Texas Rangers

Five years later, memories of Rangers-Cardinals Game 6 still sting

Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli walks away as the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after David Freese hit a walk-off home run during the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series.
Texas Rangers catcher Mike Napoli walks away as the St. Louis Cardinals celebrate after David Freese hit a walk-off home run during the 11th inning of Game 6 of the 2011 World Series. AP Photo/Matt Slocum

Since the end of the 2011 baseball season David Freese has played for three major-league teams, never driven in more than 79 runs and has hit .211 in 111 postseason at-bats.

But one night five years ago, Freese and the St. Louis Cardinals played the Texas Rangers in one of the wildest World Series games in history.

And no one has forgotten Game 6, especially the Texas Rangers’ faithful whenever Freese is announced at a game.

“That’s one of the greatest things about sports,” Freese said. “Good or unfortunate, people don’t forget.”

That’s why when the Pittsburgh Pirates came to Arlington for a three-game set against the Rangers in May, Freese was booed like no other Pirate. It happened when he came to town with the Los Angeles Angels in 2014 and 2015, too.

“I don’t pay attention to the boos, but you definitely hear it,” said Freese, who had four hits and a homer in the May series in Arlington. “These fans are passionate. And it was a roller coaster of a game the whole way through.”

In 2011, the Rangers had a three-run lead heading into the bottom of the eighth and twice were one strike away from winning their first World Series. But Freese’s 11th-inning, full-count homer to dead center off Mark Lowe set the stage for Game 7.

The Cardinals won the deciding game 6-2 for their 11th World Series title. Three lost playoff appearances later, the Rangers are still in search of their first championship, something they appeared to have wrapped up on Oct. 27, 2011.

It all started when Ian Kinsler worked a five-pitch walk off Jaime Garcia on a 53-degree night at Busch Stadium.

1st inning

The Rangers turned to their most reliable postseason starter of all-time with a chance to clinch, and Colby Lewis did what Colby Lewis does. He kept the Rangers in the game. The Rangers scored a first-inning run, but the Cards got to Lewis for two in the bottom of the inning. Texas kept scoring though, getting two runs off Garcia and two more off Fernando Salas. Lewis exited in the sixth inning of a 4-3 game for Alexi Ogando, who walked in a run before getting replaced by Derek Holland, who kept the game tied at 4 by getting John Jay to ground out with the bases loaded.

Lewis: “I felt like I did my job, kept us right there. That’s all I really ever wanted to do. The biggest thing I wanted to do was to keep it close, which is what I’ve always done. I never looked at it like it was a big start. I just looked at it like I had a job to do. I just continued to pitch. I knew I had a job to do.”

4 hours, 33 minutes Length of Game 6.

7th: Rangers 4, Cardinals 4

Back-to-back homers from Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz, and an RBI single from Ian Kinsler made it 7-4.

The Rangers pulled Michael Young and replaced him with Mitch Moreland at first base. Young, one of the Rangers’ best bats, was 2-for-4 with an RBI, but he also made two errors. Moreland went 0-for-2.

Young: “It was tough, but up until that point, playing first was still pretty foreign to me. I remember I was in the hole in the top of the seventh and already had four at-bats. I was talking to Wash [manager Ron Washington]. We had a three-run lead at that point. I had made an error that led to a run. I knew what Wash was thinking and totally got it. Wash said he wanted me to hit first. I knew it was nine outs to trophy time. I told him ‘If you want to put Mitch in, I totally get it. Going into the bottom of the seventh Wash asked me if I wanted to stay in. Of course I wanted to stay, but I wanted to lock this thing up. It was tough, but I understood.”

Holland mowed down the Cardinals in 11 pitches, putting the Rangers six outs from their first World Series title.

Holland: “I remember it all. I gave up a run [in the eighth]. I got to bat. I got a bunt down. Everything was on our side. I remember I told Wash beforehand: ‘If you need me, I’m there.’ Everything was set. We got the lead.”

9th: Rangers 7, Cardinals 5

Texas closer Neftali Feliz struck out Randy Theriot. But then Albert Pujols doubled and Lance Berkman walked. Feliz got a second out by striking out Allen Craig. The Rangers were one out from the title. Freese came to the plate. On the 20th pitch thrown by Feliz, Freese lined a 1-2 pitch to right that still haunts the Rangers. Nelson Cruz couldn’t come up with the catch. Two runs score and the game was tied at 7.

Cruz: “As soon as he hits it, I thought, ‘I’ve got it. I’ve got it.’ It just kept going. I did what I was supposed to do. Maybe we were supposed to be playing closer to the wall, play no-doubles. Watching it, like I did, it was close to being a homer. It was a line drive. He crushed it. Pujols told me a few years ago, ‘People talk about it, but it was a line drive. I thought it was an easy out, but the ball kept going.’ The only different thing we could do about it was play no-doubles. That’s the only way I could have caught it.”

Holland: “We’re two outs away, and we’re standing there right on the bench. I know I was getting ready to run out on the field. As soon as the ball went up, I saw Cruz running toward it and we all knew he had it. It was just a hair length past his glove. Then it was like ‘Oh God.’ 

