What was observed tonight in Game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Texas Rangers was nothing short of epic! There is no doubt that 100 years from now, we will remember this game as one of the greatest World Series games of all time.
What I take away most from the game is not just the number of lead changes and ties between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals, but rather the number of blown saves committed by the Texas Rangers bullpen to close out a World Series championship!
Going into the bottom of the ninth inning, the Texas Rangers clung to a 7-5 lead over the St. Louis Cardinals. St. Louis fans were biting their nails as their beloved Cardinals were three outs away from a Texas Rangers World Series title!
With one out and runners on first and second, St. Louis hitter Allen Craig struck out. Three strikes remained in St. Louis’ magical season. Then stepping to the plate was third baseman David Freese, a player who did not even collect 100 hits in the regular season.
Neftali Feliz delivers three pitches to Freese…two of them are strikes. One strike away!!! One strike away!!! One strike away!!! And then…the pitch…CRACK! Opposite-field triple to right field…two runs score! And the game is tied!
Wow! And if that was not epic enough…the game proceeded into a tenth inning where Texas’ Josh Hamilton cracked a two-run home run in the top-half of the inning to put the Rangers ahead of the Cardinals by two runs once again…9-7!
But the baseball gods were not done. This was not a game that was destined for a great ending. It was destined for a supernatural ending!!! In the bottom-half of the tenth inning, the Rangers once more needed just three outs to finish off the Cardinals and claim their championship.
Two straight Cardinal hitters led off with singles. And then, Tony La Russa did something that would cause Billy Beane and Moneyball advocates to groan…he ordered a sacrifice bunt! Kyle Lohse successfully laid one down, advancing the runners to scoring position with less than two outs. An RBI groundout pushed the game to a 9-8 score, but the Cardinals were still one out from defeat.
However, a two-out base hit by Lance Berkman evened the score for the second straight inning. Once more, the Texas bullpen blew a two-run save opportunity where all they needed was just three outs to clinch the championship.
The game moved into the 11th inning. And as fate would have it, the man who started this epic ending, David Freese, led off for the Cardinals in the bottom-half of the inning.
Working the count full, Freese slammed a Mark Lowe fastball over the center-field fence! Game over! Cardinals 10, Rangers 9! There will be a World Series Game 7 for the first time since 2002!
There are so many moments in World Series past that resemble this great moment. Obviously, the Carlton Fisk moment in the 1975 World Series where the Boston catcher smacked a 12th inning home run off the foul pole in left field at Fenway Park, which brought the series to a seventh game, comes to mind right away.
The Fisk blast remains one of the most epic home runs in the history of Major League Baseball, memorialized for the gestures of the Red Sox catcher waving the ball fair as it traveled its epic flight down the line that glorious night!
Then, you have the famous, or infamous depending on your perspective, collapse of the 1986 Boston Red Sox against the New York Mets. Ahead 5-3 in Game 6 going into the bottom of the 11th inning, Boston was three outs away from clinching their first World Series title since 1918. The first two Mets hitters were retired, placing the Mets one out away from defeat. What happened next?
To spare Boston fans the misery of reliving the bad memory, here is a synopsis: three consecutive singles, a passed ball, and an error by first baseman Bill Buckner enabled the Mets to score three unanswered runs to win the game 6-5.
And how about the last World Series that went seven games? The 2002 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Anaheim Angels? In Game 6, the Giants were ahead 5-0 going into the seventh inning.
So confident was Giants manager Dusty Baker that his team was on the verge of a championship in just nine outs that he awarded the game ball to his starting pitcher Russ Ortiz, whom he had just pulled from the game.
What happened next? The Angels scored six unanswered runs in the late innings and won the game to force a Game 7.
What will the fate of this Series be in Game 7? Despite that great moment in 1975 for the Red Sox, Boston still lost Game 7 and the championship to the Cincinnati Reds.
That was a thud given how the team pulled off one of the most exciting victories the evening before. That should give the 2011 Cardinals some pause. After all, it is not over until you win that last game!
But then again, the 2011 Rangers need some pause, too. Meltdowns and collapses like what happened to the 1986 Red Sox and the 2002 Giants did not work out for them in the final game. Both of those clubs lost the deciding games of those series.
Through the wisdom of Shakespeare, the character Macbeth reminded audiences of tales filled with "sound and fury signifying nothing."
Will this Game 6 be such a tale? Carlton Fisk's blast provided Boston fans plenty of sound and fury...but signified nothing other than a great moment for that club. Or will this game be the harbinger of a magnificent title for a storied baseball club? Only Game 7 will determine that!
But regardless of historical precedent, one thing is irrefutably clear: YOU CANNOT SCRIPT OCTOBER! To quote Billy Beane, as played by Brad Pitt, from the movie Moneyball: "It's hard not to be romantic about baseball."