Tony LaRussa added yet another feather to his managerial cap by guiding his underdog Cardinals to a World Series victory over the Texas Rangers. St. Louis crashed the post-season party on the final day of the regular season thanks in part to a late season collapse by the Atlanta Braves that brought back memories of the ’69 Cubs. The Cardinals took advantage of the opportunity, overcoming seemingly superior opponents Philadelphia and Milwaukee before sending the Rangers home tasting the bitterness of defeat.
The Cardinals proved that they were a team with the heart of a champion. Although the odds were stacked against them the Cards never stopped believing in themselves. Both the Phillies and Brewers had home field advantage against LaRussa’s squad in the first two rounds of the playoffs. No problem. In game six of the World Series the Cardinals trailed by two runs and were down to their last strike, not once, but twice. But the Redbirds rose to the challenge and got the job done. They would come back to win game six and make a statement in the decisive game seven.
The Cardinals team was fueled by desire while the Rangers seemed to be crippled by the fear of failing. Leading three games to two, Texas had a two run lead with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. One more out was all the Rangers needed to secure the first title in franchise history. But that’s when the wheels came off. With runners on first and second, David Freese hit a deep fly to right. Right-fielder Nelson Cruz was presented with two options. Option #1 (preferred): sprint back and catch the ball and begin celebrating a World Series championship. Option #2: Turn around and play the ball off the wall and try to keep Lance Berkman from scoring all the way from first base. Unfortunately for the Rangers Cruz was unable to do either. He was caught in between. Cruz made a half-hearted attempt to get back and catch the ball but came up short. The ball caromed off the wall and rolled back toward the infield while Cruz chased after it in vain. The game was now tied with Freese standing on third base.
In the tenth inning Josh Hamilton launched a two-run homer to put Texas back in the driver’s seat. But the Cardinals would again answer, scoring two runs in the bottom of the tenth to tie the game. No matter what the Rangers did, St. Louis seemed to want it more. David Freese led off the bottom of the eleventh with a homerun to force game 7.
A rainout earlier in the week allowed Tony LaRussa to bring back his ace, Chris Carpenter, to start game seven. Rangers manager Ron Washington elected to go with Matt Harrison, who had been torched by the Cardinals in Game 3. Washington should have started Derek Holland, who had shut down the Cards in Game 5. Instead the Rangers skipper stuck with his plan of Harrison for Game 7 and brought Holland out of the bullpen in game 6.
The Rangers got off to a good start in game 7, plating two runs in their first at-bat. But the Cardinals answered with two runs of their own in the bottom of the first. That was it. The Rangers were done. Every time they built a lead the Cardinals came right back, so why bother? At that point the Rangers folded up like the proverbial pup tent. St. Louis cruised to a 6-2 win. As sweet as the victory was for the Cards, it was doubly disgusting for the Rangers. It’ going to be a long cold winter in Arlington this year.