ST. LOUIS (AP) – The St. Louis Cardinals won a remarkable World Series they weren’t even supposed to reach, beating the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday night with another key hit by hometown star David Freese and six gutsy innings from Chris Carpenter.
A day after an epic Game 6 that saw them twice within one strike of elimination before winning 10-9 in the 11th inning, the Cardinals captured their 11th World Series crown.
And following a whole fall on the edge, including a surge from 10 1/2 games down in the wild-card race, Tony La Russa’s team didn’t dare mess with Texas, or any more drama in baseball’s first World Series Game 7 since the Angels beat Giants in 2002.
Freese, the Most Valuable Player of the National League championship series, was the World Series MVP as well.
“This whole ride, this team deserves this. This organization is top notch. … This is definitely a dream come true,” Freese said. “This is why you keep battling. … I’m so glad to be a part of this.”
Freese’s two-run double leveled it in the first and good-luck charm Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer in the third. Picked by La Russa earlier in the day to start on short rest, Carpenter and the tireless St. Louis bullpen closed it out.
“I wish everybody in the country could get to know these guys,” Craig said. “It’s unbelievable. I’m just glad to be a part of it.”
No Rally Squirrel needed on this night, either. Fireworks and confetti rang out at Busch Stadium when Jason Motte retired David Murphy on a fly ball to end it.
The Cardinals were loose from the very beginning.
“We were all in the clubhouse and we were a loose bunch of guys,” Motte said. “We were in there hanging out, dancing around, had music playing. We were all like that’s the way we win and that’s how we play the best and we came out we were able to do it today. It’s just amazing.”
This marked the ninth straight time the home team had won Game 7 in the World Series. The wild-card Cardinals held that advantage over the AL West champions because the NL won the All-Star game — Texas could blame that on their own pitcher, C.J. Wilson, who took the loss in July.
The Rangers, meanwhile, will spend the whole winter wondering how it all got away. Texas might dwell on it forever, in fact, at least until Nolan Ryan & Co. can reverse a World Series slide that started with last year’s five-game wipeout against San Francisco.
Texas had not lost consecutive games since last August. These two defeats at Busch Stadium cost manager Ron Washington and the Rangers a chance to win their first title in the franchise’s 51-year history.
A year full of inspiring rallies and epic collapses was encapsulated in Game 6. Freese was the star, with a tying triple in the ninth and a winning home run in the 11th. His two RBIs in the clincher gave him a postseason record 21.
The Cardinals won their first championship since 2006, and gave La Russa his third World Series title. They got there by beating Philadelphia in the first round of the NL playoffs, capped by Carpenter outdueling Roy Halladay 1-0 in the deciding Game 5, and then topping Milwaukee in the NL championship series.
By the time Yadier Molina drew a bases-loaded walk from starter Matt Harrison and Rafael Furcal was hit by a pitch from Wilson in relief, the crowd began to sense a championship was near.
The Cardinals improved to 8-3 in Game 7s of the Series, more wins than any other club. Yet fans here know their history well, and were aware this game could go either way — Dizzy Dean and the Gas House Gang won 11-0 in 1934, but Whitey Herzog and his Cardinals lost 11-0 in 1985.
On this evening, though, all the stars aligned.
Starting in place of injured Matt Holliday, Craig hit his third homer of the Series and made a leaping catch at the top of the left field wall. Molina made another strong throw to nail a stray runner. And Carpenter steeled himself to pitch into the seventh, every bit an ace.
Albert Pujols went 0 for 2, walked and was hit by a pitch in what could have been his last game with the Cardinals. Many think the soon-to-be free agent will remain in St. Louis.
Either way, he provided an image that will certainly last a long time in this town. As he scored on Freese’s double, Pujols thrust both arms high in the air as he reached the plate.
Besides, Pujols already had done enough damage. His three-homer job in Game 3 was the signature performance of his career and perhaps the greatest hitting show in postseason history.
Dismissed by some as a dull Series even before it began because it lacked the big-market glamour teams, it got better inning by inning