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Game Seven podcast: Final thoughts on the Cardinals' World Series victory

ST. LOUIS --  Click below for my final podcast after a wild and memorable seven-game World Series capped by the Cardinals' 6-2 win Friday over Texas.

Mike Harrington on Game Seven

And once you're done listening to me, here are some postgame thoughts from the field, clubhouse and interview room:

DSCN1748MVP David Freese: "I've tried to soak in this whole postseason as much as I can because you never know if it's your last attempt at a title. It's going to take me a little bit, I think, to realize what we've accomplished. And the funny thing is if we go down tonight and we're NL champs, we still did a ton that nobody thought that we could accomplish. And then just to win it is an incredible feeling.

Freese on his two-run double in the first: "I took a good approach in that at-bat,  stuck with it and got the head of the bat out there and put it in the gap. That was a big turning point that kind of started the game over and got it back to even."

Albert Pujols: "This is what you play for. It doesn't matter the numbers, it doesn't matter the records, it doesn't matter the money that you make; what matters is to raise that trophy and to be able to bring that smile to the city of St. Louis, and not just the city of St. Louis but all our fans around the world."

Pujols on his impending free agency: "Listen, I'm going to be prayerful about it. Whatever decision I make hopefully is the best decision I make for my family and the fans and everybody. Right now I am just going to enjoy the moment and just celebrate with the guys and pretty much just thank that my teammates that helped me out to accomplish another World Championship, because at the end of your career, those are the sweeter moments that you take.

"And there's a lot of tough times that we went through this year and a lot of sweet moments. And the way that we did it is incredible. You know, there's not too many teams in the game that done it like that. I'm just blessed to be part of that. But to talk about my contract right now, that's the last thing that I'm thinking about. I'm just kind of letting everything come in and the game that we won today."

Chris Carpenter: "It was huge for me to get the ball in this game. I just wanted to give my guys a chance, whether it was one inning, two innings, four, whatever. It didn't matter."

Lance Berkman: "All the emotions you have get bottled up over seven games. Your stomach never settles down and now it's such a rush. It's an emotional time and I'm looking forward to finally sitting down. You can't imagine the exhiliration of finally winning it, especially how we did fighting the whole postseason."

Tony La Russa: "It's just typical of our club. They really embrace something that is legitimate, and they embrace the fact but now it's time to think about Game Six, and that's part of this historic run. I mean, it's hard to explain how we made it happen except the club has great guts. Really we have more talent than people think, but we have great guts."

---Mike Harrington

Live from Busch: This is it -- It's Game Seven

ST. LOUIS -- Welcome to the ultimate game. Cardinals. Rangers. Game Seven. A first for MLB since 2002. The third for me (Diamonbacks-Yankees in '01, Giants-Angels in '02). It's an incredible moment to be a part of on one hand. And then on the other, you say to yourself: How can we possibly top last night? Well, we're going to try. 

BookIII don't have a lot of pithy, memorable things to say at this point in the wake of Game Six. When you have about four different stories slowly go to their extinction before your eyes, it takes the 2:30 a.m. postgame cab ride back to the hotel to really process everything that happened. Especially in a game like that where so much went on.

How much went on? The picture at left is my scorebook from last night. Just the Cardinals half. Everyone has a style and this is how I actually keep track of things. Click on the pic for a better look. I keep 'em all for posterity. Call me a packrat but they're fun to look at during the cold winter months.

Speaking of cold, not much here. The temperature is currently 51 degrees. Skies are clear. The flags are basically limp. MLB made the perfect call not trying to play through the rain Wednesday night. By waiting a day, they got two days of flawless weather that had no impact on the games. It's probably going to be the thought process going forward.

Be sure to read my posts from today's pregame press conferences recapping the managers' thoughts on Game Six and their look-aheads to Game Seven.

Tony La Russa press conference notes here

Ron Washington press conference notes here.


---Mike Harrington

The lineups look like this:

Texas: Kinsler, 2b; Andrus, ss; Hamilton, cf; Young, 1b; Beltre, ss; Cruz, rf; Napoli, c; Murphy, lf; Harrison, p
St. Louis: Theriot,  2b; Craig, lf; Pujols, 1b; Berkman,  rf; Freese, 3b; Molina, c; Furcal, ss; Schumaker, cf; Carpenter, p

Top 1st: The crowd is roaring and twirling their white towels as Carpenter throws the first pitch, a ball to Kinsler, at 7:05 CT. The temperature is 50.

End-1st: Apologies for the absence as I was experiencing some techno trouble. It's all fixed and I was multi-tasking anyway watching another boring inning in this series. Hope you saw the sarcasm there. It's 2-2 through one and you have to wonder how long either starter will last unless they figure things out quick.

Freese Gm7 2bThe first four Texas batters reached base and only Kinsler getting foolishly picked off first by Molina saved a bigger inning. Hamilton and Young posted back-to-back RBI doubles to right (Hamilton's was a screamer down the line past Pujols and Young's was a blooper in front of Berman) to score the Texas runs. Harrison got the first two Cardinals but found big trouble when he walked Pujols and Berkman.

Freese, who has quickly worked into the MVP talk,  worked the count full and then pounded a two-run double up the gap in left-center (left) on a 93-mph fastball as the place went crazy. The inning ended only when Molina took Hamilton to the wall in dead center, where a half-jump hauled in the final out. Game tied 2-2. Carpenter threw 18 pitches while Harrison threw 26 (only 11 strikes). The inning took 24 minutes. Get comfortable,  folks.

End-2nd: We remain at 2-2. The Cardinals don't score and that snaps their streak of five straight innings with runs on the board. Some stat notes -- Freese sets the all-time postseason record with 21 RBIs, snapping the mark of 19 set in 2002 by Scott Spiezio of the Angels. And this is the first Game Seven in Series history that both teams scored more than once in the first inning. (Thanks to Elias/ESPN).

Cruz wallEnd-3rd: Advantage, Cardinals. Carpenter has steadied himself by allowing just one hit the last two innings and the Cardinals have taken 3-2 lead on Craig's one-out solo home run, an opposite-field drive into the Cards' bullpen in right. Cruz tried to climb the wall (right) to no avail. Hey,  where was that wall climb in the ninth inning last night? Craig's third of the series, tying Pujols for the lead. Who had Allen Craig in your most HRs in the World Series pool? Thought so. Through three: Harrison 54 pitches, 31 strikes. Carpenter 51-25.

