Are you kidding me? Are. you. kidding. me?
If ever a single game formed such a perfect microcosm of a team’s season, Game 6 of the 2011 World Series was that game. Like the first five months of the regular season, the Cardinals stayed competitive through the first two thirds of tonight’s game. Never in a position of control, they nevertheless remained in contention in spite of unforgivable defensive miscues and shaky pitching. When Texas hung 3 runs on Lance Lynn, one of the Cardinals’ best relief arms during the postseason, it seemed that the Cardinals would come up just short. But then, as they did down the stretch, the Cardinals just kept finding ways to stave off elimination. After disheartening losses in late September to the Mets and Astros, the Cardinals forged ahead and managed to outlast the Braves on the season’s final day. In the 8th and the 9th, the Cardinals put runners on base and cashed in as they could not do in Game 5, tying the game and sending it into extra innings. In the top of the 10th, Josh Hamilton – who has contributed little in this World Series due to injuries – hit a crushing 2-run HR that seemed to be the last straw. It felt like being down 4-0 against Cliff Lee in Game 2 of the NLDS – insurmountable – but again the Cards rallied. Coming up with another two runs of their own in the bottom of the frame, St. Louis sent the game into the 11th just when it looked like their season was over. In the bottom of the 11th, hometown kid David Freese hit a walk-off HR and the Cardinals did what they have done for two straight months now – they won.
Like this season, which I gave up on repeatedly, I gave up on this game at least three times. When the Rangers went back-to-back off Lance Lynn and later added a third run in the top of the 7th, I was sure it was over. Again in the bottom of the 9th, with the Cardinals down to their final out, I doubted. After an incredible 2-run triple from Freese tied the game in the bottom of the 9th, my faith was crushed again when Hamilton immediately put the Rangers back up in the top of the 10th. No matter how often I surrendered, though, the Cardinals never did. Not this season and not this World Series.
I have no idea what will happen tomorrow. If this series has taught us anything it is that momentum does not exist. A loss like this looks tough to shake off, but the Rangers could come out tomorrow like they did in Games 2 and 4 and finally claim their first title. The Cardinals could follow the 1985 Kansas City Royals, the 1986 New York Mets and the 2003 Florida Marlins (against the Cubs in the NLCS) and win their 11th World Series in convincing fashion after an unthinkable turnaround in Game 6. We could have another pitched battle like most of this series, or a blowout like Game 3. I just don’t know. All I know is that I couldn’t be happier with the Cardinals for continuing to win no matter how we doubted. I will be in the stands with my dad for the first Game 7 in nearly a decade – a potential classic – and I can’t wait to share it with my fellow Cardinals fans, with our team, and with all of you.