Baseball Report

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Despite the 19 runs, 28 hits and five errors, Game 6 of the World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers will go down as one of the greatest in major league history.

There were enough twists and turns to fill a novel.

And after the Cardinals won that thriller, it just seemed inevitable that they would win Game 7, which they did, for their 11th World Series championship.

Of course, David Freese won last Thursday’s Game 6 on a leadoff home run in the bottom of the 11th inning, but what happened before that climatic hit was also incredible.

With the score tied 2-2 in the top of the fourth inning, the pre-Halloween craziness started as Cardinals left-fielder Matt Holliday failed to call for a ball on a pop fly hit by Nelson Cruz, and then dropped it. Cruz came around to score on a single by Mike Napoli.

Holliday’s miscue may have rubbed off on Rangers first baseman Michael Young, whose error allowed Lance Berkman to reach base in the bottom half of the inning. Berkman scored on a ground ball to third by Yadier Molina, tying it 3-3.

In the fifth, Freese became the goat for the moment by dropping a popup at third base, allowing Josh Hamilton to reach. Young doubled in Hamilton to retake the lead.

“I’m just glad I had a chance after I looked like an idiot on that popup,” Freese said later.

St. Louis had two runners on base following another error by Young in the sixth. Alexi Ogando walked Molina, sending Berkman in with the tying run. A key play in the game followed when Napoli picked off Holliday at third. Adrian Beltre blocked the bag with his foot against a sliding Holliday, who bruised his right pinkie finger and would have to leave the game.

The World Series appeared to be the Rangers’ to take after Beltre and Cruz homered in the seventh. And with another score before the inning was over, Texas held a 7-4 lead.

Holliday’s replacement, Allen Craig, hit a home run in the eighth to cut the Cardinals deficit to 7-5, but when St. Louis left the bases loaded, the game and the Series seemed to be going to the Rangers.

Even the Rangers clubhouse was getting readied for a celebration with protective plastic over the lockers and champagne on ice.

In the ninth, the Rangers called on closer Neftali Feliz to finish off the first championship for the franchise that started in 1961 in Washington.

Feliz got the first batter. But Albert Pujols, who had been quiet at the plate in the Series since hitting three home runs in Game 3, doubled to left-center.

Freese came to the plate with two outs, Pujols on second and Berkman on first with a walk. He drove the ball to deep right, a triple that scored two runs and tied the game again at 7-7.

“I was like, ‘Are you kidding me? My first AB off Feliz in this situation ever,’” Freese said. “I just beared down, got a pitch to hit.”

Most of the 47,325 fans at Busch Stadium went wild.

Hamilton gave Texas the lead with a two-run shot in the 10th inning, quieting the crowd. In the bottom half of the frame, and again down to their final out, the Cardinals tied it at 9-9 when Berkman singled to center off Scott Feldman, scoring Jon Jay.

“I understand it’s not over till you get that last out,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said. “I was just sitting there praying we got that last out. We didn’t get it.”

In the 11th, Freese topped off the night with a historic, 428-foot homer to center, setting off a frenzy in the stands and on the field.

Teammates mobbed Freese and tore his jersey off.

“Just an incredible feeling, seeing all my teammates at the dish waiting for me,” Freese said.

It was the fifth walk-off home run in a Game 6 or 7 in World Series history. The Cardinals celebration looked like they had already won the title.

As if Freese hadn’t done enough already, the player who grew up in the St. Louis area doubled in two runs to tie Game 7 at 2-2 in the bottom of the first inning on Friday night.

The Cardinals went on to win 6-2, and Freese was named the Series MVP.

“The whole ride, this team deserves this,” Freese said.

It certainly was quite a ride for the Cardinals.

Copyright © 2011 Bob Hurst. All Rights Reserved. Distributed by Hurst Sports Media.

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