Mid-4th: Carpenter set the Rangers down in order and that keeps Harrison in the game. Napoli struck out and Murphy grounded out. So with two out and nobody on base, Harrison hit for himself and struck out swinging. C.J. Wilson had been warming in the Texas bullpen but he sat down when neither of the first two Rangers got on base.

End-4th: Harrison keeps it a one-run game despite giving up singles to Molina and Furcal, who is 2 for 2 in the No. 7 hole after entering the game 3 for 25. But with runners at second and third and two out, Carpenter could not help himself as he popped out to Cruz in right. Harrison at 77 pitches through four, so how much longer does he go? Cards still lead, 3-2.

Mid-5th: We're halfway home and the Cardinals lead, 3-2. Feldman coming in to pitch for Texas. Remember when I wrote the other day that Ron Washington was winning the chess match? Now La Russa did fall apart in Game Five but other than that I take it back. All of it.

Why in the world are the Rangers bunting with the top of their order down a run on the road in the fifth inning? Didn't Washington come from the Moneyball A's who said don't bunt. He's even seen the movie. He's portrayed in the movie! So why is Andrus sacrificing after Kinsler led off with a single. Stupid. Inning then falls apart as Freese makes a great catch of Hamilton's foul popper into the camera well off third and Young strikes out, prompting a fist pump off the mound from Carpenter. But gee whiz, that's not the way baseball is supposed to go, Wash. 

End-5th: Good job bunting for the tie in the 5th, Washington. Now you're down three because your bullpen is shot. Two runs on no hits for the Cardinals. Feldman walked two and hit a man (grazing Pujols' jersey) to load the bases. Then Molina took a cloooooooooose 3-2 pitch for a ball to force in a run. C.J. Wilson relieved and drilled Furcal on the hip to force home another run. But Wilson kept the Rangers in range by striking out Schumaker. Cards lead, 5-2. And keep in mind the home team has won the last eight Game Sevens. I'd say the American League might go all-out to win the All-Star Game next year.

Craig wallMid-6th: It's time to start counting outs. The Cardinals are nine away and fate seems to be on their side. With one out, Cruz hits a towering fly to left that just dies at the wall as Craig jumps over the fence (left) and brings it back in. Then Napoli hits a scorcher to right -- right at Berkman for the final out. Cards still lead, 5-2. 

End-6th: The Cardinals were going to pinch-hit Punto for Carpenter but it seems like he changed their minds. Carpenter hits and is back out for the seventh after a 1-2-3 St. Louis sixth.

CarpMid-7th: At God Bless America, it's still 5-2 and the Cardinals are six outs away. Carpenter was taken out (right) to a raucous ovation after a leadoff double by Murphy but the bullpen pieced together three outs, one by Arthur Rhodes and two by Octavio Dotel. Carpenter went six-plus innings and gave up two runs on six hits. Struck out five and walked two. Threw 91 pitches, 53 strikes. Incredibly gutty performance. And remember, he doesn't even go more than an inning or so tonight if there was no rainout. Seems like everything went the Cardinals' way in October other than that bullpen phone gig.

End-7th: A RBI single by Molina, giving him nine RBIs for the series, makes it 6-2 at Clydesdale video time. Rangers have middle of the order up in the eighth. Probably their last chance.

Mid-8th: Lynn gets the Rangers 1-2-3. Folks in Batavia, where he once played Class A ball,  give a cheer.  Cards have three outs to go with a 6-2 lead.

IT'S OVER: A 1-2-3 ninth for Motte and the Cardinals win it 6-2. Take the series, 4-3.

Game photos: Associated Press

Notes from Washington's pregame presser

ST. LOUIS -- Rangers manager Ron Washington was upbeat, like he always is, when he met the media late this afternoon prior to Game Seven. After his team's Game Six near-miss, Washington said he slept until 10:30 a.m. and was at the ballpark at 1 p.m. like he always is for a 7 p.m. local time start. He said his players are upbeat as well, with all kinds of music blaring in the clubhouse as normal.

Washington said everyone in his bullpen is available except for Game Six starter Colby Lewis. That includes Game Four winner Derek Holland, who went two innings of relief last night, and ace C.J. Wilson, who started Games One and Five. The Rangers' lineup includes Mike Napoli (ankle) and Nelson Cruz (groin), who were both banged up last night. It goes like this:

Kinsler, 2b
Andrus, ss
Hamilton, cf
Young, 1b
Beltre, 3b
Cruz, rf
Napoli, c
Murphy, lf
Harrison, p

Here's some comments from Washington's session:

On the Cardinals' Game Six resilience: "Two champions are playing, and last night was a contest where two champions just kept going at it, and one of them got the last blow. But there's still a game to be played. ... They just wouldn't go away, and that's the heart of a champion. We're champions, too."

Personal thoughts when told Tony La Russa said he was nervous: "Well, if Tony is nervous, then how can Ron Washington not be nervous?"

On working counts against Carpenter, who's going on short rest: "We certainly can't go into this game thinking about building up his pitch count and keep falling behind in the count against him. He let ball go, ball cross plate, in strike zone, we going to hack."

On using lefty Scott Feldman in the 10th instead of bringing back closer Neftali Feliz: "The lineup set up perfectly for lefty lefty, two lefties and a pitcher. The Lord just didn't want this game to end in six. That's all. The matchup couldn't have been better. I give [David] Descalso credit. It's my first time seeing this kid. He battles for his at bat. I give Jon Jay credit. He hit a little blooper down the line, but that happens, and they ended up driving in the tying run in that inning.

"So you've got to give everyone else that came up there credit. But it set up perfectly. We was destined to play seven games."

On Feliz's mental state: "He's very stable. We certainly didn't have to put a respirator on him. We didn't have to shock his heart back. In this game there will be days when you don't have good days, and I think if you talk to Neftali last night, he didn't feel like he it was a good day. My part, if we are in the position tonight to shut it down, I'm giving it to Neftali, and I expect him to close the ballgame down."

For the pregame thoughts from Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, go to my earlier post.

