Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel had pitched in a combined 1,595 regular season games without ever knowing what it was like to step on the mound in the World Series.
Both of the Cardinals' relievers took care of that in Game 1.
In the same inning, too.
St. Louis manager Tony La Russa summoned Dotel in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's 3-2 win over Texas, and the veteran retired both batters he faced. La Russa called on Rhodes next, and the 41-year-old promptly got Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton to fly out and end the inning.
"It's a real feel-good story for a lot of us," La Russa said before Game 2 on Thursday.
Dotel had pitched in 695 regular season games for a dozen franchises since his big league debut in 1999. He'd also pitched in 15 postseason games for the Mets, Astros and White Sox before this season with the Cardinals, but had never made it to baseball's grandest stage.
It had been an even longer road for Rhodes.
The 41-year-old left-hander had appeared in 900 regular season games since he made his big league debut as a wide-eyed, 21-year-old rookie for the Baltimore Orioles in 1991.
He pitched in two American League championship series for the Orioles, and two for the Seattle Mariners, but came up short each time. Rhodes finally made it back to the playoffs with the Cincinnati Reds last season but was bounced from the playoffs by the Philadelphia Phillies.
Rhodes signed a $4.1 million, one-year contract before the season with the Rangers, of all teams. But they released him Aug. 8 and he signed with St. Louis three days later.
Now, he's pitched in the World Series. And will probably get a ring regardless of who wins.
"I took it in when the national anthem was going on," Rhodes said. "And once I went in the game, it started to hit me more. I think that's why I threw two straight balls to Josh Hamilton instead of throwing strikes. But after the first couple pitches, then I settled down, and it was all over."
It was a long time to wait to face just one batter.
The only pitcher to appear in more games before his World Series debut was John Franco, who had cracked 940 box scores before his first Fall Classic as a member of the New York Mets in 2000.
"I didn't know when we got him that he hasn't been to the World Series," La Russa said. "Only found that out late because we were trying to survive, weren't really thinking World Series. But that really has added to the enjoyment of this postseason push."
CARPENTER'S GRIT: There was so much discussion about the degree of difficulty on Chris Carpenter's daring, go-for-it dive in Game 1 that the condition of his much-discussed elbow didn't come up.
A day later, the Cardinals can joke about it — even if Carpenter narrowly escaped getting his pitching hand stomped on by the Rangers' Elvis Andrus.
Manager Tony La Russa said his ace's background as a youth hockey player no doubt influenced the decision to make a play that rivaled the toughness of Curt Shilling and his bloody sock in the 2004 ALCS against the Yankees.
On the second at-bat of the game, first baseman Albert Pujols ranged far to his right to glove Andrus' grounder and Carpenter needed a headfirst dive to catch an off-balance throw. During his slide he touched the bag with his glove and then his right hand, pulling it away just in time.
"The only thing I kidded him about was if he should have put his face in front of that spike and then he could have been bleeding the rest of the game and could have been another Curt Schilling," La Russa said. "That would have been a hell of a sight, because he's always talked about how hockey players, they get gashed and they're still out there playing and baseball players get taken out."
Pinch hitter Allen Craig got the go-ahead hit in the sixth inning after La Russa removed Carpenter with two men on and two out. The move worked out strategically, and the Cardinals didn't have to push the guy who led the National League with 237 1-3 innings pitched this season.
As for the problematic elbow, La Russa said he hadn't asked Carpenter how he felt.
"I just know that it is that part of the season where it's not smart," La Russa said of leaving him in the game. "He had done enough for us."
ALPHABET SOUP: Marc Rzepczynski's stuff was tough enough to hit for the Texas Rangers in Game 1.
Manager Ron Washington wasn't even going to try pronouncing his last name.
For the record, it's Zep-chin'-ski. But the Rangers would just as soon not have to learn it. The left-hander struck out consecutive pinch hitters to end the seventh in the Cardinals' 3-2 victory.
"I don't know how to pronounce his last name, so I'm not even going to try," Washington said before Game 2 on Thursday night. "You've got to give credit to Marc. Marc executed his pitches, and when pitchers execute, usually the results that we got is what you get."
Washington doesn't need many pinch hitters in the regular season because of the DH, and Texas was just 12 for 61 (.197) with a homer and 12 RBIs as a team. Three Cardinals had more than 20 pinch hit at-bats and St. Louis was 51 for 224 (.228) with three homers and 32 RBIs.
Pinch hitter Allen Craig delivered the go-ahead RBI in the sixth inning Wednesday night.
NOT GONNA MISS THIS: Country music star Trace Adkins is originally from Louisiana, so most would assume he's a Rangers fan. That would make the most sense in terms of proximity.
Turns out he's a big Cardinals fan.
The Grammy-winning singer of such hits as "You're Gonna Miss This" is friends with St. Louis assistant trainer Barry Weinberg, and has become close to manager Tony La Russa. So it made sense that Adkins was on hand to sing the national anthem before Game 2 on Thursday night.
Adkins also performed the anthem before Game 3 of the 2006 World Series between the Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers. St. Louis wrapped up its 10th title in five games that season.
"American Idol" winner Scotty McCreery performed the anthem before Game 1 on Wednesday night, and Ronnie Dunn is scheduled to sing it when the series shifts to Texas for Game 3 on Saturday.
Dunn didn't flaunt his fandom when he took in batting practice Thursday, though he did greet Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols on the field. Adkins stuck with his trademark cowboy hat, black boots and a beige World Series jacket, and said he was pleased the weather was better than Game 1.
Temperatures were still in the low-50s, but any chance of rain had moved away.
"I had this all planned," Adkins said.
AP Sports Writer R.B. Fallstrom contributed to this report.