It was St Louis native David Freese who delivered the dramatics for the Cardinals Thursday night, coming up big twice with the game and the season on the line.
Despite being a strike away from ending the season, his two-run triple tied the game in the ninth inning, pushing Game 6 to extra innings. In the 11th inning, he delivered again, crushing a walk-off home run to center and ending the game to cap off one of the most exciting games any of us have ever witnessed.
While Mr. Freese stayed cool under the pressure of big moments, it was Matt Holliday who cracked under the pressure. With Nelson Cruz at the plate in the top of the fourth, Holliday slowed up on a routine fly ball and then dropped it when finally deciding to catch it.
The error was one of five combined in the game and led to one of the three unearned runs in the game.
Holliday’s gaffes continued on the base paths. After his routine double-play ball was thrown away for an error by Michael Young, he came around to third base representing the go-ahead run with just one out. A quick throw by Mike Napoli caught him napping and snuffed out a rally for the Cardinals with a quick throw to third. Even with a wild pitch and a walk to follow, the Cards didn’t score any more in the inning.
Getting picked off third base is horrible; there was simply nowhere for Holliday to go. He would be forced out at home on an infield ground ball, he would have to tag up on a fly ball, and he probably wouldn’t be sent on a wild pitch. That’s quoting my little league baseball manager who taught us that at age 10.
Making matters worse for Holliday, he left the game after the play, citing a bruised pinky. It’s not normally wise to question a player’s heart on leaving key games with possible injuries, so we’ll sum up his night:
Dropped a routine fly ball, reached on a double play error, picked off on third, and bruised his pinky—well worth the $17 million he’s making this season.
This just goes to show how exciting that game really was. Instead of the five errors, the three unearned runs, the five pitch bases loaded walk to tie the game, or American League pitchers failing to drop down a successful sacrifice bunt, the story is the excitement.
Five times the Cardinals battled back to tie the game, and they scored six of their 10 runs from the eighth inning onwards. Emotion from tying the game in the ninth was drained by Josh Hamilton’s two-run home run in the 10th, but St. Louis battled back and tied it again. Every time you counted out the Cardinals, they managed one more pitch to stay alive.
Tony La Russa was also able to shrug off any criticisms of the bullpen gaffe from Game 5 and called a brilliant wheel play early on. With starting pitcher Jamie Garcia at the plate in the top of the second inning, he set up his defense with a do-or-die, all-in scenario, producing a routine double play off the bunted ball and thereby limiting the damage from the subsequent ground rule double.
That play and another eight stranded base runners by the Rangers early on snuffed out the blowout and kept the Cardinals within striking distance.
It was a night built by errors and crazy baseball, but it was a night won over by heroics and excitement. Anybody who witnessed the game Thursday night is already rearranging their schedules so they can tune in for Game 7 Friday night.
Even with a story like local prodigy David Freese twice being the big hero for the Cardinals, this series is still far from finished. Game 7 will undoubtedly produce much more excitement and be a fitting closure to one of the most exciting playoff seasons any of us have ever witnessed.
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