The Texas Rangers were stifled by another great bullpen performance last night, along with a timely pinch hit by Allen Craig in the sixth inning. But the turning point in Game 1 came down to a four pitch walk to Nick Punto. With one out in the sixth and the score 2-2, David Freese knocked an opposite field double into the gap that gave the Cardinals a runner in scoring position. CJ Wilson struck out Yadier Molina in the next at-bat, with Freese on third after a wild pitch.
With two outs, CJ Wilson walked Punto on four pitches: Two curveballs, one slider and a cutter, none of which were near the strike zone. I'm not entirely sure whether Wilson wanted to walk Punto himself or it was called from the bench, but I am certain Punto was walked intentionally. In the highest leveraged situation of the game, the Rangers decided to walk Punto, who has a slash line of .278/.388/.421 with one home run, in order to face the pitcher's spot.
In that situation, either Ron Washington or Wilson has to understand that Tony La Russa is going to pinch hit for the pitcher. That hitter would be Allen Craig, the fifth best hitter on the Cardinals' roster. Craig hit 11 home runs with a slash line of .315/.362/.555 in only 219 plate appearances. Craig hit a single off of the new pitcher Alexi Ogando, which only belabors the point to pitch to Punto. Washington was right to bring in Ogando, but why not bring the right-hander in to face Punto, who hits right-handers just as well as left-handers?
Washington made another blunder that was just as costly in the seventh inning by bringing Esteban German to the plate for a pinch hitting appearance. Along with Albert Pujols, Chris Carpenter and the Cardinals' bullpen, one of the biggest obstacles to a World Series Championship will be Washington's tactical decisions.