ESPN continues MLB Encore Tuesdays, a series of classic game broadcasts, this week at 7 p.m. ET with Game 6 of the 2011 World Series between the St. Louis Cardinals and Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium.
• What you need to know: The Rangers were one win away from the first World Series title in franchise history after taking Games 4 and 5 in Arlington. The Cardinals had made the postseason only after a late rush in September, winning 16 of their final 21 games to rally from an 8½-game deficit in the wild-card race to clinch a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season. They then upset the powerful Phillies in the division series and beat the Brewers in the National League Championship Series.
As the World Series returned to St. Louis, Cardinals fans braced to watch Albert Pujols for perhaps the final time in their home uniform. He was heading into free agency, and it wasn't certain he would return to St. Louis. In Game 3, Pujols homered three times and went 5-for-6 in setting a World Series record with 14 total bases in a 16-7 Cardinals victory.
• Did you know? The Rangers lost the lead five times in the game. That's more blown leads than the combined total for both teams in any other game in World Series history.
• The view from the press box: "I don't think my adrenaline has ever been higher in a moment in the broadcast booth than it was in Game 6," said announcer Dan Shulman, who in his call on ESPN Radio called it "one of the most improbable, remarkable baseball games you'll ever see."
• You probably forgot he was in this game: Edwin Jackson has played for 14 teams in his career, including the Cardinals in the second half of 2011 after coming over from the Blue Jays in a deadline trade, so it's fun to see him pop up in this game. Sort of. He made a pinch-hitting appearance in the bottom of the 10th inning -- except he never actually hit. After Josh Hamilton had hit a two-run homer in the top of the 10th inning, lefty Darren Oliver came on for the Rangers to face lefties Daniel Descalso and Jon Jay and promptly allowed two base hits. Pitcher Jason Motte was due up, but the Cardinals were out of position players. Tony La Russa first announced Jackson as the pinch hitter, but instead called Jackson back and sent up fellow pitcher Kyle Lohse, who successfully executed the sacrifice bunt (one of the more important sacrifice bunts in World Series history).
Scott Feldman replaced Oliver and got Ryan Theriot to ground out for the second out, scoring a run to pull St. Louis within one. That led to one of the more debatable decisions of the decade. Rangers manager Ron Washington then elected to intentionally walk Pujols and pitch to switch-hitting Lance Berkman. So Washington not only put the potential winning run on first base, he set up a platoon disadvantage. Then again, Feldman had a huge reverse-platoon split that season, holding left-handers to a .155 average while right-handers hit .276 off him. Berkman had hit .307/.427/.571 versus righties that season.
• One thing you might miss: One thing? This was one of the wildest games in World Series history and on the short list of best games ever. One thing it lacked, however, was good defense. Nelson Cruz most famously failed to corral David Freese's fly ball to right in the ninth, but first baseman Michael Young earlier made two errors that hurt the Rangers. The Cardinals, meanwhile, survived three errors (including one from Freese, who dropped a popup that led to an unearned run). Young had been a utility player and designated hitter that season and hit .338, so Washington wanted his bat in the lineup (over regular first baseman Mitch Moreland) with lefty Jaime Garcia starting for St. Louis. While Young had started 36 games at first base that season, he hadn't played the position before 2011. He booted a ground ball in the fourth inning and made a throwing error in the sixth, both leading to unearned runs.
• The aftermath: The Cardinals had drawn a break when Game 6 was rained out on its originally scheduled date. That pushed Game 7 back a day, as well, which allowed La Russa to start Chris Carpenter on three days' rest after he also started Game 5. Washington went with Matt Harrison, who had started Game 3 and allowed six hits and five runs in three innings. Derek Holland, who had pitched 8⅓ scoreless innings in Game 4, also pitched two innings of relief in Game 6 (throwing 23 pitches) as Washington went for the kill.
In Game 7, the Rangers scored two runs in the top of the first, but the Cardinals came back with two of their own. Carpenter settled down, and Allen Craig gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead with a home run in the third. St. Louis added two more runs in the fifth without a hit, and the Cardinals won 6-2 for their second title in six seasons.
Freese and Carpenter both had outstanding postseasons. Freese hit .397/.465/.794 with 21 RBIs in 18 games. According to thebaseballgauge.com, Freese's triple in Game 6 rates as the biggest non-Game 7 hit in World Series history. Carpenter went 4-0 in the postseason with a 3.25 ERA in six starts. He would pay the price for throwing 273 innings that season, however, appearing in just six more games in his career.