ST. LOUIS -- Twelve pitches, one blooper, one stolen base, one liner, one mishandled cutoff throw. That's all it took for Cardinals closer Jason Motte to come out of Thursday night's game, to suffer his first setback on the big stage, to answer an onslaught of questions about not coming through -- to finally look human.
Motte checked into Game 2 of the World Series with a one-run lead and eight nearly flawless innings of postseason baseball behind him. He faced two Rangers batters, then left, then finished as the losing pitcher in a crushing 2-1 defeat.
"My job is to go out there and get guys out," Motte said after his tough-luck blown save tied this Series at a game apiece. "Tonight, I faced two guys, gave up two hits. I didn't do my job."
Motte checked in to the top of the ninth with a 1-0 lead and eager Busch Stadium fans expecting the same script they had seen all postseason -- breeze through three batters, shake hands with Yadier Molina and go home a winner.
|10/20/11||Jason Motte||TEX||2||2||L, 2-1|
|10/26/06||Adam Wainwright||DET||1||0||W, 5-4|
|10/26/85||Todd Worrell||KC||3||2||L, 2-1|
|10/16/82||Jim Kaat||MIL||1||1||L, 7-5|
|10/7/68||Joe Hoerner||DET||3||2||L, 5-3|
|10/15/46||Harry Brecheen||BOS||3||0||W, 4-3|
|10/4/42||Harry Gumbert||NYY||1||1||W, 9-6|
But a single and stolen base by Ian Kinsler, then a single by Elvis Andrus, who advanced to third on a dropped relay throw by Albert Pujols, put runners on second and third with nobody out and took Motte out of the game.
Two sacrifice flies later, Texas had the lead.
"He just got victimized a little bit by the game of baseball to start the inning," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said, "and that's part of it."
Baseball -- especially World Series baseball -- tends to come down to mere inches and seconds. And in the top of the ninth, that was especially the case.
There was the bloop single by Kinsler, which came on a perfectly executed low-and-outside cutter but landed a couple of inches beyond the outstretched glove of Rafael Furcal.
There was Kinsler's stolen base, which saw him reach second base a split-second before a quick swipe.
"It took everything I had," Kinsler said. "Yadier made an unbelievable throw -- quick, on the money -- and I was just able to get my hand in there."
Then there was the relay throw home from Jon Jay, which tailed off Pujols' glove by a half an inch and allowed Andrus to get to second base -- changing the dynamic of whether La Russa would keep Motte in the game and possibly keeping Pujols from getting Kinsler in a rundown between third and home.
That set the stage for Arthur Rhodes giving up a sacrifice fly to Josh Hamilton, and Lance Lynn giving up a sacrifice fly to Michael Young.
As Motte learned, the line between hero and goat tends to be rather frail and thin on this stage.
"Especially in a one-run game," said Motte, who was charged with two runs, but only one was earned because Pujols was given an error. "It takes one hit, it takes one bad pitch. ... That's the name of the game. You go out there, and your job is to get people out. Every out's important, every out's big, and you don't want anyone to get on. But it's one of those things."
Just after Andrus' single, Motte happened to glance out beyond the right-center-field fence and saw Rhodes warming up. Then he saw the left-handed-hitting Hamilton striding toward the batter's box. Then he saw La Russa walking toward the mound.
And at that point he knew -- this night was no longer in his control.
"You always want to stay in there," Motte said. "But it's one of those things. Tony's the boss. And I've said it before, you go in when the phone rings and he tells you to go in, you're out of the ballgame when he comes and takes it from you. I would've liked to go out there and stayed and get a chance, but you know what, I didn't do my job tonight is really what it boils down to."
Motte will now have to move past that outing and wipe the slate clean, a task that's a lot easier said than done in the Fall Classic, but something teammates believe Motte is capable of doing despite his inexperience as a closer.
"He's had his struggles in the past," Jay said, "and he's going to be fine from all of this."
"I think he's going to flip it," Rhodes added. "I know he's flipped the switch a couple of times this year. He's still got to do his interviews over there, but he'll get over it tonight. Once we get on the plane, he'll be a happy guy, he'll enjoy his flight to Texas, and then he'll get a save in Texas and he'll do his job."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his columns and his blog, listen to his podcast and follow him on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.