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Game 5 was messy and chaotic. The Rangers and the Cardinals played as if in a fog that prevented their pitchers from throwing strikes (the game featured 13 walks), their fielders from making plays (three errors, officially, though several more balls were bungled) and La Russa from communicating his orders to the bullpen. In the end, though, Napoli was the difference maker, in more ways than one. The Cardinals put 17 runners on base, but due in part to Napoli's guiding his pitchers out of trouble, St. Louis finished 1 for 12 with runners in scoring position. And Napoli twice gunned down Craig on hit-and-run attempts.
The Cardinals went ahead with two runs in the second, getting RBIs from Molina and Skip Schumaker. But Texas tied it with homers off Cards starter Chris Carpenter by Mitch Moreland (in the third) and Beltre (sixth). Then, in the eighth, Napoli stepped up against Rzepczynski with runners on first and second. La Russa would say that he had ordered closer Motte to warm up in preparation for Napoli, but that order was lost in translation on its way to the bullpen, and he had no choice but to keep in Rzepczynski. Napoli crushed a two-run double to right center.
Afterward, most of the focus was on how the Cardinals lost the game—was it really possible that La Russa hadn't properly conveyed his wishes to his bullpen?—but it should have been on how the Rangers won it. They put themselves on the cusp of their first title thanks to Napoli, who had shown himself to be a slugger and much more.
GAME 6 at St. Louis
CARDINALS 10, RANGERS 9
DAVID FREESE THRUST HIS RIGHT ARM IN THE AIR, WITH a finger extended, and circled the bases. When he reached home plate, his teammates tore his jersey from his back. That is what happens when you hit an 11th-inning home run to force a World Series to a decisive Game 7 after your team had twice been one strike away from elimination.
The game had been delayed a night due to rain and was sloppy early—the teams combined for five errors in the first six innings—but turned out to be a classic. The Rangers seemed to have salted away the game, and the title, several times, first in the seventh, when back-to-back homers by Beltre and Cruz, along with an RBI single by Kinsler, gave them a 7--4 lead. But the Cardinals' Craig homered in the eighth, and then, with two outs in the ninth and a 1-and-2 count against him, Freese lashed a 98-mph fastball from Feliz the opposite way. It eluded Cruz's glove in rightfield and ended up a triple, driving in Pujols and Berkman to send the game into extra innings.
"It's all about knowing that this is the same game as when you're six years old," Freese would say. "It's just elevated on a stage, and everyone is watching. But you've just got to keep reminding yourself, it really is the same game and you have a job to do and you try and execute."
In the top of the 10th it seemed to have been Hamilton, the Rangers' slugger, who had been the executioner of the Cardinals' season. With one out against closer Motte, Hamilton hit his first home run in five weeks, a two-run shot. But that merely put St. Louis in position to again tie the game, on a Ryan Theriot groundout and a two-out, two-strike Berkman single, in the 10th.