By Drew Davison
ST. LOUIS – The storybook ending for the Texas Rangers 2011 season came in Game 6. They were one strike away – twice. After they blew their first chance in the ninth, Josh Hamilton came through with a two-run home run and veteran lefty Darren Oliver had a chance to get the final three outs in the 10th.
It didn’t happen, of course, as the St. Louis Cardinals went on to a walk-off victory in the 11th to force a Game 7.
That loss didn’t seem to have a hangover effect on the Rangers. But, as it turned out, that proved to be as close as they’d get to their first World Series title.
The Cardinals battled back from an early two-run deficit, took advantage of a Rangers’ bullpen breakdown and won the franchise’s 11th world championship with a 6-2 victory in Game 7 of the 107th World Series on a chilly Friday night at Busch Stadium. St. Louis took the best-of-seven series 4-3.
The Rangers, meanwhile, came away empty for the second consecutive year at the Fall Classic, and are still searching for their first championship in the franchise’s 51 years.
But, at the start of Game 7, the Rangers showed no signs of dwelling on the gut-wrenching Game 6 loss.
Facing Cardinals right-hander Chris Carpenter on three days’ rest, Ian Kinsler led off with a single to left but was caught too far off first base for the first out. But Elvis Andrus drew a walk, and Josh Hamilton and Michael Young followed with consecutive RBI doubles to right to give Texas a 2-0 lead.
St. Louis answered in the bottom half off Texas starter Matt Harrison. With two outs, Harrison walked Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. That brought up Cardinals’ Game 6 hero, David Freese, who roped a two-run double to left-center field to tie the game at 2-2. Harrison got out of the inning when Hamilton made a leaping catch at the center field wall on a deep fly ball by Yadier Molina.
The Cardinals took a 3-2 lead in the third when Allen Craig took Harrison deep with a solo shot to right-field, his third homer of the series.
Harrison went four innings, allowing three runs on five hits with two walks and one strikeout.
Scott Feldman came in for the fifth, and a Rangers’ meltdown began.
With one out, Feldman walked Craig and then hit Pujols with a pitch. Both advanced on a groundout by Berkman, and Feldman intentionally walked Freese. That move backfired when Feldman issued a bases-loaded walk to Molina.
C.J. Wilson came in relief after that, and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch to gift the Cardinals another run. St. Louis took a 5-2 lead that inning despite it not getting a single hit.
Wilson worked a perfect sixth, but the Cardinals added another run off Mike Adams in the seventh.
By that point, the Cardinals were well in control.
Carpenter didn’t allow another run after the first, working into the seventh inning. The Rangers had their chances, though.
Mike Napoli led off with a single in the second, but nothing came of it. In the fifth, Kinsler led off with a single and moved to second on a sacrifice bunt by Andrus. But Hamilton popped out in foul territory, as Freese made a nice catch at the end of the Rangers’ dugout, and Young struck out.
Carpenter went six-plus innings, allowing two runs on six hits with two walks and five strikeouts. Arthur Rhodes relieved Carpenter in the seventh, and got pinch-hitter Yorvit Torrealba to fly out. Then Octavio Dotel retired the next two.
St. Louis right-hander Lance Lynn worked a perfect eighth, and Jason Motte closed it out in the ninth.
The Cardinals got the celebration started in front of their home crowd when David Murphy flew out to left.