Berkman is red in the face
“I’m not afraid to say, ‘Hey, I wasn’t right,’” Berkman said.
One of the subplots to Game 1 of the World Series, which starts Wednesday night in St. Louis, is that Berkman never thought the Texas Rangers would be playing in it. That’s why he chose to sign a one-year deal with the Cardinals in the offseason, even though the Rangers also pursued him.
Berkman told a Houston radio station in January that the Rangers were an “average team” without star pitcher Cliff Lee, and that they caught “lightning in a bottle and they got hot” when they made last year’s World Series. He even denounced the rest of Texas’ pitching staff, which performed “better than their talent level and, consequently, they had a great year.”
The Cardinals, Berkman figured, had the pieces to make a deep postseason run.
Turns out the Rangers did, too.
“Certainly the last thing I want is to have the entire state of Texas to be mad at me,” Berkman said before a workout Tuesday at Busch Stadium. “I don’t want to disrespect any players the Rangers have, because they have a fine baseball team. I think if you say enough things publicly, eventually you’re going to say some things that are probably not great, and that’s the case here.”
Berkman resurrected his career in St. Louis, hitting .301 with 31 homers and 94 RBIs this season. The six-time All-Star hit a combined .248 last year between Houston and the New York Yankees.
His performance over the first half earned him another All-Star nod, so he took the opportunity to apologize in person to Rangers ace C.J. Wilson for his comments about the Texas pitching staff.
“There was actually a note in my locker from Lance saying, ‘Hey, congratulations on your guys’ success. I guess I was wrong. Not the first time,’” Wilson said.
“They’re in the World Series, I’m in the World Series. I’m happy for him. He’s played great,” Wilson said. “He’s played a lot better than he did last year. So in that regard, he stepped up to his end of the bargain and we stepped to our end of the bargain.”
Berkman said his biggest regret isn’t what he said, but that he rubbed some people back in Texas the wrong way. He was born and raised in the state and played most of his career for the Astros.
“I’m not afraid of the public scrutiny,” he said. “I’m not afraid to say, ‘Hey, I wasn’t right in my opinions,’ and it probably won’t be the last time.”
Starters on deck
Rangers manager Ron Washington announced Tuesday that Colby Lewis will start Game 2 on Thursday night. He’ll go against the Cardinals’ Jaime Garcia.
The rest of his World Series rotation is still to be determined, but Washington felt comfortable pitching Lewis after Game 1 starter C.J. Wilson because that’s the way it’s been most of the year.
“He’s rested, he’s ready to go, he’s been throwing the ball extremely well,” Washington said. “With him and C.J. back to back, it worked all year, and we finally got back to that one-two punch.”
Garcia went 13-7 with a 3.56 ERA in the regular season, but has struggled in three postseason starts. The left-hander gave up all three runs in a 3-2 loss to the Phillies, allowed six runs in four innings against Milwaukee in the NLCS opener.
and scattered seven hits over 4 2-3 innings in Game 5 against the Brewers.
“You have to remember that he’s young, and there are times when he has an issue that he’s learning how to make the adjustments,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “But right now he’s plenty good enough, and he’s pitched very well, especially in our park.”
La Russa said that Kyle Lohse will likely take the mound when the series shifts to Texas for Game 3, and Edwin Jackson will go for the Cardinals in Game 4.
“But that might change when we talk a little more,” La Russa said.
On the road again
Texas is starting the World Series on the road for the second straight year.
Before the winner of the All-Star game started determining which league would host Game 1, home-field advantage for the World Series alternated between the American and National leagues.
Under the old rules, Texas would have hosted at least one opener over a two-year period.
“I’ve never been a big fan of it, even when the American League was winning all those years in a row,” Rangers first baseman-DH Michael Young said. “An exhibition game that happens in July, with about 95 percent of the guys who aren’t even in (the World Series), dictates where it’s played. I have a tough time wrapping my arms around that.”
Coincidentally, Ron Washington of the Rangers was the AL All-Star manager this year, and C.J. Wilson—who starts Game 1 for Texas on Wednesday night—was the losing pitcher.
“I said that when we lost, that I would have liked to have had home field advantage. But right now, that’s only wishing,” Washington said. “You’ve got to go play baseball, it’s not wishing.”
Last year, the Rangers lost the first two games of the World Series in San Francisco. They won Game 3 at home before losing two in a row and ending the series.
Hot to cold
After playing 27 home games this season when the temperature was 100 degrees or more at first pitch, the Rangers are going to need long-sleeve shirts and jackets for the World Series.
The weather forecast for Games 1 and 2 in St. Louis calls for windy conditions with temperatures in the upper 40s—and overnight lows in the 30s.
“I think we will say refreshing, that’s it,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “Both teams have to play under the same conditions. We’re just going to strap it on.”
Washington said he was going to make sure that equipment manager Hoggy Price packed enough warm clothes for the players—and the manager.
“I will definitely be warm in the dugout,” Washington said. “No doubt about it.”
The coldest game for the Rangers this season was May 16 at the Chicago White Sox, when it was 43 degrees with breezy conditions at first pitch. Things worked out just fine that chilly night. Texas starter Colby Lewis threw a five-hitter for his first career shutout in a 4-0 victory.
When the series switches to Texas this weekend, the forecast is for temperatures in the upper 70s.
Temperatures in St. Louis were ideal the first two rounds, 80 degrees for both games in the division series and 66, 67 and 63 degrees for three NLCS games.
Game 1 starter Chris Carpenter has been known to sweat through three or four jerseys on a typical muggy summer night. This works, too.
“It’s no different, just go out and pitch,” Carpenter said. “I’m going to be nice and warm anyway because I’ll be doing my thing. I’m not concerned about what the weather is doing, unless it’s raining and we don’t get to play. That’s no fun.”