TV ratings for the 2011 World Series started off predictably enough: a battle of two small-media markets that most of the nation tuned out.
But oh boy, that was then! The Series is now gaining ratings ground for the simplest of reasons: It’s getting really, really good.
Game 1 ended in thrilling fashion, when the Cardinals’ Allen Craig hit an RBI single to give the St. Louis a 3-2 win in the final inning. But the game got only an 8.7 percent Nielsen rating and 12.4 million viewers.
Game 2 brought the Rangers a come-from-behind victory of their own, as they rallied to win 2-1 in the final inning off a series of Cardinal fielding errors. That game fared much better in terms of audience, too, with 20 million viewers – 5 percent better ratings than last year’s Game 2.
Saturday’s Game 3 was another St. Louis victory, and an historic performance by Cardinals slugger Albert Pujols. After going hitless for the first two games of the Series, Pujols, under intense media and fan scrutiny, delivered three home runs, five hits, six RBIs, and 14 total bases (a World Series record) in an outing that many are calling the best World Series showing ever.
“How do we digest the magnitude of what we just witnessed? How do we make our brains process the unprecedented show that Pujols just unfurled?” wrote ESPN.com senior writer Jason Stark.
Pujols's iconic outing might have proved disastrous for the Rangers. Instead, they took Game 4 Sunday night on yet another grand performance, this one by Rangers pitcher Derek Holland. In the Rangers’ 4-0 victory, the 25-year-old pitcher shut out the Cardinals (Pujols included), striking out seven and going 8 1/3 scoreless innings: the longest scoreless World Series stretch since Andy Petite in 1996.
Last year’s World Series, in which the San Francisco Giants beat the Texas Rangers in five games, garnered some of the lowest TV ratings ever for the Fall Classic. At the start of the Series this year, many were worried that ratings would be even lower, seeing as St. Louis has a much smaller media market than San Francisco, let alone a big-market audience like New York or Los Angeles.
But the Cardinals and the Rangers, now tied at two games apiece, have helped draw in viewers with the oldest trick in the book: playing great baseball.
Game 5 is on FOX tonight at 8. Will you tune in?