Playoff Series: Game 6 of 6

St. Louis won 4-2

Game 1: Sunday, October 9
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Game 2: Monday, October 10
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Game 3: Wednesday, October 12
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Game 4: Thursday, October 13
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Game 5: Friday, October 14
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Game 6: Sunday, October 16
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    8:05 PM ET, October 16, 2011

    Miller Park, Milwaukee, Wisconsin 

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    STL 414020010 12 14 0
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    W: M. Rzepczynski (1-0)

    L: S. Marcum (0-2)

    Cardinals outslug Brewers to cruise into World Series

    Associated Press

    MILWAUKEE -- Left behind in the postseason race, the St. Louis Cardinals decided to focus on small goals in September. Now, the ultimate one is within reach.

    The Cardinals' wild ride is headed to the World Series.

    "It's kind of surreal that we're here," said third baseman David Freese, who took MVP honors in the series. "But this team deserves what we've been rewarded."

    Freese hit a three-run homer in the first inning and manager Tony La Russa again turned to his brilliant bullpen for seven sturdy innings as St. Louis captured its 18th pennant with a 12-6 victory over the Milwaukee Brewers on Sunday night.

    "For two weeks in August we started mugging games left and right and we had to say, hey, look, unless we go about this better, we're going to ruin everything we accomplished as far as respect," La Russa said. "And we started winning a little bit. And literally played every game like it was the last game of our life."

    Trailing by 10½ games in the wild-card race on Aug. 25, the Cardinals surged down the stretch and took advantage of a monumental collapse by Atlanta to win a playoff spot on the final night of the regular season.

    In a twist of fate, it was Philadelphia that helped them get in by completing a three-game sweep of the Braves.

    Once in the postseason, Albert Pujols and the Cardinals took out the heavily favored Phillies in the first round, then dispatched the division-rival Brewers on their own turf in Game 6 of the NL Championship Series.

    "I mean, you could have never known," Pujols said.

    Freese, often overlooked in a lineup anchored by All-Stars, batted .545 with three homers and nine RBIs in the series.

    Looking for its second title in six seasons, St. Louis opens the World Series at home Wednesday night with ace Chris Carpenter on the mound against the AL champion Texas Rangers.

    It's been such a frenetic run, it seems fitting that a squirrel has become the team's unofficial mascot.

    The rally squirrel started in the division series against Philadelphia when the furry rodent scampered across home plate during Game 4. Another squirrel was on the field before Game 5 when Carpenter shut out the Phillies.

    Reliever Octavio Dotel carries a small, stuffed squirrel with him after a Philadelphia fan tossed it to him in jest, a tangible sign of where the Cardinals have come from.

    "I lay in my bed thinking, 'Wow, we are in this position.' I cannot believe it personally. I can't believe where we are after the way we played the last month, and the way Atlanta played," Dotel said. "It's crazy to be where we are right now. I don't know how to explain that to you. The only thing I know is we're here and we're looking forward to keep winning games."

    Bolstered by a group of no-name relievers who keep answering La Russa's call, the Cardinals are back in the World Series for the first time since beating Detroit in 2006.

    "We had a lot of adversity, but we found a way," Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday said.

    It was a disappointing end to a scintillating season for Prince Fielder, Ryan Braun and the NL Central champion Brewers, who finished with a franchise-record 96 wins, six games ahead of St. Louis in the division.

    Baseball's best home team collapsed in the NLCS, though, losing twice at Miller Park in an error-filled flop. It was likely Fielder's final game with the Brewers, too. He can become a free agent after the season.

    "I had to clear the throat once, but it was all right. I love these guys," said Fielder, a first-round draft pick in 2002. "I've been playing with most of them since I was 18. So this organization has been great to me."

    Rafael Furcal and Pujols hit solo homers off Chris Narveson and St. Louis built a 9-4 lead by the time the bullpen took over for Edwin Jackson in the third inning.

    The group of Fernando Salas, Marc Rzepczynski, Dotel, Lance Lynn and Jason Motte allowed two runs the rest of the way. For the series, St. Louis relievers finished 3-0 with a 1.88 ERA over 28 2/3 innings.

    The most lasting image of this NLCS has been La Russa on the bullpen phone.

    "He's a genius, isn't he?" said Motte, the fifth closer this year for the Cardinals.

    St. Louis built an 11-5 lead before the biggest scare came when Pujols was shaken up after tagging out Braun in the fifth inning. The three-time MVP fell hard on his right forearm on a close play at first base.

    "I got spiked. I didn't feel too good but as long as I can walk I'm playing in that game," Pujols said. "It's the postseason. Nothing hurts. You don't think about it. You think about making a play. If you got hurt, hey at least you got hurt trying something hard."

    The Cardinals took control of this series beginning in Game 2 by jumping out to early leads and letting the bullpen lead the way.

    La Russa called on his relievers 28 times in the NLCS and Jackson's start was the shortest of the postseason for the rotation, which finished the NLCS with a 7.66 ERA. St. Louis became the first team to win a postseason series without a starter reaching the sixth inning, according to STATS LLC.

    Freese gave his teammates credit while accepting the MVP award.

    "I wish we could make eight or nine of these and give them to our bullpen. They're the reason why we won this series," he said.

    Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy all homered for the Brewers, who won a major league-best 57 home games at Miller Park this season and four straight in the postseason before losing Game 2 to the Cardinals.

