Wednesday, Dec. 07, 2011

World Series Wonder

When it comes to excitement, the last day of Major League Baseball's regular season should have been impossible to beat. Over a 25-min. span, between 11:40 p.m. and 12:05 a.m. Eastern time, three one-run games in Atlanta, Baltimore and St. Petersburg — two of them decided on walk-off hits — determined the wild-card winners from both leagues, with the St. Louis Cardinals and Tampa Bay Rays squeezing in.

But the postseason surpassed even that, producing 13 one-run games, a record. And none were as thrilling as Game 6 of the World Series, between the Cardinals and the Texas Rangers.

That historic contest started out as an error-prone joke of a game but finished with an unprecedented flourish. The Cardinals, trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning, were down to their last strike of the season, down 3-2 in the series. But with runners on first and second, Cardinals third baseman David Freese drove a fastball deep to right field. The fate of both teams hung in the air, seemingly forever. Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz took a bad angle to the ball and couldn't grab it before it struck the outfield wall. Two runs scored, tying the game, and Busch Stadium went bananas.

The high, however, didn't last long. In the top of the 10th, Texas slugger Josh Hamilton hit a no-doubt two-run home run, giving Texas another two-run lead. Hamilton, who has overcome drug addiction and other personal demons, seemed destined to be the hero. But in the bottom of that inning, Lance Berkman, with St. Louis again down to its final strike, stroked a game-tying single. Then Freese, a hometown boy who grew up rooting for the Cardinals, ended it in the bottom of the 11th with a home run to center field. After that stunning Game 6, Game 7 was almost certain to be anticlimactic; St. Louis won the final game, and the series, but after the previous night's theatrics, it almost seemed an afterthought.