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Blown call at 1st, Pujols HR give Cards 12-6 lead

St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig hits a home run off Texas Rangers' Matt Harrison during the first inning of Game 3 of baseball's World Series Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. St. Louis Cardinals' Allen Craig hits a home run off Texas Rangers' Matt Harrison during the first inning of Game 3 of baseball's World Series Saturday, Oct. 22, 2011, in Arlington, Texas. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
By Ronald Blum
AP Sports Writer / October 22, 2011

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ARLINGTON, Texas—A blown call by first base umpire Ron Kulpa and a throwing error by first baseman by Mike Napoli led to a four-run fourth that changed the game, and Albert Pujols hit a long three-run homer that helped the Cardinals open a 12-6 lead over the Texas Rangers after six innings of a messy World Series Game 3 on Saturday night.

Following two crisp games during a split in St. Louis, the teams played a messy Texas shootout that saw the fourth and fifth innings alone drag on for 1 hour, 22 minutes.

Given a 5-0 lead, St. Louis allowed Texas to close to 5-3 in the bottom half. St. Louis opened an 8-3 advantage in the fifth, but the Rangers closed to 8-6 in the bottom of the inning and had the bases loaded when Ian Kinsler hit an inning-ending popup.

Pujols followed in the sixth with a no-doubt, 423-foot drive off Alexi Ogando that clanked off the facing above the restaurant windows in left field, and Yadier Molina added a sacrifice fly.

Texas made three errors that led to three unearned runs

Allen Craig, who had run-scoring pinch singles in the first two games, homered on Matt Harrison's seventh pitch.

Pujols singled leading off the fourth and Matt Holliday hit a hard grounder to Elvis Andrus for what should have been a bases-clearing double play. The shortstop tossed to second, but Kinsler's throw was off line and pulled Napoli off first base.

Playing first base for the first time in the Series, Napoli caught the throw and his glove came down hard on Holliday's left shoulder, with the runner a step short of the bag, But Kulpa, called him safe, despite an argument from Rangers manager Ron Washington.

Lance Berkman singled, and David Freese's double down the right-field line gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead. Molina was intentionally walked and Jon Jay hit a bouncer to Napoli, who had plenty of time to throw home for a forceout. But his throw went over the left-handed batter's box and past lunging catcher Yorvit Torrealba as two runs scored. Ryan Theriot singled for a 5-0 lead, and Harrison threw home on Rafael Furcal's comebacker, with Torrealba blocking the plate and tagging Jay to prevent another run.

Michael Young homered off Kyle Lohse leading off the bottom half and Nelson Cruz's two-run drive just over the right-field wall gave him home runs in four straight postseason home games. Molina made a nice defensive play to preserve the two-run lead after Kinsler flied to left, snagging Holliday's one-hop throw slightly to the first-base side of the plate and sweeping his glove back to tag out Napoli.

Neither starter got out of the fourth. Lohse, 0-4 with a 5.54 ERA in nine postseason appearances, allowed hits to his first four batters in the fourth and was removed. He gave up three runs and five hits. Harrison gave up five runs -- three earned -- and six hits in 3 2-3 innings.

But Scott Feldman put the Rangers in a deeper hole in the fifth, giving up Freese's RBI grounder and Molina's two-run double.

Young's RBI double off Fernando Salas in the bottom half, Adrian Beltre's run-scoring single against Lance Lynn and Napoli's sacrifice fly cut it to 8-6. Most fans were standing in anticipation when Kinsler popped out, dropping the Rangers to 4 for 15 with runners in scoring position in the Series.

Josh Hamilton, the reigning AL MVP, went 1 for 4 and dropped to 1 for 11 in the Series, although he stopped an 0-for-18 Series skid dating to last year with a fifth-inning single. Hamilton, who said before the game his groin injury may be a sports hernia, is homerless in 53 at-bats during this year's postseason.

With fans wearing red and waving towels, the scene was similar to the one at Busch Stadium for the first two games -- but the gametime temperature was 80, up from 50 on Thursday night.

Former President and former Rangers owner George W. Bush sat in the front row next to the Texas dugout with current Rangers CEO Nolan Ryan and former First Lady Laura Bush. Ryan rubbed his hands above his eyes when Napoli made the poor throw.

A ninth-inning rally Thursday gave Texas a 2-1 win and a split in St. Louis. That avoided a repeat of last year, when the Rangers came home after losing the opening two games in San Francisco.

In Game 4 Sunday night, Derek Holland pitches for the Rangers and Edwin Jackson starts for the Cardinals. Thirty-six of 54 teams that won Game 3 to take a 2-1 Series lead have gone on to the title, including 10 of the last 11. In 2003, the Florida Marlins lost Game 3 to the New York Yankees and then won three in a row for the championship.

In addition, home teams winning Game 3 for a 2-1 Series lead have won eight straight titles.

NOTES: St. Louis has scored first in 10 consecutive games, one shy of the postseason record set by Detroit from 1972-84. ... Dallas Mavericks star Dirk Nowitzki, wearing a blue No. 41 Texas Rangers jersey, threw the ceremonial first pitch to Young. ... Baseball and Fox abandoned their one-year experiment with an earlier Saturday night start, beginning at 8:06 p.m. EDT instead of 7 p.m. Texas' 4-2 win over San Francisco in Game 3 last year, the earliest-starting Series game since 1987, drew a 6.7 rating and 13 share, the second-lowest ever for a Series game, ahead of only the rain-delayed Game 3 between Philadelphia and Tampa Bay in 2008, which drew a 6.1.

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