Wow. There are baseball games and then there is what happened last night. The World Series Game 6 magic appeared again last night in all it’s glory after a bit of a hiatus. When whomever invented baseball invented it so many years ago, this game was pretty much the standard on which all games should be played. It was a tightly played, error-filled, sloppy first 6 innings which saw the teams trade runs to an eventual 4-4 tie with three innings to go.
In the flash of an eye the drama started in the top of the 7th when Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz bashed back-to-back home runs. The Rangers added an insurance run, scored by Game 4 starter Derek Holland, who was poised to become a Series hero with a shutdown performance in relief in Game 6. 7-4. 9 outs away from the first World Championship in Texas Rangers history. Holland came out and mowed the Cardinals down 1-2-3. 6 outs away.
The Rangers go quietly in the 8th. Derek Holland comes out for the 8th. He gets clean-up hitter Lance Berkman. 5 outs away. The next batter Allen Craig, in for injured Matt Holliday hits a solo home run. 7-5. It’s ok, you think if you’re Texas. Still 5 outs away. David Freese grounds out. 4 outs away. Yadier Molina’s hit brings Derek Holland’s night to an end. Mike Adams is greeted by two singles to load the bases for Rafael Furcal. First pitch swinging, ground ball to 1st. Bases left loaded. 3 outs away.
Cards closer Jason Motte works around a walk in the top of the 9th. Neftali Feliz enters the game to shut down the Cards in the 9th. He strikes Ryan Theriot out. 2 outs away. Albert Pujols lines one into the gap for a double. Lance Berkman, the tying run, walks. Feliz strikes Allen Craig out looking on a nasty curve ball. 1 out away. The next batter is 3rd baseman David Freese, who had a crucial error earlier in the game. Feliz quickly jumps out to a 1-2 count. 1 strike away. The Rangers player gather at the top of the dugout in anticipation of running out to mob their teammates on the field. The players on the field are standing on the back of their feet, ready to run in. Freese takes the 1-2 pitch and pokes it over the head of right fielder Nelson Cruz. Pujols and Berkman score. Freese slides safely into third with a game-tying triple. Just like that the dream is on hold for the Rangers and is suddenly still alive for the Cardinals. Molina hits a sharp liner to Cruz to send the game to extra innings.
Motte’s back out for the Cards in the 10th. After getting Ian Kinsler to pop out Elvis Andrus hit a single into center field. The announcers quickly start debating whether Andrus should attempt to steal second. It doesn’t matter. The next hitter, Josh Hamilton, whose path to the majors makes Bilbo Baggins’ “There and Back Again” look like a leisurely Sunday morning stroll through the Boston Common, laces a 2-run home run into the seats in right field. 9-7 Rangers. Once again, 3 outs away. Veteran journeyman Darren Oliver enters the game for the Rangers to get the last 3 outs. Two lead-off hits and the pitcher is due up. Tony LaRussa decides to pinch hit a pitcher for a pitcher, putting Edwin Jackson for Jason Motte. Then he pinch hits another pitcher, Kyle Lohse, for Jackson. Lohse drops down a sacrifice bunt to put the tying run at second. 2 outs away. Ryan Theriot grounds to third, scoring a run and leaving the man on 2nd. 1 out away. Pujols is up next…a toddler could have made the call to intentionally walk him. Up comes Berkman. Berkman works a 2-2 count. Again, the Rangers are 1 strike away. Berkman takes the next pitch up the middle for a game tying single. 9-9. Feldman finishes off Craig to get out of the inning and go to the 11th.
Cards pitcher Jake Westbrook works around a Napoli single to retire the Rangers in the 11th. Mark Lowe comes on for the Rangers for the bottom of the 11th. David Freese to lead off.
And that’s the beautiful thing about sports. You start to hear about these things from when you are a child. Fisk’s home run. Flutie’s hail mary. Havlicek stole the ball. The immaculate reception. Gibson’s home run limp. And then you grow up and you understand what it all means. You see and experience it with your own eyes and then you find out the best part. When it happens you don’t know who, when or how. It just happens. It happens in a moment but it’s not like any other moment. Most moments simply come and go. These moments are frozen in time, talked about, watched and celebrated for generations. You hand these moments off to your kids, like clothes or money or family heirlooms. And then they’ll hand it off to their kids. When these moments happen, while a state of euphoria takes over an entire city, hearts are broken all over another whole entire city. That’s some powerful stuff.
It’s funny that FOX, who spends millions and millions of dollars a year on promotion and production of shows like American Idol and X-Factor, had their best reality TV show episode of the year come on a cold October night in St. Louis, Missouri. This is real life drama, unfolding right in front of your very eyes. If Scorcese, Spielberg, or Lucas can do any better I’ll all eyes and ears. When the MLB reconvenes in April they need not use those corny catch phrases or some B-level celebrities in their ads, they only need these moments. This is why we love sports. This is why it’s such a monumental part of the American fabric.
David Freese took a Mark Lowe pitch straight away to center field, into the grassy knoll beyond the fence, leaving Busch Stadium in a frenzy. Freese, a St. Louis native, ran gleefully around the bases with the smile of a chesire cat on his face as his teammates anxiously stood behind the plate to greet him. In a few minutes it was over. But the moment, like so many others before it on cold October nights, when the weather is turning and the seasons are changing, will forever be frozen in time.
Oh yeah, and I haven’t even mentioned – there’s one more game tonight. It’s winner take all. Tell me it doesn’t get any better than this.