St. Louis has won 10 Series titles, second most to the New York Yankees’ 27. Manager Tony La Russa, Pujols and the Cardinals last took it in 2006, helped by Series MVP David Eckstein.
This year, hardly anyone expected St. Louis to make it this far, especially when it was 10 1/2 games out of a playoff spot on Aug. 25. A sensational run in the last month, plus a tremendous collapse by Atlanta, gave the Cardinals the NL wild-card slot on the final day of the regular season.
The Cardinals did what many fans considered almost impossible in the first round _ they eliminated the heavily favored Phillies. Carpenter outdueled Roy Halladay 1-0 in the decisive Game 5, then St. Louis relied on its bullpen every day to beat Milwaukee in the NL championship series.
Jason Motte, Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski and the Cards’ crew shut down Prince Fielder and the Brewers, capped by a 12-6 win in Game 6 Sunday night.
A resurgent Lance Berkman, Matt Holliday and the emerging Freese got a boost in the lineup from trade-deadline addition Rafael Furcal, one of several moves by general manager John Mozeliak that worked out well.
The Cardinals also got help _ some might believe _ from a squirrel that scampered right in front of home plate during a playoff game in St. Louis.
The Rangers powered to the AL West title this year and hope to show the Claw, their hand signal for big hits, a lot starting this week.
Texas began the playoffs by beating Tampa Bay in four games and mashed Detroit in the six-game ALCS. Cruz was an MVP monster against the Tigers, hitting an LCS-record six home runs with 13 RBIs.
Closer Neftali Feliz, Alexi Ogando, Scott Feldman and two of GM Jon Daniels’ additions _ Mike Adams and Michael Gonzalez _ keyed a bullpen that dominated the postseason.
Now it’s on to Busch Stadium for the opener. The NL holds home-field advantage this year because it won the All-Star game, with Fielder’s homer off Wilson the big hit. The weather forecast calls for clear skies, a welcome relief in a postseason dotted by rain.
Carpenter will see a packed Texas lineup, including Young, in the opener.
“I haven’t thought a lick about it,” Carpenter said after Sunday night’s clincher. “I’m excited for our ballclub, I’m excited for our organization. Unbelievable. This group of guys, I’ve been saying all year long, it’s the most amazing group of guys I’ve been around.”