October 27, 2011: David Freese’s home run caps historic World Series Game 6

With rain threatening, Major League Baseball postponed the sixth game of the World Series a day.

It was well worth the wait.

The 47,325 fans at Busch Stadium that evening saw David Freese cement his legacy with a game-tying, two-run triple in the ninth inning and a game-winning solo home run in the 11th. Along the way, the Cardinals became the first team in World Series history to score in the eighth, ninth, 10th, and 11th innings.[1] With their 10-9, 11-inning win, the Cardinals forced a decisive seventh game despite twice coming one strike away from elimination.

“If that’s not the best postseason game of all time, I don’t know what could top it,” said outfielder Lance Berkman. “That was unbelievable.”[2]

After Albert Pujols hit three home runs in Game 3 to lift St. Louis to a 2-1 Series advantage, the Rangers rallied with 4-0 and 4-2 victories in Games 4 and 5. One more loss, and the Cardinals’ late-season rally to claim the wild card would be little more than a footnote to baseball history. At various points in the game, it looked as though that was exactly what would happen.

“It was nothing pretty, but an absolute sight to see,” wrote St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bryan Burwell. “It was terrible execution but enthralling drama. It was joy and pain, up and down, fun and frustration all balled up into 11 of the wackiest innings of championship baseball I’ve ever seen.”[3]

The Rangers took the lead five separate times in the game, beginning in the first inning when Josh Hamilton hit an RBI single off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia. Berkman responded with a two-run homer off Colby Lewis in the bottom of the first to give the Cardinals a brief 2-1 lead.

Texas tied the game in the second when Ian Kinsler came to the plate with runners on first and second and hit a two-out, ground-rule double into the left-field gap. With Garcia removed after three innings, Fernando Salas entered the game in the fourth and fell victim to a fielding error by Matt Holliday in left field.

Nelson hit a fly ball into shallow left field, and with shortstop Rafael Furcal racing back to try to make a difficult play, Holliday made a late stab for the ball and dropped it. With Cruz safely on second base, Mike Napoli followed with a single into right that gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead.

“Things happen. That’s part of the game,” Holliday said. “Obviously it’s no fun, but it’s part of it. Plays like that happen.”[4]

The Cardinals tied the score in the bottom half of the inning. Berkman reached on an error by Michael Young at first base and Holliday drew a walk before Yadier Molina drove in a run with a ground ball to Adrian Beltre at third base.

Once again, the Rangers responded. After Freese dropped a pop fly off the bat of Josh Hamilton, Young doubled into left field to give Texas a 4-3 lead.

In the fifth, La Russa entered Jon Jay into the game as a pinch hitter for Salas, and when the Cardinals took the field in the sixth, La Russa placed Jay in center field and had incoming pitcher Lance Lynn take Skip Schumaker’s spot in the lineup. The move gave the Cardinals two more at-bats before the pitcher’s spot would come up again, but also meant that Schumaker – who had made solid contact in each of his three at-bats – would be unavailable the remainder of the game.

“If Schu had stayed in the game and I took Jay out, then Lynn wouldn’t have been able to pitch another inning,” La Russa explained. “You need innings from as many relievers as you could.”[5]

Lynn threw a scoreless sixth inning, and the Cardinals tied the score again in the bottom half of the frame, sending seven hitters to the plate without getting the ball out of the infield. After Lewis struck out Pujols, Berkman reached on an infield single, Holliday reached on an error, and Freese drew a one-out walk.

Alexi Ogando entered the game in place of Lewis and immediately walked Molina, tying the score once again. The Cardinals might have taken the lead, but Ogando picked off Holliday at third base before walking Nick Punto.

“I thought I was safe,” Holliday said. “You’re trying to be aggressive there because if the ball gets away, you want to score. They did a good job of selling it.”[6]

Left-hander Derek Holland entered the game and retired Jay to end the inning.

In the seventh, Allen Craig entered the game in place of Holliday, who had injured his right pinky finger while diving back into third base. Lynn, meanwhile, struggled in his second inning of work, allowing home runs to Beltre and Cruz. After David Murphy singled to center field and Holland’s attempt at a sacrifice resulted in a force out at second, La Russa turned to Octavio Dotel.

Although the 37-year-old reliever had been effective throughout the postseason, he threw a wild pitch that advanced Holland to second base before Kinsler singled to give the Rangers a 7-4 lead.

Holland was still on the mound for Texas in the bottom of the eighth when Craig, in the game due to Holliday’s injury, hit a solo home run to cut the deficit to 7-5.

As the game headed into the ninth inning, Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak, one of just a few people who knew that La Russa planned to retire at the end of the season, was trying to gather his thoughts.

