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That set the stage for Freese. Rangers reliever Mark Lowe threw him a 90-mph changeup, and not long after the ball landed in the grassy batter's-eye in centerfield, as fireworks exploded in the night sky, Freese spiked his helmet between his legs and ran into the arms of his frenzied teammates. "You had to be here to believe it," La Russa would say, which wasn't exactly true: To the fans in Busch Stadium, and to the millions watching at home, the Cardinals mesmerizing turnaround was equally astounding. And it set up the first World Series Game 7 in nine years.
GAME 7 at St. Louis
CARDINALS 6, RANGERS 2
LA RUSSA'S DECISION TO START CARPENTER SEEMED LIKE a mistake. The Cardinals' 36-year-old ace was only available because of the rainout two evenings before, and even now he was pitching on a mere three days of rest. But on the morning of Game 7, La Russa spoke to his longtime pitching coach, Dave Duncan, and they decided on the righthander who had a career 6--0 postseason record at home. "I called [Duncan] and said, 'Let's lay out the options,' " La Russa recounted after the game. "And he said, 'It's Carp,' and he hung up on me. So it's Carp."
But early on Carpenter seemed to lack snap. He allowed Texas's first four batters to reach base—he would throw first-pitch balls to seven of the first 10 Rangers he faced—and had put his club in a 2--0 hole, due to RBI doubles by Hamilton and Young. La Russa was on the verge of ruing his choice. Then, as if by magic, Carpenter settled down. He would allow but three hits and one walk in five gutty innings to follow.
The Cardinals struck back against Matt Harrison in the first, on a two-out, two-RBI double by Freese, who would follow his NLCS MVP award by being named the MVP of the World Series. "That was a big turning point because it kind of started the game over and got things back to even," said Freese, who set a record with 21 postseason RBIs. The Cardinals took the lead two innings later, on a solo homer by Craig—who played leftfield in place of Holliday, who had sprained his right wrist in Game 6. They extended their advantage in the fifth, on a bases-loaded walk to Molina by reliever Scott Feldman, and they scored again when the next batter, Rafael Furcal, was hit by a 92-mile-an-hour fastball from C.J. Wilson.
Carpenter left the game in the top of the seventh after surrendering a ground rule double to David Murphy, who would be the final Texas batter to reach base. Relievers Arthur Rhodes, Octavio Dotel, Lance Lynn and Motte protected the lead, which was augmented in the bottom of the seventh by Molina's RBI single. That set the stage for Motte to get Murphy to hit a fly ball to Craig in deep leftfield for the final out.
The Cardinals had known that their spine-tingling comebacks in Game 6 could have gone for naught. "If we don't win tomorrow, this becomes a nice footnote to a season," Berkman had said after Game 6. "If you win tomorrow, this is the stuff of legends." They won. And, as confetti rained down in Busch Stadium, the stuff of legends also had become the stuff of champions.