Series teams need short memories

David Freese rounds first as the Cardinals dugout empties behind him following his dramatic...

David Freese rounds first as the Cardinals dugout empties behind him following his dramatic 11th-inning home run on in Thursday's Game 6 thriller. (Reuters)

Ken Fidlin, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:15 PM ET

ST. LOUIS -  One of the most difficult things about Game 7 of the World Series for everyone involved Friday night, had to do with developing a convenient case of amnesia regarding Game 6.

All day long Friday, this city where baseball is king was still buzzing about the 10-9 victory by the Cardinals on Thursday that staved off the Texas Rangers’ bid to win their first championship. Twice, St. Louis rebounded from being one pitch away from elimination. Twice the Rangers failed to get that key pitch.

The first time, in the bottom of the ninth, David Freese belted a two-run triple to tie the game 7-7. The second time, in the bottom of the 10th, Lance Berkman floated a broken bat RBI-single into centre field to tie the game 9-9.

Then, to bring the biggest crowd in the history of this incarnation of Busch Stadium to a frenzied state, Freese capped off the evning with a solo walkoff home run to centre in the 11th.

When the game was over, the Cards had become the only team in post-season history to score runs in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings of the same game

The high drama sent observors and participants scurrying for comparatives and the consensus has come back that there are none.

“If that’s not the best post-season game of all-time, I don’t know what could top it,” said Berkman. “It was unbelievable.”

But as Thursday night turned to Friday morning, the task for both managers, Tony La Russa of St. Louis and Ron Washington, of Texas, was to turn the page effectively.

“I learned early on that you’ve got to enjoy the moment,” said La Russa on Friday afternoon. “In this game, we don’t enjoy the wins as much as you suffer from the losses. When you lose, the next day, you can’t put it away. When you win, it’s usually easy because you worry about the next one.

“In this case, it’s hard to forget because of the huge significance. It’s really hard. This is a dead-even competition and you can’t be distracted by (Thursday) night.”

La Russa said one of his veterans delivered a key message in the dugout in the midst of Thursday’s chaos.

“He said: ‘This historic run is not going to end today.’ And it’s a helluva comment.”

The Cardinals have been playing what amounts to elimination games for the past two months. On Aug. 25, they stood 10 games behind NL Central-leading Milwaukee and 101/2 games behind wild card-leading Atlanta. St. Louis had been playing lousy baseball for the two previous weeks and Chris Carpenter called a team meeting to deliver a message that this wasn’t acceptable.

“It wasn’t about making a run to the playoffs,” said Carpenter. “It was about having pride about how we were playing. From that day on, we started playing good baseball.”

They caught and passed the Braves for the wild-card spot on the final day of the season after an amazing run down the stretch. Then they took the heavily favoured Phillies to five games and Carpenter bested Roy Halladay in the fifth and deciding game. They took out the Brewers in six games of the NLCS and, heading into Friday’s final game of the year, had a chance to make this impossible dream come true.

“After that meeting, the team decided it was just going to play every game like it’s the seventh game of the World Series. And they did it every day for six weeks, and then they started enjoying doing that.”

And then, on Friday evening, they looked up and it WAS the seventh game of the World Series.

“There’s lots of time for retrospection,” said La Russa. “Just not now.”

Washington said he had no concerns about lingering self-doubt from Game 6. He addressed it after the game and then again Friday before batting practice.

“We took a blow to the guts,” said Washington. “We were one pitch away from being world champions. Twice. We didn’t get the last out.

“So, yes, it was a blow but I wanted to make them understand that the prize is still in front of us. They realize what’s at stake and they understand how baseball goes sometimes.”

Closer Neftali Feliz, just 23, coughed up a rare save opportunity in the ninth inning and it was logical to be concerned about his mental state going into Game 7.

“We didn’t have to put a respirator on him,” said Washington. “We didn’t have to shock his heart back. If we are in position to shut it down, I’m giving the ball to Nefti.”

Blown save? What blown save? See, the amnesia had already set in.

 


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