01/02/12 10:00 AM EST
Cards, Rangers battle in historic Series
By Matthew Leach / MLB.com
It was amazing to watch. But in retrospect, to think about how many ways it might never have happened ... it's difficult even to process. The Rangers still feel like they did everything right, and on paper they likely had the better team. But after 10 days, St. Louis was the world champion."We had the right people in the right situations," Texas manager Ron Washington said. "There is nothing I regret. We just didn't get it done. That's all there is to it." Pujols and Rangers top starter C.J. Wilson are both Angels now. La Russa retired. Craig's knee, barking throughout the postseason, needed surgery. Texas won the rights to try to negotiate a deal for a new No. 1 starter in Yu Darvish, who has never pitched in the Major Leagues. Closer Neftali Feliz, who let the lead get away for Texas in Game 6, will be in the starting rotation in 2012. In retrospect, it was clear from the start that we were in for quite a series. Craig's pinch-hit off Alexi Ogando in the sixth inning of Game 1 delivered a taut win for the underdogs. Craig again beat Ogando for a go-ahead hit in Game 2, but a bizarre ninth saw Texas rally against Motte, Arthur Rhodes and Lance Lynn for the win. Game 3 brought the Pujols show. The slugger, in one of his final games with the Cardinals, blasted three homers among five hits in a blowout St. Louis win. No one had ever had that combination before in a World Series game. Yet, the Cardinals didn't soar to victory from there. In fact, that's when things got tough. Holland dominated in Game 4, and Game 5 was simply ... bizarre. La Russa called for one pitcher and got another, and the mixup -- "Lynn," it should be noted, doesn't sound much like "Motte" or "Rzepczynski" -- contributed to a Rangers win that put the American League champs in control. But it was far, very far, from over. Rain washed out Game 6, forcing a one-day postponement. And that game was ever so worth waiting for. Texas took a three-run lead in the seventh, but Craig's homer gave the Cardinals life. Feliz faltered in the ninth, with David Freese tripling in the tying run. Texas again took the lead in the 10th but couldn't hold it. And in the 11th, Freese channeled the man he was traded for, Jim Edmonds, with a walk-off homer to force a seventh game. It was a perfect capper to a jaw-dropping game. Freese still looks back at the video sometimes, but doesn't watch himself. "When I see these highlights, I don't really look at where the ball goes or this and that, I look at everyone's reactions," he said. "That's what kills me. That's what I love about sports, is the way you can change a fan's emotion at the drop of a hat." Or 50,000 or so fans' emotions. The Cardinals still had to finish it off, though, and that was up to Carpenter. Able to pitch on three days' rest because of the rainout, he offered up a performance for the ages. Freese contributed the big hit that got him out of trouble after a two-run Rangers first, and from there Carpenter was nails. In so many ways, it almost didn't happen. But it did, and all of us as baseball fans are richer for it.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.