By Drew Davison
ARLINGTON – An early five-run deficit didn’t keep the Texas Rangers out of it. Their powerful offense kept them within striking distance.
But the bullpen let it slip away, as Albert Pujols belted three home runs off it and the St. Louis Cardinals went on to a 16-7 victory over the Rangers in Game 3 of the World Series on Saturday night at Rangers Ballpark.
St. Louis leads the best-of-seven series 2-1. Game 4 is scheduled for 7:05 p.m. Sunday. Left-hander Derek Holland starts for the Rangers, while right-hander Edwin Jackson goes for the Cardinals.
After the Rangers had pulled to within 8-6 after the fifth, the Cardinals broke loose for four runs off Alexi Ogando.
Ogando had been dominant all playoffs, but has struggled in his first three appearances in the World Series.
He walked Cardinals No. 9 hitter Ryan Theriot to start the sixth followed by a single by Rafael Furcal. Ogando struck out Allen Craig after giving up run-scoring singles to him in Games 1 and 2.
But Pujols followed Craig, and sent one off the facing of the club level in left field for a three-run shot, his first of three homers. Matt Holliday then reached on an error by Elvis Andrus, eventually scoring on a sacrifice fly by Yadier Molina to give the Cardinals a 12-6 lead.
That proved to be an insurmountable lead, and the Cardinals cushioned it with two in the seventh (a two-run homer by Pujols), one in the eighth and one in the ninth (a solo shot by Pujols).
St. Louis took a 1-0 lead in the first when Craig sent one in the left-field seats.
But the real drama began in the fourth inning.
Pujols singled to left to start the inning, but Rangers starter Matt Harrison induced what appeared to be a double-play grounder by Matt Holliday. Ian Kinsler’s throw to first was wide, but Mike Napoli made the catch and tagged Holliday.
Replays showed the tag happened well before Holliday reached first, but first-base umpire Ron Kulpa ruled him safe. After that call, things started to unravel for Harrison and the Rangers.
David Freese had a two-run double, and then two more runs scored on an errant throw home by Napoli on a slow roller by Jon Jay. After an RBI single by Theriot, the Cardinals had a 5-0 lead by the end of the inning.
The Rangers answered in the bottom half off Cardinals starter Kyle Lohse, staying within striking distance.
Michael Young led off with a solo homer, and then Nelson Cruz had a two-run blast to pull Texas to within 5-3.
St. Louis, though, went back to work in the fifth, scoring three runs. Rangers reliever Scott Feldman gave up a single to Pujols and then issued consecutive walks to load the bases to start the inning. The Cardinals scored on an RBI groundout by Freese, and a two-run double by Molina.
The starters of the game, of course, had forgettable stat lines.
Harrison allowed five runs (three earned) on six hits with an intentional walk and three strikeouts over 3 2/3 innings.
Lohse, meanwhile, went three-plus innings, allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and three strikeouts.