Baseball 2011, what a long, strange trip it has been.
Even the World Series has had more odd turns than a spy drama. What could possibly eclipse a surreal, technologically deficient Game 5? How about a Game 6 with five errors, five lead changes, eleven innings, two moments where a team was one strike away from winning and one walk-off home run?
Game 6 of the 2011 World Series was, as Roger Angell would say, a "searching, turned-about, lucky, marvelous game." Texas comes right out of the gate to score in the top of the first inning and it looks like they are going to seize their destiny, but in the bottom of the second Lance Berkman hits a two-run homer into left center field. Undaunted, Texas comes right back in the top of the second with an RBI double by Ian Kinsler. That was just the start.
Then things got strange.
In the bottom of the fourth the cursed Matt Holliday loafs on a Nelson Cruz fly ball in left field, thinking perhaps shortstop Rafael Furcal might reach it. A last-second stab results in the ball hitting harmlessly off the top of his glove and falling in. The cruel game took over, as Mike Napoli of course capitalizes, singling to right and scoring Cruz. Texas now leads 3-2.
St. Louis answers right back in the bottom of the fourth; when first baseman Michael Young makes an error, Lance Berkman is safe. Holliday walks. David Freese grounds into a fielder's choice, and Berkman goes to third. Yadier Molina grounds out to third, and Berkman scores.
We're all tied 3-3.
Texas answers when Cardinal third baseman Freese drops a pop-up at third base, allowing Josh Hamilton to reach first. Young then laces a double into the right center field gap. Texas leads 4-3.
In the bottom of the sixth, St. Louis answers.
With Berkman at first and one out, Young commits another error, this time on a sure double-play ball by Holliday. Instead everyone is safe. Freese walks. With the bases loaded, Alexi Ogando comes in to pitch and walks Molina to force in a run.
In what could easily be the moment the Cardinals lost the series, Holliday is picked off third on a crazy snap throw by Napoli. Holliday dives awkwardly back to third, falling on his hand and is tagged out. Ogando throws a wild pitch—but now no one is on third to score. Nick Punto walks. Derrek Holland comes in to get the last out. St. Louis only gets one run, and we're tied 4-4. Holliday leaves the game with a bruised hand.
Texas comes out in the top of the seventh with back-to-back home runs by Adrian Beltre and Cruz. Napoli strikes out. David Murphy singles. Murphy is thrown out at second on a failed bunt by Holland. A wild pitch allows Holland to reach second, and he scores on Kinsler's single. Texas now leads 7-4.
The Cardinals notch another run with Allen Craig's solo home run in the bottom of the seventh. They load the bases but can't capitalize further. Texas still leads 7-5.
Already a wild game, what happens next makes it a classic.
Neftali Feliz is on to close it all out for Texas in the bottom of the ninth. Texas is three outs away from their first championship, 50 years in the making. With one out Pujols singles. Berkman, the tying run at the plate, walks. Craig comes up. You can sense something is going to happen. He works a 2-0 count, a hitter's count. Feliz has to throw a fastball here. It's a high strike. Then Craig laces an off-speed pitch foul. Everyone is on their feet. He fouls the next pitch back. And then Feliz throws a mistake, a backdoor slider, that Craig watches for strike three.
It seems like it will happen for Texas now. The Rangers are now one out away. Freese, the NLCS MVP, come up. Feliz drops a slider low and away for ball one, and then a fastball inside for strike one. Freese swings through strike two. One strike away and then, improbably, Freese drives a long one to right field, way back to the fence. Cruz is slowly drifting back as if he has it, but it goes over his glove and off the wall for a two-run triple and this game is tied 7-7!
Texas comes right back with single by Elvis Andrus and then a two-run home run in the top of the 10th by Josh Hamilton. Texas leads 9-7. That has to be it right? The knockout blow. Texas will not be denied.
St. Louis can't possibly have anything more.
But wait, the Cardinals bring Daniel Descalso to the plate. He singles. Jon Jay hits a soft single to left. Kyle Lohse sacrifices them to second and third. Ryan Theriot grounds out and a run scores. Two outs now and Pujols is up. The Rangers of course have to walk him and they do. Berkman comes up and the count goes down to the last strike again. But Berkman hits a line drive into center field and the Cardinals score two.
The game is tied 9-9!
Texas goes quietly in the top of the 11th. In the bottom of the 11th David Freese comes up. And like something out of a movie script the St. Louis native seizes the moment once and for all. He ties into a perfect pitch. The moment he hits it, that undeniable sound, you know. It sails up into the night and comes to rest 420 feet away in center. On television Joe Buck utters his father's famous line from Game 6 of the 1991 World Series: and we'll see you tomorrow night. Fans are pouring onto the grass backdrop to get the ball. The stadium has erupted. The Cardinals have won Game 6 by a final of 10-9.
Resilient all year, St. Louis took every punch the Rangers had and won one of the greatest Game 6s in baseball history. In doing so they push baseball to the final game of the season. There will be a Game 7, in what has already been one of the greatest World Series of all time.
(Quote from Roger Angell, "The Interior Stadium," The New Yorker, Feb. 20, 1971.)