The World Series of baseball is one of the great sporting events. While it is a purely North America spectacle, sports fans can appreciate the effort that it takes to appear and succeed in ‘The Show’.
The 2011 World Series will go down in history as one of the true fall classics.
The Texas Rangers were there, hoping to go one step better than they did this time last year.
And the St. Louis Cardinals were there too. A team by all accounts had no right to be there after being 10.5 games behind the wild card standing at the beginning of September.
However, the amazing run by St. Louis through September, over the Phillies and Brewers to capture the National League Pennant, set the mood for this years Major League World Series.
The National League this year had home field advantage, due to the All-Star game win back in July. Was this an advantage that would prove to be decisive?
Game 1 showed how tight the world of baseball can be. A tight pitching dual ensured that the game would be decided by a single run. A pinch hit go-ahead RBI by Allen Craig proved to be the decisive run in the bottom of the 6th. Chris Carpenter came out tops for St. Louis. 1-0 to the Cardinals.
Game 2 was also to be played in St. Louis. Again, this game was as tight as they come. A 2-1 affair with another impressive display by both starting pitches ensured the game would go down right to the wire. Colby Lewis would eventually be the winning pitcher on the night as the Rangers were able to snatch victory from the hands of defeat.
Ian Kinsler started the top of the 9th with a bloop single, he proceeded to steal second three pitches later on a close but ultimately correct call at second. Elvis Andrus followed this with a single into right field, and managed to proceed to second base on the throwing error by Albert Pujols who failed to take the cut-off. Josh Hamilton and Michale Young made back-to-back sacrifice flys to seal the game.
This is not before Cardinals manager, Tony La Russa, made two pitching changes to stem the bleeding. Neftali Feliz was able to shut the door in the bottom of the 9th.
Game 3 saw the Series move to Arlington Texas for the next three games. Game 3 was one for the Cardinals batters. After two tight games the much publicised bats of the Cardinals began to fire, and none more so than Albert Pujols.
His performance in game three puts him in the same league as baseball greats Babe Ruth and Reggie Jackson, all have hit three home-runs in the one fall classic game. However, he went one step further by driving in a total of 6 RBI’s, amassing 14 total bases, with 5 hits. The Cardinals were on a role, taking a series lead again 2-1. Teams leading at this stage have gone onto win the series a vast majority of the time, some 60% winning percentage.
Game 4 saw a dramatic shift in performances. Just a night after St. Louis scored 16 runs, it was time for some new blood. Rangers manager Ron Washington handed the ball to 25 year old ace, Derek Holland. The young man managed to last 8 1/3 innings and did not give up a single run. This performance, and this performance alone, kept the Rangers well and truly alive in the World Series.
Along with Mike Napoli’s (Napoli was a pre-season acquisition from the Toronto Blue Jays) 6th run blast Texas ensured the series would be heading at least to game 6 in St. Louis.
Game 5 saw a managerial master stroke from Rangers manager Ron Washington. Albert Pujols is a weapon at the best of the times and always has the potential to turn the game with a single swing of the bat. The solution to this major obstacle? Don’t pitch to him.
The Rangers would eventually intentionally walk the 9 time All-Star and 3 time NL MVP, three times. This removed the major offensive weapon of the Cardinals. The Rangers just needed offense of their own to win. Step up again Mike Napoli. His clutch go-ahead double in the bottom of the 8th highlighted a top game for Napoli who also nailed two runners stealing second – one including a strike-em-out-throw-em-out double play in the 9th.
Texas travelled back to St. Louis looking to close out the series in 6 games and looked set to do so. They had to wait another day as the game due for Wednesday night was washed out.
The game would be played on Friday night and game 7 if needed would be played on Saturday.
The game got underway and Texas looked to be the stronger side. However, the real theatrics of the game began in the bottom of the 9th. David Freese was at bat, down two strikes, and managed to hit a deep shot to right field. The shot was just out of the grasp of right fielder, Nelson Cruz. This scored two runs to tie the game 7-7. Game saved. Again, in the bottom of the 10th Texas were one strike away from their first ever World Series. It was Lance Berkman’s turn to hit the Cardinals back into the game with a game-tying single. Game saved again. Incredible. Indescribable. Twice the Cardinals had come to within a hair of losing the World Series in game 6.
Not content with saving the game in the 9th, David Freese came to bat in the bottom of the 11th. He sent a full count fastball to centre field, and Busch Stadium erupted. David Freese was the hero as he sent the series to a 7th and final game.
Game 7 is a baseball fan’s dream if you were from Texas. On all accounts Texas should have had the series wrapped up the night before. But it wasn’t to be and they had to turn up to play for their lives, they didn’t. After giving up two runs in the 1st, Chris Carpenter shut the door on the Texas batters and the Texas season.
The Cardinals probaly should never have made the post-season, they probably shouldn’t have beaten the best team in baseball, Philadelphia, they shouldn’t have been able to beat the Brewers at home twice – the Brewers had the best home record in all of baseball and they definitely shouldn’t have won game 6 of the World Series.
But isn’t that what the classics are all about? The drama.
180 games of baseball was played by the Cardinals in 2011 (not including spring training) but the 180th was the most important and they didn’t lose their heads on the biggest stage in baseball.
Congratulations to the St. Louis Cardinals. 2011 World Series Champions.