The 10 best games of 2011 (as viewed by me) – #1 – World Series Game 6: Texas Rangers vrs. St. Louis Cardinals, October 27, 2011

Imagine if your franchise had been in existence for 50 years and they’ve yet to win a championship.  Now you were one strike away from your team’s first championship ever.  Twice.  And you didn’t win.  That’s how the Texas Rangers felt after Game 6 of the World Series.  The Rangers were leading the World Series 3-2 and needed to take one of the final two games back in St. Louis to clinch their first World Series title ever.  It was a cool October night and St. Louis was trying to stave off elimination while the Rangers were trying to get to the promised land for the first time ever.

The Rangers jumped out to an early lead when Josh Hamilton singled home Ian Kinsler in the 1st.  It might have been the time when you started to count the outs but they only got to 25 outs away before they relinquished the lead when Lance Berkman hit a two-run home run with two outs in the bottom of the 1st.  The Rangers tied the game at 2 in the bottom of the 2nd when Ian Kinsler doubled home Craig Gentry.  Cardinals starting pitcher Jaime Garcia labored through the first three innings, giving up 5 hits and walking two.  On their other side Colby Lewis settled down after he gave up the home run to Berkman and then walked Matt Holliday by setting down the next 7 hitters.  It was 2-2 after three innings.

Derek Holland got out of a jam in the 6th

Garcia’s night was done after three innings and replaced by Fernando Salas.  The 4th started off with an error out in left field by Holliday that put Nelson Cruz on 2nd.  Mike Napoli, one of the stars of the Rangers playoff run, followed up with an RBI single to give the Rangers a 3-2 lead.  The countdown was on again, this time the Rangers only needed 18 more outs to be champions.  Once again the countdown ended quickly when Lance Berkman, who led off the inning by reaching on an error by first baseman Michael Young, came across the plate on a ground ball by Yadier Molina to tie the game at 3-3.  Cardinals third baseman David Freese was the latest victim of the error bug as his 5th inning error allowed Josh Hamilton to reach and score when Michael Young redeemed himself with an RBI double.  It was 4-3 Texas and the countdown was down to 15.  The Cardinals went down in order in the bottom of the 5th, putting the countdown at 12.  The third Cardinals pitcher of the night, Lance Lynn, worked around a Josh Hamilton hit to retire the Rangers in the 6th.  Albert Pujols led off the bottom of the 6th with a strike out and the Rangers needed 11 more outs.  The pesky Berkman got himself another hit and Michael Young once again committed an error on Matt Holliday’s grounder and the Cards had 1st and 2nd with one out.  David Freese walked to load the bases and Rangers’ manager Ron Washington made his first pitching change of the night, bringing in Alexei Ogando to replace the starter Lewis.  Ogando walked Molina and the game was tied again.  With Nick Punto batting with the bases loaded Mike Napoli gunned down Holliday at 3rd base.  Then Ogando unloaded a wild pitch that put the remaining runners on 2nd and 3rd.  Punto walked but pitcher Derek Holland came in to get Jon Jay to ground out, leaving the bases loaded and the game tied at 4-4 after 6 innings.

Adrian Beltre celebrates his leadoff home run in the 7th

As quickly as the Cardinals tied the game in the 6th they let it slip even quicker in the top of the 7th.  Adrian Beltre smashed a home run to lead off the inning and Nelson Cruz followed up with one of his own to give the Rangers a 6-4 lead in the 7th.  The Rangers tacked on one more run in the 7th and had a 7-4 lead with 9 outs to go for a championship.  Derek Holland, who had just started two games prior for the Rangers, put down the Cardinals 1-2-3 in the 7th, leaving the Rangers 6 outs away.  The Rangers went 1-2-3 in the 8th and Holland was back out for the bottom of the 8th.  He got Berkman on a fly out to put the Rangers 5 outs away.  Allen Craig, who had come in for an injured Matt Holliday, hit a solo shot off of Holland to cut the lead to 7-5.  After a Freese ground out Yadier Molina singled to right to end Holland’s night.  Mid-season trade acquisition Mike Adams came on with two outs and a man on 1st.  Pinch hitter David Descalso reached on a weak ground ball to short and Jon Jay hit a hard single into right, loading the bases.  Adams got shortstop Rafael Furcal to ground the ball back up to him and the Cardinals left the bases loaded in the 8th, down two runs.  Cardinals closer Jason Motte came in for the top of the 9th and worked around a Napoli walk to retire the side.  In came Neftali Feliz for the Rangers, who had 32 saves during the regular season, to get the last three outs in the 9th and give the Rangers their first World Championship.

