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The St. Louis Cardinals couldn't execute the key hit, let alone a simple phone call, and the Texas Rangers took full advantage Monday to move to the brink of their first World Series championship in franchise history.

"I can't even explain (my emotions) right now,'' said Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre, whose sixth-inning homer tied the game. "We've been waiting a long time for this. It's not going to be easy. We know that. But it's better going over there having to win one game rather than two.''

The Rangers, who have not lost back-to-back games since Aug. 23-25, were led once again by Mike Napoli. He hit a one-out, two-run double in the eighth inning that broke the tie game off left-handed reliever Marc Rzepczynski. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa confessed after the game that he actually wanted right-hander Jason Motte to pitch to Napoli, but the Cardinals' bullpen misheard La Russa, and had Lance Lynn warming up instead.

"In the bullpen, strange stuff happens,'' Rangers starter C.J. Wilson said. "We were sitting around saying, 'What's going on?'''

Said La Russa: "I said, "Get Motte up.' And they heard Lynn. …It's loud down there. It's hard to hear.''

Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler said: "That was brilliant (strategy) by our fans.''

The Cardinals were actually confused all evening. The Rangers walked eight batters -- including four intentionally, tying a World Series record -- and were able to sit back and boast about their strategy. The Cardinals came up 12 times with runners in scoring position, and produced just one hit.

The Rangers had no trouble showing their tremendous respect for Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. They intentionally walked him three times, tying a World Series record. He even was intentionally walked in the seventh inning with two outs and nobody on, a first in Series history.

"They call it unorthodox,'' Rangers manager Ron Washington said, "but I always say it's your players that make you look good. I did what I had to do with my players, and that's all I'm worried about.''

The Cardinals, who are hitting .186 with runners in scoring position this series, are in trouble. They now will have to face Rangers postseason ace Colby Lewis in Game 6, the same guy who gave up just four hits and one run in 6.2 innings in Game 2.

They also have to figure out a way to stop Napoli, who has 14 RBI this postseason, and nine alone in the World Series. He also threw out Allen Craig trying to steal twice, the second time in the ninth inning as closer Neftali Feliz struck out Albert Pujols on the way to the save.

"I want to be a complete player,'' said Napoli, who set career highs with a .320 average, 30 homers and 75 RBI this season. "I'm not just here trying to be an offensive player. I'm trying hard on the defensive side. That's my main goal''

Chris Carpenter held the Rangers to two runs over seven innings -- homers by Mitch Moreland and Beltre -- when Michael Young greeted reliever Octavio Dotel with a leadoff double in the eighth. The Cardinals walked Nelson Cruz intentionally with one out and brought in Rzepczynski to pitch to David Murphy. He hit a ball right to Rzepczynski, but it caromed off his glove. The potential double-play ball turned into an infield single, loading the bases.

"That's a tough break,'' La Russa said. "He made a great pitch, but it happens. Sometimes it happens for us. Today, it happened against us.''

With the crowd chanting "NA-PO-LEE! NA-PO-LEE!'' the first-year Ranger crushed a drive to the right-center field fence for the game-winning runs.

"I was just trying to get something to the outfield, get a sac fly, stay short,'' Napoli said. "I got a pitch I could handle.''

Said Rangers first baseman Mitch Moreland: "He's been great for us all year. I actually got him to sign one of my game hats. He's my favorite player.''

"Frustrating," La Russa said. "It was a very disappointing, frustrating loss.''


Posted 11:32 AM

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