Allen Craig hit a tie-breaking solo home run in the third inning and then caught the final out to give the St. Louis Cardinals the World Series title in seven games with a 6-2 win against the Texas Rangers.
The title is the 11th for the Cardinals, second only to the 27 won by the New York Yankees, and their first since 2006.
“This is what you dream about,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who claimed his third World Series championship. “When you’re a kid, it’s always Game 7. It’s a dream come true.”
Craig caught David Murphy’s fly ball to left that ended a perfect ninth inning pitched by Jason Motte. “The ball goes up into outer space and I can hardly see it, but I caught it,” Craig said in a televised interview.
The Rangers, champions of the American League, were trying to win the first World Series in their history, which they began as the Washington Senators in 1961. They also lost a year ago in their first appearance in baseball’s final round.
“Someone had to win, someone had to lose,” Rangers manager Ron Washington said in a televised interview. “It was in our grasp. We just couldn’t catch up. They cleanly beat us. We didn’t give them anything.”
David Freese, a St. Louis native, became the sixth player to win the Most Valuable Player award in both the World Series and the National League Championship Series.
Freese, who hit a walk-off home run in the 11th inning of Game 6 to give the Cardinals a 10-9 win, hit a two-run double in the first inning last night to tie the score at 2-2 after Josh Hamilton and Michael Young belted run-scoring doubles for Texas.
“This means everything,” said Freese, who set a major league record with 21 runs batted in this postseason. “This whole ride, this team deserves this.”
Craig hit his home run in the third and then scored on Yadier Molina’s bases-loaded walk in the fifth to put St. Louis ahead 4-2. The next batter, Rafael Furcal, was hit by a pitch with the bases loaded, sending Albert Pujols home to make it 5-2. Molina added a run-scoring single in the seventh.
Chris Carpenter, pitching on three days rest, allowed two runs on six hits and struck out five in six innings for the Cardinals. Matt Harrison gave up five hits and three runs in four innings for the loss.
Carpenter, who also won Game 1 of the series, earned his ninth postseason victory -- tops among active pitchers. He had been tied with Yankees reliever Mariano Rivera with eight postseason wins.
Cardinals Beat Odds
The odds were against the Cardinals after they lost Game 5, 4-2 on Oct. 24 in Arlington, Texas. In the 39 previous times the World Series was tied 2-2, the loser of Game 5 went on to capture the championship on 13 occasions, or 33 percent of the time.
The Cardinals’ chances appeared even dimmer late in Game 6, until a record-setting escape.
They forced a seventh game with a 10-9 victory on Freese’s 11th-inning home run. The Rangers, who held two-run leads in the ninth and 10th innings, blew a World Series-record three saves, and the Cardinals twice rallied when down to their final strike.
In the ninth inning, Freese hit a two-run triple off Neftali Feliz to tie the game 7-7. The Rangers took a 9-7 lead in the top of the 10th on a home run by Hamilton, and once again failed to close the game in the bottom of the frame. After an RBI groundout by Ryan Theriot, Cardinals right fielder Lance Berkman, the NL’s Comeback Player of the Year, singled on a 2-2 pitch from Scott Feldman to tie the game again.
“I want to tell these guys when I’m super old about how unbelievable that game was,” Carpenter said, surrounded by his children.
The game marked the third time in World Series history -- and first since the 1986 New York Mets beat Bill Buckner and the Boston Red Sox in Game 6 -- that a team rallied for a victory after being one out from elimination. The only other team to accomplish the feat was the New York Giants, who rallied against the Philadelphia Athletics to win Game 5 of the 1911 World Series. The Mets went on to win their second World Series, while the Giants fell in Game 6.
The Cardinals won on the last day of the season to secure the NL wild-card spot by one game from the Atlanta Braves, who lost their last game to the Philadelphia Phillies.
St. Louis, which trailed Atlanta by 10 1/2 games on Aug. 25, won 23 of its last 32 games, while the Braves ended the season with five straight losses.
Las Vegas oddsmakers shunned the Cardinals, picking the Rangers to win their first championship in franchise history. St. Louis was listed at +120, which returned $120 on a $100 bet.
The Rangers and Cardinals began the season tied as the sixth favorites among the league’s 30 teams to win the World Series, with odds of 20-1.
In 2006, the Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers by four games to one in the World Series, which has gone to seven games 34 times. National League teams lead their American League counterparts 20-15 in final-game wins.
In Game 3 of the series, Pujols hit three home runs and drove in six to power the Cardinals to a 16-7 win.
Pujols’s home runs in the sixth, seventh and ninth innings tied the records set by Babe Ruth in the fourth games of the 1926 and 1928 series, and by Reggie Jackson in Game 6 of the 1977 series.
Of the Cardinals’ 11 championships, eight went to seven games, including their first title in 1926.
Ousted Phillies, Brewers
St. Louis ousted the Phillies, who finished the regular season with a league-best 102 wins, in the first round of the playoffs and defeated the Milwaukee Brewers to capture the NL Championship Series.
The Rangers beat the Tampa Bay Rays 3-1 in the best-of-five opening round of this year’s postseason before knocking out the Tigers 4-2 to win the AL Championship Series.
The Rangers now are 0-2 in World Series tries. Last year, after ousting the Rays and defending-champion Yankees for their first postseason series wins since they moved from Washington in 1972, the Rangers lost in five games to the San Francisco Giants in the championship round.
The Rangers were purchased in a bankruptcy auction in August 2010, with Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan emerging as their owner when partner Chuck Greenberg left the organization in March.
They were trying to bring the Dallas area its second major professional sports championship of the year. The Dallas Mavericks won the National Basketball Association title in June.
This year’s World Series lacked teams with national followings, with Texas ranked eighth and St. Louis ninth in MLB popularity by a Harris poll this year. Dallas also is the fifth-largest U.S. media market and St. Louis the 21st.
Yet ratings on News Corp.’s Fox for Game 4 on Oct. 23 beat the National Football League game that night on Comcast Corp.’s NBC, and Game 6 drew the highest ratings of the last 11 World Series games, according to figures compiled by Nielsen Holdings NV and provided by the networks.