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On Friday, October 28, the St. Louis Cardinals defeated the Texas Rangers to win the 2011 World Series. David Freese, the hero of the Series, was named MVP. The excitement came to a climax in game six, when the Cardinals were on two occasions one strike away from elimination, but fought back against improbable odds to force a final tiebreaking game seven, from which they emerged victorious. This comeback mentality, however, was not isolated to the World Series; the Cardinals managed to scrape the surface of defeat all season long.
Before the season, the team announced that Adam Wainwright, the ace of the pitching staff and 2nd place finisher in the voting for Cy Young Award (best pitcher award) the previous season, needed reconstructive elbow surgery and would miss the entire season. The loss of Wainwright put a serious damper on the Cardinals’ World Series hopes. On August 28, with 28 games remaining in the season, the Cardinals were nine and a half games back of the Braves for the Wild Card spot. With five games left in the season they were three games behind but somehow managed to find their way into the playoffs. In the playoffs, the Cardinals beat the heavily-favored Philadelphia Phillies after overcoming a two games to one deficit in a best of five games series. The team advanced to the World Series after defeating the Milwaukee Brewers, who won the Cardinals division in the regular season.
While in the past they have proven to be an underdog team capable of resurging in clutch occasions, game six of the World Series tested the Cardinals’ limits. Behind in the best of seven series three to two games, the Cardinals found themselves trailing 7-5 in the bottom of the ninth inning. Rangers closer Neftali Feliz, whose fastball routinely hits 100 MPH, was three strike outs from a World Series title. But then, with one out, the Cardinals talismanic first baseman Albert Pujols hit a double. Two batters later, with two men on base, two outs, and two strikes, little-known third baseman David Freese smacked a triple off the right field wall to save the season. But the Rangers were quick to respond. In the top of the tenth inning, they scored two runs, pressuring the Cardinals to match them. And they did. In the bottom of the tenth inning, with a man on second and two outs and two strikes, Lance Berkman delivered the hit the Cardinals desperately needed to extend the game and save the season. In the eleventh inning with a tie score, Freese came up again and smashed a walk-off home run into the center field seats, sending the city of St. Louis into euphoria and leaving the Rangers dazed and confused. With that kind of a momentum swing, game seven was almost a formality, and the Cardinals easily prevailed 6-2.
The Cardinals won their second World Series in the past six years, their eleventh win in an illustrious franchise history. But something set this Cardinals team apart from all the others. This team will be remembered for winning without their best pitcher, for their offensive star power, for little-known players like Freese delivering in the clutch, for defying expectations, and most of all, for that incredible game six.
-Ben Marrow ’13