    The Brewers' biggest hitters -- Braun, Fielder and Weeks - finished 1 for 12 in Game 6. Fielder, the All-Star game MVP and the reason St. Louis will start at home on Wednesday, received a standing ovation in his final at-bat in the eighth. He grounded out and slowly walked back to the dugout with his head down.

    "Obviously I envisioned us winning the World Series, but that didn't happen," Fielder said. "We had a great year as a team. Unfortunately we didn't get to where we wanted to go. But still some great moments and great memories in there. Like I said, this year has been awesome."

    It was the two ugly defensive performances that will likely linger for Milwaukee, which committed four errors in a 7-1 loss in Game 5 and added three more in Game 6.

    "You can't get away with mistakes to them and we made way too many mistakes," manager Ron Roenicke said.

    Struggling starter Shaun Marcum never really gave Milwaukee a chance and was hurt by defensive plays that weren't ruled errors.

    In the first, Jon Jay singled with one out and stole second when Weeks couldn't hold onto Lucroy's low throw. Marcum believed he had strike three on Pujols, who ended up walking.

    Lance Berkman singled for the second hit in 18 career at-bats against Marcum to drive in the first run, and center fielder Nyjer Morgan made an ill-advised throw to third that let Berkman reach second.

    Marcum saved a run by grabbing Holliday's dribbler and flipping it out of his glove to Lucroy to get Pujols at the plate, but Freese homered on the next pitch to make it 4-0 and extend his postseason hitting streak to 10 games.

    "We believe," Freese said. "I think that's what you've got to do in this game. We got a group of guys with some talent, desire, and just a ton of heart."

    Copyright by STATS LLC and The Associated Press


    Game Information

    StadiumMiller Park, Milwaukee, WI
    Attendance43,926 (104.8% full) - % is based on regular season capacity
    Game Time3:43
    UmpiresHome Plate - Mike Winters, First Base - Gary Darling, Second Base - Tim Timmons, Third Base - Sam Holbrook

    Research Notes

    The Brewers led the National League with 185 home runs this season while the Cardinals topped the league with a .273 batting average. This is the fifth League Championship Series in which the team with the league's most homers has faced the team with the league's highest batting average. But it's the first in which the batting average champion won. In each of the four previous series of that kind, the league leader in home runs advanced to the World Series: 1974 Dodgers (beat Pittsburgh), 1977 Dodgers (beat Philadelphia), 2009 Yankees (beat Los Angeles) and 2009 Phillies (beat Los Angeles).
    From Elias: The 2011 Cardinals: 2nd team to win a best-of-7 series by getting more outs from its relievers than its starters. The other is the 1979 Pirates (30 2/3 innings from starters, 31 1/3 innings from relievers in the World Series against the Orioles)
    David Freese: 4th third baseman to win LCS MVP honors, joining Graig Nettles (1981 Yankees), George Brett (1985 Royals) and Gary Gaetti (1987 Twins).
    David Freese: .545 BA, 3 HR, 9 RBI in NLCS. Only one other player has hit all 3 of those benchmarks in a postseason series: In 1928, Yankees first baseman Lou Gehrig hit .545 with 4 HR and 9 RBI against the Cardinals in the World Series.
    The Brewers entered the playoffs with the best home record in baseball. After winning their first four postseason games at Miller Park, they allowed 12 runs each in Games 2 and 6 of the NLCS. The pitching problems overshadowed the fact that the Brewers' offense was far better at home during the NLCS than the Division Series.
    Ryan Braun is now 2-11 in his career vs Octvio Dotel. All nine of the outs he has made have been strikeouts. The only pitcher he has more strikeouts against is Carlos Zambrano. He has faced Zambrano 47 times and struck out 14 times.
    From Elias: When Octavio Dotel replaced Marc Rzepczynski for the 7th inning, it was he 26th pitching change made by Tony LaRussa. That's the most in any NLCS series The previous record was set in 1996, when LaRussa and the Cardinals made 25 against the Braves.
    This is the 2nd game in LCS history in which each team's starting pitcher went 2 innings or fewer. The other was Game 3 of the 2004 ALCS in which the Yankees beat the Red Sox, 19-8. Starters Kevin Brown and Bronson Arroyo each went 2 innings.
    From Elias: Cardinals and Brewers had 5 HR in first 2 innings. This is the first postseason game in which 5 HR were hit in the first 2 innings. The previous record for most HR in first 2 innings was 4 in Game 5 of the 2009 NLCS between the Phillies and Dodgers.
    Shaun Marcum is the 6th starter to go 1 inning or less in an NLCS game in the wild card era. Five of the six games involved the Cardinals, either as the team that pulled the pitcher, or as the opponent.
    Corey Hart: 1st postseason leadoff HR in Brewers history.
    Lance Berkman: RBI hit in first inning. Berkman entered the at-bat 1-17 in his career vs Shaun Marcum, combining regular season and postseason. That's the 2nd-worst batting average of any hitter against Marcum (minimum 15 AB). David DeJesus is the only player worse- 0-16 (.000 BA). It's also Berkman's 2nd-worst batting average against any pitcher. He's 0-16 (.000 BA) vs Francisco Cordero
    Lance Berkman: 1-17 career vs Shaun Marcum combining regular season and postseason (.059 BA). That's the 2nd-worst batting average of any hitter against Marcum(minimum 15 AB). David DeJesus is the only player worse- 0-16 (.000 BA). It's also Berkman's 2nd-worst batting average against any pitcher. He's 0-16 (.000 BA) vs Francisco Cordero.

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