David Freese forever etched his name into World Series lore with not one, but two unbelievably important extra-base hits late in Game 6 of the 2011 classic between his Cardinals and the Texas Rangers. His two-RBI triple tied the game with two outs — and two strikes — in the bottom of the ninth inning with St. Louis trailing 3-2 in the series, and his 10th-inning home run gave the Cardinals the victory.
Those two hits were so historic that almost every other moment in the Cardinals’ rather unlikely run to their 11th World Series title was lost in the celebration. Included in that wash was Lance Berkman’s two-out, two-strike single in the ninth inning that tied the game and sent it to extra innings, which hardly seems possible.
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But it was, the history books will tell you, The David Freese Series. The Cardinals rolled to a Game 7 win and Freese — a St. Louis native — was named the World Series MVP, which paired nicely with his NLCS MVP trophy. Combined in those two series, Freese hit .444 with six doubles, four homers, THAT TRIPLE, 11 runs scored and 16 RBIs in 14 games.
Ask Freese about that World Series, though, and he’ll tell you about how everything leading up to his moments on the big stage were just as important, every little out and every little base hit that gave him the opportunity to succeed.
“The little things are what matter,” Freese told Sporting News, “in any facet of life.”
The Cardinals brought back members of the 2011 club for a 10th anniversary celebration in mid-September. It was, as you can imagine, a big party remembering their big party.
“We had so much fun,” staff ace Chris Carpenter said. “This is probably the closest group I’ve ever been a part of, ever played with.”
Carpenter had his moments, certainly. He made three starts in the series, including six innings of two-run ball on short rest in Game 7.
“I think about that World Series every single day,” outfielder Jon Jay said. “It’s something that changed my life forever, something I’m very grateful for. Everyone on the team truly had their moment that got us to the next point.”
Instead of diving into an in-depth history of Freese’s heroics, on the 10th anniversary of that unforgettable World Series Game 6, let’s take a look at three other moments that helped the Cardinals to the win and eventual championship.
Allen Craig’s eighth-inning home run
Remember how we talked about otherwise huge moments getting overlooked? Craig’s solo home run in the eighth inning of Game 6 counts.
“That was the most overlooked hit of the entire month,” Freese told SN.
How overlooked is the home run? You can’t even find a solo clip of the home run. Here it is as part of the condensed game (skip ahead to 2:19).
Craig wasn’t even supposed to be at the plate in the eighth inning. But stater Matt Holliday had injured his wrist on a slide into third base in the sixth inning and Craig replaced him in left field to start the seventh, batting fifth in the order.
“Coming off the bench was something I’d kinda gotten accustomed to in 2010 and even 2011, quite a bit, and then in the World Series,” Craig said. “I was ready for any situation, and that one kind of happened fast, found myself in the game.”
The score was tied when Craig entered the game, but the Rangers scored three times in the top of the seventh — back-to-back homers by Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, and an RBI single by Ian Kinsler. The Cardinals went down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the seventh against Texas lefty Derek Holland and Lance Berkman flew out to start the bottom of the eighth.
The Cardinals were three runs down with five outs remaining.
“I remember walking to the plate, kind of frustrated because we were down in the game. I didn’t think it was over, but it was winding down and I was frustrated because he gave it to us pretty good in Game 4, struck out 10 guys and I struck out two or three times,” Craig said. “I thought, ‘I’ve got to get this guy, get him back.’ I went up there looking to do some damage. I got a good slider over the plate, and I didn’t miss it.”
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Craig popped a 78-mph breaking ball from Holland over the left field fence — just beyond Bob Gibson’s retired number — and trimmed the Texas lead.
“That was a real momentum-swinger, and unsung moment,” Berkman said. “At the time, I know the Rangers were probably like, ho-hum, solo homer and lead goes from three to two, we still feel good about where we’re at. But for us, it was like, ‘OK, we’re still in this thing.’ There’s a huge difference between a three-run lead and a two-run lead. A two-run lead is a bloop and a blast and you’re right back in it. That was a big, big moment that often gets overlooked.”
The Game 6 home run wasn’t Craig’s last moment of heroism. In the third inning of Game 7, he popped another solo shot, this one breaking a 2-2 tie. And in the sixth inning of Game 7, with the Cardinals up 5-2, Nelson Cruz hit one deep to left field. Craig found the wall and timed his jump, robbing Cruz of a home run that would have trimmed the lead from three to two (hmm … that sounds familiar).