---Mike Harrington

Notes from La Russa's pregame presser

ST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa's Cardinals lineup for Game 7 looks like this:

Theriot, 2b
Craig, lf
Pujols, 1b
Berkman, rf
Freese, 3b
Molina, c
Furcal, ss
Schumaker, cf
Carpenter, p

Matt Holliday's sprained finger has him off the roster because La Russa said he could only pinch-run. Adron Chambers is eligible as a backup outfielder. La Russa said Game Six winner and ex-Bison Jake Westbrook might be the first long man out of the pen to follow Chris Carpenter, throwing on three days rest. Here's some of La Russa's other thoughts:

On starting Carpenter on short rest: "If he would be available to pitch, he probably would have pitched in this game sometime. Makes sense to start him. Goes through his routine, gives us all he has. And it made less sense, I think, to come out of the bullpen."

On moving past Game Six: "The first job that we have today is putting yesterday aside to be remembered later. So since I'm one of the ones on the staff that gives that message, as soon as I got stirring this morning, refused to think about last night. You control your mind. That's what we're trying to do as a team."

On Lance Berkman saying Game Six is a footnote if the Cardinals lose tonight:  "You're going to have to go real hard to have a better sixth game than that ever. I think that's going to make its mark as far as the sixth game of the World Series. But I understand his point and I like it. We don't want to settle for an exciting Game Six win. We want to bring it out today and see if they can beat us. I think it'll stand alone as a sixth game, but that's not what we came here for."

On his emotions heading into the first World Series Game Seven of his long career: "Well, whoever is not nervous should not participate because that means you don't care. Nervous is good. Nervous means you care ...  here is like the final piece, you participate in a Game Seven, that's as good as it gets. I plan to enjoy the hell out of it."

For the pregame thoughts from Rangers manager Ron Washington, go to this post.

---Mike Harrington


Cards lineup switches

ST. LOUIS -- Quick updates before interviews start. Cards shift lineup to put Theriot in leadoff slot. Holliday is out and Furcal hitting 7th. He is just 3 for 25

--Mike Harrington

Buck's call on Freese HR great tribute to late father

ST. LOUIS -- Joe Buck was wonderfully understated on FOX calling David Freese's walkoff home run by simply saying, "We will see you tomorrow night." When the word got to the press box early this morning that was his call, there was almost universal approval.

That's because the late Jack Buck, Joe's father and the Hall of Fame Cardinals announcer, made exactly the same call in Game Six 20 years earlier. It came, also in the 11th inning, on Kirby Puckett's walkoff home run that allowed the Twins to live another day against the Atlanta Braves in the 1991 World Series with a 4-3 win at the Metrodome.

The Yahoo! Big League Stew blog has put together a video showing the two calls -- and then transposing the video and audio, with Joe's call on Puckett's home run and Jack's call on Freese's. Great stuff.

---Mike Harrington

Carp will start Game 7 for Cardinals, Holliday out

ST. LOUIS -- Looks like what we suspected is going to happen tonight in Game Seven of this incredible World Series: Ace Chris Carpenter will start tonight for the Cardinals.

1:45 update: This just in -- Matt Holliday has been taken off the Cardinals' roster for Game Seven and not because of his braincramps of dropping a pop-up in left field or getting picked off third base. He has a right pinkie injury that was in a splint after Game Six. He insisted he will play but the Cardinals have put Adron Chambers on in place of Holliday.

Be sure to check out my Web-only story on the Cardinals' incredible Game Six win, featuring quotes from both clubhouses. Some incredible tidbits courtesy of the Elias Sports Bureau:

---The Cardinals were the first team to score in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings of a Series game.

---David Freese is the first player to collect two tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later of a Series game.

---The Texas bullpen became the first crew to ever blow three saves in the Series -- and were twice down to the last strike. Crazy.

---Mike Harrington

Game Six audio recap: One for the ages

ST. LOUIS -- I wasn't there for Fisk or Buckner or Joe Carter but I've seen a lot in my time. I was in the house for every pitch of the Diamondbacks-Yankees series, for every pitch of the '04 ALCS where the Red Sox came back from a 3-0 hole and for the '04 Series against the Cardinals where they finally broke the curse. I've seen the Rally Monkey work his magic, a three-day-long clinching game in Philadelphia and even the Red Sox winning a second World Series.

But I have never seen anything like Thursday night in Busch Stadium.

Read my recap here as the Texas Rangers -- the woebegone, 49 years with no titles Texas Rangers -- had the World Series won twice. And didn't win it. And now they go to Game Seven against the St. Louis Cardinals after David Freese earned his spot in Series history with a two-run triple in the ninth and a game-winning home run in the 11th that propelled the Cardinals to a 10-9 win. Amazing stuff.

How do the Rangers possibly bounce back after this one? I have no idea. Here's some of my thoughts I recorded in the 2 a.m. hour in the aftermath of this classic.

Game Six recap

---Mike Harrington

Live from Busch: Rangers go for clinch in Game Six

ST. LOUIS -- Greetings as we are back under the shadow of the Gateway Arch at Busch Stadium on a spectacular night awaiting the start of Game Six of the World Series. The Rangers lead it, 3-2, and there are no weather problems tonight in the wake of yesterday's rainout. 

StanIt's a little on the chilly and breezy side here, but nothing too terrible. And it was sunny and 60 degrees this afternoon. Too bad we don't play 1 p.m. Series games anymore like the old days! At least there's no sign of that white stuff back home that is a four-letter word beginning with 'S' that I refuse to type on a baseball blog.

Great moment here pregame as a clearly frail Stan Musial, who turns 91 on Nov. 21, is driven in a golf cart from right field to join four other Cardinals legends -- Red Schoendienst, Bob Gibson, Lou Brock and Ozzie Smith -- near home plate while 2006 Series MVP David Eckstein throws the ceremonial first pitch after greeting Brock and Musial (above). But wouldn't you know it? Eckstein got the loudest applause. By a lot. Crazy kids in the stands here.

