hamilton flied out to end that inning and slumped as he headed back to the dugout, his chin dropping to his chest — almost as if he was resigned to defeat.
That came one inning later, when Cruz hit a lazy flyball to left field to end the game.
“It was a great performance. They’re a great hitting team,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “If you don’t make a lot of pitches, they’re going to bang you around.”
(© Copyright 2011 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)