The final day of the regular season (covered here), was one wild night with the fates of four different teams in the balance – game 6 of the 2011 World Series matched it for drama, as the Texas Rangers tried to win it all for the first time in their 50 year history, and the St. Louis Cardinals battled to stay alive and take it to Game 7.
All night, the two teams had been going back and forth on the scoreboard – the Rangers took the lead in the top of the 1st 1-0, only to see Lance Berkman hit a two-run shot in the bottom of the inning – 2-1 Cardinals. Texas then leveled the score in the 2nd and took the lead 3-2 in the 4th, before St. Louis tied it up in the bottom half of that inning. Michael Young doubled in a run in the 5th to give the Rangers a 4-3 lead – only to see the tying run walked in for the Cardinals with the bases loaded in the 6th. In the 7th, it looked as though Texas had taken control of the game – Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back home runs, followed by Kinsler adding an RBI single for a 7-4 Rangers lead. Craig gave the Cardinals some hope in the 8th as he went deep to bring the deficit to 7-5 – but St. Louis went to the bottom of the 9th needing two runs to keep the World Series alive.
That is where the drama really started. Ryan Theriot led off, but struck out swinging, which brought up Albert Pujols- St. Louis’s star first baseman who is a free agent after this season and thus it could have been his final at bat as a Cardinals
player. Pujols hit a double and then Berkman drew a walk, meaning that the Cardinals had the tying runs on base. Craig then struck out, leaving St. Louis with just one more out to save the series – the batter it all came down to was David Freese, who grew up in the city and supported the Cardinals. In this made-for-a-movie type script, Freese had two strikes on him, down to his last one, then hit a two run, game-tying triple just over Nelson Cruz’s head in right field. Somehow, the game was going to extra innings.
Busch Stadium was buzzing, the crowd was hyped up – but then, in the top of the 10th inning, Josh Hamilton followed up Elvis Andrus’ single with a two-run shot to deep right, giving Texas a 9-7 lead and leaving the Cardinals on the precipice once again. However, this is a team that came from 10.5 games back in the Wild Card race to snatch the playoff place from the Braves on the final day of the regular season, they just do not know when they are beaten. Descalso and Jay hit back to back singles to lead off the inning and then Lohse bunted them over, leaving St. Louis with runners on second and third with one out. Ryan Theriot grounded out, but got in the run from third to leave the Cardinals down one run, two outs with a man on second base. The Rangers then chose to walk Albert Pujols, a right-handed batter, with a right-handed pitcher on the mound, in order to face left-handed Lance Berkman instead. Considering Pujols only had one hit outside of game 3 in this series (when he smashed three home runs and had 5 hits in total), whereas Berkman had been the Cardinals danger man all season – as well as the unfavourable righty/lefty matchup – the decision seemed flawed at the time. It proved to be so, as Berkman drove in the tying run and took the game to the 11th inning.
Jake Westbrook pitched in the top of the inning for St. Louis who gave up just one single to Mike Napoli and no runs. To lead off the bottom of the 11th, hometown boy David Freese was back up for the Cardinals. Unsatisfied with his already storybook night, he hit a walk off home run to center to force a game 7, and send Busch Stadium into a frenzy. Having been down to their final strike in both the 9th and 10th innings, St. Louis somehow found a way to win and keep this very entertaining World Series alive for one more night.
Texas will have to try to recover from having been so close to winning it all and then missing out – Boston failed in a similar situation in 1986 when they lost game 6 after Bob Stanley’s wild pitch tied the game in the bottom of the 10th, followed by Mookie Wilson’s grounder to first which infamously went through Bill Buckner’s legs to end the game. The Cubs lost game 6 of the NLCS to the Marlins in 2003 after being 5 outs away from the World Series, before their own fan Steve Bartman robbed Moses Alou of an out by going for a foul ball – which was partly to blame for the resulting Florida 8 run rally in that same inning (Chicago Shortstop Alex Gonzalez also booted a double play ball which could have prevented it, but Bartman took all of the criticism). Of course in game 7, the Cubs lost and the Marlins went on to beat the Yankees in the World Series, Chicago still has not won one since 1908.
As for the Cardinals, the never-say-die attitude this club has shown has brought them to a winner-takes-all showdown on Friday night. In the 2001 World Series, the Yankees came from 2 runs down, 2 outs in the bottom of the 9th on 2 consecutive nights – St. Louis tonight survived down to their last out, their last strike, in two consecutive innings. Can they go on to win game 7, which the Yankees failed to do that year? I will be live-blogging the game from around 8pm ET – join me to find out.