The lineups:

Texas: Kinsler, 2b; Andrus, ss; Hamilton, lf; Young, 1b; Beltre, 3b; Cruz, rf; Napoli, c; Gentry, cf; Lewis, p
St. Louis: Furcal, ss; Schumaker, cf; Pujols, 1b; Berkman, rf; Holliday, lf; Freese, 3b; Molina, c; Punto, 2b; Garcia, p

---Mike Harrington

Mid-1st: We're under way at 7:06 CT as Garcia throws a called strike to Kinsler. The breeze has definitely died down some and it's still 50 degrees at gametime. And we've already had a major moment in the game as the Rangers take a 1-0 lead but Garcia does a spectacular job minimizing damage. Kinsler walked, Andrus singled him first-to-third and Hamilton singled to right on the next pitch (only Garcia's 10th) to send Andrus first to third. But Garcia bounced back to fan Young and Beltre, the latter on a wicked 3-2 changeup, and got Cruz to bounce into a force at second to end the inning. He needed 23 pitches to get through the inning but the Rangers could have taken complete control right away and didn't. Rangers lead, 1-0.

BerkEnd-1st: See why Garcia's work was so important? The Cardinals immediately go to work to get the lead. Schumaker singles with one out (remember what I posted today about getting on so the Rangers would pitch to Pujols?) but Albert pops to right on the first pitch. Slapped his hands at first base. Just missed it. Berkman didn't miss.

On the next pitch (right), an 89-mph fastball right down the St. Louis main drag of Market Street, Berkman uncoils a no-doubter the opposite way into the seats in left-center to put the Cardinals up, 2-1. The place explodes, just as I was going to write the noise level wasn't even close to Texas. Wrong. First runs Lewis has given up in the first inning in any of his eight career postseason starts. Cardinals lead, 2-1.

Mid-2nd: Garcia is doing his best Houdini here so far. Gave up the tying run but nearly pulled another great escape thanks to the Cardinals' best defensive play of the series. Napoli led off with a full-count walk and Gentry singled him to second. That brought up Lewis and Freese and Pujols were breathing down his neck as he sacrificed. A charging Freese fielded it, double-pumped and fired to Furcal covering third. With the wheel play on, Furcal fired across the diamond to Punto covering first for the easy double play. Like we say 5-6-4s every day.

Garcia was a strike away from escaping the inning but Kinsler worked the count full and then shot a ground-rule double over the wall in left to score Gentry and tie the game. Mitchell Boggs starts warming up in the bullpen so I guess the phone works here (couldn't resist). Andrus lines out to Holliday in right, who jumps to snare it. Garcia not long for this game with 49 pitches (29 strikes) in two innings. Game tied, 2-2.

End-3rd: We're still tied at 2-2 but the big news is that Fernando Salas is coming into the game for the Cardinals to start the fourth. Tony La Russa can't wait for Garcia to find it tonight, even though the third inning was his best (strikeouts of Hamilton, single by Young and Beltre 4-6-3 double play). Garcia threw 59 pitches, 35 strikes. Pujols ended the third with a long fly ball to left that dies when it looked like it had a chance. Outside of Game Three, Pujols is 0 for 14 in the series. Bizarre.

Holliday-furcalMid-4th: Holliday gives the Rangers a Christmas gift and Texas takes advantage for a 3-2 lead. The Cardinals left fielder flubbed Cruz's routine leadoff fly ball -- looked like he yelled "you take it" to Furcal on the replay -- and Cruz got to second as Holliday let the ball tick off his glove and collided with Furcal (right). Napoli followed with an RBI single just inside the right-field line for his 10th RBI of the series. One out later, Lewis tried to sacrifice by Salas threw high to second base into CF. Napoli was in safe, but didn't slide and turned his left ankle in ugly fashion stumbling into the bag. Salas recovered, however, to get the final two outs. Let's see if the Cardinals try to bunt now on Napoli to see if he can move on that ankle. Rangers lead, 3-2.

End-4th: The Cardinals start runners, stay out of a double play and get the tying run. Berkman reached on a throwing error by Young, who corraled his grounder but threw just wide of the bag and Lewis missed covering (I'd score it E1). Holliday walked but then came through with a gargantuan takeout slide at second on a Freese grounder, nearly flipping Andrus to break up the DP. With men at the corners and a 3-2 pitch to Molina, La Russa starts Freese and Molina grounds sharply to Beltre at third. He had no play at second as Berkman scored. Punto struck out to end the inning and keep Salas in (Jay was going to pinch-hit with Lynn warming). Game tied, 3-3.

Freese  bobbleMid-5th: We're halfway home as the Rangers take a 4-3 lead on another grievous Cardinals error. It was committed by Freese, who one-handed Hamilton's leadoff pop-up in and out of his glove (left) like you'd see on the Mel Ott diamonds in Amherst. Young followed with an RBI double to left-center. Salas intentionally walked Napoli and semi-intentionally walked pinch-hitter David Murphy to load the bases for Lewis, who struck out on three pitches. Texas should be winning this one in a walk: The Rangers have had 14 baserunners but have left eight, hit into two double plays and are just 3 for 13 with runners in scoring position. Yikes.

End-5th: Lewis with a 1-2-3 inning keeps his 4-3 lead. Also means Pujols leads off the sixth with nobody on. Attendance is a ballpark record 47,325. Lynn on to pitch the sixth for the Cardinals. Assume he'll throw more than four intentional balls. Just realized Lewis hasn't given up a hit since the Berkman homer in the first. Cards have an odd linescore right now of 3-2-3.

Mid-6th: Still 4-3 through 5 1/2. Got a couple inquiries on Twitter about the Lewis at-bat and whether they should have pinch hit. Torrealba was on deck but Rangers were playing possum. I don't think Washington was taking Lewis out. But a definite dilemma for an AL manager. He had Holland warming but I think Holland is reserve for Harrison if we have Game Seven.

End-6th: Where's the full moon? The Cardinals tie it at 4-4 on a bases-loaded walk to Molina from Ogando, who relieved Lewis. But with the bases loaded, Holliday is picked off third by Napoli thanks to a great block of the bag by Beltre. Walks to Molina and Punto re-load the bases and brings in Game Four hero Holland in relief. He gets Jay to bounce back to the mound. Jay is 0 for 16 in the series. Game tied, 4-4.

Cruz HRMid-7th: And just as the Cardinals get back to even, the Rangers take control and can start counting the outs to their first title. Texas leads it, 7-4, as Beltre and Cruz burned Lance Lynn with back-to-back homers to open the inning and Kinsler got a two-out RBI single to score Holland, of all people, who had reached on a force trying to bunt and took second on a wild pitch. Another terrible Cardinals play in this one. The Cruz home run (right) was a monster, a 419-foot shot to the third deck. It was his eighth of the postseason, tying Barry Bonds' 2002 record. Puts a bit of a damper on God Bless America for Cardinals fans.

