ST. LOUIS -- From Ian Kinsler's do-or-die steal of second base to the one-legged heroics of Josh Hamilton, the Rangers stitched together a ninth-inning comeback deserving of the World Series stage in Thursday night's Game 2 at Busch Stadium.
After Ron Washington lost his second straight Alexi Ogando-Allen Craig matchup in as many nights, Texas was three outs away from a desperate trip back to Arlington. But in the ninth, the hurting Hamilton mustered enough strength for a tying sacrifice fly off Arthur Rhodes and Michael Young followed with another off Lance Lynn to give Texas a 2-1 win over St. Louis.
"It was almost a great story for us," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said, "and it turned out to be a greater one for them."
The Rangers, who evened the series at 1-1, became the first team to win a World Series game after trailing in its final at-bat since the Diamondbacks scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to beat the Yankees in Game 7 of the 2001 Fall Classic.
"There was good karma in our dugout the whole night," Washington said. "You've got to keep fighting and we needed to get one here. And I think tonight was one of those great ballgames that I think you will continue to see between the Cardinals and Rangers. That's what you're in for, so I've got to say those of you that have bad hearts, watch yourself."
Despite Hamilton's struggles with a strained left groin, Washington stuck with him in the No. 3 spot for Game 2. Hamilton was 0-for-7 in this World Series before La Russa pulled his closer, Jason Motte, for the lefthanded Rhodes. The previous night, Rhodes got Hamilton on a pop-up to centerfield. This time, Hamilton attacked the first pitch and his fly ball tied the score.
"I figured he'd stay with [Motte], to be honest with you," Hamilton said. "A guy that throws close to 100 rather than bringing in Rhodes, who throws 89. But he didn't. I don't get paid to make those decisions and I'm glad he made that one."
Hamilton's sacrifice fly, the first tying RBI in a ninth inning since Jose Vizcaino's two-run single for the Astros in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series, also sent Elvis Andrus to third and set up Young's sacrifice fly.
Kinsler, in a bold move reminiscent of Dave Roberts in the 2004 ALCS, singled to begin the ninth and stole second, getting his hand under Yadier Molina's bullet throw by the slimmest of margins. When asked by how much he was safe, he grinned. "Enough," he said. "I mean, my hand just barely got in there. It took everything I had. Yadier made an unbelievable throw -- quick, on the money, and I was just able to get my hand in."
If the definition of insanity is doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting a different outcome, Washington probably was feeling a little bit crazy after what happened again last night.
The night after Cardinals pinch hitter Craig delivered the go-ahead single off Ogando in the sixth inning of Game 1, Washington faced the same situation in the seventh in Game 2. With the teams locked in a scoreless tie, La Russa sent up Craig to pinch hit for Jaime Garcia. Washington countered with Ogando, and two pitches later, Craig punched an RBI single.
Craig, 7-for-22 (.318) with four RBIs as a pinch hitter in the regular season, is 4-for-6 with four RBIs in that role in this postseason. He is the first player to deliver two pinch-hit, go-ahead RBIs in the same World Series.
The Rangers have scored a total of four runs in the first two games, and their 3-4-5 hitters are a combined 4-for-21 (.190) with five strikeouts. But as Texas labored at the plate, Colby Lewis held the Cardinals in check, and the defense came up big to keep the game scoreless in the fifth.
With two on and two out, Rafael Furcal ripped a hard grounder toward the middle that Andrus snagged with a diving stop to his left. The more difficult part, however, was getting the out, which he did by using his glove to shovel the ball to Kinsler, who grabbed it just ahead of Garcia's slide. "The play was ridiculous," Kinsler said. "It was probably one of the best I've seen -- not just him, but as a defensive play, one of the best I've seen. It doesn't get any better than that."
Added Hamilton, "When we get home tonight, I'm going to watch it again."