Thursday, October 27, 2011 - World Series - Game Six vs Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium III - Attendance: 47,325 - Starting Pitchers: Jaime Garcia vs Colby Lewis
It was by far, the most thrilling World Series game in franchise history.
On two separate occasions, the Cardinals were down to their last strike - trailing the Texas Rangers by two runs - who were, conversely, one strike away from their first world championship in franchise history - on two separate occasions.
Somehow, on two separate occasions, the Cardinals tied the game.
Finally, in the eleventh-inning, David Freese - who got the big two-out two-run-triple in the ninth-inning to send the game into extra innings - won it on the sixth pitch of the at bat - with a lead-off home run to straight-away center field.
The final score: St Louis 10 - Texas 9.
Four hours and thirty-three minutes earlier, Cardinal starter Jaime Garcia began the night by walking the first batter of the game - Ian Kinsler - who was in motion when Elvis Andrus singled to left - allowing Kinsler to easily reach third. Josh Hamilton then scored Kinsler while Andrus took third on his single to right field.
Just like that, it was 1-0, Texas - with runners on the corners and still nobody out. The Rangers appeared to be on the verge of a big inning, with the heart of their lineup lurking. However, Garcia struck out both Michael Young and Adrian Beltre - then retired Nelson Cruz on a grounder to third baseman David Freese, who got the force out at second.
No doubt feeling a bit reprieved, the Cardinals responded immediately, in the bottom of the first - facing Texas starter Colby Lewis. A one-out single by Skip Schumaker preceded Lance Berkman's two-out two-run home run to left center field. St Louis now held a short-lived 2-1 lead.
In the second-inning, a lead-off walk to Mike Napoli preceded Craig Gentry's single to left field. However, Lewis, attempting to lay down a sacrifice bunt, hit the ball too hard down the third base line. Freese grabbed it, stepped on third then threw to shortstop Rafael Furcal - too late to force Gentry at second - but Furcal's relay throw to second baseman Nick Punto, covering first, retired the lumbering Lewis to complete the rare 5-6-4 double play. I would venture to guess that's the first one of its kind in World Series history (I would also venture to guess nobody's going to research that one).
Just when it appeared the Cardinals might be able to avoid any further trouble, Kinsler's two-out ground-rule double tied the game: 2-2.
After the Cardinals failed to score in their half of the second, Garcia pitched a scoreless third-inning, followed by another scoreless inning by Lewis.
Following that brief intermission, action resumed with a new pitcher on the mound for the Cardinals - Fernando Salas - to begin the fourth-inning. The first batter - Cruz - hit a little pop fly to short left field, which Matt Holliday dropped - allowing Cruz to reach second. Napoli then gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead with an RBI single to right field. Salas then pitched out of further trouble - allowing just the one unearned run to score.
Returning the favor, as the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the bottom of the fourth - first baseman Young booted Berkman's grounder - then Holliday drew a base on balls - giving Freese a chance to do some damage with runners on first and second. His slow roller to second resulted in a force out, as Berkman advanced to third while a frustrated Freese was safe at first.
Berkman then scored the tying run on Yadier Molina's slow roller to third: 3-3.
The low point in the game for David Freese came in the fifth-inning. Josh Hamilton lifted a very high pop fly which Freese camped under - but apparently wasn't quite sure about actually "catching". As he stuck his glove high above his head, millions of Cardinal fans watching on television were no doubt screaming, "Use two hands!" Sure enough, the ball bounced off the heel of his glove as his right hand dangled uselessly to his side - unable to grab the ball as it fell to earth - especially since he had his eyes closed at the moment of ball-to-glove impact. Freese would later say that was the most embarrassing moment of his life.
Michael Young then promptly scored Hamilton on a double to left field - but once again, the Rangers failed to capitalize on a potentially big inning. This one ended when Colby Lewis was allowed to hit for himself - with the bases loaded - and struck out to end the inning.
It was still a 4-3 Texas lead as the Cardinals batted in the sixth-inning. With one out, Berkman reached on an infield hit to third. Holliday then reached when first baseman Young dropped a throw - his second error of the game. Freese began his slow resurrection in this incredible game by drawing a base on balls - to load the bases.