End-7th: Holland sets down the Cards in order. Pujols with a 6-3 to end it. He's 0 for 16 outside of Game Three. Utterly bizarre. Six outs to go for Rangers and not many people here clapping along to the Clydesdales ditty.

Bot-8th: Craig takes Holland deep to left to make it 7-5. The Cardinals load the bases on singles by Molina, Descalso and Jay -- who was 0 for 16. But on the first pitch, Furcal hits a little stub that reliever Mike Adams fields and flips to first. Disaster for the Cards. Furcal is 0 for 5 tonight and 3 for 25 in the series. Rangers lead, 7-5. And the Cardinals are out of position players!

Mid-9th: Still 7-5. Feliz coming in. Three outs to go for the Rangers.

END-9TH: Incredible.  We're going extras. 7-7. Two-out,  two-strike, two-run triple by Freese ties it up. How does Cruz not crash the wall going for that? Molina flies out to right for the third out, leaving the winning run at third. GAME TIED 7-7.

MID-10TH: Double incredible. Two-run homer for Hamilton. Texas up 9-7.

HR FreeseEND-10TH: Triple incredible. Theriot RBI grounder and Berkman two-out, two-strike RBI single. GAME TIED, 9-9. 

ON TO GAME SEVEN: Freese leads off the bottom of the 11th with a solo shot to center (left). Cards win 10-9. See you tomorrow night and eat your heart out, Carlton Fisk and '86 Mets. This was a classic.

Photos: Associated Press

Pregame chatter: On verge of a title, Rangers trying to keep things the same

ST. LOUIS -- When you count spring training, the Texas Rangers have played more than 200 games this year. When you count all the games they've played since moving to Arlington in 1972, they've played more than 8,000. But they've never played one like tonight.

And that's the challenge: Keep everything the same heading into the first game in franchise history that the Rangers can win a World Series.

"I went to bed last night very relaxed, and I woke up this morning very relaxed," manager Ron Washington said in his pre-Game Six session with reporters late this afternoon at Busch Stadium. "I did what I always do; I got up and ironed my clothes, I ate breakfast, I read the newspaper, and I left the hotel at 1, and I came to the ballpark. That's my routine. I didn't feel any different feeling.

"I walked out of the hotel feeling as confident about my baseball team as I've always felt all year. I walked in the clubhouse with the same confidence. I'm sitting right here with the same confidence. The butterflies haven't started yet. I'm quite sure they will once 7:05 rolls around. But the more that [starting pitcher] Colby Lewis goes and gets outs in an inning the more my butterflies will subside."

Washington said he can't press to win tonight and avoid a Game Seven. He has to simply keep putting his team in position to win like he's done all year.

"I am going to manage this game according to the way the game says I have to manage it," Washington said. "Of course our intentions are no different than they've always been, to go out there and win the ballgame. I'm certainly not going to go out there and start trying to outsmart the game of baseball. I'm just going to go out there and whatever the situation says needs to be done, I'm going to try to make sure I put my guys in a position that we can be successful."

Be sure to check my earlier post on the Cardinals' thoughts heading into Game Six and join me for the live game blog in the 8 p.m. hour.

---Mike Harrington

Game Six chatter: Cards need to get on base

ST. LOUIS  -- A lot has been made about the Cardinals' 8-for-43 showing with runners in scoring position thus far in the World Series but a bigger issue might be the 4-for-37 output of the top two players in their lineup. Rafael Furcal, just 3 for 20, stays in the leadoff slot tonight but Skip Schmaker moves into the No. 2 hole, where John Jay and Allen Craig have gone 1 for 18.

Furcal and Schumaker have to get on base to force the Texas Rangers to pitch to Albert Pujols. Absent anyone on, Pujols will see very little good to hit and may simply be walked intentionally ad nauseum.

"We have to occupy first base," Schumaker said this afternoon in the pregame interview room. "That's the No. 1 goal for me and Raffy because of how they do pitch Albert. Obviously last game shows they're not going to pitch to him at all, even with guys not on base. It's probably pretty smart. We're talking about the best hitter in the game. 

"If I'm hitting second, which I am tonight, usually they're not trying to walk you, I know that. Because they don't want that base to be occupied, and that means they have to pitch to him. It's a different spot in the lineup. It's usually a place where Tony [La Russa] puts guys to get hot during the season because they see more pitches to hit. "

Schumaker said the Cards aren't fazed by being in a win-or-go-home scenario. They've basically been in one since the end of August.

"We had to face Doc [Roy Halladay] and Roy [Oswalt] to win the Philly series when we were down and that was as tough as anything for us," Schumaker said. "We pulled through with that. We've been backed into a corner for the last two months and I don't think this changes that at all and luckily for us, we have been backed into that corner, so we know what it feels like.

"This is the type of team that's pretty resilient. I've never been on a team like this before, and I'm just real happy to be a part of something like this and hopefully it can continue."

"I think that's one plus we have going for us," added La Russa. "We've played this game - literally we've played it a couple, three times, and there have been a bunch of other times we knew we couldn't lose another game that soon."

La Russa said still no decision on a Game Seven starter, although he admitted Chris Carpenter is in the mix. 

More to come following the Rangers' pregame sessions with manager Ron Washington and GM Jon Daniels.

---Mike Harrington

Rainy day podcast: La Russa, rain and Game Six

Tony frontpageST. LOUIS -- Tony La Russa was a giant front-page topic in Wednesday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch (right, click for bigger view) but we were all forced to wait another day to see if his Game Five meltdown will prove to be a turning point in the World Series for the Texas Rangers. 

Longtime Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz had some interesting insight Wednesday on La Russa at 67 and wonders if health issues (La Russa has been dealing with shingles and medication issues all season) and Father Time are slowing one of the game's great minds, like happened with legendary Dallas Cowboys football coach Tom Landry.

As for the postponement of Game Six, it adds to the pitching intrigue if we can get to Game Seven. Hear my thoughts on all the latest at the Series in my rainy day podcast by clicking below.

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--Mike Harrington

Rainout fallout

TorreST. LOUIS -- It's cold and miserable here and the rain started to fall about 5 p.m. CT. Not hard rain. Not enough rain to postpone a game but the forecasts were for persistent rain and MLB didn't want to take a chance of any delays in Game Six of the World Series.

