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Cardinals capture World Series the Hard Way

St. Louis used home-field advantage to rally past Texas and clinch the World Series in seven games, completing one of the most improbable championship runs in baseball history.

The Cardinals captured their 11th World Series title with a 6-2 victory over the Rangers on Friday to take the series four games to three.

And they did it one day after an epic 10-9 11th-inning victory over Texas in game six behind a walk-off home run from World Series MVP and hometown hero David Freese.

“This is what we play for, to be world champions,” said Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols. “This year through the injuries we had, to be able to accomplish this makes it even sweeter. It is just an unbelievable feeling.”

Baseball experts are calling game six, with its clutch home runs, multiple lead changes and dramatic extra-inning finish, one of the greatest World Series games ever played.

Twice late in game six the Cardinals had two outs against them and were down to their last strike and both times they battled back, setting the stage for Freese to blast his walk-off homer over the wall in deep centre field.

The Cardinals knew they had to forget about game six the moment they arrived at the ballpark Friday morning to get ready for game seven.

“We told ourselves this morning that we were going to put game six in a box and put it away,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

“Because you just can’t come today feeling great vibes about last night. Texas is too tough and we’ve got to make sure we are ready to compete. Now that we’ve won it all it makes yesterday greater.”

The Cardinals now have 11 World Series titles, second-most behind the storied New York Yankees’ 27 titles.

Many baseball experts wrote the Cardinals off in February when their 20-game winning pitcher Adam Wainwright underwent reconstructive elbow surgery. They also looked out of it on August 25 when they trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10 1/2 games for the National League wild card.

In the championship series, St. Louis had to win both final games at home after dropping two of three games in Dallas and falling behind 3-2 in the series.

“I can’t believe we did this,” said Freese, who was raised in the St. Louis area and grew up a Cardinals fan. “I keep thinking about mid-August and the mood then of this team, the disappointment that was going down then.

“This team deserves this. This organization is top notch. I am so glad to be part of this.”

The Cardinals picked up Friday right where they left off the day before, following up their epic game six victory with a strong start to game seven.

They scored two runs in the bottom of the first inning thanks to Freese’s double off Rangers starter Matt Harrison. Freese’s hit tied the game 2-2 after the Rangers had scored twice in their half of the first.

“I don’t have a word yet to describe David Freese,” said Pujols. “When we first got him I liked him right away.”

Freese said: “I am trying to soak in this whole post-season because you never know if it is your last attempt at a title. It is going to take me a little bit to realize what we accomplished.”

St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter didn’t have great command of his pitches in the first inning but he settled in nicely later on and finished with five strikeouts over six innings to earn the victory.

“Coming out for the second inning I didn’t know how long they were going to let me go,” said Carpenter, who recorded his ninth career post-season win. “I was just trying to do everything I can to get one out at a time.”

Catcher Yadier Molina batted two-for-three and drove in two runs and Rafael Furcal went two-for-three at the plate with one RBI in game seven.

The Cardinals are just the fifth wild card team to win the World Series and the first since the Boston Red Sox did it seven years ago.

The Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers in five games to win the 2006 World Series. Pujols was also a member of that St. Louis team.

“To compare it to 2006 it is pretty much the same feeling,” Pujols said. “It doesn’t matter the records or the money you make. What matters is to raise that trophy and to be able to bring a smile to the city of St. Louis.”

Copyright © 2011 AFP

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