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Game 7: Comeback complete as Cardinals win crown

The World Series trophy is seen before Game 6 of baseball's World Series, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals face the Texas Rangers in Game 7 on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. The World Series trophy is seen before Game 6 of baseball's World Series, Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. The St. Louis Cardinals face the Texas Rangers in Game 7 on Friday, Oct. 28, 2011. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)
By Mike Fitzpatrick
AP Sports Writer / October 28, 2011

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The comeback is complete, and the Cardinals are the champs! St. Louis beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 to win its second World Series title in six years.

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Lance Lynn pitches a perfect eighth, striking out Adrian Beltre to end the inning.

It's been a wild ride of a season for the Cardinals, who were 10 1/2 games out in the wild-card race on Aug. 25.

And don't forget, this team lost a legitimate ace in spring training when Adam Wainwright had major elbow surgery. Wainwright, who won 39 games the past two years and had a pair of top-3 finishes in Cy Young Award balloting, has missed the entire season.

Nelson Cruz, Mike Napoli and David Murphy due up in the ninth for Texas against closer Jason Motte.

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Murphy's leadoff double chased Chris Carpenter in the seventh. Strong effort on three days' rest by the Cardinals' ace.

Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel got out of the inning with St. Louis' three-run lead intact. Yadier Molina added an RBI single in the bottom of the seventh to make it 6-2.

After scoring twice in the first inning, the Rangers haven't been able to push anyone else across.

Texas pitchers have issued 41 walks in the World Series, breaking the previous record of 40 set by the 1997 Florida Marlins.

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A close call goes to the Cardinals in the fifth inning.

With first base open, Texas intentionally walked David Freese to load the bases with two outs. Scott Feldman fell behind 3-1 on Molina, then threw a strike. The full-count pitch also looked like a strike, right on the outside corner, but this time Feldman didn't get the call from plate umpire Jerry Layne.

Ball four, 4-2 Cardinals.

Hard to argue with walking Freese in that spot, even though Molina has a clutch pedigree. Freese has just been on such a tear lately, especially in big situations. It was the first time he was intentionally walked all year.

C.J. Wilson came on and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, forcing in another run. Skip Schumaker strikes out to end the inning.

St. Louis leads 5-2.

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Allen Craig makes a leaping catch at the left-field fence in the sixth, probably taking a home run away from Cruz. Carpenter works a 1-2-3 sixth.

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Big sequence in the top of the fifth inning.

Ian Kinsler hit a leadoff single and was sacrificed to second by Elvis Andrus. Carpenter fell behind 3-1 on Josh Hamilton -- the only strike may have been a generous call. Hamilton then swung at an inside pitch that might have been ball four and lofted a foul popup wide of third. Freese caught it at the dugout railing for the second out.

Freese had a similar chance Thursday night but was unable to make the play.

Michael Young struck out to end the inning.

Feldman has replaced Texas starter Matt Harrison in the bottom of the fifth. The Cardinals still lead 3-2.

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Harrison worked a scoreless fourth. He pounded Skip Schumaker in on the hands, shattering his bat on a groundout, and retired Carpenter on an easy fly with runners at second and third to end the inning.

Furcal, dropped from his leadoff spot to seventh in the lineup, is 2 for 2 with a pair of singles.

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Craig hits his third home run of the World Series to give St. Louis a 3-2 lead after three innings.

Craig's opposite-field fly to right appeared to carry and carry before landing in the Cardinals' bullpen as St. Louis relievers danced with glee.

Wilson is warming up again for Texas, with Harrison due up third in the fourth inning.

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With runners at the corners in the second, Carpenter retired Andrus on a comebacker to end the inning.

Carpenter is the first pitcher to make three starts in one World Series since Curt Schilling for Arizona in 2001. Carpenter, who beat Texas 3-2 in Game 1 and took a no-decision in Game 5, is 6-0 at home in his postseason career. His eight career postseason wins tie him with Yankees closer Mariano Rivera for most among active pitchers.

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Harrison looked more comfortable in the second. He was helped out when Young made a nice stretch at first to complete a double play.

Score tied at 2 in the bottom of the third inning.

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Back and forth again.

