World Series thrills, gains viewers. Are you missing out?

World Series TV ratings are rising because this World Series is shaping up as a classic, with standout hitting and pitching performances.

Charlie Riedel/AP
St. Louis Cardinals' Rafael Furcal leaps over Texas Rangers' Mike Napoli to turn a double play on a ball hit by Mitch Moreland during the eighth inning of Game 4 of baseball's World Series in Arlington, Texas. The Rangers and the Cardinals head into Game 5 tonight with the Series tied at two game apiece.

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.

Viewership for Game 1 between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals fell 2 percent from last year's opening game of the Fall Classic, itself one of the least-viewed World Series on record.

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 senior writer Jason Stark.

The Cardinals won 16-7, and Fox won the ratings night with 11 million viewers: good numbers for a Saturday. It easily beat out two high-profile college football games on NBC and ABC.

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.

And the game trumped football yet again, getting higher ratings than NBC’s lopsided Sunday night football matchup between Indianapolis Colts and the New Orleans Saints.

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?

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