That was the upshot of what we learned this afternoon from MLB VP Joe Torre when he met with reporters in Busch Stadium (left). Think CC Sabathia-Justin Verlander. You don't want to burn pitching this deep in the season. And the cynic in me says FOX doesn't want the last out of the World Series at 2 in the morning either.

[The forecasts] all were consistent in saying there was going to be rain during the game," Torre said. "Maybe not enough to stop it, but maybe enough to stop it. And that was enough to just make this decision."

So how does this impact things? Now with two off days, the Rangers have likely lost any momentum they may have had from Monday's win in Texas. Jaime Garcia and Colby Lewis will start in Game Six but there are loads of bullpen candidates to choose from,  and the starters for Game 7 are up in the air, at least for the Cardinals.

Texas manager Ron Washington insists he's sticking with Matt Harrison, who gave up five runs in Game Three, over Derek Holland, who pitched 8 1/3 shutout innings in Game Four.  Washington said Holland is available in the bullpen for Game Six, but I'm betting the Rangers hold him out for similar use in Game Seven if, in fact,  he doesn't start.

"Harrison has been a big part of this team all year," Washington said today. "I am not changing the things that I've been doing all year. That's why we are where we are, and that's why I'm saying Harrison."

The Cardinals, meanwhile, can now come back with Chris Carpenter on three days rest in Game Seven. Carpenter has only done that once in his career and Tony La Russa may be more comfortable with Carpenter backing up either Edwin Jackson, Kyle Lohse or Jake Westbrook.

"I was told by Carp that he would be ready to go (Game 7)," La Russa said. "Eeither getting to Game 7 or winning a seventh game, whether it's Chris Carpenter or anybody, we will not jeopardize an arm."

I say we should be looking at Holland vs. Carpenter in Game 7. Sure sounds like the managers aren't thinking the same way. We'll see.

---Mike Harrington

Photo: Associated Press


Prudent early call by MLB to postpone Game Six

TarpST. LOUIS -- The skies are darkening in the shadow of the Gateway Arch and it's starting to rain again. The rain is supposed to pick up in the 6 p.m. range, an hour before Game Six of the World Series was supposed to start.

So the prudent call has been made to postpone the game between the Cardinals and Rangers. It will now be played Thursday at 8:05 Eastern, moving Game Seven back to Friday, also at 8:05.

MLB officials watched the rain cause chaos with pitching during the division series between the Tigers and Yankees, and again in the ALCS between the Tigers and Rangers. And especially since we're in a potential clinching situation, no one wanted to deal with a rain-delayed -- or perhaps suspended game (think Phillies-Rays, 2008) -- and cause trouble with starting pitchers. Texas manager Ron Washington even said yesterday he would prefer an early call on a postponement rather than a start-and-stop special.

MLB has issued a statement which reads in part: "Given the desire to play a game of this magnitude without interruption, and an outlook with better conditions over the next two nights, Major League Baseball, along with the Cardinals and the Rangers, determined that making the decision early would be the most prudent course of action to allow fans enough time to plan accordingly."

It's supposed to be cold here the next two nights, with lows potentially dipping into the 30s. But the rain chance is no higher than 10 percent. The positive forecast clearly gave MLB more impetus to call for an early bang tonight.

---Mike Harrington

Game Six postponed

3:25 p.m. ET update: Game Six has been postponed to Thursday night, putting a potential Game Seven to Friday night. More to come. .... 

ST. LOUIS -- As most of us knew for the last couple days, it appears Game Six of the World Series is in jeopardy today. Several local and national sources are reporting that Major League Baseball and St. Louis GM John Mozeliak are meeting today at 1 p.m. Central time (2 p.m. in Buffalo) to discuss the status of tonight's game between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers.

After sunny skies and 80-degree temperatures here yesterday, it is gray and 56 degrees here as of 11:30 a.m. Central. Rain has started to fall within the last hour and, although a break is expected in the afternoon, the rain is expected to pick up again in the 6 p.m. range and last all evening.

MLB does not want a repeat of Game One of the division series in New York, where a postponement in the third inning burned starting pitchers Justin Verlander and CC Sabathia, or Game One of the ALCS in Texas, which had two rain delays and ended at 1:30 a.m. Eastern time. Especially not in a potential clinching game of the World Series.

A rainout would certainly benefit the Cardinals, because it would allow them to use Chris Carpenter on three days rest in a potential Game Seven on Friday night. Rangers manager Ron Washington insists he's sticking with Matt Harrison, but lefty Derek Holland -- who threw 8 1/3 shutout innings Sunday night -- would be on his regular turn. Have to believe Washington would make the switch.

As far as today's coverage, be sure to read my column on Tony La Russa losing the chess match with Washington and my blog post from last night with more thoughts on PhoneGate. My World Series notebook is on the Cardinals' plans to change their lineup to better protect Albert Pujols in the order.

---Mike Harrington

More musings on La Russa

TonyST. LOUIS -- It's still hard to fathom what happened at the end of Game Five and how Tony La Russa spent Tuesday afternoon trying to explain it away. Was this is all a staged show so La Russa could protect pitching coach and dear friend Dave Duncan? Did La Russa really make the calls to the bullpen like he said he did? Was bullpen coach Derek Lilliquist to blame for hanging up before La Russa -- or Duncan? -- were done giving instructions?

This is Game Five of the World Series, for God's sake. In the eighth inning of a tie game. This isn't March 15 in Jupiter, Fla. But in one of the more cataclysmic braincramps of recent times, the Cardinals somehow butchered the use of their bullpen, be it via a wonky phone, Lilliquist's inability to hear in the noise or whatever.

Be sure to read my column in Wednesday's paper comparing La Russa's fiasco to the job Ron Washington has done so far. A few secondary thoughts:

---Albert Pujols: La Russa was asked how long Pujols has had the right to call a hit-and-run on his own and his answer was "It's been three or four years. It could have been his rookie year, maybe not his rookie year, second year." Seriously. That was La Russa's answer. Pujols was a rookie in 2001. So did he get this privilege in 2001 or 2002? Or 2007-08? 

