ST. LOUIS -- It was unusual seeing Ian Kinsler lead off third base. It was strange watching Elvis Andrus stray off second. It was the ninth inning Thursday evening at Busch Stadium, and the Rangers had a bona fide rally cooking in Game 2 of the World Series.
Given the state of things in St. Louis, the scene fell somewhere between implausible and bizarre.
Until that ninth-inning rally, when the Rangers plated both Kinsler and Andrus on sacrifice flies to steal Game 2 from the Cardinals, 2-1, the league's two pennant winners had combined for six runs over the first 17 innings of the Series. Most players agreed on the cause.
"Both teams are pitching really well," said Cards pinch-hitter Allen Craig, one of the few players having little trouble hitting this week.
"The starting pitching has been good," St. Louis outfielder Jon Jay said. "You've got to tip your cap to those guys."
That goes for both sides, from an adequate Chris Carpenter and C.J. Wilson in Game 1 to an impressive Jaime Garcia and Colby Lewis in Game 2. Pitching usually takes on more significance in the postseason, but not to the point of simply flipping a switch; the Rangers and Cardinals are coming off League Championship Series victories in which they averaged 6.5 and 7.2 runs per game, respectively.
Through two World Series games, even given Texas' ninth-inning rally Thursday, they have combined for eight. That represents the 10th-lowest total through two games in World Series history, and the fewest since the Phillies and Orioles also combined for eight runs in 1983. The fewest came in 1949 when the Yankees and Dodgers traded 1-0 victories in Games 1 and 2.
The Rangers' five hits Thursday also marked the fewest by a winning team in a Series game since 2002, when the Angels also rapped out five in beating the Giants, 4-1, in Game 7. Texas is the first team since the 1996 Yankees to win a World Series game while recording five of fewer hits and two or fewer runs, and the only winning team to score all of its runs on sacrifice flies.
"It's tough to bring the sticks every night," Craig said in explanation. "But it's just the first two games of the Series. I wouldn't be surprised if both teams pick it up offensively."
Following Game 1, both teams pointed to Busch Stadium's chilly, damp conditions as one reason for the short-circuitry. According to the Elias Sports Bureau, teams average a combined 9.88 runs per game during the regular season when temperatures soar above 80 degrees, as they often do in St. Louis and Arlington. When the temperature dips below 60 degrees, as it has this week, that number falls more than a full run.
But few were citing mercury as an excuse after Game 2, which was nearly as cold as Wednesday's opener but not quite so raw and damp. Instead, the Rangers and Cardinals pointed to a pair of sharp starting pitchers, who pounded the strike zone and allowed just one extra-base hit -- a double -- between them.
It represented a stark contrast from last year's opening games, in which the Rangers and Giants combined for 27 runs in chilly San Francisco. A year earlier, the Yankees and Phillies amassed 11 runs over the first two games. Before that, it was the Phillies and Rays combining for 11 of their own.
But in present-day St. Louis, next to nothing. Five runs in Game 1. A lone run in Game 2 until the Rangers, whose Nos. 2-3-4 hitters are 2-for-21 in the Series, eked out two in the ninth.
"It's a difficult game, and you need to make sure that you take every at-bat for what it's worth and really try to build an inning and help the team any way you can with each at-bat," Kinsler said. "Sometimes it doesn't work out, and sometimes we score nine. It's a very weird game."
"We're going up there trying to give good at-bats, trying to barrel the ball up," Texas outfielder Josh Hamilton said. "We seem to be a little more aggressive the last couple games, maybe not seeing as many pitches as we should."
Hamilton, a premier power hitter who is 0-for-8 in the Series, was not as eager to talk about the groin injury that may be affecting his swing. His slugging counterpart, Albert Pujols of the Cardinals, left Busch Stadium without discussing his 0-for-4 performance in Game 2.
Had he talked, he might have joined the chorus in citing starting pitching for the reason.
"When you get to the postseason, you're going to see not only talented pitching, but hot pitching," Cards third baseman David Freese said. "Hitting can only take you so far."
"And we all understand that," Kinsler said in a different part of Busch Stadium, discussing his own team's offensive woes. "But at the same time, we're going to fight until the last out. I'm sure the Cardinals are going to do the same."