“Honestly, I’d never robbed a home run before,” Craig said. “That was my first one. I just remember Nelson hit that ball sky-high. As it was coming down, I’m trying to time the jump at the right time. Luckily I got it right. The whole World Series, just super thankful for those opportunities.”
Jason Motte’s 10th inning
Yeah, it feels weird to talk about Motte’s performance. He is, after all, the one who gave up Josh Hamilton’s two-run homer in the 10th inning.
“When that happened, literally, I remember throwing it, him hitting it and thinking, ‘Huh. That stinks. I just lost the World Series. Well, all right,’” Motte said. “I got the ball back and was like, ‘Hey, let’s go. Who’s up next? Gotta get these two guys out or it’s going to be a lot uglier.’”
And that’s why he’s here. Limiting damage in the postseason is so very important. How many times have we seen that just in the 2021 playoffs. Remember Game 4 of the ALCS? With two outs and two strikes, Jason Castro singled off Nathan Eovaldi to give the Astros a one run lead in the top of the ninth inning. Yes, there was a missed strike call that shouldn’t have happened, but at that point it was still a one-run game. The next six Astros hitters reached base, on three singles, two walks and a double and six runs crossed the plate.
In a blink, that went from a 3-2 game to a 9-2 game.
Big numbers change fortunes. Motte didn’t allow a big number.
“All you can do is worry about the next pitch. That was always my mindset when I pitched, ‘OK, next pitch.’ Whether the guy hit a home run or strikes out, none of that matters. You have to worry about the next pitch you’re about to make, give that your best,” Motte said. “I was able to get those next two up, then (Daniel) Descalso and Jay get on, then we tie it up again. That’s the way this game is. You have to move on, control what you can control. I couldn’t control anything that had already happened. All I could control was my mindset and what I was about to do.”
Motte retired Mitch Moreland and Adrian Beltre to end the inning and keep the Cardinals within striking distance.
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Kyle Lohse’s 10th-inning sacrifice bunt
So now, the Cardinals are down two runs, three outs from elimination, in the bottom of the 10th. Descalso leads off with a single to right field, and Jay follows with a single to left. The Cardinals are in business. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa is out of position players to use, so he has Edwin Jackson, a decent-hitting pitcher, in the on-deck circle as Jay’s at the plate.
But when Jay gets a hit, La Russa reconsiders and goes with pitcher Kyle Lohse, who is a worse hitter but better bunter. “That’s probably the last guy who expected to be in that game, especially hitting,” Descalso said.
It’s true, Lohse confirms.
“Yeah, it was a dream, when I was like a 12-year-old,” Lohse said with a laugh. “After I realized I couldn’t hit, I kinda lost that dream. My job was to do the opposite of hitting a home run. My job was to get out. When you think about it like that, it’s pretty crazy.”
The first pitch from Rangers pitcher Darren Oliver was inside and almost hit Lohse. The second one, he went after. And, well, just watch (at the 3:13:35 mark).
First, Lohse has a thought on Joe Buck’s “the bad bunt by Lohse works out, as he gets it over the head of Beltre” call.
“I’ve kinda mentioned it to Joe Buck,” he said, laughing. “When I’ve seen him once or twice, said, ‘Dude, you made it seem like it was the luckiest thing ever, but look at the angle. It was perfectly between the pitcher and the third baseman, which is what I had to do because if I bunt it down the line, it’s an easy double play. I’m not beating out anything. I couldn’t even beat out what I did. Most people could have beaten that out.”
Texas shortstop Elvis Andrus reversed field, picked up the ball and threw Lohse out at first base. A few years later, Andrus and Lohse were teammates.
“I asked him, “How? How did you stop on a dime and turn around and throw me out?’” Lohse said. “He just laughed at me, said, ‘It’s my job and you’re slow. Not a big deal.’”
Descalso and Jay moved up a base, and Descalso scored on Ryan Theriot’s groundout off new pitcher Scott Feldman. With two outs and the Cardinals down a run, Texas intentionally walked Albert Pujols — who had homered three times in Game 3 — to pitch to Berkman. This is where the switch-hitter delivered his two-strike, two-out RBI single that scored Jay from second.
All possible because of the little stuff Freese talked about. In this case, hours spent with coach Dave McKay, figuring out how to put down a proper bunt, should he ever, y’know, be called upon in the 10th inning of a World Series game with his team trailing by two runs.
“Fortunate I spent all the time I did with McKay out there, learning the angles of the bat and that stuff,” Lohse said. “I did push at it and got it in the air a little more — a lot more — than I wanted to, but because the angle was solid, I got away with a little lack of execution because you did the other stuff right.”