JP's pre-World Series prediction of a 7 Game series has come true after what can only be described as an amazing, epic, thrilling Game 6 which saw the Texas Rangers blow an opportunity to win their first World Series, more than 50 years after the franchise was established in 1961.
Entering Game 6, at Busch Stadium (St Louis), with a 3-2 series lead, the Rangers were all but certain to defeat the Cardinals 7-5 and clinch the World Series with a game to spare, before a stunning fightback from the St Louis Cardinals.
The Rangers opened the scoring in the first innings thanks to a Josh Hamilton single which allowed Ian Kinsler to cross home plate, however the Cardinals responded thanks to a 2-run bomb from Lance Berkman. The Rangers bounced back and tied the score at 2-2 in the second innings when Craig Gentry crossed the plate thanks to a Kinsler double to deep left centre.
Neither team was able to score in the third innings however in the fourth, a Mike Napoli single to right field allowed Nelson Cruz to score after he had earlier reached second base, thanks to a fielding error by left fielder Matt Holliday. A second error for the innings almost cost the Cardinals another run, however pitcher Fernando Salas closed out the innings with runners left on first and second. As has so often been the case this post-season, the Cardinals responded immediately after Yadier Molina scored Berkman after grounding out to third base with two outs remaining. Berkman had originally reached first base thanks to an error by first baseman Michael Young.
With the score 3-3 heading in to the fifth innings, yet another error, this time by third baseman David Freese, allowed Hamilton to reach first and the Rangers made the most of the opportunity, with Young sending a double to deep left centre. This allowed enough time for Hamilton to round second and third, then score the go-ahead run. The Cardinals weren't able to get the run back and headed into the sixth 4-3 down.
The sixth innings saw Texas restricted to just the one safe hit, a single from Hamilton as relief pitcher Lance Lynn took 14 pitches to shut the innings down. The Cardinals responded with some good, patient hitting and quickly loaded the bases, thanks to another safe hit from Berkman, his 18th of the post-season, another fielding error by Young, which allowed Halliday to reach first base and a walk drawn by Freese. 24 pitches for the innings was enough to see the end of Colby Lewis as the Rangers pitcher was replaced by Alexi Ogando. Things however didn't improve as Ogando immediately walked Molina, levelling the score at 4-4.
With bases still loaded and just one out, the Cardinals had a golden opportunity to drive in a leading run, however they didn't, despite the dramatic sequences of events which followed. A quick-thinking Napoli threw to third baseman, Adrian Beltre, which saw a napping Matt Halliday picked-off at third base and immediately after, a wild pitch from Ogando allowed the runners on second and first, to advance one base a piece. Nick Punto was walked after 7 pitches and the bases were once again loaded. Derek Holland was then called to the mound, the third pitcher used by Texas, and he got the final out of the innings when Jon Jay grounded out. After all the drama, the Cardinals had only managed to score one run for the innings and the game was tied 4-4 heading into the seventh.
As is so often the case in sport, when one team misses a golden opportunity, the other team capitalises… This is exactly what happened when the Rangers came out to bat in the seventh. Beltre and Cruz went BOOM, BOOM and hit consecutive home runs off Lynn and all of a sudden, the Rangers had opened up a 6-4 lead. A single to David Murphy followed and the game looked like it was going to be busted open. Octavio Dotel replaced Lynn on the pitchers mound and a few hitters later, with two out, a Kinsler single to centre scored Derek Holland to increase the lead to three, before Dotel struck out Elvis Andrus to close the bust-out innings. In response, the somewhat shocked Cardinals sent three up and went three down.
The eighth saw another pitching change for the Cardinals as Marc Rzepczynski replaced Dotel and used just eight pitches to retire three Texas hitters. Then, when Allen Craig homered off Texas pitcher Holland with one out in response, the Cardinals were back within two runs at 7-5. Freese grounded out before Molina singled and Mike Adams was then called to replace Holland. The Cardinals also made a change, bringing in pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso who immediately saluted with an infield single. With runners on first and second, Jay also singled and loaded up the bases with two outs, however Rafael Furcal was unable to bring in another run after a soft ground out straight to pitcher, Adams.
The opportunity had once again been lost by the Cardinals and Texas went in to the final innings with a 7-5 lead. Jason Motte became the sixth Cardinal pitcher for the night when he relieved Rzepcyznski on the mound and he quickly disposed of Cruz via a ground out. Napoli drew a walk before David Murphy hit into a fielders choice which saw Napolii thrown out at second. Endy Chavez flied out to Berkman at right field for the final out and all that was left to do for Texas was make three outs.
The responsibility was given to Neftali Feliz, the fifth pitcher used by Texas, and he immediately struck out Ryan Theriot for the first out. Albert Pujols however was next up and he crunched a double to Hamilton at centre field. Berkman followed and was walked, before Craig was also struck out. With runners on first and second, it was all left to Freese, who quickly went down two strikes in the count… However, like all good sporting contests, there was another twist in the story as Freese went BOOM and smoked a triple to right field and tied the game at 7-7. Molina then lined out to Cruz at right field for the third out and we were heading to extra innings'.
In the top of the tenth, Kinsler popped out to first base before Adnrus singled to centre field. Then, the defining moment of the match arrived as Hamilton went BOOM and blasted a bomb over right centre field to once again put Texas ahead, 9-7. Mitch Moreland then filed out and Beltre grounded out to wrap up the innings. In response, Descalso got St Louis off to a good start with a single to right field before Jay also singled, this time to left field. Kyle Lohse then performed a perfect sacrifice bunt which advanced the runners to second and third with just one out. Texas then introduced Scott Feldman to the mound, their seventh pitcher for the night.
Theroit was next up and grounded out however scored Descalso to cut the margin to one, 9-8. Next up was Pujols who was intentionally walked to leave runners on first and second, with two out. Berkman, who had been the star of the post-season for the Cardinals followed and once again saluted, with a single to centre field to score Jay and tie the game at 9-9. Craig was the final out of the innings when he grounded out to Beltre at third base. We were heading to an eleventh innings.
When the top of the eleventh arrived, Jake Westbrook was called to the mound and quickly took care of Cruz w ho flied out to Berkman at right field. Napoli however singled, also to right field, before Murphy flied out to centre for the second out. Pinch hitter Esteban German was sent in to hit however grounded out to second baseman Theroit. The Cardinals were once again left with the opportunity to win…
Mark Lowe was given the responsibility to shut out St Louis in the eleventh, the eighth pitcher used by Texas, however he didn't last long as Freese smoked his sixth pitch deep over centre field's head to signal one of the most dramatic wins in the history of Major League Baseball.
For the Rangers, Hamilton (3-6 & 3 RBI), Napoli (2-3), Young (2-4), Kinsler (2-5 & 2 RBI) and Andrus (2-6) were the best hitters whilst for the Cardinals, Berkman (3-5 & 3 RBI), Descalso (2-2), Jay (2-4) and Freese (2-5 & 3 RBI) were the best with the bat.
In the end, tonight's match saw the Cardinals snatch victory when all hope had seemed lost and as we head towards Game 7 tomorrow, also at Busch Stadium, they will be very, very hard to beat.
Image courtesy of NJ.com