Dilip Vishwanat, Getty Images
ST. LOUIS — Pushed to the brink, the St. Louis Cardinals saved themselves. A frantic rush to reach the postseason on the final day. A nifty pair of comebacks in the playoffs. Two desperate rallies in Game 6.
Turns out these Cardinals were merely gearing up for a gigantic celebration.
The Cardinals won a remarkable World Series they weren't even supposed to reach, beating the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday night with another key hit by hometown star David Freese and six gutty innings from Chris Carpenter.
"This whole ride, this team deserves this," said Freese, who added the Series MVP award to his trophy as the NL championship MVP.
A day after an epic Game 6 that saw them twice within one strike of elimination before winning 10-9 in the 11th inning, the Cardinals captured their 11th World Series crown.
"It's hard to explain how this happened," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.
Following a whole fall on the edge, including a surge from 101/2 games down in the wild-card race, La Russa's team didn't dare mess with Texas, or any more drama in baseball's first World Series Game 7 since the Angels beat the Giants in 2002.
Freese's two-run double tied it in the first, with Cardinals star Albert Pujols raising his arms as he scored. Good-luck charm Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer in the third.
Given a chance to pitch by a Game 6 rainout and picked by La Russa earlier in the day to start on three days' rest, Carpenter and the tireless St. Louis bullpen closed it out.
No Rally Squirrel needed on this night, either. Fireworks and confetti rang out at Busch Stadium when Jason Motte retired David Murphy on a fly ball to end it.
"We just kept playing," Cardinals star Lance Berkman said.
Said La Russa: "If you watch the history of baseball, teams come back."
The Rangers, meanwhile, will spend the whole winter wondering how it all got away. Texas might dwell on it forever, in fact, at least until Nolan Ryan & Co. can reverse a World Series slide that started with last year's five-game wipeout against San Francisco.
Ryan left tight-lipped. When a reporter tried to ask the Rangers president and part-owner a question, someone in his entourage said: "He's not talking."
Texas had not lost consecutive games since last August. These two defeats at Busch Stadium cost manager Ron Washington and the Rangers a chance to win their first title in the franchise's 51-year history.
"I just told them they're champions, which I believe," Washington said. "Someone has to win, someone has to lose and the Cardinals did it. ... They were the better team. They are the world champions. All we can do is come back next year and commit ourselves to it, like they did this year."
This marked the ninth straight time the home team had won Game 7 in the World Series. The wild-card Cardinals held that advantage over the AL West champions because the NL won the All-Star game — Texas could blame that on their own pitcher, C.J. Wilson, who took the loss in July.
A year full of inspiring rallies and epic collapses was encapsulated in Game 6. Freese was the star, with a tying triple in the ninth and a winning home run in the 11th. His two RBIs in the clincher gave him a postseason record 21.
The Cardinals won their first championship since 2006, and gave La Russa his third World Series title. They got there by beating Philadelphia in the first round of the NL playoffs, capped by Carpenter outdueling Roy Halladay 1-0 in the deciding Game 5, and then topping Milwaukee in the NL championship series.
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