In a season that will never be duplicated, a fight against odds nearly impossible to overcome, the 2011 St. Louis Cardinals have won their 11th World Series title tonight against the Texas Rangers in Game 7.
The Cardinals were 10 games behind the Atlanta Braves for the Wild Card berth on August 27th, but they clawed their way back through the month of September and clinched the Wild Card on the very last game of the regular season against the Houston Astros.
Just making the playoffs was thought to be the climax of the Cardinals' run as they were set to the face the Philadelphia Phillies in the NLDS. The Phillies led the MLB in wins with 102, so naturally many national media outlets wrote the Cardinals off.
The Cardinals, after falling behind 2-1 in the NLDS, won Game 4 and 5, which advanced them to the NLCS to face their division rivals for the Pennant in the NLCS, the Milwaukee Brewers.
The Brewers finished with 96 regular season wins and won the Central Division, boasting an explosive offense as their backbone. The Cardinals beat them in six games and took home the NL Pennant.
Despite the Red Bird's wild ride through the first two rounds of the playoffs, they were once again considered the underdogs against a Texas Rangers team that was making their second consecutive World Series appearance.
The Cardinals jumped ahead early in the series with a 2-1 lead, including a historic Game 3 that was dominated by Albert Pujols and his three home run performance. He became just the third player in baseball history to hit three homers in a single World Series game, the other two being Reggie Jackson and Babe Ruth.
But the Cards fell behind after losing back-to-back games in Arlington, which gave the Rangers a 3-2 lead in the series.
However, the series returned to St. Louis for Game 6 and 7, and that's when things got wild.
The Cardinals were losing Game 6 by three runs (5-3) entering the eight-inning. Allen Craig chipped away at the lead with a solo shot in the eight, but the Rangers still entered the bottom of the ninth with a two-run lead.
A David Freese triple with two strikes, two out and two on sent the game into extra-innings.
The Rangers again took a two run lead in the top of the 10th, but the Cardinals were able to battle back in the bottom of the inning with and RBI by Ryan Theriot and a two-out RBI by Lance Berkman, which kept the game alive.
The Rangers were not so lucky in the 11th as they were unable to put any runs on the board. David Freese led off the bottom of the 11th and ended the game with a heroic walk-off home run that forced Game 7.
Do You Believe In Miracles?
The fantasy of a juggernaut run towards a World Series title was present in the minds of Cardinal Nation ever since the team squeaked into the playoffs, but making it a reality was far from feasible.
That is, until they won the pennant. And once the team stubbornly refused to end their season in Game 6, it was already over and written in stone. The dramatic victory in Game 6 made Game 7 nothing but a formality.
Chris Carpenter went six full innings on short rest and finished with only two runs and five strikeouts. It was the exact type of performance the team needed out of him.
Both of the runs off Carpenter came in the top of the first-inning, but a two-RBI double by David Freese in the bottom of the 1st tied it up.
Allen Craig hit a solo home run in third-inning, which gave the Cardinals their first lead of the night (3-2).
Things began to get out of hand in the fifth-inning when the bases were loaded and the Rangers walked in a run. Furcal was then hit by a pitch with the bases loaded and the two-run inning gave the Cardinals a 5-2 lead. Yadier Molina then made it 6-2 with a RBI single in the 7th.
A dominate eigth-inning shutout by Lance Lynn set up Jason Motte with an opportunity to close it out in the 9th and he came through with three up and three down.
Craig made the final catch, Yadi fell to his knees, Motte was mauled on the mound, Furcal reached for the sky, Lance Berkman hugged the nearest thing in sight, LaRussa was smiling for the first time this decade and Freese won the MVP, as well as a nifty Corvette.
Questions remain regarding 2012, particularly whether or not Albert Pujols will stick around and finish his career under the Gateway Arch, but for now the Cardinals are on top.