By Matt Snyder
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Other than the rightful praise of Albert Pujols and the Cardinals offense after a 16-7 shellacking of the Rangers in Game 3 of the World Series, the story gaining the most traction among fans is the blown call by umpire Ron Kulpa in the top of the fourth inning. Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday hit a routine double-play ball, but Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler made an errant throw to first base. Rangers first baseman Mike Napoli made the catch and a swipe tag.
“We ran into each other, I don’t know whether he tagged me or not," Holliday said afterward. "I didn’t watch it. All I know is we ran into each other and I ended up on the ground, so I don’t know.”
Replays showed Napoli clearly tagged Holliday, but Kulpa called him safe. He even admitted the mistake after the game.
"I saw a replay when I walked off the field, and the tag was applied before his foot hit the bag," he said.
|World Series, Game 3|
"He looked like he tagged him before he reached the base from my point of view," Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison said. "I wasn’t sure until I saw the replay. He was out, but he called him safe and I just had to move on."
Only the entire complexion of the game had been changed. Harrison and the Rangers' defense melted down. It was 5-0 before the inning ended. Sure, the final score was 16-7, but what if the Rangers got the correct call and escaped the inning down 1-0? And then took a 3-1 lead in the bottom of the fourth? That's a completely different game.
“I don’t think it did (harm the Rangers) psychologically, no, but the game could have turned out differently," Harrison said. "That’s four runs that inning, so if he woulda called him out there they may or may not have scored that inning.”
"You gotta move past that," Napoli said. "We had a chance to get out of the inning, but we didn't make the plays we had to."
Napoli himself was among the culprits. It was just 2-0 when Napoli made a terrible throw to home, letting in two more runs before Harrison coughed up an RBI single to Ryan Theriot, completing the scoring for the inning. And it was Harrison who gave up a single and double following the botched call. And don't forget that the bad call was only made possible by Ian Kinsler's bad throw. If he makes a good throw, the call is an easy out. So that inning was the Rangers' fault.
"We had more chances after that," Napoli added. "We came back and scored three runs that inning. We had more chances after that, too."
"We didn't lose because of the call."
And he's right. Even if you take that four-run inning off the board, the Rangers were outscored 12-7 in Game 3. We can talk about momentum or shifts in psyche or anything else fictional and hypothetical if you want. It simply has no factual basis and, thus, no relevance.
The bottom line is that two things beat the Rangers Saturday night: The Rangers and the Cardinals. Blaming one call is a very convenient excuse and ignores the bad defense and pitching, not to mention the Cardinals' offensive explosion. Give Napoli credit for being accountable and refusing to blame the entire game on one call in the fourth inning. One call doesn't cost a team a game in which they lost by nine.
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