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Storylines emerge before first pitch

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Matt Harrison (left) and Chris Carpenter (right) face off in tonight's deciding Game 7 in St. Louis.

After almost 2,500 major-league games and nearly seven months since Opening Day, the 2011 MLB season has come down to one final game between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers at 8:05 ET tonight.

Given the twists and turns that this series has taken so far, it’s no surprise that there has been some key late-breaking news this afternoon. Let’s take a look at the hottest storylines as we prepare for the first pitch of the 36th winner-take-all game in World Series history.

Matt Holliday

HollidayHolliday out for Game 7

Matt Holliday will miss Game 7 after he injured his right hand Thursday night.

According to Elias, Holliday is the first player to start the first six games of a seven-game World Series and not start Game 7. Holliday was just 3-for-19 (.158) in this series after hitting .435 with five RBI in the NLCS.

Allen Craig will replace Holliday in the starting lineup. Craig is 2-for-2 as a pinch hitter in this series, but is just 2-for-13 in all other at-bats. During the regular season Craig had a .917 OPS in 47 games as a starter.

Furcal dropped to 7th in lineup

Rafael Furcal, the normal leadoff hitter for the Cardinals, is hitting .176 in 74 postseason at-bats. He hasn’t had a multi-hit game since Game 1 of the NLCS, and has scored only one run in the World Series.

Tonight’s matchup with the southpaw Matt Harrison doesn’t look good for him, either. In the World Series he has just one hit in 13 at-bats against lefties, after hitting .275 against lefties in 42 regular season games with the Cardinals.

Final game for Pujols in Cardinals uniform?

After more than 1,700 games with the team that drafted him, Albert Pujols could be playing his final game as a Cardinal. The only other player to play at least 1,500 games with one team and have their final game for that team be in Game 7 of a World Series is Rogers Hornsby, according to Elias.

This will be Pujols’ third career appearance in a Game 7 (both of the previous ones came in the NLCS). While his team won both games, Pujols went 2-for-4 with an RBI in 2004 but was hitless in two at-bats in 2006.

Started World Series Game 7
3 or Fewer Days Rest Since 1980

Bullpens back in spotlight

The dominance of the bullpens was a key storyline heading into the series, but they haven’t lived up to the hype so far. The relievers for both teams have combined for four blown saves and a 6.26 ERA.

The bullpens could be a deciding factor in this game, too, as Chris Carpenter is starting on three days’ rest for the second time in his career and Matt Harrison failed to get out of the fourth inning in his most recent start in Game 3.

Stat To Know

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, of the 35 previous World Series that have gone the distance, teams that scored first are 22-13. The largest deficit overcome in these games was four runs, by the 1925 Pirates, who trailed the Washington Senators 4-0 before winning the game 9-7.