ARLINGTON (CBSDFW.COM) – Professional athletes often purport that they play for their team’s faithful fan base, above all else. And almost as frequently, for right or for wrong, someone will sigh in response. But after the Texas Rangers’ 4-2 win over the St. Louis Cardinals in what could end up being the 2011 baseball season’s penultimate game, such a remark would have come off as anything but phone-y.
Let’s take a behind-the-numbers look at World Series Game 5.
1. Down, but not out: Over the course of their history, the Cardinals have overcome four 3-2 World Series deficits: 1982 vs. the Milwaukee Brewers, 1946 vs. the Boston Red Sox, 1934 vs. the Detroit Tigers and 1926 vs. the New York Yankees. The only season the Redbirds have failed to overcome a 3-games-to-2 deficit was 1930, when they lost a Game 6 to the Philadelphia A’s.
Meanwhile, Texas has a 3-games-to-2 lead in a best-of-7 series for the third time in the franchise’s history. In the previous two occurrences (2010 ALCS against the Yankees and the ’11 ALCS vs. the Tigers), the Rangers clinched in Game 6. They are in uncharted territory at this point, however, with their first-ever Fall Classic advantage.
“We certainly won’t be out there thinking about we’ve just got to win one game,” said Rangers manager Ron Washington. “I’ve been there before, and that doesn’t work.”
2. Such a relief: The Rangers’ bullpen has posted six postseason wins, a total that is tied with the 1996 New York Yankees and ’02 Anaheim Angels for the second-most all-time. Only the 2003 Florida Marlins’ bullpen (seven victories) has won more under one October sky.
Notching the Game 5 victory was Darren Oliver, who at 41 years, 18 days young is the third-oldest hurler to win a World Series game. Dolf Luque (44-years-old, 1933 New York Giants) and Kenny Rogers (41 years, 346 days, 2006 Tigers) are the only older pitchers to prevail in a Fall Classic affair.
Saving Game 5 was Neftali Feliz, who has been outstanding for the Rangers all October. The hard-throwing right-hander has converted all six of his postseason save opportunities, allowing just one run over 10 1/3 innings pitched (0.87 ERA).
Additionally, Feliz’s career postseason ERA of 1.02, compiled over the past two Octobers, ranks 10th all-time among relievers with at least 15 playoff innings pitched.
3. Many calls to the bullpen: Game 5 saw four relievers come out of the Cardinals’ bullpen, which has combined to make a Major League-record 65 appearances in 16 October games.
The mark had previously been held by the 2002 Giants, who changed pitchers 62 times in 17 playoff contests.
The Rangers’ bullpen hasn’t exactly been idle, either, having made more appearances this postseason (58) than all but three teams in history.
4. Clutch catcher: Rangers catcher Mike Napoli followed up his Game 4 effort with a tie-breaking double in the eighth inning of Game 5. It was just the ninth time in World Series history that a tie-breaking RBI hit in the eighth inning or later came off the bat of a backstop.
“Just trying to get something to the outfield, you know, get a sac fly, get that run across the board,” Napoli said after the win. “I was trying to stay short and I got a pitch I could handle over the middle of the plate and put it in the gap.”
Napoli now has nine Fall Classic RBIs, which trails only Bobby Richardson (12 in 1960), Mickey Mantle (11 in 1960), Sandy Alomar Jr. (10 in 1997), Yogi (10 in 1956) and Ted Kluszewski (10 in 1959) for the most in one World Series.
Napoli also excelled behind the plate by twice nabbing Allen Craig, who became the first player to get thrown out on two occasions in one Fall Classic game since Billy Martin in 1955.
5. Another late win: For the second time this series (also Game 2), the deciding runs were scored within the final two frames. The last time multiple World Series affairs were decided that late was 2005, when the game-winning run was thrice scored in the eighth inning or later.
6. Couldn’t capitalize: The Rangers walked nine and made two errors, but the Cardinals could not cash in. St. Louis went 1-for-12 with runners in scoring position during Game 5, leaving 12 men on base in the process.
7. Not so happy birthday: Left-hander Arthur Rhodes (42 years old) and shortstop Rafael Furcal (34) of the Cardinals turned a year older in the loss. Rhodes is the oldest player to have had his birthday fall during the Fall Classic, eclipsing the mark previously held by Orioles pitcher Jim Palmer, who turned 38 during the 1983 World Series.
Rhodes and Furcal were not the first pair of World Series participants to gain a year during this season’s Fall Classic, however, as Michael Young and Daniel Descalso each enjoyed birthdays on the day of Game 1.
The 2011 World Series is the first in history to feature four players celebrating a birthday. The previous mark of three was set in 1985 when Tito Landrum and Tom Nieto of the Cardinals, and Jamie Quirk of the Royals, each aged one year.
The Series will now return to St. Louis, the National League city that earned home-field advantage for the World Series when the Rangers’ ace — and Game 5 starter — C.J. Wilson lost the 2011 All-Star Game after allowing a home run to Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder.
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Zach Finkelstein is a contributing writer for YESNetwork.com and SNY.tv.