ST. LOUIS - The St. Louis Cardinals won a remarkable World Series they weren't even supposed to reach, beating the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday night with another key hit by hometown star David Freese and six gutty innings from Chris Carpenter.
A day after an epic Game 6 that saw them twice within one strike of elimination, the Cardinals captured their 11th World Series crown. After a whole fall on the edge, Tony La Russa's team didn't dare mess with Texas, or any more drama.
Freese's two-run double tied it in the first inning against loser Matt Harrison and Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer in the third.
Pitching on short rest, Carpenter improved to 2-0 in the Series and 4-0 in the post-season. La Russa won his third Series title.
In the first Series Game 7 in nine years, Josh Hamilton and Michael Young had RBI doubles in the first against Carpenter, the first pitcher in a decade to make three starts in one Series. But St. Louis came right back in the bottom half off Matt Harrison, who walked two batters before the big hit by Freese.
Craig, starting because of an injury to Matt Holliday, hit his third home run of the Series with one out in the third, sending a 91 mph pitch to the opposite field in right. The ball landed in Cardinals bullpen to the delight of the Busch Stadium record crowd of 47,399.
Craig also made an outstanding catch in the sixth, jumping to snag a drive by Nelson Cruz that appeared likely to hit the top of the left-field wall.
St. Louis added two runs off the bullpen in the fifth without getting a hit. Yadier Molina walked with the bases loaded for the second straight night, this time with Scott Feldman pitching, and ace C.J. Wilson came in and hit Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, forcing in another run.
Texas pitchers tied a Series record with 40 walks and also hit four batters. Other than Craig's homer, all the Cardinals' runs reached base by walk or hit batter.
On Thursday night, the Cardinals were twice down to their final strike before an exhilarating 10-9, 11-inning victory in one of baseball's greatest games.
Craig homered in the eighth to start the comeback from a 7-4 deficit. Freese, who grew up in the St. Louis area, hit a tying, two-run double in the ninth, Lance Berkman had a tying single in a two-run 10th and Freese won the game with a leadoff home run in the 11th.
"You hear people say anyone can get the last three outs," Texas manager Ron Washington said Friday afternoon. "No, no, no, no. You've got to have a special, special soul, special mentality, special aggressiveness, something, to get those last outs. We didn't get them."
Carpenter, pitching on three days' rest for only the second time in his career, allowed five hits and two walks in the first six innings, striking out five. He threw 89 pitches.
Harrison gave up three runs, five hits and three walks in four innings, and Feldman relieved in the fifth.
St. Louis won its first title since 2006 and became the 19th team to overturn a 3-2 Series deficit. The Rangers were trying for their first championship in the 51-season history of a franchise that started as the expansion Washington Senators in 1961.
Home teams have won nine straight Game 7s, starting with the 1979 Pittsburgh Pirates' 4-1 victory at Baltimore.
In his first outing on short rest, Carpenter gave up four runs over three innings in Game 2 of the division series at Philadelphia. He wasn't sharp at all at the start of this one, either, starting seven of his first 10 batters with balls.
Ian Kinsler singled leading off, then tried to steal second on a 1-0 pitch to Elvis Andrus, stumbled and was thrown out at first by Molina. Andrus walked, and Hamilton doubled down the right field line for a 1-0 lead. Young then lofted a soft opposite-field double to right to drive in Hamilton. Carpenter struck out Adrian Beltre and retired Cruz on a groundout to limit the damage.
Harrison then got into trouble with his control with two outs in the bottom half, and the Rangers had Wilson starting to warm up after five batters and 23 pitches.
Albert Pujols walked for the sixth time in the Series, on four pitches, and Berkman walked on five. Freese worked the count full and lined the ball on two hops to the wall in left-centre, with Pujols raising both arms in triumph as he crossed the plate. Molina then flied out to Hamilton in front of the fence in centre.
Mike Napoli singled leading off the second, and David Murphy hit into a forceout. Harrison sacrificed Murphy to third, Kinsler walked and Murphy took third when Pujols dropped a pickoff throw at first from Molina. Carpenter induced Andrus to hit into an inning-ending comebacker.
Furcal singled leading off the bottom half, but Skip Schumaker grounded into a double play on the next pitch. Carpenter hit Beltre on the forearm with a pitch with two outs in the third before retiring Cruz on a flyout.
Kinsler singled leading off the fifth to reach base for the third time, and Andrus sacrificed. Hamilton then hit a foul pop in front of the third-base dugout. Freese, who dropped a popup for an error on Thursday, leaned over and caught it while slipping. Carpenter then struck out Young, pumping both arms in emotion.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa didn't decide on Carpenter instead of a rested Kyle Lohse until Friday morning, waiting until after pitching coach Dave Duncan spoke with his ace.
"Dave had a real heart-to-heart with him to gauge just how ready he was to pitch just physically, not mentally but physically," La Russa said. "The last thing is I think what he means to our club, I think our guys feel better about him starting than anybody."
Carpenter, 3-0 this post-season and 8-2 in his career, became just the second pitcher in 20 years to make three starts in one World Series, following Arizona's Curt Schilling in 2001.
La Russa moved slumping Furcal down to No. 7 in the batting order and hit second baseman Ryan Theriot leadoff. Craig started in place of Holliday, who sprained his right wrist in Game 6 and was replaced on the active roster by rookie outfielder Adron Chambers.
NOTES: The Cardinals will play the next game in the major leagues, helping open the Miami Marlins' new ballpark on April 4. ... A record 38 of a possible 43 post-season games were played this year. A record 13 have been decided by one run, one more than 1995, 1997 and 2003. ... Florida pitchers walked 40 in 1997.