David Freese homered in the 11th inning to cap an incredible comeback that lifted the St Louis Cardinals to a 10-9 victory over the Texas Rangers late on Thursday and force a decisive World Series Game 7.
The never-say-die Cardinals scored two runs in the bottom of the ninth to force extra innings and two more in the 10th to stay alive, before Freese led off the 11th with a 429 foot blast to center that ended the titanic, 4 hour, 33 minute battle.
Texas had held a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series and were looking to close out the Cardinals.
The entire St Louis team met Freese at home plate to celebrate the most fantastic World Series finish in recent memory as a frenzied crowd at Busch Stadium roared in delight.
“Man that was incredible,” said Freese, who also tied the game with two outs in the ninth with a two-run triple that got over the head of rightfielder Nelson Cruz. “I was glad I had a chance. We fought back.”
“That’s the character of this team ... we’re not going anywhere. We will fight to the end,” added Freese, whose jersey was torn off by teammates as they celebrated at home plate as if they had won the Fall Classic.
The tumultuous late innings raised and shattered hopes twice for the Rangers, who were on the brink of claiming the first World Series crown in their 51 years of existence.
“It’s not that easy to win a world championship,” said Texas manager Ron Washington, whose team lost the World Series last year in five games to the San Francisco Giants. “You’ve got to give them credit. They fought tonight. They came back, and they won the ball game.”
Back-to-back home runs by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz in the seventh inning gave Texas a late lead after an early see-saw struggle that produced four unearned runs between the teams on some bizarre fielding errors during the chilly night.
Freese tied it with his triple to right off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, but Texas bounced right back when Josh Hamilton, who had struggled at the plate in the series with a strained groin, walloped the first pitch he saw in the 10th from reliever Jason Motte for a two-run homer and a 9-7 lead.
The Cardinals, who overcame a 10-and-a-half game deficit in the last month of Major League Baseball’s regular season to claim a wild-card playoff berth on the final day, stormed back again with two runs in the 10th, the tying run scoring on a single by Lance Berkman.
With both teams running out of pitchers, Jake Westbrook came on as the Cardinals’ seventh pitcher of the game to pitch a scoreless 11th and Mark Lowe took the mound for Texas in the bottom half.
Lowe, the eighth Texas pitcher, faced just one batter as Freese put his name into World Series lore with a blast that capped one of the greatest finishes in a Fall Classic game.
“We never quit trying,” St Louis manager Tony La Russa said. “I know that’s kind of corny, but the fact is we never quit trying.”
The game, postponed on Wednesday because of the threat of a rain storm, saw sloppy play on both sides with Texas committing two errors and the Cardinals making three.
Texas scored a run in the first off St Louis starter Jaime Garcia and the Cardinals jumped in front with two in their half of the inning on a home run to right by Berkman against Rangers starting pitcher Colby Lewis.
The Rangers tied it in the second and went ahead with an unearned run in the fourth. The Cardinals tied it 3-3 with an unearned run of their own in the bottom of the fourth.
Another unearned run for Texas in the fifth and for St Louis in the sixth made it 4-4, before the Rangers’ power show set up the wild finish.
“It’s incredible to be a part of this,” Freese said. “There’s so many different ways to win a ball game and we kept battling and sneaked this one out tonight.”
The hard-fought game weighed on some of the players. Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday deeply bruised the pinky finger of his right hand sliding into third base and could be out for Game 7.
Cruz strained his right groin and Mike Napoli twisted his ankle for Texas.
Juggling the pitching, considering all the work done by the relievers, will be another challenge for the managers in the climactic Game 7 in St Louis.
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