Finally, in the bottom of the 11th, David Freese connected on a full-count pitch from Rangers right-hander Mark Lowe and sent it screaming and whistling onto the grass berm in center field, and the Cardinals had a 10-9 win that pushed their never-say-die narrative into another realm, the realm of the absurd and unbelievable.
“It’s amazing. Unbelievable,” Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said. “I don’t even know what to say. This is what it’s all about. We’ve got one more life.”
The Cardinals, improbably and astoundingly, are still alive. And on Friday night, baseball will see its first Game 7 in nine years. It will feature lefty Matt Harrison for the Rangers, most likely against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter — with any warm body on either team with an arm still attached to his torso available for relief duty.
Twice, with the Rangers holding two-run leads, the lockers in the visitors’ clubhouse were covered in plastic and the champagne was being wheeled in, for the Rangers to spray and swig in victory. And twice the bubbly had to be re-iced. In the bottom of the ninth, it was Cardinals third baseman Freese, with two outs and two strikes, banging a 98-mph fastball from Rangers closer Neftali Feliz off the wall in right field for a game-tying, two-run triple.
“I thought, when you’re down two runs to their closer in the ninth,” said Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa, acknowledging the dark thoughts that had crept into his mind. “ . . . I mean, this guy is a legitimate one-two-three-and-they’re-shaking-hands. But what you try to do is get something started.”
In the bottom of the 10th, after the Rangers had taken the lead on Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer off Cardinals closer Jason Motte, the Cardinals scored twice again to tie it, with right fielder Lance Berkman — again with two outs and two strikes — delivering the big hit, a game-tying, line-drive single to center. Berkman’s hit followed an intentional walk to Pujols, an obvious and wise move in that situation, with first base open.
“That’s gotta be one for the record books,” said Daniel Descalso, a little-used Cardinals reserve infielder who led off the bottom of the 10th with a sharp single off Rangers veteran lefty Darren Oliver. “I’ve never heard of anyone being down twice like that, by two runs and down to your last strike, and coming back to win it.”