And so, when the final out of a 6-2 victory was in the glove of the left fielder, and the World Series title was theirs, the Cardinals poured out of their dugout and out of their bullpen and converged near the mound, and a crowd of 47,399 screamed and hugged and bounced.
“It’s hard to imagine it really happened,” said Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa. “. . . It’s hard to explain how we made it happen, except the team has great guts — more talent than people believe, but we have great guts.”
Finally, there are no more hurdles for the Cardinals to overcome, no more frantic comebacks to stage, no more odds to defy, no more games to play. They had expended countless lives to get here, having been 101
2 games out of a playoff spot on Aug. 24, but never their last one. The Rangers, who twice failed to put them away at the end of the classic Game 6, will attest to the invincibility of the Cardinals’ zombie hearts.
“Last night after [Game 6], I said, ‘It’s over,’” said Cardinals veteran reliever Octavio Dotel. “One strike away, twice, and we came through? That’s why I said, ‘It’s over.’ And it was over.”
A series of impossible twists and incredible turns failed to produce a suitably epic Game 7 — the first Game 7 in the World Series in nine years — but the precision and skill with which the Cardinals took apart the shell-shocked Rangers was breathtaking nonetheless.
Ace Chris Carpenter pitched six solid innings, series MVP David Freese delivered a game-tying, two-run double, Allen Craig smashed the go-ahead homer in the third, and the Cardinals were content to let the Rangers implode during a pivotal fifth-inning sequence when St. Louis scored two insurance runs without so much as a hit.
While Freese was a deserving MVP, this World Series will also be recalled just as strongly for its impact on the legacies of the Cardinals’ two most visible members, La Russa and slugger Albert Pujols. With one glaring exception — his shocking bungling of Game 5, with its comical series of bullpen-phone mishaps — La Russa produced perhaps the finest managing job of his Hall-of-Fame career, consistently outmaneuvering his opponent.
La Russa “deserves all the credit,” Freese said. “He rallies the troops. He’s got a plan with every thought, with everything he says.”
For Pujols, his second World Series championship as a Cardinal only serves to strengthen the link between himself and his franchise, no small matter as he approaches free agency for the first time at age 31.