October 28, 2011
Cardinals Stun Rangers in Improbable Comeback
For the first time since 2002, the World Series is headed for Game 7. In a game that lasted four hours and thirty-three minutes, the two teams went back and forth more times than Perry and Romney in a debate. It was messily played, with errors by Matt Holliday, David Freese and pitcher Fernando Salas for the Cardinals, and two errors by the Rangers’ Michael Young. For a few innings, it was hard to tell if we were watching highly paid professionals or high school kids.
Twice last night we heard Joe Buck say, “The Cardinals are down to their last strike,” and twice with two on and two out, the Cardinals delivered. It was clutch hitting that they’d been missing the last two games – which only added to the surprise of the comeback and eventual win. Young outfielder Jon Jay, who hadn’t hit the ball out of the infield all series, was the last person you’d expect to deliver a clutch hit. When he came to bat in the 9th, I held my breath. I think everyone at Busch stadium did also.
But right fielder Lance Berkman and third basemen David Freese shone. When David Freese, who hadn’t had an RBI all series, came up in the 9th, I didn’t think he’d deliver. And he may not have if Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz had been running for the ball at full speed. Instead, he misjudged it, and Freese had a two-run triple. That single play may have cost the Rangers the World Series.
With the score tied after 9, the game went into extra innings and almost immediately looked to be in Texas’ favor once again. After Josh Hamilton, who hadn’t hit a homerun all series, sent a two-run shot into the stands, it looked like it was finally over for St. Louis. They may have been able to come back down by two in the 9th, but it was doubtful they’d be able to do it again. Never say never.
Berkman, not Pujols (Game 3 excluded) has been the best player of the series, and is a strong contender for the MVP should St. Louis win. Down to his last strike, Berkman hit a two-run base hit in the 10th inning to once again tie the game. It was almost like magic – and at that point, you knew the game belonged to the Cardinals.
After a base hit and three quick outs by the Rangers, David Freese once again came to the plate in the bottom of the 11th. After working the count, he saw the right pitch and sent it straight into the center field grassy knoll. As he rounded the bases, the crowd erupted, and his teammates converged on home plate to greet (or rather, pounce) him. He had saved their season. As manager Tony LaRussa said last night, “You had to be here to believe it.”
In the visitor’s dugout, Texas manager Ron Washington looked exhausted. It was an extra-long, extra-inning game that could have been won several times by the Rangers. Nolan Ryan, ex-Ranger and current owner, president, CEO of the franchise stood up, looking distressed – and rightly so. If the Rangers don’t win tonight, it will be the second straight year they made it to the Fall Classic – and lost. But for St. Louis, it will be a storybook ending.