Nobody said “best.” Every mistake known to baseball, and some heretofore undiscovered, was perpetrated by the Texas Rangers and St. Louis Cardinals in the first eight innings on this chilly night that broke the impossible meter not once but several times. But, oh, those last three innings.
The final instant of marvelous madness came at 12:40 Eastern time at the end of 4 hours 33 minutes of nonstop drama when David Freese, who had already saved the Cards’ season in the bottom of the ninth with a two-run triple when they were down to their last strike, blasted a 429-foot home run to straightaway center field. The towering missile, into the grass, into the fans jumping from the bleachers to fight for the ball, and into history, made the final score 10-9, in 11 innings — suitably silly, surreal and unsurpassable.
Now, we get Game 7 — and not just any Game 7, but one that has been set up as only a very few ever have been before. Don’t be certain you know the winner yet. In a game I covered that wasn’t this good in the 1975 Series, Carlton Fisk hit a fairly memorable walk-off home run. But the Reds won the World Series the next day.
However, for the Cards, the possibilities for a date with a truly unique place in baseball history are on their plate now, probably with their ace, Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days’ rest against lefty Matt Harrison.
If they win, where do they stand with teams like the ’14 Miracle Braves, the ’78 Yankees and the 2004 Red Sox? Go on, after this game, try to tell anyone here that anyone will rank above them — that is, if they win.
The list of Mission Impossible tasks began when the Cardinals were down to their last strike in the bottom of the ninth inning. Then the Rangers should have grasped their first world title in 50 years of franchise existence. But Freese, the Cards’ young third baseman, perhaps a blossoming superstar who was the unexpected MVP of the National League Championship Series, hit a two-run triple off the right field wall off star Rangers closer Neftali Feliz to tie the game at 7.
When the Rangers went ahead once more, 9-7, in the top of the 10th inning on Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer into the right-center field bleachers off a 98 mph fastball from Cards closer Jason Motte, that also should have iced this Ranger title. You’d think. But, since August 25th, when they were 10½ games out of the wild-card chase and declared dead by everyone in baseball — except themselves — these Redbirds have done things that defy probability and bring them to the forefront of the most amazing comeback teams in the sport’s history.
So, in the bottom of the 10th inning, the Cardinals struck again — once more for two runs, once more to tie the game. This time, Lance Berkman, who had a walk, two singles and a two-run homer, was down to the last St. Louis strike when he swatted a single to center field. To make the hit sweeter for the Cards, it came after Texas Manager Ron Washington had ordered Albert Pujols intentionally walked for the fifth time in the series.