St. Louis drew first blood on Wednesday, as Allen Craig's pinch-hit RBI single in the sixth proved to be the difference and Cardinals received another solid performance from their bullpen in a 3-2 victory.
"I think ... that's what you want to try and accomplish is set the tone, get ahead," said David Freese, who scored the go-ahead run.
Baseball's biggest stage has been overtaken by the wild card-winning Cardinals, who received a quality start by Chris Carpenter (3-0) and three one-hit innings by their suddenly vaunted relievers.
"They made pitches when they had to, that was pretty much it," Rangers first baseman Michael Young said. "Carpenter looked sharp, and their bullpen threw well."
Carpenter lasted six frames and allowed five hits and two runs -- both coming on Mike Napoli's game-tying homer in the fifth. His counterpart, C.J. Wilson (0-3), remained winless this postseason after getting charged for three runs on four hits and six walks in 5 2/3 frames.
Lance Berkman also knocked in two runs for St. Louis in the win.
How important was the win for the Cardinals? Well the team winning Game 1 of the Fall Classic has gone on to win 12 of the last 14 titles. In fact the last 10 teams who have won Game 1 at home have gone on to win the World Series.
"When you get in the postseason, you have to win games in so many ways," Freese added. "Not every game is going to be the same. Teams that win 90, 95, 100 games, they win ballgames different ways the entire year."
Heading to the hill for the Cardinals tonight will be lefty Jaime Garcia, who is 0-2 in these playoffs with a 5.74 ERA. Garcia, though, was 9-4 in 15 starts at home this season with a 2.55 ERA.
He produced a quality start at home versus Philadelphia in the NLDS and has only allowed four runs in 11 2/3 innings in two starts at Busch this postseason.
"Any starting pitcher would say that, that if you don't go six innings, you feel like you let your team down," Garcia said Wednesday. "But when it comes down to the playoffs, the job the bullpen has been doing has been unbelievable. All I worry about tomorrow, when tomorrow comes, I'm going to go out there and try and go as deep as I can. Just focus on one single pitch at a time until he takes me out of the game. If it's three, if it's five, six, seven or nine [innings], that's out of my control. I'm just going to go out there and make pitches until [La Russa] takes me out."
Tonight the Rangers turn to righty Colby Lewis, who has been one of the better pitchers in the postseason the past two years, but lost his last time out. Lewis was tagged by the Detroit Tigers for four runs and eight hits in 5 2/3 innings of that Game 3 setback in the ALCS, but he is still 4-1 lifetime in the postseason with a 2.37 ERA in six starts.
"Yeah, I mean, it's kind of all or nothing," Lewis said Wednesday. "You go out there and you don't know if you're going to get the ball again. It's something you go out and you let it all hang out, and whatever happens, happens. You can't really worry about your what-ifs or anything like that. You just focus on the one pitch that you have at hand and do it. I mean, I just ... yeah, it's comfortable, it's exciting, stands are packed, towels are waving. I mean, it's kind of hard not to get pumped up for it, you know?"
Lewis, who started Game 3 in each of the Rangers' first three series, pitched to a 3.43 ERA on the road the road this season compared to a 5.45 ERA in Arlington. Texas manager Ron Washington, though, said that had nothing to do with moving him up in the rotation.
"On the road didn't have anything to do with it," Washington said. "If we were home, he would still be starting Game 2."
There is obviously zero postseason history between these teams and really no head-to-head information, as the clubs have only met once in interleague play with the Cardinals taking two of three in Arlington back in 2004.