ST LOUIS, MO: Pitcher Chris Carpenter #29 of the St. Louis Cardinals stands on the mound with catcher Yadier Molina #4 as he is removed from the game in the seventh inning during Game Seven of the MLB World Series against the Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium in St Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Jamie Squire/Getty Images)
Thanks largely to Chris Carpenter and David Freese -- but with a little help from Mother Nature and Dave Duncan -- the St. Louis Cardinals beat the Texas Rangers in Game 7 to win the 2011 World Series.
It's hard to win a World Series without a little luck.
It's practically impossible to win a seven-game World Series without a lot of luck.
And the Cardinals rode their share of good luck to yet another championship, beating the Rangers 6-2, Friday night in Game 7 of the 2011 World Series.
You can't do it without some really good players, too. The St. Louis Cardinals couldn't have done it without David Freese or Allen Craig or Albert Pujols or Lance Berkman or Chris Carpenter. The Cardinals beat the Rangers in Game 7, 5-2, with Freese knocking in two runs with a first-inning double and Craig chipping in with a tie-breaking homer in the third.
But when you're apportioning credit for Game 7, you have to save some credit for a couple of extraordinary creatures who didn't swing a bat or throw a pitch all month long.
First, let's hear it for Mother Nature.
Being honest about it, nobody associated with the St. Louis Cardinals was looking forward to seeing what Edwin Jackson or Kyle Lohse might do as Game 7 starter. Sure, both of them pitched well during the regular season; Lohse actually led the Cardinals in both wins and ERA this year. But Lohse posted a 7.82 ERA in three postseason starts; Jackson wasn't sharp, either, with a 5.60 mark in four starts.
But then the rains came, and everybody got an extra day off, which gave Tony La Russa another Game 7 option: ace Chris Carpenter on short rest. And of course that's what La Russa chose.
One could reasonably question La Russa's judgment, considering what happened the first (and last) time Carpenter started on short rest: He lasted only three innings against the Phillies in a Division Series game.
And for a while, it looked like Carpenter was tired and La Russa was foolish.
Ian Kinsler led off Game 7 with a single. The Cardinals caught a HUGE break when Kinsler got himself picked off first base. It was HUGE because the next three batters singled, doubled, and doubled; the score was 2-0 after four hitters and could easily have been 3-0. Still with nobody out, and who knows what else might have happened.
But Kinsler's miscue gave Carpenter just a bit of extra breathing room, and he escaped the first inning with no more damage.
In the bottom of the first, Freese hit his two-run double and the game was tied.
At which point, the second non-playing character in our little drama took the stage. Out of the dugout popped Dave Duncan, arguably the greatest pitching coach in pitching-coach history. We don't yet know what Duncan said to Carpenter, but presumably the subject of curveballs came up; Carpenter had not, to that point, thrown any of them.
Duncan trotted back to the dugout, Carpenter started mixing the occasional curveball into his repertoire, and from that moment until the top of the seventh inning, Carpenter allowed only two runners to reach first base. Neither of them scored.
By the time Carpenter came out of the game -- after David Murphy led off the seventh with an automatic double down the right-field line -- the Cardinals were ahead 5-2, thanks Craig's homer in the third and the Texas bullpen's wildness in the fifth. The Cardinals tacked on one more insurance run in the seventh, but they wouldn't need it.
Arthur Rhodes and Octavio Dotel took care of the Rangers in the seventh, Lance Lynn took care of them in the eighth, and Jason Motte breezed through the ninth inning. Let history remember that the Cardinals won their 11th World's Championship at 10:22 Central Daylight Time, when David Murphy hit a fly ball to deep left field and Allen Craig squeezed the 27th out in the Cardinals' 180th game in this delightful, magical, nearly impossible season.