Game Six

Game Six. A heretofore unimpressive description, "Game Six" now has a whole new meaning, especially if you cheer for the St. Louis Cardinals. Postponed a day by rain, this game happened on a brisk Thursday night. As they watched the usual pre-game festivities, no person anywhere in the world could have imagined, predicted, expected what would unfold over the next 4 hours and 33 minutes.

Watching the scoreboard over the first six innings was like a tennis match - back and forth and back and forth and back and forth. Texas is, now St. Louis Texas...St. Louis...Texas...St. Louis...TEXAS!

Add to that a humorless comedy of errors (five between the two teams, including two dropped routine fly balls by Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday and David Freese) and you have a sloppy, wholly unspectacular game. It certainly was uninspiring for Cardinals fans, who saw their team enter the bottom of the 9th inning down 7-5. In what many saw as his potential last at-bat in a Cardinals uniform, Pujols created a spark with a double, then Lance Berkman walked to put the tying run on base. But Freese quickly fell behind in the count, putting the Cardinals/Rangers one strike away from losing/winning the World Series.

The Rangers' closer, Neftali Feliz, went to his fastball. He's probably regretting that. Texas right fielder Nelson Cruz, also a possible series MVP, was playing in just a tad. He's definitely regretting that. Because David Freese put one foot in the Cardinals history books by lacing a line drive over the outstretched glove of Cruz, sending Pujols and Berkman home and Game Six into extra innings.

Every party has a buzz kill, though, and for Cardinals fans, that fun sponge was Texas center fielder Josh Hamilton. The AL MVP from 2010 had had an unimpressive series to this point, but one swing of the bat in the top of the tenth inning changed all that: a two-run dinger to give Texas another two-run lead. Thoughts of "there's always next year" began creeping into the fringes of Cardinals fans' minds.

But what's this? In the bottom of the tenth inning, pinch hitter Daniel Descalso singles. Jon Jay singles. Ryan Theriot singles, and Descalso scores. 9-8 Rangers. Berkman, the Big Puma, steps up to the plate. There's a runner on third thanks to a sacrifice bunt from Kyle Lohse, the latest in a dizzying system of switches and substitutions: Lohse, a pitcher, was pinch-hitting for Edwin Jackson, another pitcher, who was slated to pinch hit for Motte, another pitcher. Weird, no?

But again, there are two outs, and alas, Berkman finds himself in the hole. Yet again, the Rangers are a strike - one measly, little, tiny strike - from the proverbial Hall of Champions. Some Cardinals fans allow their hopes to rise. Others convince themselves that lightning surely can not strike twice.

Or can it?

It does. Berkman plops a single into the no-mans-land between the infielders and outfielders. Jay scores. It's 9-9. For the second time in less than an hour, the Rangers had the title in their hands, only to watch it slip through their clutched fingers like so much sand. Twice now the champagne had bubbled so close to the top of the bottle, only to be tempered back down by the strange twists of the baseball gods, who on this night had seemed to come bedecked in Ranger blue, only to tear open their shirt like Superman to reveal a red bird underneath.

But the score was only tied. 9-9. There's still at least one inning to go. Maybe the magic would come back thrice.

It didn't. Texas failed to score, and in the bottom of the eleventh inning, David Freese (I told you his name would be important) kicked the Cardinals history book wide open with a home run to dead center field. As it landed in a wide patch of green grass, where it would be immediately scooped up by a magic moment-hungry fan, Freese circled the bases, one finger raised high in a triumphant salute to pure sports joy. His teammates, overcome with jubilation and giddy glee, waited to mob him like never before. Freese spiked his helmet between his legs and jumped into the fray. As his teammates proceeded to shred his jersey in unbridled excitement, Freese soaked in the moment that not only had he and his team parried the executioner's sword twice, but they had managed a riposte that would guarantee the fight would go on another day.

Faces inside and outside Busch Stadium split wide into Chesiresque grins of childish delight. Sports pundits from St. Louis to Solla Sollew shook their heads in unprecedented disbelief, both confused and overjoyed at how what they just saw happened. No one seemed to notice or even care that there was still a Game 7 to play.

On this night, there was only the pure joy of victory.


genevieve said…
This post gave me the chills all over again. What a year!!!

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