October 28, 2006
Cardinals finish off Tigers
St. Louis takes title with 4-2 victory
Associated Press/Tom Gannam
St. Louis Cardinals Scott Rolen and teammate Albert Pujols celebrate as Detroit Tigers Ramon Santiago walks off the field after the St. Louis Cardinals defeated Detroit Tigers in Game 5 of the World Series Friday.
ST. LOUIS — Instead of a Fall Classic, this World Series will be remembered for bumbles and stumbles, smudged hands and wet balls, rainy days and cold nights.
Flatter than the Midwestern heartland and a flop in the TV ratings, it was a yawner to most — except the St. Louis Cardinals.
They beat the Detroit Tigers 4-2 in Game 5 on Friday night behind castoffs Jeff Weaver and David Eckstein and sore-shouldered Scott Rolen to wrap up their first Series title in nearly a quarter-century and 10th overall.
“I think we shocked the world,” Cardinals center fielder Jim Edmonds said.
At least those who were still paying attention.
Instead of highs, this Series will be remembered for lows:
—St. Louis (83-78) had the worst regular-season record of any Series champion in a non-shortened season.
—Detroit pitchers set a Series record with five errors, two more than the previous high.
—The Tigers became the first team since the 1956 New York Yankees to allow as many as eight unearned runs.
—Detroit hit .199, the worst in a five-game Series since the 1983 Philadelphia Phillies.
“If you don’t make the plays, you’re going to lose — whether you’re playing the Yankees or the junior varsity,” Detroit closer Todd Jones said.
After smoking the Yankees in the first round and sweeping Oakland in the second, the Tigers looked like the JV — on a bad day. They had six days off in the Rust Belt after finishing off the Athletics and looked, well, rusty.
St. Louis, which entered with one day off after beating the New York Mets, won its first title since 1982.
“No one believed in us, but we believed in ourselves,” said Eckstein, the 5-foot-7 shortstop who was selected Series MVP after batting .364.
After closer Adam Wainwright struck out Brandon Inge for the final out, the ballpark erupted. Wainwright raised his arms in triumph, catcher Yadier Molina ran to the mound and the pair bounced off toward second base, where they were joined by teammates running from the dugout and the bullpen. Ace starter Chris Carpenter and injured closer Jason Isringhausen gave manager Tony La Russa bear hugs.
Minutes later, fireworks filled the sky above the ballpark.
Minnesota, in 1987, had set the previous low for wins by a Series winner in a nonstrike year, going 85-77.
“The team that wins a world championship is the team that played the best,” La Russa said.
A repeat of 1968’s dramatic Tigers-Cardinals matchup — won by Detroit in seven games — ended on a cold night more suitable to football than baseball. The Tigers made two more errors, raising their Series total to eight — three by Inge, the third baseman, the rest by pitchers who will no doubt be practicing their infield tosses from the moment they report to spring training.
“We didn’t play well enough,” Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. “There’s no excuse here. I don’t really know what the reasons were.”
Detroit saw its key players’ averages shrink with the temperature. AL championship series MVP Placido Polanco was 0-for-17, Magglio Ordonez 2-for-19 (.105), Craig Monroe 3-for-20 (.150) and Ivan Rodriguez 3-for-19 (.158).
“We just never got the bats going,” Rodriguez said.
It was the National League’s first title since the 2003 Florida Marlins.
La Russa, who led the Oakland Athletics to a sweep in the earthquake-interrupted 1989 Bay Bridge Series, joined Sparky Anderson (Cincinnati and Detroit) as the only managers to win Series titles in each league.
“I have such a respect and affection for Sparky,” La Russa said. “It’s such a great honor. He should really have this alone.”
While the Tigers had fielding problems, the Cardinals were mostly crisp, with the notable exception of right fielder Chris Duncan, who dropped a fly ball just before Sean Casey’s two-run homer in the fourth put Detroit ahead 2-1.
St. Louis had gone ahead on Eckstein’s infield single in the second, with Inge making a diving stop over the bag but throwing the ball low and wide to first.
“It’s the atmosphere that can get you a little tight,” Inge said. “It’s the biggest stage in the world for baseball. It can make some nerves, get people a little jittery.”
Casey, who batted a Series-high .529, homered for the second straight night, but St. Louis came right back to take a 3-2 lead in the bottom of the fourth as pitcher Justin Verlander threw away a ball for the second time in two starts. One run scored on the error and another on Eckstein’s grounder.