“Throughout the ebb and flow of that game, multiple times I was writing what I was going to tell the club on Tony’s departure,” Mozeliak said. “On the sheet of paper, I was writing down what I thought the messaging should be. One time I even rolled it up and threw it out in the trash can—and then I had to pick it back up.”[7]

Neftali Feliz opened the ninth by striking out Ryan Theriot. Pujols came to the plate next and hit the first pitch over Hamilton’s head in center field. Berkman drew a four-pitch walk before Feliz struck out Craig for the second out.

That brought Freese to the plate as the Cardinals’ final hope. Feliz missed with his first pitch but threw back-to-back strikes to get ahead in the count 1-and-2. On the fourth pitch of the at-bat, Freese hit a 98-mph fastball over Cruz’s head in right field. Pujols and Berkman both scored to tie the game, 7-7.

“It’s Cardinal baseball,” Freese said. “This is how they teach us. You never give up.”[8]

In the 10th, the Rangers took the lead for the fifth time in the game. With Cardinals closer Jason Motte on the mound, Elvis Andrus hit a one-out single and Josh Hamilton launched a two-run homer to put the Rangers back on top, 9-7.

“I remember when Hamilton hit it, I literally thought to myself on the mound, ‘Man, I just lost the World Series,’” recalled Motte.[9]

Berkman, the veteran of 13 major-league seasons, shared Motte’s feeling that this might not be the Cardinals’ night.

“It was miraculous that we came back from a two-run deficit,” Berkman said, “and against their closer, who was really good. Then we go down two runs again the very next inning and you’re like: there’s no way. It’s practically speaking as a baseball player. You have enough experience to know that—hey, this is not looking good. The chances of us coming back twice from two-run deficits are not good against a talented team. So when Hamilton hit that home run, I thought, Well, they deserve it. They had a great year, they got a great team. And then you start thinking, Okay, well, wait a minute, am I coming up next inning? You start thinking about your offensive inning and what you need to do to try to tie the game again.”[10]

Daniel Descalso led off the 10th inning for the Cardinals.

“I kind of had to get over [the Hamilton homer] pretty quick,” he said. “I’m thinking, I just need to get myself on base. I thought I was going to be facing Neftali Feliz, who had given up the triple to Freese the inning before. This is one of the best closers in the league, throws high-90s, 100 mph. But I get into the on-deck circle and I see Darren Oliver coming in from the bullpen. And no offense to Darren Oliver, but he was a left-handed pitcher who throws 88 or 89. I’d much rather face him than their closer. So I had a little bit of extra confidence going up there, even though I’d never faced him before. I was telling myself, ‘Have a good at-bat. Find a way to get on base.’ I knew if I could find a way to get on base and the tying run comes to bat, we at least have a shot.”[11]

Descalso did find a way to get on base, pulling a single into right field, and Jay followed with a single of his own. Kyle Lohse’s sacrifice bunt advanced Descalso and Jay to second and third, respectively.

With Theriot up next, Rangers manager Ron Washington replaced Oliver with Scott Feldman. When Theriot hit a ground ball out to third base, it scored Descalso to cut the lead to 9-8, but also resulted in the second out of the inning. The Cardinals were down to their final out as the Rangers intentionally walked Pujols to bring Berkman to the plate.

It was just like Berkman had imagined before the game.

“I knew that I’d be hitting behind Albert and I just had this funny feeling that the season is going to come down to one of my at-bats,” he said. “So I prayed. ‘Lord, If that happens, just don’t let the moment be too big. Let me be able to focus and concentrate. I’m not praying for success. I’m not praying for a hit. But Lord just let me be able to focus and really concentrate on what I’m doing and just use the ability that you’ve given me.’ And what’s crazy is that when I was in the dugout in the 10th inning, I was a nervous wreck. But I just knew: here it comes. I got in the on-deck circle, and the place is going nuts. And when you see him start to intentionally walk Albert, you just know that: okay, it’s on me now.

“And from the second I took that donut off my bat and as I was striding up to the plate, it was like, I can’t explain it, but just a calm and focus. I’ve never really had that level of focus before in my life and you can just see it. When I watched it the other night, I can see on my face this incredible calm focus. The first pitch was a fastball, kind of up and in, and I took a huge rip at it. There was no fear, there was no tentativeness. It was all focused aggression, and what’s great is the competition was pure because he didn’t make a bad pitch. If you go back and watch that at-bat, every pitch he threw was either a ball or it was like right on the corners. He was making really tough pitches.”