Freese watches the flight of his game tying triple

Feliz got Theriot to strike out swinging to put the Rangers two outs away from glory.  The Cardinals (former) hero Albert Pujols was up next and he came through for his old team with a one out double.  Berkman walked to make it 1st and 2nd with 1 out.  Allen Craig was the next batter.  Feliz struck him out too.  The Rangers were now 1 out away.  Feliz jumped ahead of David Freese 1-2.  The Rangers were one out away.  The FOX cameras panned to a close-up of the faces of each of the Rangers stars as they anticipated the celebration.  Feliz rocked back and hurled in his 1-2 pitch.  Freese connected.  It was a line drive but not that hard hit, it was heading for right field.  Nelson Cruz was heading back and the ball kept sailing and sailing until it hit the wall, just out of the reach of Cruz’s glove.  Pujols and Berkman scored and Freese was standing on third with a game tying triple.  The Rangers were close but they couldn’t get it done.  Feliz had given it up and after Molina lined out to right, they would have to play extra innings.

Hamilton connected for a 2-run shot to (temporarily) but the Rangers up

The Rangers were not demoralized however and Elvis Andrus hit a one out single up the middle off of Motte.  The next hitter was Josh Hamilton, who could have amassed a Hall of Fame career if the early part wasn’t derailed by drug abuse.  He was given a second chance in baseball and now he was ready to take advantage of the Rangers’ second chance in this game.  He came through, blasting a home run well over the wall in right field to give the Rangers a 9-7 lead.  They headed into the bottom of the 10th, once again 3 outs away.  Darren Oliver was the new Rangers pitcher and he gave up hits to the first two Cardinals hitters, David Descalso and Jon Jay.  Cardinals pitcher Kyle Lohse pinch hit for Motte in the pitcher’s spot and hit a sacrifice bunt to put the runners on 2nd and 3rd.  The tying run was in scoring position but the Rangers only needed two more outs.  Scott Feldman came into the game for the Rangers.  Ryan Theriot hit a ground ball to third base and Descalso scored.  Jay remaind at second and Theriot was out at first.  The Rangers needed one more out.  With Pujols coming to the plate there was no doubt that he would be walked but one the the Cardinals heroes of the night, Lance Berkman, was up next.  He worked it to a 2-2 count.  The Rangers were once again 1 strike away.  Berkman laced the 2-2 pitch into right-center field for a single that scored Jay and once again tied the game at 9-9.

Freese's teammates greet him after his walk off homer in the 11th

The Rangers weren’t up for more late inning heroics and new Cardinals pitcher Jake Westbrook worked around a Napoli hit to retire the Rangers in the top of the 11th.  Mark Lowe came into the game for the Rangers to pitch the bottom of the 11th.  Cards’ third baseman David Freese was up next.  Freese hit the game tying triple in the 9th but he had a much bigger story than that.  He grew up in Wildwood, Missouri as a St. Louis Cardinals fan.  He went to the University of Missouri, where he did not play baseball.  When he realized that he wanted to play baseball he quit Missouri to go to St. Louis Community College so he could play ball.  He eventually transferred to South Alabama to finish his college baseball career.  Freese was drafted by the San Diego Padres and was traded to his former boyhood team, the Cardinals, for Jim Edmonds, who was one of the more popular members of the Cardinals during his time there.  In December of 2009 he was arrested for driving under the influence and almost lost his career because of it (it was his third arrest since 2002).  Freese got himself together and became the starting third baseman for the Cardinals in 2011.  All of that led him here, to Game 6 of the World Series where he had already become the hero.  He wasn’t done yet.  He hit a Mark Lowe pitch far and deep into straight away center field that landed in the grass a few feet past the center field wall.

The Cardinals had come back from dead twice in the game.  Then Freese walked it off in the 11th.  The Cardinals went on to win Game 7 6-2 and David Freese was named the World Series M.V.P.  But this is the game that everyone will remember.  Just like in 1975 and 1986 the 6th game will always trump the 2nd.  Not many people knew David Freese’s name before the World Series but now his name lives on with other Game 6 legends – Carlton Fisk, Bill Buckner, Kirby Puckett, David Freese.

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About evonsports
30 year old sports enthusiast and aspiring writer from Boston.

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