ARLINGTON, Tex. — By shifting some 650 miles to the south-southwest Saturday night, the World Series gained about 30 degrees of autumnal warmth, a pair of designated hitters, a whole lot of cowboy hats in the stands and a new dimension commonly known as “offense.”
On a night when those pitchers’ duels in St. Louis felt a lifetime ago, and when a parade of pitchers took to the mound and exited in shame, Pujols, the St. Louis Cardinals incomparable slugger, had a performance for the ages. He homered three times in the Cardinals’ gory 16-7 win over the Texas Rangers in Game 3, silencing a crowd of 51,462 and giving the Cardinals a two-games-to-one lead in the best-of-seven series.
“It’s pretty special,” Pujols said. “To do it at that level and on this stage is amazing.”
Pujols, who went 5 for 6 and drove in six runs, became only the third player in history to homer three times in a World Series game, joining Babe Ruth, who did it twice, and Reggie Jackson. His 14 total bases set a new World Series record, while his five hits and six RBI both tied records.
“He’s better than Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson combined,” teammate Lance Berkman said.
“Show me [a performance] that was better,” Manager Tony La Russa said. “That would be hard to do. . . . He’s been great for a long time, but this has got to be the greatest.”
It was as if the Cardinals and Rangers were playing an entirely different game than the ones witnessed Wednesday and Thursday. Those were full of great pitching and defense. This one was full of towering home runs, gassed pitchers, lengthy strings of base hits and some gruesome defense.
Pujols was not alone in his destruction of pitchers. From the fourth through seventh innings alone, the Cardinals scored 13 runs — or five more than both teams had scored, combined, in the two games in St. Louis — helped by a pair of errors on Texas infielders and a blown call at first base by umpire Ron Kulpa, which preceded a four-run Cardinals burst in the fourth.
Meantime, the Rangers chased Cardinals starting pitcher Kyle Lohse in the fourth inning, batted around in the fifth, collected 13 hits and two homers of their own — yet still managed to lose by nine runs.
After two crisp games at chilly, pitcher-friendly Busch Stadium, there was bound to be a shift in emphasis in Game 3. According to ESPN.com’s “park factor” ratings, Rangers Ballpark was the most hitter-friendly stadium in the majors this season, while St. Louis’s Busch Stadium ranked 25th. Every expectation was that the respective offenses were about to get untracked.
It took three innings until it happened, but when it did, the onslaught was unrelenting. The Cardinals scored four in the top of the fourth against Rangers starter Matt Harrison — aided by the botched call by Kulpa, who ruled Matt Holliday safe at first base on a wide throw from second baseman Ian Kinsler, when replays showed him being tagged out a good half-step before the bag — but the Rangers answered with three in the bottom half, on homers by Michael Young and Nelson Cruz.