Freese’s walk-off HR in 11th caps Cards’ wild win, sends Series to Game 7

Teammates celebrate with St. Louis Cardinals' David Freese after Freese hit a walk-off home run during the 11th inning of Game 6 the World Series against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the game 10-9 to tie the Series 3-3. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)Teammates celebrate with St. Louis CardinalsDavid Freese after Freese hit a walk-off home run during the 11th inning of Game 6 the World Series against the Texas Rangers on Thursday, Oct. 27, 2011, in St. Louis. The Cardinals won the game 10-9 to tie the Series 3-3. (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
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ST. LOUIS — Twice down to their last strike, the St. Louis Cardinals kept rallying to win one of baseball’s greatest thrillers.

David Freese completed a startling night of comebacks with a home run leading off the bottom of the 11th inning to beat Texas 10-9 on Thursday, and suddenly fans all over got something they have waited a long time to see: Game 7 in the World Series.

“You had to be here to believe it,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

It was as great a game as baseball has ever witnessed, rivaling the Carlton Fisk homer in Game 6 of the 1975 Series and Bill Buckner’s error in Game 6 of the 1986 Series.

Great, that is, except for Texas. The Rangers were that close to their first championship.

“I understand it’s not over till you get that last out,” Texas manager Ron Washington said. “I was just sitting there praying we got that last out. We didn’t get it.”

Next up on Friday night, the first Game 7 in the World Series since the Angels beat San Francisco in 2002.

Freese, the hometown boy who made good, had already written himself into St. Louis lore in Game 6 with a two-strike, two-out, two-run triple in the ninth off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz that made it 7-all.

“Initially I was like ‘Are you kidding me? My first AB off Feliz in this situation ever,’” Freese said. “I just beared down, got a pitch to hit. Initially I thought I hit it pretty good, I thought (right fielder Nelson Cruz) was going to grab it, so just a lot of emotions on that one.”

After banged-up Josh Hamilton hit a two-run homer in the Texas 10th, St. Louis again tied it when Lance Berkman hit a two-out single on a 2-2 pitch from Scott Feldman.

Busch Stadium was still in frenzy when Freese opened the 11th with a leadoff shot over the center field wall off Mark Lowe. Freese thrust his arm in the air as he rounded first base, and the crowd was delirious.

“Just an incredible feeling, seeing all my teammates at the dish waiting for me,” said Freese, whose shirt was torn off during the celebration.

A night that started off terribly for both teams turned terrific for everyone watching.

After it was over, La Russa wasn’t willing to announce his starter for Game 7 — many believe it will be ace Chris Carpenter on three days’ rest. Matt Harrison is set to start for Texas.

Home teams have won the last eight Game 7s in the World Series, a streak that started with the Cardinals beating Milwaukee in 1982.

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