More La Russa on Pujols: "So as long as baseball has been played, when you have a player that really understands the game, that player gets a lot of leeway and ability to be involved, based on how he's reading what's going on. It happens to pitchers that are really smart, Tom Seaver. It happens to catchers that when the benches are defending the running games. And you have a catcher like Yadi [Yadier Molina], he can call a pitchout because they're really smart and they sense it."

Memo to La Russa: A catcher calling a pitchout is hardly the same as a batting calling a hit and run and getting his team run out of an inning in a tie game.

Derek Lilliquist: Why didn't the Cardinals bullpen coach ask La Russa if he really wanted Lance Lynn up when he was supposed to be on emergency-use only? Because coaches clearly don't have that right to question La Russa. Said the skipper: " I would be disappointed if Derek would have been saying, 'You know, Tony, I mean, do you know what you're doing?' "

Offense: La  Russa has got to do something here. The Rangers are going to walk Pujols and let no one else beat them. Lance Berkman (7-18) is the only Cardinal doing anything, so he's going to protect Pujols in the No. 4 slot.

---Mike Harrington

Photo: Associated Press 


Game Five audio recap: Cardinals can't get out of their own way, Rangers find a way

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Mike Harrington provides postgame thoughts from Game Five of the World Series, including the bullpen phone fiasco that capped a night of mistakes for the Cardinals, the hot hitting of Rangers catcher Mike Napoli and the possible pitching scenarios for Games Six and Seven.

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Live from Rangers Ballpark -- It's Game Five

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Greetings on another spectacular summer night at ... oops, it's Oct. 24. Easy to forget with this great weather. Another sunny, 80-degree day and another perfect night for the World Series as we get set for Game Five at Rangers Ballpark.

We have an off day tomorrow in St. Louis and it's supposed to be 82 there, which is terrific considering how it rained and rained and we froze in Games 1-2 as the temperatures got down into the 30s. I endured some frigid winds and rain to get to my trip up the Arch last week, and I'll probably enjoy a little walk in the park tomorrow.

As for Game Six on Wednesday? Good lord. The temperatures are going to be in the mid-50s and there's an 80 percent chance of rain all day. It doesn't look good at all but things are fine for Thursday and Friday so all of us covering this series are bracing for an extra off day in St. Loo. 

Roger Staubach just got a big roar with the first pitch, down and away and scooped by former Rangers pitcher Kenny Rogers (who by now probably washed his 2006 vintage pine tar from his hand). As for the anthem: Demi Lovato? Ugh. Terrible.

---Mike Harrington

Cardinals lineup: Furcal, ss; Craig, rf; Pujols, 1b; Holliday, lf; Berkman, dh; Freese, 3b; Molina, c; Schumaker, cf; Punto, 2b.....Carpenter pitching
Rangers lineup: Kinsler, 2b; Andrus, ss; Hamilton, cf; Young, dh; Beltre, 3b; Cruz, rf; Murphy, lf; Napoli, c; Moreland, 1b....Wilson pitching. 

End-1st: The first pitch, a ball from Wilson to Furcal, came at 7:09 CT and it's 72 degrees. It feels warmer. Very nice. On the third pitch, Furcal lines a rocket right into the glove of Beltre at third -- just like he did to lead off the first inning last night. Bizarre. Wilson pitches 1-2-3 first, getting Pujols for the third out on a line drive to center field that saw the Cardinals give their star the green light on a 3-0 pitch. Pujols is 0 for 11 in Games 1-2-4-5 of this series. Of course, there's that matter of Game Three.

YadiMid-2nd: The Cardinals must not have liked me cracking on the offense as they've gotten to Wilson -- who. is. working. sooooooooo. slowly. -- to take a 2-0 lead. Wilson opened with walks to Holliday and Berkman, then gave out a one-out RBI single to left to Molina (right), which Murphy booting and dropping the ball in left for an error that allowed Berkman to third. Schumaker then grounded to first to Cruz, who dropped  it while eyeing home and had to step on the back as Berkman scored. Murphy then redeemed himself with a sensational play for the final out, a headlong dive to his left Ron Swoboda style, to snare Punto's liner and save another run. Cards lead, 2-0. Early lead for Carpenter. It was a 30-pitch inning for Wilson after an eight-pitch first.

End-3rd: Wilson continues to struggle and even made an error, flipping Furcal's topper past Cruz at first. After a sacrifice, an intentional walk to Pujols helped the get the Rangers out of the inning as Holliday grounded into a 5-4-3 DP with runners at the corners. Texas then came back to break through against Carpenter in the bottom of the inning as Moreland, batting 2 for 23 in the postseason, sent a one-out bomb to right, a 424-foot laser into the upper deck. Cards lead, 2-1.

Napoli-WilsonMid-5th: We're halfway home with the Cards still up, 2-1, but the Rangers are using the walk-Albert strategy to perfection. They've done it twice,  giving Holliday a chance with five men on base, and haven't given up a run. This was a 24-pitch inning and No. 100, a full-count offering to Holliday with the bases loaded ended up as a routine grounder to short, leaving the Cards 1-7 in RSP situations tonight.

Wilson got in trouble by giving up a leadoff single to Schumaker and a four-pitch walk to Punto that brought Napoli to the mound (left). You wonder how long he is for this game. But the folks here are happy as we head into "Deep in the Heart of Texas" time. Wilson at 100 pitches, just 52 strikes. Survival mode, but certainly not the way to get a big payday in free agency either.

Mid-6th: Wilson is mercifully out of the game but with no further damage. He gave up a one-out single and was relieved by Scott Feldman, who gave up a single to Molina. A Schumaker grounder sent runners to second and third but Punto struck out to end the inning. The Cardinals are 1-9 in RSP situations and have left seven. Wilson went 5 1/3 innings, allowing four hits,  two runs (one earned),  five walks and three strikeouts. He threw 108 pitches, 57 strikes.  Ugly. But he survived.

End-6th: And the Cardinals' lack of run production is officially haunting them now as the game is tied. With two out and nobody on, Carpenter hung a 75-mph curveball and Beltre was waiting for it, corkscrewing himself into the ground and even going down on his right knee to golf it into the seats in left.  Carpenter then gave up singles to Cruz and Murphy and got a visit from pitching coach Dave Duncan. Napoli got the crowd jazzed with a long drive but Schumaker hauled it in near the 407-foot sign in center field. Game tied, 2-2.

