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.
I 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.
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.
The 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).
End-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.
Mid-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.
Mid-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