World Series 2011: Why the drama? Here's why
Not a baseball fan? Well, even those more preoccupied with Halloween or Occupy Wall Street have likely heard the hoopla about this year's World Series, entering Game 7 on Friday night in St. Louis.
The series-tying Game 6 on Thursday night between the Texas Rangers and the St. Louis Cardinals has spurred words like "epic" and "wild." And the term "best World Series ever" is being bandied about -- Cardinals commentator John Rooney referred to the most recent game as more heavyweight fight than baseball game, with each team endeavoring to deliver the knockout punch. The winner, if you haven't heard: St. Louis, with a final score of 10-9.
Here's some background to help you get caught up in what's being called some of the best sports drama in years.
Texas is the World Series underdog. The team is looking for its first World Series title in half-century of existence. The second iteration of the Washington Senators, formed in 1961, became the Texas Rangers in 1972. (The original Washington Senators franchise [1901-1960] moved to Minnesota.)
And in Game 6, it looked as if the Rangers would win its first Fall Classic. But it was a heartbreaker of a game for Texas. The Rangers had the Cardinals down to their last strike twice and could not put them away. The team had a two-run lead in the bottom of the ninth and 10th innings and still couldn't seal the deal.
Interesting to note: Rangers manager Ron Washington was almost fired a few years back for admitting that he used cocaine, but the Rangers decided to keep him -- which has turned out to be a smart move for the Rangers. He's taken Texas to the World Series in back-to-back years -- the team lost last year to the San Francisco Giants.
The team's stars include Mike Napoli -- the former Angels catcher has been a beast in the postseason, with a .333 batting average, three home runs and 15 RBIs -- and Nelson Cruz, who tied a major league record with his eighth home run of this postseason Thursday in Game 6. That mark ties him with baseball superstars Barry Bonds and Carlos Beltran.
Then there's Josh Hamilton, who was the almost-but-not-quite hero Thursday night when he gave the Rangers a 9-7 lead with a two-run home run in the top of the 10th inning, his first postseason home run this year. Both Cruz and Hamilton are battling injuries.
The Cardinals are an underdog in their own way. They're trying to win the World Series as a wild card team, having clinched their playoff spot the final day of the regular season. It's been a bit of a miracle run for the Cardinals. Still, they're a storied franchise. They have 10 World Series titles. They trail only the Yankees in number of World Series championships. The Yankees have won 27.
Albert Pujols is the Cardinals' big star. He hit three homers in Game 3 and drove in six runs, but he hasn't driven in a run in the other five games of the series. For Game 7, fans will be looking to see if he can get back on track. But Lance Berkman is the hottest hitter of this series. He salvaged the Cardinals' season with his game-tying single in the bottom of the 10th inning Thursday.
But David Freese was the Cardinals' hero. He tied the game in the ninth inning with a two-out triple, and he won the game in the 11th with a home run to center field.
Friday night, Chris Carpenter is expected to be the team's starting pitcher. He's been the ace of the staff for a number of years and threw a shutout in the final game of the National League Division Series against the Philadelphia Phillies.
That sums up the drama. There hasn't been such a nail-biter since 2002, which was the last time there was a Game 7 in the World Series. Then, the Angels beat the Giants for their only World Series title.
[Corrected 9:29 a.m., Oct. 28: An earlier version of this post incorrectly said the National League Division Series went to Game 7. Thanks to commenters for catching that error.]
-- Amy Hubbard and Tim Hubbard
Photo: David Freese is mobbed by teammates as the Cardinals celebrate their Game 6 win Thursday night. Credit: Robert Cohen / St. Louis Post-Dispatch / MCT