Mid-7th: Allen Craig has been great in this series but what did he just do? He walked with one out off Alexi Ogando and tried to steal second with Pujols batting. I don't care if he's safe or out, that was just stupid. In this case, he was out and the Rangers still went ahead and walked Pujols. Holliday singled him first to third, taking second as Pujols forced a throw home and Berkman was walked intentionally. Freese then lofted the first pitch for a fly to center and Texas escaped again. St. Louis' damage tab: 1-10 in RSP situations with 10 LOB -- eight in scoring position.

End-7th: La Russa shows faith in Carpenter, keeping him in against Hamilton with two out and a man on first. Faith rewarded. Fly ball to center on the first pitch. It was Carpenter's 101st pitch. I say he comes out for one more inning. Game remains tied at 2-2.

End-8th: The Cardinals played with fire too long but not driving in runs and they got burned. Napoli did the damage with a two-run double to right-center with the bases loaded. He's got nine RBIs in the series and is the leader in the clubhouse for MVP honors. The Rangers lead, 4-2, and they're three outs away from the series lead.

IT'S OVER:  Neftali Feliz gets the save, striking out Pujols in the ninth in the process, and Texas has a 3-2 lead in the series with a 4-2 win. See you Wednesday in St. Louis.

Game Four audio recap: The Rangers get even

Click below for Mike Harrington's final thoughts on Game Four of the World Series, a 4-0 win for the Texas Rangers that evened the series at two wins apiece.

Mike Harrington on Game Four

Live from Rangers Ballpark -- It's Game Four

GeorgeARLINGTON, Texas -- Greetings,  albeit a little on the late side, as I've gotten through some early print-edition stories and some Internet trouble in the auxiilary press box to (hopefully) bring you some thoughts and updates on Game Four.

The Rangers have gotten some early inspiration with a first pitch tossed by former President and team owner George W. Bush (left), which was a little high and outside away of the reach of Nolan Ryan. Bush got a huge ovation when he was introduced and the flashbulbs were popping all over the park on his delivery from the bottom of the mound. You might remember when he threw at Yankee Stadium prior to Game Three in 2001, he did it right from the rubber and followed Derek Jeter's instructions to not bounce it. As we say at the rink, game on.

---Mike Harrington

Bot-1st: Things started well for the home side, from the Bush pitch to a 1-2-3 first from Derek Holland that included a grounder to short by Albert Pujols. The first two batters were easily retired and there was a clear murmur in the crowd as Pujols stepped up. With one out in the bottom of the first, Elvis Andrus singled to left and Josh Hamilton roped an RBI double into the corner in right, with Andrus streaking around the bases to score the game's first run without a throw.

Michael Young walked but Adrian Beltre (whose 4-for-4 game last night was totally wiped out by The Pujols Show) struck out. Nelson Cruz walked on a full-count pitch to load the bases, but Edwin Jackson escaped the game's first critical moment as David Murphy jazzed the crowd with a deep fly to left that Holliday got on the edge of the warning track. Rangers lead, 1-0.

End-3rd: Derek Holland is giving the Rangers exactly what they need. Their bullpen is shot and he's retired nine of the first 10 hitters, giving up only a Berkman double in the second. Even better, he's needed just 43 pitches to do it. Think Ron Washington would love to see Holland go seven, use Mike Adams in the eighth and Neftali Feliz in the ninth? That would be the formula tonight for Texas. Jackson, meanwhile, recovered from a shaky first and has set down all six men he's faced the last two innings (although Kinsler singled in the second and was picked off by Molina). Rangers still lead, 1-0.

DSCN1724End-4th: It's still 1-0 for Texas. Another  1-2-3 inning for Holland and Jackson issued two-out walks to Murphy and Napoli before striking out Moreland. This place doesn't get a lot of national pub but it's great (OK, I realize it probably isn't so great on a 115-degree day in July but humor me). The Texas Lone Star is everywhere on the concourse and even on the side of every single seat, all 52,000 of them (right).

DSCN1725End-5th: The crowd of 51,539 is seeing quite a pitchers' duel. The 1-0 score remains. Jackson has given up three hits,  just one since the first, and Holland has given up two. Berkman is the only St. Louis baserunner, with a double in the seond and single in the fifth. 

More on the ballpark: My favorite part is the right field section, shown at left in this shot I took yesterday (click pic reminder for a bigger look).  It's a double-decker with poles holding up the green roof on both levels and it's an ode to old Tiger Stadium. You close your eyes and look at it and it's shocking. I used to love going to that place. First time I saw a roving hot dog vendor with the steel cart, the weenie dogs, the roll compartment and the mustard. Awesome. 

End-6th: Jackson was relieved after walking seven men, including passes to Cruz and Murphy with one out. That brought in Mitchell Boggs and out went the game for the Cardinals on one pitch. A 95-mph fastball that Napoli turned on and clubbed out to left for a no-doubt three-run blast. Sounded good off the bat. Yes, sounded. Rangers now lead, 4-0, and it looks pretty good that we'll be going back to St. Louis for Game Six.

Mid-7th: At GBA time, Holland continues to work on his two-hitter with only Berkman standing in his way of history. Pujols is 0 for 3 in this one with two grounders and a foul pop. Super job by Holland attacking each hitter and making no mistakes. He's gotten 12 groundball outs thus far. He's at 91 pitches. They could certainly get another inning out of him to save the pen even more.

The Series is Even: The Rangers win it 4-0 as Holland and Feliz comine on a two-hitter. Holland goes 8 1/3 with seven strikeouts.

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About Inside Pitch

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington

Mike Harrington, a Canisius College graduate who began his career as a News reporter in 1987, has covered the Buffalo Bisons since 1992 and Major League Baseball since 1995. A member of the Baseball Writers' Association of America, Harrington has reported on more than 30 MLB postseason series — including every game of the World Series in this century — and all three of the Bisons' championship runs in their modern era. He is a connoisseur of the famous Stadium Mustard at Cleveland's Progressive Field.

@BNHarrington |

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz

Amy Moritz, a native of Lockport, has covered the Bisons for The Buffalo News since 2002. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism/mass communication from St. Bonaventure University and a master’s degree in humanities from the University at Buffalo. An endurance athlete, she has completed several triathlons, half marathons and marathons.

@amymoritz |