ST. LOUIS — Down to their last three outs and facing another serious World Series deficit, the Texas Rangers did some rallying of their own.
Lost at the plate, Josh Hamilton and the Texas hitters suddenly found their strokes. They scraped together two runs in the ninth inning against the vaunted St. Louis Cardinals' bullpen and escaped with a 2-1 win Thursday night that evened the Series at 1-all.
"It wasn't a Series-saving rally, but it was huge," said Ian Kinsler, whose single and safe-by-inches steal set up the comeback.
Hamilton and Young did their jobs, hitting consecutive sacrifice flies that completed the comeback.
A year after they dropped the first two games at San Francisco and got wiped out in the World Series, the Rangers kept things interesting — for themselves, and for baseball fans all over yearning for some October drama.
"It was almost a great story for us, turned out to be a greater one for them," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
Now, after a travel day, Texas will host Game 3 on Saturday night. Matt Harrison is set to start for the Rangers against Kyle Lohse.
"It would have been hard," Hamilton said of possibly facing being 0-2. "We would have been comfortable going back to our place, having three games. They're just like we are, never say die, till the last out is made. It makes it fun."
Up until the ninth, Hamilton and the Texas boppers were in serious danger. They chased pitches that bounced, broke their bats and seemed totally overmatched.
In a city excited by a Rally Squirrel, it was Groundhog Day — almost.
For the second straight night, Cardinals pinch-hitter Allen Craig greeted reliever Alexi Ogando with a go-ahead single. This time, Craig did it the seventh. In Game 1, his hit in the sixth sent the Cards to a 3-2 win.
The Rangers have not lost two straight games since Aug. 23-25. They sure waited a while to save themselves on this night that began as duel between starters Colby Lewis and the Cardinals' Jaime Garcia.
Kinsler opened the ninth with a bloop single against closer Jason Motte. Next up was Elvis Andrus, whose tremendous play at shortstop kept the game scoreless much earlier. Kinsler, though, wasn't about to wait — he stole second, sliding in just ahead of Yadier Molina's excellent throw.
Andrus followed with a single to center, sending Kinsler to third. And when the relay throw got away from first baseman Albert Pujols for a moment, Andrus scampered to second.
"It stinks," Motte said.
La Russa, who's been making all the right moves this October, brought in lefty Arthur Rhodes to face Hamilton. But the slumping slugger, slowed throughout the postseason by a groin injury, hit a solid fly ball that scored Kinsler and moved Andrus to third.
La Russa went to his bullpen again, bringing in Lance Lynn to face Young. The steady Texas veteran lofted a fly ball that sent Andrus scampering home.
"I don't care how they come. We just needed to score some runs," Young said. "In that situation, sacrifice flies are what we needed. Josh's job was to get the guy to third and my job was to get him in. Just team baseball. Something we've done all season long."
Then it was Rangers manager Ron Washington's turn. He signaled for closer Neftali Feliz, who worked around a leadoff walk to earn the save.
"Classic ninth inning," La Russa said.
The sellout crowd at Busch Stadium fell silent as Rafael Furcal flied out to end it. Moments earlier, the fans gave Pujols a big cheer in what could have been his final at-bat at home before he heads into free agency. Pujols flied out to the wall, leaving him 0 for 6 in the Series.
Mike Adams, the third Texas pitcher, got the win.
The Cardinals broke through against Lewis in the seventh when David Freese singled with one out and took third on Nick Punto's two-out single. La Russa pulled Garcia and put up Craig, who was injured for most of the season.
Washington then went to Ogando. After a first-pitch foul, Craig lined a 96 mph heater over Kinsler at second base for the go-ahead run.
Up through the ninth, the Texas hitters were flailing.
Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP seemed to be wearing down with every swing in his first three at-bats.
Hamilton shattered his bat the first time up and slowly jogged to first base. Later, he weakly waved and appeared overmatched as he struck out on three pitches. That left him with an 0-for-16 Series slump dating to last October.
Hamilton's teammates were equally feeble. Maybe it was because none of the Texas starters had ever faced Garcia, maybe it was carryover from the stress that began in last year's World Series wipeout against San Francisco.
The acrobatic Andrus made a sensational play in the fifth to keep the game scoreless.
After a two-out single by Punto and a walk to the light-hitting Garcia, Furcal slapped a hard grounder up the middle. Andrus dived to his left to stop it on the edge of the outfield grass, got to his knees and flipped the ball with his glove to second baseman Kinsler, who barely beat Garcia to the bag for a forceout.
"I always say when you're not hitting good, you better do something good defensively," Andrus said.
Texas batters, meanwhile, couldn't catch up with Garcia.
Their hardest hit early in the game came in the fourth — rather, it was the hardest a Texas player got hit.
Kinsler was at third base when Adrian Beltre sent a solid, one-hopper down the line. The foul ball nailed a ducking Kinsler in the right shoulder, and he grinned while playfully rubbing it off. No smiling, though, when Beltre took a poor cut at a low pitch and struck out to strand runners at the corners.
Garcia and Lewis dominated at the outset, and no one got a hit until Furcal doubled with two outs in the St. Louis third. Before that, the closest anyone came was Jon Jay, whose bunt danced along the third base line chalk before trickling foul.
Perhaps both sides could have used some hitting tips from Stan Musial. A month shy of his 91st birthday, Stan the Man was sitting in a Busch suite. The Cardinals Hall of Famer was shown on the video board and drew a big cheer.