2011 World Series
The 2011 World Series was the 107th edition of Major League Baseball's championship series. The best-of-seven playoff was between the Texas Rangers, champions of the American League, and the St. Louis Cardinals, champions of the National League. The Series began on October 19, earlier than the previous season, so that no games would be played in November. Home-field advantage for the series was awarded to the Cardinals as a result of the National League winning the 2011 All-Star Game, 5–1 on July 12, 2011.
After losing their first-ever World Series to the Giants in 2010, the Rangers were back for their second try in a row, while the Cardinals were competing in their third World Series in eight years, their 18th in franchise history. Led by Tony La Russa in his 33rd – and final – year as an MLB manager, the Redbirds surprised almost everyone (except La Russa) by even reaching the postseason. On August 25, they trailed the Atlanta Braves in the NL Wild Card standings by 10½ games. Only when they scorched the Houston Astros, 8-0, in the last game of the regular season, did the Cinderella Cardinals, with just 90 wins, try on the NLDS glass slipper. They walked over the seemingly indomitable Phillies, and then knocked back the Brewers for the NL Championship Series.
The first inning of Game 1 proved to be the most dramatic, if not the most dangerous, moment of the opener. When the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols was pulled off first base snagging a grounder, his soft throw to pitcher Chris Carpenter, who was covering the bag, forced him to dive and slide head first into it for the out, as Elvis Andrus’ spikes barely missed Carpenter’s pitching hand. The scoring didn’t start until the bottom of the 4th when Lance Berkman singled in two runs for the Cards off C.J. Wilson. Mike Napoli struck back for Texas in the 5th with a two-run homer that tied it, 2-2. Allen Craig pinch-hit for Carpenter in the 6th and singled off reliever Alexi Ogando for the go-ahead run. Then five Redbird relievers held the Rangers scoreless, as closer Jason Motte saved Carpenter’s victory, 3-2.
Game 2 was another squeaker, one that would tie the record as the 12th one-run game of the postseason, a record later broken in Game 6. The first six innings were scoreless thanks to the pitching of Ranger Colby Lewis and Cardinal Jaime Garcia, along with stunning defense by Texas infielders Andrus and Ian Kinsler who combined at second base for inning-ending plays in the 4th and 5th. Then came deja vu all over again,” as the Cards’ La Russa once again called on Craig to hit for the starting pitcher as Rangers’ skipper Ron Washington countered again by pulling his brilliant starter for reliever Ogando. Same match-up, same results: For the second game in a row, Craig responded by singling home David Freese.
The Redbirds held on to their 1-0 lead until the 9th when Motte granted a leadoff single to Kinsler, who then stole second, barely beating Yadier Molina’s perfect throw. Andrus followed with a hit to right, and Pujols made an uncharacteristic fumble with the cut-off throw, allowing the Rangers to reach second and third.
Arthur Rhodes came in to face Josh Hamilton, who hammered the first pitch for a sacrifice fly that scored Kinsler. Reliever Lance Lynn then allowed Michael Young a second sac-fly RBI. With these two quick run in the 9th, the Rangers had their very first lead of the World Series, 2-1. In the bottom of the 9th, Texas closer Neftali Feliz walked Molina, but then settled down with two Ks and a fly-out to secure Game 2, and even the Series 1-1.
Game 3's switch to Texas seemed to have thrown some kind of power switch: These teams had tallied a total of only eight runs in the first two games, but on this one October night in Arlington, the squads would combine for 23 runs. And the previously hitless Albert Pujols would erupt with perhaps "the greatest individual hitting performance in World Series history.” After Allen Craig’s third hit in a row – a first-inning homer—the Cards added four more in the 4th, thanks to a controversial call at first and a run-producing error by Rangers catcher Napoli. Then Texas stormed back in the frame’s bottom as Michael Young and Nelson Cruz hit home runs to make it 5–3. In the 5th, the Cards broke away with three more runs, including a two-RBI double by Molina, making it 8–3. But again, the Rangers answered with three more in the inning, closing the gap to two until Pujols exploded in the 6th with a monstrous three-run shot off thapless Ogando. Pujols homered two more times, joining Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson as the only three players to ever launch three HRs in a Series game. Pujols also hit two singles, which enabled him to tie two World Series records—for most hits (5) and most RBIs (6) in a game. And his 14 total bases in one game established a new Series record. Meanwhile, David Freese’s two hits extended his postseason hitting streak to 13 games, contributing to the Cards’ 16-7 rout of the Rangers and a 2-1 lead in the Series.
In Game 4, Rangers’ left-hander Derek Holland finally silenced the Cardinal bats, pitching 8 1/3 shutout innings and allowing only two hits. Josh Hamilton's RBI double in the lst inning put the Rangers in front for only the second time in four Series games. A three-run home run by Napoli handed Holland the cushion he needed for a 4–0 victory. The Cards did threaten in the 9th, but once again were unable to score on closer Neftalí Feliz, and tied Series, 2-2.
Game 5 featured a re-match of starters Carpenter and C. J. Wilson. In the 2nd inning, the Rangers’ Wilson walked Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, and both soon scored due partly to an error by leftfielder David Murphy. In the 3rd, Texas struck back when Mitch Moreland hit a solo home, as did Adrián Beltré in the 6th, to tie it up at 2-2.
