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Cards rally to force Game 7 with Rangers

Oct 28, 2011 - 6:27 AM St. Louis, MO (Sports Network) - David Freese proved it twice. Lance Berkman and Albert Pujols showed it, too.

There is no quit in this St. Louis Cardinals team.

Down to their last strike twice on Thursday night, the Cardinals rallied to force Game 7 of the World Series against the Texas Rangers after one of the unlikeliest comebacks in baseball history.

Two of them, actually.

Freese hit a walkoff solo homer in the bottom of the 11th inning, giving St. Louis a 10-9 victory over Texas in a Game 6 classic that had more twists and turns than a Hollywood thriller.

Earlier, Freese tied the game with a two-out, two-strike, two-run triple off the right field wall in the ninth inning.

"That defines our team, that game, the way we just kept coming back," said Freese, whose jersey was headed to the Hall of Fame after being ripped off his back by teammates.

"We've been doing that for a long time."

Josh Hamilton then hit a two-run homer in the 10th to give the Rangers a 9-7 lead, and they were one strike away from their first-ever World Series title for a second time before Berkman hit an RBI single in the bottom of the inning to cap a two-run rally for St. Louis.

The Rangers, after two straight wins, were seeking the first World Series title in franchise history but will have to face the Cardinals again in Game 7, scheduled for Friday night in St. Louis.

"They fought tonight. They came back and won the game," said Rangers manager Ron Washington. "We just have to come back and fight tomorrow, because they certainly will."

The teams made five combined errors in the first six innings -- Freese dropped a pop-up in there -- showing a little rust from the first two-day layoff at the World Series in 22 years.

But Wednesday's rainout was surely worth Thursday's drama, several times over.

"You had to be here to believe it," said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa.

Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz hit back-to-back homers leading off the seventh inning, sparking a three-run rally that opened up a close game and gave the Rangers a 7-4 lead.

Ian Kinsler had an RBI single later in the frame and the lead stood at three until Allen Craig homered in the eighth to draw the Cardinals within two.

Pujols, on the verge of free agency, doubled with one out in the ninth and Berkman walked to put two men on. Two batters later, Freese was down 1-2 in the count against Neftali Feliz before hammering a ball deep to right.

Cruz went back, slowed near the warning track and was several feet from catching the ball before it took a bounce off the wall. Pujols and Berkman scored easily and Freese slid head-first into third base.

Hard to imagine it ended up being only his second-biggest swing of the night.

"Pretty amazing," Pujols said afterward. "I don't even know what to say ... If I was to tell you that wasn't the best game I ever played, I'd be lying."

Elvis Andrus singled with one out in the 10th and Hamilton knocked the first pitch he saw -- Jason Motte's 98 mph fastball -- over the wall in right-center to give Texas a 9-7 lead.

But the Cardinals sent seven batters to the plate in the bottom of the inning, getting their first two-out run on Ryan Theriot's ground out before Berkman lined Scott Feldman's 2-2 pitch into center field to tie the game.

"It's not fun to go up there with the season on the line," said Berkman, who had a two-run homer earlier in the game, "but I think the experience is incredible."

Jake Westbrook (1-0) pitched around Mike Napoli's single in the 11th, getting the win, and Freese led off against Mark Lowe (0-1), belting a 3-2 pitch over the wall in center field for the walkoff win.

The Cardinals, who won the wild card on the last day of the regular season after overcoming a double-digit deficit in late August, will likely pitch ace Chris Carpenter on three days' rest in Game 7.

"Might just roll Jake back out there, who knows," said La Russa, who has been coy about his decision.

Carpenter pitched Games 1 and 5 against No. 1 Rangers starter C.J. Wilson, who could also go again.

The Cardinals might have to play without left fielder Matt Holliday, who injured his right hand diving back to third base in the sixth. He was picked off by Napoli on a snap throw with the bases loaded. The Cardinals thought he had a fracture, but La Russa said it was just bruised and there was swelling.

"So it may be we need to replace him for tomorrow," said La Russa.

Hamilton had an RBI single in the top of the first and the Cardinals responded with Berkman's two-run homer in the bottom of the inning to take the lead. Kinsler tied the game with a ground-rule double in the second.

St. Louis starter Jaime Garcia gave up two runs on five hits and two walks in three innings and was pulled after throwing 59 pitches, including 49 in the first two frames, as the Cardinals went to their bullpen early.

Holliday dropped Cruz's pop-up in the fourth, leading to Napoli's 10th RBI of the series on a single to make it 3-2. Napoli appeared to twist his ankle badly going to second to beat a force attempt, but walked it off.

Berkman reached on an error by first baseman Michael Young, who threw to Colby Lewis covering on a grounder, but the Rangers starter missed the bag with his foot. Later in the inning, the Cardinals tied the game on Yadier Molina's ground out.

Freese dropped Hamilton's pop-up leading off the fifth, which led to Young's RBI double for a 4-3 lead. Washington batted Lewis with the bases loaded and the Texas starter struck out to end the inning.

Lewis gave up just two hits through five innings, but ran into trouble in the sixth, loading the bases.

The Rangers were both let down and picked up by their defense. Berkman singled with one out and Holliday reached on Young's second error of the game -- the Texas first baseman bobbled a grounder and couldn't tag Holliday in time.

After Freese walked to load the bases, Alexi Ogando replaced Lewis and walked Molina to force in a run. But Napoli picked off Holliday and Derek Holland ultimately escaped a bases-loaded jam.

In the seventh, Beltre knocked Lance Lynn's 1-0 fastball over the wall in right-center field and Cruz recovered from two quick strikes to crush Lynn's 1-2 fastball inside the left field foul pole.

Later, Octavio Dotel's wild pitch moved Holland to second and he scored on Kinsler's single to make it 7-4 Rangers.

Game Notes

Freese hit the 15th walk-off homer in World Series history and first since 2005...This marks the 37th time a best-of-seven World Series will go to the final game (including 1912, when eight games were played following a Game 2 tie). In the previous 36 instances, the home team has won 19 times...It was the first time the World Series had a two-day break since the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake postponed the A's-Giants series for 10 days.