Commentary

Game 6 delivers a true fall classic

Cardinals' unbelievable 11th-inning victory turns Series into one for the ages

Updated: October 28, 2011, 10:56 AM ET
By Gene Wojciechowski | ESPN.com

ST. LOUIS -- This is what baseball history sounds like:

"This is the best game I've ever been a part of, ever seen,'' St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Skip Schumaker said as Thursday night turned to the wee hours of Friday morning. "I've got to think it's gotta be the best game in World Series history, in my opinion. I know I'm only 30 years … but this has got to go down in history.''

[+] EnlargeDavid Freese
AP Photo/Jeff RobersonDavid Freese drove in the Cardinals' final three runs with his walk-off homer and a two-run triple in the ninth.

And this: "I've never seen a baseball game like that before,'' shortstop Daniel Descalso said. "That's got to be the greatest game I've been a part of, seen, heard about. That's got to be one for the record books.''

And this: "We won!'' Cardinals reliever Octavio Dotel yelled as he happily stomped toward his locker. "We f---ing won! It's over! It doesn't matter!''

This is what baseball history looks like:

A Busch Stadium scoreboard that read -- and I still can't quite believe it -- Cardinals 10, Texas Rangers 9.

In 11 wonderfully bizarre, deliciously dramatic innings.

Over a span of 4 hours, 33 minutes.

With five ties and six lead changes, the final one coming on St. Louis native David Freese's no-out, 3-2-count bomb that flew over the center-field wall and plopped, exhausted, onto the batter's eye grass.

A Cardinals fan waved a sign in the stands.

Deep In The Heartbreak of Texas

On the bottom floor of the stadium, Rangers team president Nolan Ryan walked down the corridor and past the closed doors of the Cardinals' clubhouse, where you could hear the faint thumping of music and the occasional scream of happiness. Ryan, whose dark scowl matched the color of his black overcoat, didn't break stride.

What began as a disjointed, error-filled game, ended as something historic. You knew this by the look on the Cardinals' -- and the Rangers' -- faces.

Baseball players are trained, almost conditioned to always look ahead. The next pitch. The next at-bat. The next inning. The next game.

And it's true. All the Cardinals did was extend this World Series to a seventh and final game. They didn't win a championship Thursday night. Instead, they lived to play again Friday.

But the Cardinals couldn't help themselves. As hard as they tried to look forward, they kept peeling back to the bottom of the ninth, when they scored two runs to tie the game. And two more runs to tie it in the bottom of the 10th. And one, oh-my-God run in the bottom of the 11th to win it.

"That was amazing,'' said reliever Jason Motte, one of the combined 15 pitchers used in the game. "We were down, come back. Down, come back. Back and forth. We haven't given up all year. This is what we do.''

They did it late in the season, overcoming a 10½-game deficit to squeeze and squirm their way into the playoffs on the final day. And they did it in the late-October chill, squeezing and squirming their way into a seventh and deciding World Series game.

"Pretty neat, isn't it?'' said Chris Carpenter, presumably the Game 7 starter for the Cardinals. "It all comes down to one game. It's amazing it all comes down to one game.''

It's also amazing that I saw Cardinals fans bolting up the stairs and out of the stadium when the Rangers took a 7-4 lead into the top of the eighth inning. Hadn't they learned anything from the regular season?

The way that we fight, I think that will show you how special this club is.

-- Albert Pujols

"The way that we fight, I think that will show you how special this club is,'' said Albert Pujols, who remains a Cardinal for at least one more day.

It was Pujols whose one-out double in the bottom of the ninth began the first of three late St. Louis rallies. And it was Pujols who pointed two hands at Freese after the young third baseman tripled to right to tie the game, 7-7, three batters later.

In the 10th, with Texas leading, 9-8, and first base open, Texas manager Ron Washington intentionally walked Pujols -- for the fifth time during this Series. Pujols dropped his bat and as he jogged toward first, he looked at the next batter, Lance Berkman, and clapped his hands.

Berkman singled to center to drive in Jon Jay to tie the game.

And in the 11th, Pujols was part of the welcoming committee that greeted Freese after the game-winning dinger.

Asked if the victory had any extra meaning, Pujols shrugged.

"Not really,'' he said. "Because we've been in this situation when we were down. A game is a game.''

Pujols is nuts. This wasn't just a game. It was more than that. It was something you'll tell your kids about. It was something Pujols will tell his kids about.

The Cardinals were down to their final strike twice. Twice.

They won despite committing three errors. Despite leaving 11 men on base. Despite going 3-of-12 with runners in scoring position.

But somehow they regrouped when it mattered most. It helped, a lot, that the Rangers made two errors of their own, left 12 men on base and went 4-of-15 with runners in scoring position. But Washington said it best:

"You have to tip your hat to the Cardinals, the way they fought tonight and took the game from us.''

They did, didn't they? The Cardinals pried Game 6 out of the Rangers' hands.

"We feel like we're playing with house money,'' Cardinals outfielder Allen Craig said.

So for the first time since 2002 and only the fifth time since 1988, a World Series will reach a Game 7. No matter how it shakes out, this Series has lived up to its name.

A fall classic.

Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at gene.wojciechowski@espn.com. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.

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Gene Wojciechowski | email

Columnist / College Football reporter