“I had the wrong mind-set,” Verlander said. “I picked it up and said to myself, ‘Don’t throw it away,’ instead of just picking it up and throwing it. I got tentative.”
Rolen, who led Cardinals’ batters at .421, added a big run with a two-out RBI single in the seventh off reliever Fernando Rodney, extending his postseason hitting streak to 10 games.
It marked the first time since the 1912 Red Sox at Boston’s Fenway Park that a team won the Series at home in a first-year ballpark.
As the Tigers failed in their bid for their first title since 1984, their season ended with Kenny Rogers rested and ready with no place to pitch. Rogers, who threw 23 shutout innings in the postseason, was saved by Leyland for a possible Game 6 in Detroit on Saturday.
Rogers created a stir by pitching with a brownish smudge on his throwing hand in Game 2, when he tossed eight scoreless innings to lead Detroit to its only Series win.
Weaver, cast off by the Yankees three years ago after a World Series flop and dealt to the Cardinals by the Angels in July, allowed four hits in eight innings. He matched his season high with nine strikeouts and walked one before Wainwright finished for the save.
“It’s all the belief in yourself, knowing that you’re going to work through it,” Weaver said. “Just never say die. Just keep working.”
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Purple OT loss in finale
CHITTENANGO — Oh, brother.
That’s what followers of both the Cortland High and Oneida football teams were undoubtedly saying, for vastly different reasons, after the stunning climax to the teams’ rainy season-ending crossover contest on the turf at Chittenango.
For Purple Tiger fans it was the ultimate in frustrations in what has been largely a frustrating season, which is now over at 1-8. The Indian faithful were left to cheer the game-winning heroics of brothers Ryan and Matt Kramer, who hooked up for the game-winning pass play in overtime, on fourth-and-goal from the 7-yard line no less, for a 27-24 victory.
After Oneida scored late in regulation but missed the extra point to leave the game at 21-21, CHS scored first in OT on a 23-yard field goal by senior Codi Clayton, his first of the year. Clayton came through after having had a field goal and conversion kick blocked earlier in the game.
Senior halfback Brian Benford, who lead all rushers with 109 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown, looked to have a second TD with a nine-yard run around the left side on the Purple Tigers’ second offensive play after starting overtime with possession of the ball. A season-long malady surfaced once again for CHS, however, as the score was wiped out by a holding call and it had to settle for the field goal.
The three points looked golden after Oneida sophomore quarterback Ryan Kramer was sacked back to the 34 by Cortland junior tackle Chris Fernandes on the Indians’ first offensive play in overtime. Kramer ultimately found senior receiver Ryan Mosack along the left sideline for a 24-yard gain, to the CHS 10, on third and 24 to keep the drive alive. After the next three plays netted three yards, the game hinged on one play. Ryan Kramer came out as the kicker, with Matt Kramer the holder, in what Cortland sniffed out as a fake field goal to tie the game, calling a timeout.
When play resumed, the snap went directly to Ryan Kramer, who rolled to his right, stopped and threw back to his left to his brother, who had used the misdirection to get wide open to the other side and calmly snagged the winning seven-yard aerial.
“I made a mistake when I tried to make too much out of nothing and got sacked,” Ryan Kramer said. “I had to make up for it. Ryan (Mosack) made a big play on the third-down pass, and we’d had a little trickery on the other (right) side earlier. After I rolled to the right and stopped, Matt had gotten behind them and I only had to throw it over one kid. It helps when I can go to him; we have good chemistry.”
“No one watches the holder,” said Matt Kramer, a senior wide receiver, said with a wide smile. “Our plan was get everyone sucked in on the right and for me to go left. Once the play was called during the timeout, I was looking forward to it. I knew I could get open to end the game. That’s a play we’ve worked on in practice the last couple of weeks. Plus, Ryan and I always play catch at home.”
“We knew they had a different kicker out there, the quarterback,” Cortland coach Jim Brown said in discussing the timeout he called. “We just blew the coverage, and the kid made a nice pass. They had some other big plays, too, especially in the fourth quarter and overtime. They made the plays and we didn’t.”
