It was St Louis native David Freese who delivered the dramatics for the Cardinals last night, coming up big twice with the game and the season on the line.
Despite being a strike away from ending the season, his two run triple tied the game in the ninth inning pushing it to extra innings. In the eleventh inning, he delivered again crushing a walk-off homerun to end the game and cap off one of the most exciting games any of us have ever watched.
While Mr. Freese stayed cool under the pressure of the big moments of the game, it was Matt Holliday who cracked under the pressure. Holliday slowed up on a routine fly ball. and then dropped it when he finally decided to catch it.
The error was one of five combined in the game and led to one of the 3 unearned runs that scored.
Holliday’s gaffes continued on the base paths. After his routine double-play ball was thrown away for an error, he came around to third base representing the go-ahead run with just one out. A quick throw by Mike Napoli caught him napping and snuffed out a rally for the Cardinals. Even with a wildpitch and a walk to follow, they didn’t score any more in the inning.
Getting picked off third base is horrible. There was simply nowhere for him to go. He would be forced out at home on an infield ground ball, he would have to tag up on a fly ball, and he probably wouldn’t be sent on a wildpitch. That’s quoting my little league baseball manager who taught us that at age 10.
Making matters worse for Holliday, he left the game after the play citing a bruised pinky. It’s not normally wise to question a player’s heart on leaving key games with possible injuries, so we’ll sum up his night. Dropped a routine fly ball, reached on a double play error, picked off on third, and bruised his pinky – well worth the $17 million he’s making this season.
This just goes to show how exciting that game really was. Instead of the five errors, the three unearned runs, the five pitch bases loaded walk to tie the game, or American League pitchers failing to drop down a successful sacrifice bunt, the story is the excitement.
Five times the Cardinals battled back to tie the game, and they scored six of their ten runs from the eighth inning onwards. Emotion from tying the game in the ninth was drained by Josh Hamilton’s two run homerun in the tenth, but they battled back and tied it again. Every time you counted out the Cardinals, they managed one more pitch to stay alive.
Tony LaRussa was also able to shrug off any criticisms of the bullpen gaffe from game five and called a brilliant wheel play early on. With the pitcher at the plate in the top of the second inning, he set up his defense with a do or die, all in scenario. It produced a routine double play off the bunted ball and limited the scoring from the subsequent ground rule double.
That play and another eight stranded base runners by the Rangers early on snuffed out the blowout and kept the Cardinals close enough to strike.
It was a night built by errors and crazy baseball, but it was a night won over by heroics and excitement. Anybody who witnessed that game tonight is already rearranging their schedules so they can tune in again tomorrow night.
Even with a story like local prodigy David Freese being the big hero twice for the Cardinals, this series is still far from finished. Game 7 will undoubtedly produce much more excitement and be a fitting closure to one of the most exciting playoff seasons any of us have ever witnessed.