Moreland snaps slump with crucial homer
First baseman ignites Rangers Ballpark after 1-for-20 stretch
ARLINGTON -- By any measure, Mitch Moreland has had a rough postseason before coming up huge in the Rangers' 4-2 victory over the Cardinals in Game 5 of the World Series on Monday.After cranking a home run in his last at-bat in Game 2 of the American League Division Series, he recorded only one hit in his next 20 at-bats. Moreland struck out seven times during that stretch, leading Rangers manager Ron Washington to bench him for Game 6 of the AL Championship Series and the first three games of the World Series. Game 5 was looking like more of the same for Moreland after the top of the third inning. He had seen Rangers southpaw C.J. Wilson's throw on a bunt skip past him at first base en route to the Cardinals taking a 2-0 lead. Moreland was due up, and immediately something seemed different. Instead of anxiously swinging at balls that were borderline strikes at best in his first at-bat, Moreland took Chris Carpenter's first two pitches for balls. "I had been expanding the zone and helping the pitcher a lot myself," Moreland said. "I wanted to go up there and see the ball a little bit, just try to get the barrel to it short and quick. If you do that, I think good things will happen." Moreland smashed Carpenter's third pitch into the upper deck in right field, igniting the Rangers Ballpark crowd and cutting the Cardinals' lead in half with one mighty swing. "It got us back in the game and re-energized the crowd, it was huge," David Murphy said. "It wasn't just any home run, it was a bomb. It was a big moment in the game, just getting us on the board." Moreland hadn't given Washington much reason to have faith in him, as he went 0-for-4 in Game 4, but made several solid defensive plays. When Moreland has found success, however, it has bode well for the Rangers, who are 16-1 this year when the first baseman homers. Whatever the reason, Moreland was given the start in his fifth World Series game -- in World Series history, the first baseman has only started in the ninth spot of the lineup seven times, and Moreland has started five of them. "It says a lot [about Washington's trust]," Moreland said. "I was happy to be in there. He's asked me the last couple days how I feel and am I ready, and I said, 'Shoot, I'm ready. Put me in.' He did. Yesterday probably wasn't the best at the plate, but he stuck with me and gave me an opportunity, and I was able to help out today." Moreland also became the first position player to homer twice out of the ninth spot, mostly because he did not let his recent spell of ineffectiveness take his mind out of the game. "I've been working hard," Moreland said. "I hadn't played in a few days, and I got in there yesterday, my timing was a little off, but it was good to see live pitching, and I was ready to go today."
Louie Horvath is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.