Prior to the extra session, the biggest play of the game had come on another do-or-die situation for Oneida late in regulation. Facing fourth-and-six from the Cortland 34, Ryan Kramer again rolled right but this time threw that way, finding Mosack wide open behind the defense for a 34-yard scoring strike that made it 21-21 with 1:19 left. Senior kicker Matt Barres’ conversion attempt hit the left upright and caromed away, however, and Cortland advanced to the Oneida 34 after the ensuing kickoff before running out of time and downs.
The Indians trailed 15-8 at halftime but had tied the game with 7:53 left in the fourth as Ryan Kramer hit junior tight end Dale Ano, who dove just inside the right pylon to complete a 15-yard scoring play before the Kramer brothers gave a sign of things to come by hooking up for the conversion pass.
The Purple Tigers came right back, however, and after a lateral play from senior Kaywon Pittman to Benford resulted in a kickoff return to the Cortland 49, used 11 running plays to traverse the 51 yards to the end zone. Senior fullback Jon Wood got 21 of his 98 yards (on 28 total carries) on that drive, and after two unsportsmanlike penalties in rapid succession on Ano resulted in his ejection and put the ball on the Oneida two, Wood picked up a yard before junior quarterback A.J. Meldrim went in for the TD. In what would prove to be a pivotal play, Clayton’s conversion was blocked, leaving the score 21-15 and setting the stage for the wild finish.
Cortland led 15-8 at the half, using a power running game to gouge out all 123 of its first-half yards (to 49 for Oneida, 30 in the air) and forge its halftime lead, which was preserved late when junior Keith Sherman sacked Ryan Kramer to take the Indians out of range for any realistic scoring chance.
Oneida scored its only TD early, as Ano snagged a screen pass from senior quarterback Tim Fulton on the opening series of the game and rambled 33 yards to the end zone, Barres tacking on the kick.
On the ensuing Cortland possession, the Indians defense roughed up Fulton on a third-down play, ending his nigh behind center. “We used Tim as a holder on kicks, but after he was hurt — he was hit in the head — we took precautions and held him out (from the quarterback slot),” Brown said. The Purple Tigers capped that same series as Benford went 24 yards around left end to score and went right with a pitchout from Meldrim for the conversion to make it 9-7 for CHS.
The teams then exchanged turnovers, with Cortland sophomore linebacker Garrett Wyatt recovering an Oneida fumble at the Purple Tiger 28 and Barres intercepting a Meldrim pass at the Oneida two-yard line. Cortland then held, however, and after Benford returned a punt 16 yards to the Oneida 30 he went off-tackle on the right side for 28 yards before Wood banged in from two yards out and Clayton booted the conversion for the 15-7 halftime margin.
Wood recovered an Oneida fumble at the Indian 41 on the first play from scrimmage in the second half, but the Purple Tigers were foiled in their attempt to expand on their lead when a 25-yard field goal attempt by Clayton was blocked to cap the ensuing drive. Cortland found the going a bit tougher on the ground in the second half, picking up 130 yards on 120 carries.
“We made some adjustments on defense, and they paid off,” said Oneida coach Bill Carinci, whose team closed out a 4-5 season. “We slowed their running game down after they ran over us in the first half. We stayed in our 4-4 defensive set, but brought the linebackers on the blitz. I told the guys at halftime that they weren’t out of the game, that they needed to dig in defensively and eliminate the mistakes they were making.”
An improved passing game, despite the rain, helped as well. Ryan Kramer completed 11-for-19 second-half and overtime passes with one interception (by Cortland sophomore linebacker Will Fickinscher at the Cortland one-yard line early in the fourth quarter on yet another key play), 156 yards and three touchdowns.
All told, Cortland had a 247-217 yardage advantage in the game, all but four of its total (those four coming on a halfback pass from Benford to Meldrim in the waning moments of regulation) on the ground. Oneida, meanwhile, was held to 31 yards on 20 carries but picked up 186 passing yards as Ryan Kramer went 15-for-27.
“This team really showed a lot of improvement the last two games,” Brown said, CHS coming off a 21-7 win over Watertown. “They played very, very well tonight. We played solid defense but a few big plays cost us. It’s a young team, and you can’t speed up experience. There were a lot of growing pains, but this team is a totally different and better one than it was in our first game of the season. It’s a tough way for the seniors to go out, but they all stepped up at the end of the year.”
In addition to Pittman, Clayton, Fulton, Benford and Wood, Brown also singled out the team’s other upperclassmen — safety-halfback Jay Hartnett, running back-linebacker Derek Goodwin and two-way lineman Marc Hamilton.
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