The St. Louis Cardinals prided themselves on winning every getaway game down the stretch to ensure themselves a happy flight. It's become somewhat of a calling card for the team in these playoffs.
But, thanks to a defensive miscue from one of the best players in the game and a blown save from Jason Motte, who had been so reliable here in the postseason, the Cardinals boarded a plane for the first since early August as losers, dropping their first getaway game in 16 tries after their 2-1 loss in Game 2 on Thursday.
"Can't last forever," manager Tony La Russa said.
What made the loss sting even more was the fact that just 20 minutes prior to the ninth inning implosion it looked as if the Cards were heading to Arlington with a 2-0 lead and all the momentum after Allen Craig delivered a pinch-hit single off of Alexi Ogando for the second straight night to give the Cards the lead.
But in one fell swoop the series lead, Craig's MVP trophy and all the momentum the Cards seemingly had disappeared, as Motte couldn't protect a one-run lead in the ninth.
"It takes one hit, it takes one bad pitch. ... That's the name of the game," said Motte, who had allowed just one hit in nine scoreless innings this postseason prior to Thursday. "You go out there, and your job is to get people out. Every out's important, every out's big, and you don't want anyone to get on. But it's one of those things."
With St. Louis' outfield playing deep to prevent a double, Ian Kinsler's bloop single off Motte started the rally for Texas and he promptly stole second base, just getting his hand in ahead of the throw by Yadier Molina.
"It took everything I had," Kinsler said. "Yadier made an unbelievable throw -- quick, on the money -- and I was just able to get my hand in there."
Elvis Andrus followed with a base hit to center field, sending Kinsler to third. Andrus took second base when Jon Jay's cutoff throw was misplayed by Pujols.
The Cardinals first baseman tipped the ball in the infield and it rolled all the way to the third base line, allowing an alert Andrus to reach second base. An error was later charged to Pujols.
"I was just trying to keep it low," Jay said. "I kind of pulled it a little bit, and he wasn't able to cut it. I probably should have made a little better throw there."
Hamilton, who is playing through a left groin strain, then lined Arthur Rhodes' first pitch to right field, tying the game, and Michael Young drove Lance Lynn's 3-2 pitch to center field to score Andrus and make it 2-1.
La Russa is taking some heat today for not sticking with Motte - the one real strikeout pitcher he has in his bullpen - to face Hamilton. He needed a strikeout there and Motte gave him a better chance to get one than Rhodes,
But, this is what La Russa does. He's done it is whole career and he has done it all postseason. He loves to mix and match. You can't praise him when it works out, then criticize him when it doesn't. Not to mention, as good as Motte has been here in October, he's not exactly Mariano Rivera.
"You always want to stay in there," Motte said. "But it's one of those things. Tony's the boss. And I've said it before, you go in when the phone rings and he tells you to go in, you're out of the ballgame when he comes and takes it from you. I would've liked to go out there and stayed and get a chance, but you know what, I didn't do my job tonight is really what it boils down to."
Plus if Pujols gets himself into position and actually gets to the relay throw, the whole landscape of the inning changes. There is a lot of blame to go around on this one, but La Russa is way down that list.
Say what you will about Motte, he sat there and answered every question that came his way following the loss.
"I think he's going to flip it," Rhodes said. "I know he's flipped the switch a couple of times this year. He's still got to do his interviews over there, but he'll get over it tonight. Once we get on the plane, he'll be a happy guy, he'll enjoy his flight to Texas, and then he'll get a save in Texas and he'll do his job."
Buried in the outcome was the absolute brilliant pitching performances from both Texas' Colby Lewis and St. Louis' Jaime Garcia. Lewis continued his postseason mastery, as he gave up a run in 6 2/3 innings, while Garcia scattered three hits over seven scoreless frames.
"We didn't win today, but I'm satisfied with my job personally," said Garcia, who became the first Mexican-born pitcher to start a World Series game since Fernando Valenzuela in 1981. "I went out there and felt like I did a really good job against a really tough lineup."
It's funny after Garcia retired the side in the seventh I tweeted that La Russa would still find a way to get five relievers into this contest and of course he did.
Also lost is just how hurt Hamilton appears to be. Prior to game he stated that if this wasn't the World Series that he'd likely be on the disabled list. Look for him to assume the designated hitter role when the series shifts to Rangers Ballpark this weekend.
"I can't afford to take Hamilton out of my lineup," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "Even if Hamilton doesn't do anything, he makes a difference just with his presence in our lineup, and I want his presence in it, and it's in there tonight. Don't be surprised if he comes up big, because I certainly won't."
How big would a Cardinals win have been? Well none of the last eight teams and just one of the last 15 who have taken a 2-0 lead have gone on to lose the series.
Instead, though, the Rangers became only the third team in World Series history to rally from a 1-0 deficit to win a game with two runs in the ninth inning or later. The others were the 1911 Athletics and the '85 Royals. They are also the only team in World Series history to win a game by scoring all their runs with sacrifice flies.
"Going back home down, 0-2, we would have been in trouble," winning pitcher Mike Adams said. "But to get even like that, rally in the ninth inning -- especially against their closer ... a really good closer -- to pull off a victory like that was really big."
Game 3 in Arlington on Saturday.