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WS2011 Gm6: Hamilton homers to put Texas up in 10th

ST. LOUIS -- The Rangers -- not once, but twice -- had a two-run lead and were three outs away from their first World Series title. They did not get there, even when they were twice just one strike away from ending 40 years of frustration.

Instead, they will have to play Game 7 at 7:05 CT on Friday night at Busch Stadium. In one of the most incredible World Series games to be played, David Freese hit a home run off Mark Lowe in the bottom of the 11th inning to give the Cardinals a 10-9 victory over the Rangers.

The Rangers had a 7-5 lead going into the ninth inning with closer Neftali Feliz on the mound, and the Cardinals tied it up on a two-out, two-run triple by Freese. Josh Hamilton hit a two-run home run off reliever Jason Motte in the top of the 10th, but the Cardinals again tied it up in the bottom of the inning.

Lance Berkman brought home the tying run in the 10th with a two-out single. Both Freese and Berkman had two strikes on them when they delivered their game-tying hits. Freese's historic home run in the 11th, which brought the emotionally draining game to an end, came on a full-count pitch.

"What can you say about this game but 'Wow!'" Rangers outfielder David Murphy said. "This game had everything. That was the best game I've ever been a part of. I don't know what to say or how to describe that game."

"It was an intense game," reliever Darren Oliver said. "I've never seen anything like that. I've never been a part of anything like that."

Few have. Now, the Rangers will send Matt Harrison to the mound on Friday night. The Cardinals have not announced a starter for what will be the first Game 7 of the World Series since 2002, but it almost assuredly will be ace Chris Carpenter pitching on three days' rest.

SPREAD THE WEALTH
The Rangers are attempting to become the 10th different team in the last 11 years to win a World Series.
Winner Year
Giants 2010
Yankees 2009
Phillies 2008
Cardinals 2006
White Sox 2005
Red Sox 2004, 2007
Marlins 2003
Angels 2002
D-backs 2001

The Rangers also don't know if outfielder Nelson Cruz will play. Cruz, who just missed catching Freese's triple in the ninth for the third out, has a strained right groin. He injured himself in his last at-bat, and manager Ron Washington doesn't know if Cruz will be ready for what will be the last game of the season.

"Game 7 -- we have to win or go home," Ian Kinsler said. "There is nothing else you can say."

"You've got to finish off a game, and we didn't do it," Hamilton said. "We've got to put our emotions aside. We've got a job to do. Obviously, we wanted to come out on top tonight, but we're not going to lose any sleep over it. We'll shake this off and come back tomorrow."

The Rangers seemed to take control of this game in the seventh. The two teams were tied at 4 going into the seventh before Adrian Beltre and Cruz hit back-to-back home runs off Cardinals reliever Lance Lynn. An RBI single by Kinsler later in the inning made it 7-4 with nine outs needed to bring the first World Series championship to Texas.

Instead, a sellout crowd of 47,325 was treated to one of the wildest finishes in the 107-year history of the World Series. This one ranks among the greatest, but that is not going to be much consolation for the Rangers if they don't win on Friday.

"We battled," Washington said. "You know it's not that easy to win a world championship, as we found out tonight. We had the right people in the right spot, and they beat us. We'll bounce back tomorrow. We've been in tough situations before. We've always responded, and I expect us to respond tomorrow."

Left-hander Derek Holland, pitching in relief, was in line to get the win. Instead, he started the Cardinals' comeback by giving up an eighth-inning home run to Allen Craig. That made it 7-5, although Mike Adams kept it that way temporarily by getting Rafael Furcal to bounce out with two outs and the bases loaded.

That left the ninth inning for Feliz, who was 6-for-6 in save opportunities this postseason and had not blown one since Aug. 6. The right-hander started the ninth by striking out Ryan Theriot, but Albert Pujols doubled to left and Berkman walked on four pitches.

Craig struck out looking for the second out, bringing up Freese. Feliz got ahead in the count, 1-2, and then left a 98-mph fastball over the plate. Freese hit it to deep right.

"I saw it pretty well," Cruz said. "I thought I had it, but it carried well. I thought I had it, but it took off."

The ball caromed hard off the fence for a triple, and the game was headed to extra innings. Jason Motte pitched the 10th for the Cardinals, and Elvis Andrus reached on a one-out single. That brought up Hamilton, who has been playing through the postseason with a strained left groin and had not hit a home run since Sept. 23.

But Hamilton did just that, crushing a 98-mph fastball over the right-center-field wall to give the Rangers a 9-7 lead. It could have been a Kirk Gibson moment. Instead, it was just another valiant effort in a losing cause.

"It was a great feeling, but you always know a game is never over until you get that last out," Hamilton.

That was never so true as on Thursday night at Busch Stadium. Feliz had thrown 22 pitches and, with two left-handed hitters -- Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay -- coming up for the Cardinals, Washington brought in Oliver, his left-handed setup reliever, to pitch the bottom of the 10th.

"I had that feeling, bringing Ollie in on those two lefties, I thought maybe we could get those guys out, having the pitcher come up," Washington said. "I don't think things could have been more perfect."

That didn't prove to be the case. Descalso and Jay both singled. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa then sent pitcher Kyle Lohse to pinch-hit for Motte, and Lohse bunted the runners to second and third.

Washington then brought in Scott Feldman to face Theriot. The right-hander got Theriot to hit a grounder to Beltre, and the Rangers' third baseman threw to first for the out while Descalso scored. That brought up Pujols, who was walked intentionally. Berkman then lined a 2-2 fastball into center field to tie the game.

"We didn't get it done," Oliver said. "We can talk about it all night ... we can go round and round all night; it just didn't happen."

Jake Westbrook pitched a scoreless 11th for the Cardinals, getting Esteban German on a grounder to end the inning. German was pinch-hitting for Feldman, so Washington had to go to Lowe, his eighth pitcher on the night, for the 11th.

Freese was first up. Lowe missed with three pitches, got two strikes with fastballs and then came back with a changeup.

"I left it up a little bit, and he lost the ball," Lowe said.

Freese did exactly that. He hit it over the center-field fence, and Busch Stadium erupted in frenzied joy while the Rangers made a painful retreat into their clubhouse. The Cardinals are still alive, the Rangers still need one more victory and the World Series is going to a seventh game.

"We've got one game tomorrow," Oliver said. "We're going to have to bring it."

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