Albert Pujols, Rafael Furcal and David Freese hit home runs for the Cardinals, who won the best-of-seven National League Championship Series 4-2. The teams combined for six home runs in last night’s Game 6 at Miller Park in Milwaukee.
The Cardinals face the Texas Rangers in the best-of-seven Major League Baseball championship series starting in St. Louis in two days. The Cardinals are back for the first time since winning in 2006, while the American League-champion Rangers lost last year’s World Series to the San Francisco Giants.
“It’s amazing, but we’ve got one step to climb and it’s the big one,” Pujols, the Cardinals’ All-Star first baseman, said in a televised interview after going 2-for-4 with two runs batted in. “That Texas team is looking pretty good.”
St. Louis didn’t wrap up a postseason spot until the final day of the regular season, claiming the NL’s wild card berth by one game over Atlanta, which lost its final five games. The Cardinals trailed the Braves by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25 and won 23 of 32 games to end the season.
“We had a lot of adversity, but we found a way to get in and have been playing really well,” Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday told reporters. “Now we’re going to the World Series.”
Pujols and the Cardinals knocked off the 102-win Philadelphia Phillies in the first round before ousting the Brewers, who had finished six games ahead of St. Louis in the NL Central Division.
“We had so much adversity and the guys never quit,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “All of a sudden it clicked. Once it got going, the guys played every game like it was the last game of their life and it worked.”
The Cardinals jumped out to a 4-0 lead in the top of the first inning against a Milwaukee team that had the best home record in baseball this season at 57-24. Lance Berkman had a run-scoring single and Freese followed with a three-run homer off Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum. Freese was voted the NLCS Most Valuable Player after hitting .545 with three homers and nine RBI against the Brewers.
“This means the world to me,” said Freese, who grew up in St. Louis. “Not only to get to the World Series, but to be a part of this group of guys.”
Marcum went 0-2 with a 14.90 earned run average in three postseason starts for Milwaukee.
Cardinals Pull Away
While Corey Hart, Rickie Weeks and Jonathan Lucroy hit home runs over the first two innings to pull the Brewers within 5-4, the Cardinals added four more runs in the third inning off Chris Narveson.
Freese and Holliday each scored three runs for the Cardinals, whose six-run win came one day after the Rangers clinched back-to-back pennants with a 15-5 rout of the Detroit Tigers in Game 6 of the ALCS.
The Cardinals have won 10 World Series titles, yet have lost three of their past four appearances in the championship round, including a four-game sweep against Boston in 2004. The NL hasn’t produced consecutive World Series champions since 1982, when the Cardinals followed titles by the Pittsburgh Pirates, Phillies and Los Angeles Dodgers.
St. Louis had the top-scoring offense in the NL this year and has averaged 6.6 runs a game in the postseason while the Cardinals’ bullpen has gone 4-0 with a 2.55 ERA. Five relievers combined to hold the Brewers to two runs over the final seven innings last night.
“Our bullpen was incredible,” said Cardinals starting pitcher Chris Carpenter, who is scheduled to start Game 1 of the World Series. “The starting pitching didn’t go deep in these games, but you can get hot in a short series. If you play hard enough, you can get an opportunity.”
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