The 2011 World Series returned to Arlington Texas for Game Three. It was familiar territory for me, having spent a few days there last October, culminating with the San Francisco Giants exciting run to the World Championship when they defeated the Rangers in five games.
This year Game Three can only be described in one word. Albert. As in Albert Pujols.
Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, Albert Pujols. The only three players in World Series history to hit three home runs in a World Series game. Albert became a member of this exclusive club Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark. Not only did he connect for three home runs, but he also ended up with five hits, tying another World Series record held by Hall of Famer Paul Molitor during the 1982 World Series while a member of the Milwaukee Brewers.
This game wasn’t always the Albert show. It did, however, start out with a bang for the Cardinals in the very first inning when Allen Craig homered off of Matt Harrison to put the Cards on top early.
The score remained 1-0 until the fourth inning, when the wheels began to come off for the Rangers defensively. The inning took a turn for the worse for Texas after Matt Holliday was ruled safe on a play at first base when Mike Napoli apparently tagged Holliday out, but was ruled safe by first base umpire Ron Kulpa. The play shouldn’t have been close in the first place since Ian Kinsler had no one bearing down on him to force an off target throw.
Arguing to no avail, the inning continued and a few moments later Napoli threw wildly to home plate on what should have been a routine force play at the plate, allowing two runs to score. The floodgates were officially opened, thanks to some bad defensive plays mixed in with some bad luck.
The Rangers, however, didn’t roll over and die, plating three runs in the bottom of the fourth on two home runs. I was thinking this could be fun now, if the Rangers can keep up with the Cardinals. The Cardinals, however, had other plans and came back to score three runs in the top of the fifth to take an 8-3 lead.
The game began to get a touch sloppy for the Cardinals as well, although it didn’t factor into the scoring. The Rangers came back once again, scoring three runs in the bottom of the fifth to make it 8-6 after five innings.
Finally, the offensive show many were anticipating came to life during Game Three. This was starting to look like it could be fun.
Then, the Albert show took off. His first of three home runs was a three run bomb off of Alexi Ogando with one out in the sixth inning. Boom. A four run sixth inning by the Cardinals seemed to take the wind out of the Rangers.
Albert’s show was just getting started. In the seventh, he hit a 424 foot two-run home run to put the Cardinals up 14-6.
Wow. I knew history was possible if Albert could get another at-bat this night. Do you think he was seeing the ball well? Oh my!
The stands remained packed for one reason. Could Albert make history? Would the Rangers pitch to him? We discussed this in the photo box and my take on the situation was simple. Why not pitch to him? The score is already out of hand. Challenge him. Darren Oliver was the Rangers pitcher when Albert made his way to the plate in the ninth inning.
With two out, Albert turned around an Oliver pitch and sent it out to left field to make history and close the book on one of the most impressive offensive shows ever in postseason play.
There is always talk about how players help or hurt their impending free agency based on their postseason performances. Albert seemingly added millions on each one of his home runs this night.
I have recorded some of baseball’s greatest moments during over the 20 World Series I have been fortunate to cover. Game Three of the 2011 World Series, The Albert Game, is the latest addition to my list of memorable World Series moments, joining Kirby Puckett’s Game Six in 1991, Joe Carter’s World Series walk-off in 1993, and Derek Jeter’s performance in 2001.
Thank you Albert. What a night, a night I will never forget.