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Cardinals 10, Rangers 9

Cardinals force Game 7

Freese's walkoff HR ends dramatic affair

By Nick Cafardo
Globe Staff / October 28, 2011

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ST. LOUIS - Unrelenting tenacity.

That’s all you can say about the St. Louis Cardinals.

They had lost Game 6 over and over. And over and over they came back.

David Freese froze the moment forever.

Freese had tied the game at 7 in the bottom of the ninth inning with a two-out, two-run triple off the right-field wall off nervous Texas closer Neftali Feliz. And leading off the 11th inning, Freese drilled a 3-and-2-pitch from Mark Lowe, the bottom of the Rangers’ relief barrel, over the center-field wall for a 10-9 victory before 47,325 towel-waving, red-clad fans.

The Cardinals lived to see a Game 7 tonight at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals fought, fought, and fought some more, twice coming back from extinction.

Trailing, 9-7, in the bottom of the 10th after Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer gave the Rangers the lead, St. Louis got back-to-back singles by Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay against lefty Darren Oliver to start the inning, and pinch hitter/pitcher Kyle Lohse dropped a sacrifice bunt.

Righthander Scott Feldman came on in relief, and Ryan Theriot drove in a run with a ground out. With two outs, the Rangers walked Albert Pujols intentionally and took their chances with Lance Berkman.

The winner: Berkman. He lined a single to center field to score Jay and the game went into the 11th.

To backtrack, the Rangers had taken a 7-4 lead in the top of the seventh when Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz thumped back-to-back homers and Ian Kinsler drove in another run.

The Cardinals chipped away with an Allen Craig homer in the eighth that cut the gap to 7-5.

And in the bottom of the ninth, the Cardinals tied when Freese tripled off the right-field wall. Cruz looked to have a play on the ball, but it kept carrying and Cruz came up empty when he jumped.

Hamilton, hindered by a hernia, has played a courageous series. The homer was his third hit of the game and he knocked in three runs in all.

Kinsler’s single that scored another ex-Red Sox, David Murphy (single), to make it 7-4 made it an even tougher task for the Cardinals. Lefthander Derek Holland came on to get the last out of the sixth and then retired St. Louis in the seventh. Holland had two-hit the Cardinals in Game 4 in a 4-0 win.

Craig, who had replaced the injured Matt Holliday (severly bruised right pinkie), hit a solo homer in the eighth against Holland to close the gap to 7-5. The Cardinals then loaded the bases with two outs, but righthander Mike Adams retired Rafael Furcal on a tapper back to the mound.

These teams have seemed evenly matched in every area this series and it has been difficult for one team to break away.

The Rangers took the lead in the first inning with one run, though they could have had more against Cardinals starter Jamie Garcia.

Their first three batters reached base - Kinsler with a walk, a single by Elvis Andrus, and an RBI single by Hamilton. But the Rangers fizzled as Garcia struck out Michael Young and Beltre and got Cruz to ground out.

Berkman put St. Louis on top with a two-run homer against Texas starter Colby Lewis in the bottom of the first. But the Cardinals’ euphoria was also short-lived as the Rangers tied it in the top of the second on Kinsler’s ground-rule double.

Cruz led off the fourth inning with a fly ball to short left field that Holliday dropped, and the Rangers retook the lead when Mike Napoli singled to right to score Cruz from second. In fairness to Holliday, Furcal was running at Holliday while pursuing the ball, and Holliday had to avoid Furcal and while trying to keep his eye on the ball.

The Rangers got a scare when Napoli, their World Series MVP candidate, jammed his left ankle while advancing to second on a bunt by Lewis that reliever Fernando Salas misplayed. Napoli was on the ground in pain, but he remained in the game.

The Rangers couldn’t muster any more runs in the inning, though, as Salas retired Kinsler and Andrus.

Again, the Cardinals answered in the bottom of the inning.

Berkman hit a hard grounder to Young at first base, who dived but couldn’t field it cleanly. He threw to Lewis covering the bag, but first base umpire Jerry Layne called Berkman safe. Young was charged with an error, but replays showed that Lewis missed the side of the bag with his foot.

Holliday then walked, and made a hard, aggressive slide into Andrus to break up a double-play chance when Freese grounded into a force out.

The Cardinals then tied it when Yadier Molina’s grounder to third ate up Beltre and prevented him from turning an inning-ending double play as Berkman scored from third.

In the fifth, the Rangers went back ahead.

Another Cardinals error, their third, started the rally. This time, third baseman Freese was floating from foul to fair territory on a high popup by Hamilton, but the ball popped out of his glove on the one-handed attempt and Hamilton was safe at first.

Hamilton then scored, hernia and all, on a double to left-center by Young.

The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs, leaving manager Ron Washington with a tough decision: let Lewis hit with a 4-3 lead or use a pinch hitter to try to break the game open? Lewis batted and struck out to end the inning.

Lewis retired the Cardinals in order in the fifth and struck out Pujols to open the sixth, but things got hairy again.

Berkman reached on an infield hit to third that Beltre fielded but decided to not attempt a throw. Holliday hit a roller to Young at first base, but he muffed the transfer while looking to get the lead runner at second. When Young recovered, it was too late to beat Holliday to first base.

After Freese walked to load the bases, Lewis was lifted for hard-throwing righty Alexi Ogando with Molina due up.

Ogando did the last thing he wanted to do - walk Molina. He fell behind, 3 and 0, then threw a strike, and missed high with Ball Four to score Berkman with the tying run.

But the Rangers caught a break.

Napoli snapped a throw to third base from his knees after a strike call on Nick Punto and picked off Holliday. Replays showed Holliday appeared to dive back to the bag before Beltre’s tag.

After the nervous Ogando walked Punto to reload the bases (following a wild pitch that advanced the runners), Washington went to Holland, who got out of the inning by retiring Jay on a tapper back to the mound.

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