- Associated Press - Friday, October 28, 2011

Game 7 of the World Series. The most exciting night in baseball.

Except for last night, that is. What could possibly top that?

Following one of the most thrilling finishes in postseason history, the Rangers and Cardinals are back at it tonight, less than 20 hours after David Freese’s 11th-inning homer for St. Louis pushed the Series to the limit.

Truly, a Fall Classic.

Winner takes all tonight. First pitch is 8:05 p.m. EDT at Busch Stadium.

The Cardinals seem to have everything on their side _ momentum, history and their No. 1 pitcher on the mound. After much debate about what manager Tony La Russa would do, Chris Carpenter is set to start on three days’ rest for the second time in his career.

The first time was Game 2 of the NL division series in Philadelphia, and that one didn’t go very well. But the 36-year-old right-hander says he learned a few things about how to handle pitching on short rest.

The home team has won eight straight Game 7s in the World Series, a streak started by the Cardinals in 1982 against Milwaukee. This is the first time the Series has gone the distance since 2002, when the Angels beat San Francisco.

Matt Harrison gets the ball for Texas. Let down by his defense, he was pulled in the fourth inning of a Game 3 defeat.

Twice, the Rangers were one strike away from their first World Series championship Thursday night. They couldn’t nail it down.

Now, after such a painful defeat, can they possibly recover? The last team to win Game 7 of the World Series on the road was the Pittsburgh Pirates at Baltimore in 1979.

Almost lost in all the back-and-forth excitement Thursday night were injuries to several key players. Nelson Cruz strained his right groin and Mike Napoli twisted his left ankle, but both Rangers sluggers are in the Game 7 lineup.

Matt Holliday, however, was removed from the St. Louis roster with a bruised right wrist. Allen Craig starts in left field in place of Holliday.

La Russa also dropped slumping leadoff man Rafael Furcal to seventh in the lineup and Skip Schumaker to eighth. Second baseman Ryan Theriot is at the top of the order and Craig bats second in front of Albert Pujols.

Holliday’s absence might not be such a terrible thing for the Cardinals.

Sure, it shortens their lineup. He’s a dangerous hitter and a legitimate All-Star. But he really struggled with his swing during the World Series (.158), and he hurt the Cardinals with his glove and on the bases in Game 6, too.

With Holliday out, Freese moves up to fifth in the lineup, perhaps providing better protection for Pujols and Lance Berkman. Freese has been a clutch hitter throughout the postseason, never more so than Thursday night.

Speedy outfielder Adron Chambers, a rookie, replaced Holliday on the active roster.

Clear skies at Busch Stadium. The temperature is 51 degrees, with a little light wind.

All set to play ball.

Copyright © 2016 The Washington Times, LLC.

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