Texas scored twice in the top of the first inning, only to have the Cardinals tie it right away on Freese's two-run double to left-center in the bottom half.

What a run for Freese! Two-run triple Thursday night to tie it with two outs in the ninth inning, followed by his homer in the 11th to win it. All after the hometown kid (Freese grew up in a St. Louis suburb) was MVP of the NL championship series.

Molina flied out to the center field fence to end the inning, with Hamilton making a nice catch to keep it tied at 2.

Hamilton and Young had RBI doubles in the first off Carpenter.

Harrison got into trouble with consecutive two-out walks to Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman. Wilson began warming in the bullpen.

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It didn't take long for the Rangers to make a mistake. Kinsler opened the game with a single, then was promptly picked off first base by Molina, the Cardinals' strong-armed catcher.

Not sure if Kinsler was trying to bluff a stolen base attempt and simply slipped, or if he was really going and felt as though he didn't get a good jump. Either way, he stopped and got caught in between and was picked off pretty easily.

Pained look on manager Ron Washington's face.

But that changed quickly. Andrus walked and Washington was undeterred, putting Andrus in motion on a hit-and-run. Hamilton ripped an RBI double past Pujols at first base and Young fisted a run-scoring double inside the right field line to make it 2-0 Texas.

That was all Carpenter allowed. He struck out Adrian Beltre and retired Cruz on a groundout.

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Game 7 of the World Series. The most exciting night in baseball.

Except for last night, that is. What could possibly top that?

Following one of the most thrilling finishes in postseason history, the Rangers and Cardinals are back at it tonight, less than 20 hours after Freese's 11th-inning homer for St. Louis pushed the Series to the limit.

Truly, a Fall Classic.

Winner takes all tonight. First pitch is 8:05 p.m. EDT at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals seem to have everything on their side -- momentum, history and their No. 1 pitcher on the mound. After much debate about what manager Tony La Russa would do, Carpenter is set to start on three days' rest for the second time in his career.

The first time was Game 2 of the NL division series in Philadelphia, and that one didn't go very well. But the 36-year-old right-hander says he learned a few things about how to handle pitching on short rest.

The home team has won eight straight Game 7s in the World Series, a streak started by the Cardinals in 1982 against Milwaukee. This is the first time the Series has gone the distance since 2002, when the Angels beat San Francisco.

Harrison gets the ball for Texas. Let down by his defense, he was pulled in the fourth inning of a Game 3 defeat.

Twice, the Rangers were one strike away from their first World Series championship Thursday night. They couldn't nail it down.

Now, after such a painful defeat, can they possibly recover? The last team to win Game 7 of the World Series on the road was the Pittsburgh Pirates at Baltimore in 1979.

Texas hasn't lost consecutive games since Aug. 23-25.

Almost lost in all the back-and-forth excitement Thursday night were injuries to several key players. Cruz strained his right groin and Napoli twisted his left ankle, but both Rangers sluggers are in the Game 7 lineup.

Matt Holliday, however, was removed from the St. Louis roster with a bruised right wrist. Craig starts in left field in place of Holliday.

La Russa also dropped a slumping Furcal to seventh in the lineup and Schumaker to eighth. Second baseman Ryan Theriot is at the top of the order and Craig bats second in front of Pujols.

Holliday's absence might not be such a terrible thing for the Cardinals at this stage.

Sure, it shortens their lineup. He's a dangerous hitter and a legitimate All-Star. But he really struggled with his swing during the World Series (.158) and he hurt the Cardinals with his glove and on the bases in Game 6, too.

With Holliday out, Freese moves up to fifth in the lineup, perhaps providing better protection for Pujols and Berkman. Freese has been a clutch hitter throughout the postseason, never more so than Thursday night.

Speedy outfielder Adron Chambers, a rookie, replaced Holliday on the active roster. Fox sideline reporter Ken Rosenthal says Chambers was grabbing a bite to eat with his girlfriend at a TGI Friday's when he saw the scroll on television saying he'd been added to the roster for Game 7. That's how he found out.

Clear skies at Busch Stadium. The temperature is 51 degrees, with a little light wind.

All set to play ball.

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