Redbirds well aware of punch Rangers pack
St. Louis confident, preparing for battle with defending AL champs
MILWAUKEE -- As Cardinals superstar Albert Pujols held court with reporters amid showers of champagne and beer joyously being sprayed in celebration in the visitor's clubhouse Sunday night at Miller Park, a familiar chant of "Happy Flight, Happy Flight" broke out among St. Louis players.
Indeed, after a 12-6 win over the Brewers in Game 6 of the National League Championship Series, the Cardinals, who have amazingly won 17 straight games on getaway days, are headed to their happiest flight yet -- back to St. Louis for the franchise's 18th World Series appearance.
So while the Redbirds certainly reveled in their postgame celebration, they know they're meeting a tough opponent in the Texas Rangers, who are appearing in the Fall Classic for a second straight year.
"Tonight is our night and we're going to enjoy it," Pujols said. "It's amazing, you know. But we've got one step to climb and it's the big one -- the World Series -- and this Texas team is looking pretty good."
The Rangers, who disposed of the Tigers in six games in the American League Championship Series to reach the World Series, are the class of the AL, finishing third in runs scored and fifth in ERA during the regular season en route to 96 wins and the third-best run differential in baseball.
Texas also flexed its offensive might against Detroit, scoring 39 runs and mashing seven homers -- including six from Nelson Cruz -- in those six games, while also posting a 4.05 ERA.
Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman knows how tough Texas can be, after he got a firsthand look last postseason when he was with the Yankees. The Rangers defeated New York in six games on their way to the World Series.
"Where do you want to start?" Berkman said when asked about the Rangers' strengths. "They have Nelson Cruz batting seventh in their lineup, if that tells you anything. They have a powerful, deep lineup. They have a collection of arms that might be unrivaled in terms of pure stuff. Their bullpen is airtight. So it's going to be a tough series."
Cardinals reliever Marc Rzepczynski has also seen Texas plenty over the years, stemming from his three seasons with the Blue Jays. The left-hander pointed to their power -- the Rangers finished the year ranked second in homers, with 210.
"Coming from the American League, I've faced these guys before, and one through nine could put it out of the ballpark," he said. "We're going to go in there and just do our job, what we've been doing lately, and hopefully we come out."
Even Cardinals third baseman David Freese, who has never played against the Rangers in his three-year career, said he is keenly aware of the challenges they bring to the table.
"The Rangers are scary," said Freese, who was named MVP of the NLCS. "They've been doing it all along the last few years. You look at that lineup; you look at that staff, that's going to be a battle. And I think we're a team that can match up with them a little bit. They're confident. We're confident."
Manager Tony La Russa said he hasn't been watching the Rangers much this postseason because he's been too busy worrying about his own club.
"I've been paying a little bit of attention, obviously, but we were so focused on just playing every day," La Russa said. "Everybody kept talking about, 'Don't think about tomorrow as a safety net.' This is all about taking our shot. Now we've got it and just enjoying the moment. We've got a couple of days to think about Texas."
The Cardinals have just a few days to enjoy their NLCS triumph, with the World Series set to start on Wednesday at Busch Stadium.
Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter and Rangers ace C.J. Wilson are the probable starters for Game 1. Carpenter said he's looking forward to pitching on baseball's biggest stage, and he's confident his club can come through against the Rangers, considering all they've been through with their historic run to the World Series -- coming back from 10 1/2 games out of the NL Wild Card in late August.
"It's unbelievable," Carpenter said. "Once we got here and started playing, we knew we had a chance. Anything can happen in the postseason. And now we're at the last stage, and need four wins, and we're gonna play our butts off like we've been doing."