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Craig HR, Freese 2B give Cards 5-2 lead in Game 7

By Ronald Blum

Associated Press

Published: Friday, Oct. 28 2011 8:40 p.m. MDT

ST. LOUIS — David Freese followed his game-winning home run the previous night with a tying, two-run double in the first, Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer in the third and the St. Louis Cardinals led the Texas Rangers 5-2 after six innings Friday night as they closed in on their 11th World Series title.

In the first Series Game 7 in nine years, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young had RBI doubles in the first against Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter, the first pitcher in a decade to make three starts in one Series. But St. Louis came right back in the bottom half off Matt Harrison, who walked a pair of batters before the big hit by Freese.

Craig, starting because of an injury to Matt Holliday, hit his third home run of the Series with one out in the third, sending a 91 mph pitch to the opposite field in right. The ball landed in Cardinals bullpen to the delight of the Busch Stadium record crowd of 47,399.

Craig also made an outstanding catch in the sixth, jumping to snag a drive by Nelson Cruz that appeared likely to hit the top of the left-field wall.

St. Louis added a pair of runs off the bullpen in the fifth without getting a hit. Yadier Molina walked with the bases loaded for the second straight night, this time with Scott Feldman pitching, and ace C.J. Wilson came in and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, forcing in another run.

Texas pitchers tied a Series record with 40 walks in the Series and also hit four batters. Other than Craig's homer, all the Cardinals runs reached base by walk or hit batter.

On Thursday night, the Cardinals were twice down to their final strike before an exhilarating 10-9, 11-inning victory in one of baseball's greatest games.

Craig homered in the eighth to start the comeback from a 7-4 deficit. Freese, who grew up in the St. Louis area, hit a tying, two-run double in the ninth, Lance Berkman had a tying single in a two-run 10th and Freese won the game with a leadoff home run in the 11th.

"You hear people say anyone can get the last three outs," Texas manager Ron Washington said Friday afternoon. "No, no, no, no. You've got to have a special, special soul, special mentality, special aggressiveness, something, to get those last outs. We didn't get them."

Carpenter, pitching on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, allowed five hits and two walks in the first six innings, striking out five. He threw 89 pitches.

Harrison gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in four innings, and Feldman relieved in the fifth.

St. Louis was trying for its first title since 2006, hoping to become the 19th team to overturn a 3-2 Series deficit. The Rangers trying for their first championship in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.

Home teams had won eight straight Game 7s since the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates' 4-1 victory at Baltimore.

In his first outing on short rest, Carpenter gave up four runs over three innings in Game 2 of the division series at Philadelphia. He wasn't sharp at all at the start of this one, either, starting seven of his first 10 batters with balls.

Ian Kinsler singled leading off, then tried to steal second on a 1-0 pitch to Elvis Andrus, stumbled and was thrown out at first by Molina. Andrus walked, and Hamilton doubled down the right field line for a 1-0 lead. Young then lofted a soft opposite-field double to right to drive in Hamilton. Carpenter struck out Adrian Beltre and retired Cruz on a groundout to limit the damage.

Harrison then got into trouble with his control with two outs in the bottom half, and the Rangers had Wilson starting to warm up after five batters and 23 pitches.

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