The bottom of the 8th featured a bizarre “failure to communicate” between St. Louis manager La Russa and bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist—a misunderstanding that led to the Cards having no one ready to step relieve left-hander Mark Rzepczynski with the bases loaded. The mix-up left him in to pitch to the right-handed hitting Napoli, who smacked a two-run double driving in Young and Cruz— that would stand as the winning runs. The bullpen foul-up continued when La Russa next called for Motte, but was taken by surprise when Lance Lynn enter the game instead. So the Cards’ righty was instructed to just intentionally walk the Rangers’ Ian Kinsler, before he was summarily yanked, making Lynn only the third reliever in World Series history to make an appearance solely to issue an intentional walk.
Ironically, it was the Rangers’ pitchers who walked nine batters in Game 5, including three intentionals to Pujols. Yet the Redbirds stranded a game total of 12 men on base, and were unable to score after the 2nd inning. Once again closer Feliz secured the Rangers’ win, 4-2, for his second save of the Series, making him 6-for-6 in the postseason, as Texas climbed to a Series 3-2 lead.
Was Game 6 the most exciting World Series contest of all time, or merely the greatest Game 6? As in 1975, this one also ended with an extra-inning, walk-off homer. As in 1986, one team was only a strike away from winning it all, but in the 2011 version, this happened twice. Finally, in 2011’s penultimate game, the same player who at first seemed cast as Bill Buckner later emerged as the Carlton Fisk-like hero.
Back in St. Louis after the rare rain postponement of Wednesday’s game, right off in the lst inning, the first three Texas hitters did more damage to the Cards’ Jaime Garcia than he’d allowed in seven shutout innings in Game 2, with Hamilton singling in Ian Kinsler for a quick 1-0 score. But the Cards came out swinging and Berkman sent a two-run homer into to make it 2-1. Kinsler tied it up in the second with an RBI double, and Garcia was pulled after the 3rd, his shortest outing since June 2010.
With only two errors in the first five games, the Cards doubled their Series total with two in the 4th inning allowing three runs to score. Texas also committed its own sins in the bottom of the frame when first baseman Michael Young threw poorly to Lewis covering the bag, allowing Berkman to reach first. Yadier Molina's RBI grounder soon made it 3-all.
In the 6th, Cards’ third baseman David Freese dropped a pop-up, and Young took advantage by doubling in a run for a 4-3 lead. Perhaps these botches were due to the rain postponement, or perhaps sloppy field conditions. Either way, Berkman would later describe the first six innings of this World Series game as “ugly. That included the pitching, too, as the Cardinals ‘ Molina waited out Rangers reliever Alexi Ogando for a bases-loaded walk in the 6th, making it 4-4. In the 7th, Adrian Beltre belted the second pitch by the Cards’ Lance Lynn for a four-bagger. Just a few pitches later Nelson Cruz launched a back-to-back missile high into the left field stands for his record-tying eighth home run of the postseason. Rangers lead 6-4.
By the bottom of the 9th it was 7-5, and the Cards began the comeback that made World Series history. Twice they overcame two-run deficits, and twice they were down to their last strike. With two outs and two strikes in the bottom of the 9th, Freese made up for his costly error in the 6th with a two-RBI triple against the Rangers previously invulnerable closer Neftalí Feliz. It tied the game, 7-7. The Rangers retaliated in the 10th, grabbing the lead and what looked like their first-ever World championship when a banged-up Josh Hamilton, channeling Kirk Gibson, somehow pushed Jason Motte’s first pitch into center field for a two–run homer, his first HR in 65 postseason at-bats.
But the Cards wouldn’t fold. In the bottom of the 10th, Ryan Theriot's RBI groundout was followed by Berkman's RBI single, tying it again, at 9-9. After the Redbirds held the Rangers scoreless in the top of the 11th, David Freese opened the bottom up by closing things down with his legendary, solo, walk-off shot over the center field wall off Mark Lowe. The frenzied hometown forced a Game 7 for the first time since 2002, and Freese also became the first player in Series history to have a pair of tying or go-ahead hits in the 9th inning or later in the same game. And the Cardinals became the first team not only come back twice from deficits in both the 9th and 10th innings, but also the first team to ever score in the 8th, 9th, 10th and 11th innings.
On only three days rest, Chris Carpenter took the mound in Game 7 as the first pitcher in a decade to make three starts in one World Series. But this didn’t augur well for him, when both Josh Hamilton and Michael Young nailed Carpenter for RBI doubles in the lst inning. In the Cardinals’ half of the first, relentless David Freese just couldn’t help himself, and he also doubled, driving in two runs to tie it up, and breaking the post-season RBI record with 21. Then in the 3rd, the equally unquenchable Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer, and followed up in the 6th, by robbing a home run from Nelson Cruz in left field. In the 5th, St. Louis added two runs off Texas relievers without getting a hit when Yadier Molina walked with the bases loaded and Rafael Furcal was hit by a pitch. In the 7th inning, Berkman scored on a Molina single to make it 6–2 Cardinals.
Carpenter pitched six innings, earning his second Series win, as the Redbirds used four relievers to hold Texas scoreless over the final three frames. The final out in Busch Stadium was recorded when David Murphy flied out to Craig. But after that wondrous Game 6, even the Cardinals winning their 11th World Series somehow seemed a bit anticlimactic.