Friday, June 17, 2016

Rangers, Cards play at Busch for first time since 2013

The Rangers don't have good memories of playing at Busch Stadium in the 2011 World Series, as they include Jason Motte pointing to the sky and the Cardinals in a dogpile on the field at the end. The 2016 rosters are vastly different, but the memories remain fresh as the two teams meet on Friday in St. Louis for the first time since the Rangers swept the Cardinals at Busch Stadium in 2013.
Cardinals manager Mike Matheny was watching from home with an analytical eye during Game 6 of that 2011 Series, which David Freese ended with a walk-off home run to send the set to its final game. Then a catching instructor in the organization, he was taking notes on how Yadier Molina performed. As extra innings came along, he changed his tone.
"I was a fan at that point," Matheny said. "I was like, 'You've got to be kidding me, to witness what we just witnessed?' It was amazing. My first thought in my mind when [Freese] hit that home run was, 'This is life-changing stuff.'"
Cole Hamels beat the Cardinals as a member of the Phillies in the 2011 National League Division Series. His most recent start against St. Louis came on April 27, 2015, when he went seven innings and gave up one run on four hits at Busch. He's coming off a victory against the Mariners in which he put up those same numbers.
Michael Wacha, who wouldn't be drafted until eight months after the 2011 World Series, will make his first career start against the Rangers. His six straight losses are the longest by a Cardinals pitcher this season. He had his best start since May 3 in his previous outing, against the Pirates on Friday, when he went seven innings and gave up two runs on three hits.
Things to know about this game
• The Rangers have five players remaining from 2011: shortstop Elvis Andrus, first baseman Mitch Moreland, third baseman Adrian Beltre and pitchers Colby Lewis and Derek Holland. Lewis and Holland are not scheduled to pitch in St. Louis. Josh Hamilton is still with them but out for the year recovering from left knee surgery.
• The Cardinals had an off-day on Thursday prior to the series, but the extra rest favors the Rangers. St. Louis is 2-8 this season following an off-day.
• Wacha went 3-0 with a 3.09 ERA in four starts against Interleague opponents last season. Rangers batters only have 12 plate appearances against him.
• Hamels has struggled in Interleague Play, with an 8-16 record and 4.85 ERA in 34 starts, but Cardinals hitters are hitting only .244 lifetime against him. Hamels, who was with the Phillies from 2006-15, has more plate appearances as a hitter than any other active Major League pitcher, with 694. He has a career .174 batting average with one home run, which came off of Matt Cain of the Giants on July 21, 2012, in Philadelphia.

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