Feldman’s tough pitches weren’t enough, as Berkman singled into center field to score Jay and tie the game, 9-9. It was the first time in major-league history that a team’s season twice came down to the final out and it came through each time.[12]

Jake Westbrook, who had been left off the Cardinals’ NLCS roster, entered the game for the Cardinals in the 11th and worked around a one-out Napoli single for a scoreless inning of relief. That brought Freese to the plate to lead off the bottom of the 11th.

Mark Lowe, in the game to pitch in place of Feldman, threw three consecutive balls before he got a questionable called strike. Freese fouled the next pitch off. Then, down to his final strike, he got a 3-2 curveball.

It was arguably the biggest home run in Cardinals history.

As St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz described the scene:

Freese, the hometown hero, sent a miracle soaring above the diamond, rising above the wall in center field to land in the beautiful green grass that no glove, no Ranger, could reach. Freese circled the bases, his right arm raised in triumph, taking a victory lap, and all of St. Louis wanted to be at his side, running with him.[13]

“It’s not that easy to win a world championship, as we found out tonight,” Washington said. “We had the right people in the right spots and they beat us. We’ll bounce back tomorrow. We’ve been in some tough spots before, and we’ve responded. I expect us to respond tomorrow.”[14]

Young shared similar sentiments.

“We thought we had them a couple of times, but give them credit,” he said. “They had some great at-bats when they needed to, so we’ll see them in Game 7. It’s been a classic World Series the entire time, so it’s down to one game for all the marbles. It should be fun. We’re looking forward to it. We thought we had it done, you obviously have to make the final out. Down to the final strike twice. Give them credit. We’ll regroup and be ready tomorrow.”[15]

As the Rangers put on a brave face in the wake of a heartbreaking loss, a Baseball Hall of Fame representative made their way to the Cardinals’ clubhouse to collect Freese’s bat and jersey for the museum’s collection.[16]

“It was all about surviving,” Freese said. “It was all about getting to tomorrow, and Game 7.”[17]

Cardinals general manager John Mozeliak placed the game in the context of the Cardinals’ comeback to claim the National League wild-card berth.

“It was an epic game in a lot of ways,” he said. “It captures our season in one night. Nobody ever quit.”[18]

Meanwhile, Burwell chronicled the fans’ reaction in the Post-Dispatch:

And by the end of the night, this was the soundtrack of the evening: All of Cardinal Nation joyfully exhaling, dancing in the aisles, hugging everyone and partying because this most improbable season of all will live on for one more incredible, historic night. And if you never believed in baseball miracles before, here’s one for the ages: The lights are still on at Busch. Game 7 tonight.[19]

Even as the Cardinals celebrated, they had their eyes set on Game 7 and the opportunity it presented.

“It’s awesome, but the main game is tomorrow,” Pujols said. “After tomorrow, someone is going to be a champion.”[20]


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[1] Joe Strauss, “Comeback Special,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Comeback Special,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[3] Bryan Burwell, “What an unbelievable ride,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[4] Dan O’Neill, “Holliday’s Troubles,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[5] Rick Hummel, “Escalating Drama,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[6] Dan O’Neill, “Holliday’s Troubles,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[7] Hochman, Benjamin (2021), 11 In ’11: A Hometown Hero, La Russa’s Last Ride in Red, and a Miracle World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. Triumph Books, 188.

[8] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards pass their greatest test,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[9] Hochman, Benjamin (2021), 11 In ’11: A Hometown Hero, La Russa’s Last Ride in Red, and a Miracle World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. Triumph Books, 187.

[10] Hochman, Benjamin (2021), 11 In ’11: A Hometown Hero, La Russa’s Last Ride in Red, and a Miracle World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. Triumph Books, 187.

[11] Hochman, Benjamin (2021), 11 In ’11: A Hometown Hero, La Russa’s Last Ride in Red, and a Miracle World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. Triumph Books, 188.

[12] Hochman, Benjamin (2021), 11 In ’11: A Hometown Hero, La Russa’s Last Ride in Red, and a Miracle World Series for the St. Louis Cardinals. Triumph Books, 190.

[13] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards pass their greatest test,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[14] Jeff Wilson, “Rangers can’t close it out,” Fort Worth Star-Telegram, October 28, 2011.

[15] Tom Timmerman, “Rangers Regroup,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[16] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards pass their greatest test,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[17] Bernie Miklasz, “Cards pass their greatest test,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[18] Joe Strauss, “Comeback Special,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[19] Bryan Burwell, “What an unbelievable ride,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 28, 2011.

[20] Mark Feinsand, “Triumph is a St. Loo-Loo to force Texas to Game 7,” New York Daily News, October 28, 2011.

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