At this time, manager Ron Washington - who just an inning earlier, allowed Lewis to hit for himself with the bases loaded - decided to remove his starter - bringing in Alexi Ogando to face Molina - who also waked - forcing in the tying run - Berkman.
What happened next appeared to be a calamity for the Redbirds - but in retrospect, was a blessing. Catcher Mike Napoli caught Holliday napping at third base - and picked him off. In his desperate attempt to reach the bag before the tag could be applied, Holliday injured his hand - and would be sidelined for the rest of the game - and Series, for that matter. Allen Craig would be his replacement.
In the meantime, after the Holliday pick-off, Ogando celebrated by throwing a wild pitch to Nick Punto - advancing the runners - Molina and Freese - to second and third. Punto walked to load the bases once again - prompting another pitching change.
Entering the game was the goofy but talented Derek Holland - who pitched so brilliantly for the Rangers in his Game Four start - limiting the Cardinals to just two hits for 8.1 innings in the Rangers' 4-0 win. He ended the threat by getting Jon Jay on an easy ground ball, which Holland snared and carefully tossed to Young to retire the side.
The 4-4 tie didn't last long. Facing Lance Lynn, the Rangers started the seventh-inning with back-to-back home runs by Beltre and Cruz. Texas added another run on an Ian Kinsler RBI single - to build an imposing 7-4 lead.
It was still 7-4 when Allen Craig - batting in place of the injured Holliday - homered with one out and nobody on in the eighth. However, the Cards could score no more - eventually leaving the bases loaded after Holland got Furcal on an infield ground out to preserve the two-run lead.
After Texas failed to add to their two-run lead in the top of the ninth-inning, manager Washington brought Neftali Feliz in to close it out. He struck out Ryan Theriot - but Pujols refused to go quietly - doubling, deep to center field. Berkman patiently drew a walk - giving Allen Craig - who homered in the eighth-inning, the chance to end it with a walk-off home run. Instead, he looked at a called third strike.
That brought David Freese to the plate - representing the last chance for the Cardinals to salvage - not only the game - but the entire Series. He quickly found himself in a one-ball-two-strike hole - but then launched an outside-corner fastball deep to right field, where Nelson Cruz was positioned poorly - not respecting the opposite-field power of Freese and not positioned deep enough to avoid the ball sailing over his head - bouncing off the base of the wall, allowing both runners to score, as an exuberant Freese slid safely into third.
With a chance to win it, Molina lined the ball hard to right field - but this time Cruz was able to catch it - to retire the side.
Freese's heroics seemed likely to be a brief footnote in Cardinal baseball lore, however - after Josh Hamilton's two-run tenth-inning home run off Jason Motte gave Texas a two-run lead again: 9-7.
With lefty reliever Darren Oliver now on the mound for Texas, both Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay singled to begin the tenth-inning for St Louis. Then, Kyle Lohse - pinch hitting for Edwin Jackson, who was pinch hitting for Motte - advanced the runners to second and third with a good sacrifice bunt.
Scott Feldman was then summoned from the Rangers' bullpen to face Theriot - and he retired him on a ground out to third - as Descalso scored the first run of the inning. After an intentional walk to Pujols - Berkman - down to his last strike - tied the game yet again with a line drive single to center: 9-9.
After Jake Westbrook pitched a scoreless inning of relief for the Redbirds, the eighth pitcher of the game for Texas - Mark Lowe - was brought in to face David Freese, leading-off the bottom of the eleventh.
On a full-count - the sixth pitch of the at bat - Freese hit one deep to center field, giving FOX broadcaster Joe Buck the opportunity to borrow his dad's famous World Series call of Kirby Puckett's walk-off Game Six home run from '91: "We will...see you tomorrow night!"
On the five year anniversary of the Cardinals' World Series Game Five win over the Detroit Tigers, which gave the franchise it first world championship since 1982 - Freese's heroics ensured a Game Seven would be played in 2011. And of course, the Rangers never had a chance.