Freese's walkoff homer in 11th sends Series to Game 7
BY JOE STRAUSS | Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 11:38 pm
The seemingly inevitable turned unbelievable before fading to the unthinkable and back to the incredible for the Cardinals on Thursday night at Busch Stadium.
David Freese capped an amazing World Series Game 6 with a leadoff homer in the 11th inning, and the Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers 10-9 to force a deciding game Friday night.
Freese had already been a hero. One strike away from a nine-inning loss, the Cardinals salvaged themselves with Freese's two-run, two-out triple to make it a 7-7 game, only to have Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the top of the 1oth.
But the Cardinals still weren't done, getting a run on an infield out and then tying the score at 9-9 on Lance Berkman's single off Scott Feldman to turn the World Series yet again.
Freese, the NL championship series MVP, thrilled a crowd of 47,325 by extending a two-month miracle with a two-strike slash that scored Albert Pujols and Berkman in the ninth.
However, the Rangers took their fourth lead of the game on Hamilton's rocket to center field.
The Cardinals led briefly in the first inning before forcing ties in the fourth, fifth and ninth innings.
The Cardinals exhibited the same traits that brought them back from the brink of irrelevance last August.
After sifting through six innings of woeful fundamental play, they caught themselves after the Rangers took a 7-4 seventh-inning lead and dug in against a closer who had converted each of seven previous postseason save chances. They hung two runs on Naftali Feliz in the ninth inning before chasing him from the 10th.
The Cardinals pulled within one run on Ryan Theriot's one-out ground ball, then watched Albert Pujols accept an intentional walk before Berkman's hit, which scored Jon Jay.
After allowing the Cardinals to maintain an improbable tie for six innings, the American League champions blew open the game with consecutive home runs by third baseman Adrian Beltre and right fielder Nelson Cruz before using a wild pitch to help complete a three-run rally.
The Cardinals tried but failed to contain the Rangers with five pitchers, including a three-inning start by Jaime Garcia.
Brought to Thursday's stage by a remarkable 32-16 run that began Aug. 25 when they found themselves 10½ games off the NL wild card lead, the Cardinals completed one more show of resilience.
Long before Beltre and Cruz reached rookie Lance Lynn for their home runs, the Cardinals sabotaged themselves with three errors before securing their 13th out.
They lost left fielder Matt Holliday to a hand injury sustained on a sixth-inning pick-off at third base.
Holliday's replacement, Allen Craig, cranked a solo home run during a four-hit eighth inning that brought no more runs.
The Cardinals committed two errors in 43 innings covering the first five games against the Rangers. They had made only six errors in 16 postseason games. Thursday's exhibition, however, was more reminiscent of the bad old days of July and mid-August.
Two dropped pop-ups and a pitcher's throwing error helped the Rangers to two unearned runs in the Cardinals' most unsightly display of the postseason.
The Rangers grabbed a 1-0 lead before Garcia managed an out. A leadoff walk of second baseman Ian Kinsler and shortstop Elvis Andrus' single put runners at first and third before Hamilton lined a first-pitch RBI single that scored Kinsler.
Garcia did well to extricate himself from a potentially huge inning by getting consecutive strikeouts and a ground ball.
Berkman provided the Cardinals their only lead in the bottom of the inning when he reached Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis for a two-out, 413-foot home run to left-center field.
The Rangers again threatened a breakout in the second inning when a leadoff walk and center fielder Craig Gentry's single created a first-and-second situation that demanded a bunt attempt from Lewis. However, Lewis bunted too firmly and the Cardinals turned an unusual 5-6-4 double play that left a runner at second base. Kinsler salvaged something from the pitcher's gaffe by drilling a ground-rule double that scored Gentry with the tying run.
Still tied, the Cardinals began to exhibit defensive flaws in the fourth inning when Cruz, the first batter to face reliever Fernando Salas, lofted a fly ball into shallow left field. Shortstop Rafael Furcal retreated while Holliday made a halting charge. At the last moment Holliday lunged for the ball but dropped it for a two-base error.
Catcher Mike Napoli immediately singled to score Cruz for a 3-2 lead and his 10th RBI of the Series.
The Rangers again missed a chance to distort the game when they failed to exploit Salas' throwing error on Lewis' second bunt attempt. Salas' throw into center field left runners at first and second with one out before he struck out Kinsler and got a fly ball to left field.
More than able to match the Cardinals' loose defense, the Rangers allowed a tying run in the bottom of the fourth without allowing a hit.
Berkman reached when Lewis failed to find the bag on his grounder to first baseman Michael Young. The squandered out led to run when Holliday walked and consecutive ground balls advanced Berkman from second to third to home.
As unsightly as was Holliday's drop the inning before, Freese's inability to hold onto Hamilton's pop fly to begin the fifth inning proved more stunning. Freese moved from fair to foul territory and back again before the ball popped from his glove.
Young quickly capitalized by driving a double to left-center field, scoring Hamilton for a 4-3 lead.
Rangers manager Ron Washington employed some odd tactics in the inning, first using a pinch hitter for his No. 8 hitter, then allowing Lewis to bat for himself with two outs and the bases loaded. Lewis' bases-loaded strikeout cost the Rangers their best defensive center fielder, Gentry, but left Lewis in the game to work 51/3 innings.
More high jinks factored in the Cardinals' second unearned run, which forced a 4-4 game in the sixth inning.
Berkman reached for a third time on a one-out, squib single to third base the Cardinals' only hit from the second through the seventh innings before Holliday bounced meekly to first base. Rather than take the routine out, Young hurried himself trying to start a double play and lost his grip on the ball. A walk of Freese loaded the bases and caused Washington to replace Lewis with reliever Alexi Ogano.
Ogano's answer was a five-pitch walk of Molina to force home the tying run.
With the Cardinals poised for a statement rally, Holliday then found himself picked off third base for the inning's second out. He also jammed his right pinky during his headfirst scramble back to the game and had to leave the game.
The lost runner became huge when Ogando walked second baseman Nick Punto after leading in the count, 0-2. Pinch hitter Jon Jay extended his Series hitless streak to 15 at-bats with a pinch ground out.
The night's most remarkable feat was the Cardinals' ability to remain tied through six innings despite having as many errors (three) as hits. The Rangers produced only four runs through six innings despite eight hits, the Cardinals' three defensive mishaps and four walks.
Similar waste doomed the Cardinals in Game 5 when the Rangers rallied on consecutive solo home runs before winning the game with a two-run eighth inning.
Lou Brock, left, and Stan Musial ride off
the field after being introduced to the crowd
before the start of Game 6 of the World
Series between the Texas Rangers and St. Louis
Cardinals at Busch Stadium on Thursday
October 27, 2011 in St. Louis. Photo by Chris Lee,
http://www.stltoday.com/sports/baseball ... 0f31a.html