Freese World Series MVP just one of many Cards to come up aces
It was a fabulous World Series story for a great World Series. David Freese, a hometown kid who grew up just 30 miles from Busch Stadium's home plate, dreaming of being a Cardinal, is named MVP of the Fall Classic. The 28-year-old third baseman who had thought he was done with baseball as a youngster in college, batted .348 with five extra-base hits, seven RBIs and a 1.160 OPS as the Cardinals won the 11th World Series title in history, beating the Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday.
“What a feeling, this is incredible,” Freese said. “You come to this field and you're part of something like this as a fan, it makes you want to be part of it on the field. You bust your tail to get to this point. It takes a total team to not only get to this pount but to beat the Texas Rangers.”
Freese had three consecutive at bats that bridged his heroics connecting Game 6 to Game 7. The three hits cemented his place as one of the all-time legends of post-season lore. In the ninth inning of Game 6, faced with elimination, Freese stroked a two-out, two-on triple to right field to send the game to extra innings. In the 11th he took the series to Game 7 with a bomb to the grassy knoll in straightaway centre field. In Game 7, moved up to the five-hole for the injured Matt Holliday, Freese smacked a two-run double to left centre to tie the game. Three momentous hits in the two biggest games of the season.
“You turn the page, keep your focus,” Freese said, shaking his head in wonder at his own fast-track to fame. “That first AB I had a good plan going on. I put a pretty good swing on something. You gotta get things to work out for you in the post season. It's tough enough to get in. You've got to be somewhat lucky to win it. We did enough things to get it done.”
A little bit of the luck Freese was talking about showed up on Wednesday when the threat of torrential downpours in the St. Louis area caused MLB to call off Game 6 and delayed the series by a day, meaning an extra 24 hours of rest for Cards' ace Chris Carpenter. He immediately petitioned manager Tony LaRussa for the rights to the Game 7 start. Without the rain it would have been Kyle Lohse. All bets are off.
“I was hoping so, Carpenter said of being handed the ball on Friday. “It's not my decision, it's Tony's, but I was hoping to have an opportunity to go ahead and pitch in that game. Fortunately it worked out. It started out a little rough in the first but I was able to collect myself, make some pitches and our guys did an awesome job to battle back.”
Carpenter allowed the first four Cards to reach base, allowing two runs, but carried the Cards into the seventh inning with a lead they never surrendered. Carpenter completed the World Series with a 2-0 record in three starts and a 2.84 ERA. Fringe MVP.
And it wasn't just Freese and Carpenter for the Cards. There was Albert Pujols in what may have been his last hurrah in the Caridinals uniform. He owned Game 3 with one of the most complete offensive performances in World Series history, five hits, three homers, six RBIs and 14 total bases. He had one hit the rest of the series but was a daunting presence.
There was Allen Craig with hits in each of the first three games, two of them pinch-hits, to put the Cardinals ahead. There was Lance Berkman, earning his first World Series ring in his 13th season. He batted .423 with five RBIs, five walks and a strikeout.
But if the World Series had a three-star system like in hockey, the Cards' second star to Freese would have been catcher Yadier Molina. The youngest of the Molina brothers drove in nine runs in seven games, batting .333 with an .830 OPS. But the biggest contributions for Molina were while wearing the tools of ignorance and handling the staff. He threw out three of four base stealers and allowed just one wild pitch letting his staff pitch down and even below the strike zone with no fears, a la Pat Borders.
“The last month of the season, that's where it started,” Pujols said. “Different guys were coming through getting big hits and we carried that into the post-season and here we are. World Champions.”
It was as if the three blown-save Game 6 was it for the Rangers and manager Ron Washington, their lone window of opportunity. Once they had slept on their group failure to launch that Thursday night, the pitching dried up and so did their World Series chances as they lost two games in a row for the first time since August. It only gets tougher for the Rangers to repeat as AL champs for a third time. With a five-game World Series loss to the Giants in 2010, they may be becoming the Buffalo Bills of major-league baseball.
And Cito Gaston, with the Jays in '92 and 93 remains the only African-American manager to win a World Series.