Texas Rangers Hall of Famer radio voice Eric Nadel: “My initial thought was we won. It was hard to read the ball because we were so far away, but we had already done three games there, and then I had a clue. My initial read was it was a fly out to right and we won. I followed the ball and followed Cruz. The next thing you know I’m saying ‘He can’t get it’ and wondering how the hell that happened.”

Former Rangers pitcher Matt Harrison (who was scheduled to pitch the next day if Game 7 was needed): “When we were winning in the bottom of the ninth, I probably dropped my guard a little bit when we had Feliz out there. I was like ‘I’m not pitching tomorrow and then ‘I am pitching tomorrow.’ I was feeling it probably in the dugout more than anyone else just because I know I’m pitching tomorrow, do-or-die, winner take all. It’s not exciting. I’m excited and want to throw up at the same time.”

Fox Sports Southwest television reporter Dana Larson (who was preparing for the postgame show): “I remember being really close in and I remember seeing [Rangers players] family members and thinking ‘Oh wow, that’s really crazy for them.’ It went from one minute they’re being escorted down on the field to celebrate a happy occasion, and then it was a moment of this-can’t-really-be-happening. We’re all looking around.”

Former Rangers home clubhouse manager Richard “Hoggy” Price: “We basically did a lot of the pre stuff in the eighth inning and had all hands on deck, a lot of MLB people were there. When we went into the bottom of the ninth, we had everything ready to go. I remember being in the dugout when Nelly was supposed to catch the ball. All the MLB people had T-shirts and caps in the tunnel ready to go out on the field.”

The Rangers could have put Endy Chavez in right field as a defensive replacement for Cruz.

Former Rangers manager Ron Washington: “At one time we did think of that, but Nelson had gotten us as far as he gotten us. Putting Chavy in, what difference would have that made? When Freese started fouling balls off, Nelson came in a little bit. Then he [Freese] beat us. I’ve heard those rumors that Nelson had bad legs. It had nothing to do with his legs.”

During the ninth, KDFW/Channel 4 sent a text: “The Texas Rangers have won the World Series. Watch coverage on FOX4 News and on myFOXdfw.com.”

Fox 4 sports anchor Mike Doocy: “I remember what you’re talking about. I don’t know exactly how it happened. It was one of those technical things. I was in St. Louis at the time, but it didn’t take long for word to reach us in St. Louis. It turned out to be one of those unfortunate things that people like to pile on.”

20 Rangers players used in Game 6 (Matt Harrison, C.J. Wilson, Michael Gonzalez, Yorvit Torrealba, Matt Treanor did not play).

10th: Rangers 7, Cardinals 7

Josh Hamilton drilled a Jason Motte pitch to right center for a two-run homer, putting Texas back up 9-7.

Price: “When Josh hit that home run, we were in the food room. I don’t think anyone thought we’d be denied again. We had it ready to go. St. Louis had a laundry room off the main clubhouse. We had everything in there so all we had to do was push it out.”

In the bottom of the 10th, veterans Darren Oliver and Scott Feldman were called on to hold the lead. Oliver gave up a single to right to Daniel Descalso and then a blooper to left to John Jay before Kyle Lohse sacrificed them to second and third with a bunt. Feldman got the second out on an RBI grounder. He walked Albert Pujols to put runners on the corners and got Lance Berkman to a 2-2 count. He couldn’t get strike three, though, as Berkman hit a broken-bat single to right center to tie the game.

Oliver: “That hit [by Jay] was unfortunate. If we get that out, it’s a different story. I wanted to stay in the game but Wash was playing matchups and I totally understood. But I wasn’t ready to come out.”

Feldman: “We were trying to jam him [Berkman] inside. It jammed him but obviously it wasn’t the result we were going for.”

Holland: “We’re all excited because we think we’ve got it again. It’s the same situation, two outs and once again we lose it again.”

Cruz: “We did so many things the right way. We played no-doubles the next inning [10th]. That blooper to left field [Jay’s hit]. If we’re playing normal depth we would have caught that. It wasn’t meant to be.”

Washington: “I had the best pitcher I had left in there [Oliver]. Where can I go? Two lefties and a pitcher coming up. Oliver had destroyed everybody. We didn’t get it done.”

11th: Rangers 9, Cardinals 9

After St. Louis’ Jake Westbrook worked around a one-out single in the top of the 11th, the Rangers turned to Mark Lowe in the bottom of the 11th. Six pitches later, Freese homored to send the series to Game 7.

“All we could think was please stay in the … yard.” — Holland on Freese’s homer

Price: “We saw Lowe come in and then we could feel the stadium start to shake. All we had to do was drop the plastic on the lockers.”

Nadel: “As soon as Wash pinch hit for Feldman, which I thought was a horrible mistake for the time, it showed a lack of knowledge of how you play in the NL. What he should have done was just eaten the out. As soon as Feldman was pinch hit for, I didn’t have that much confidence at that point.”

The aftermath

Price: “We told them in St. Louis they could keep the champagne and the ginger ale. There are people in third-world counties who must have thought the Rangers in 2010 and 2011 were the greatest team in baseball because they got shirts two years in a row.”

Oliver: “We will always think about it. That’s the way sports is. It’s crazy. It’s unfortunate. People also forget about the rainout [that pushed Game 6 back a day] that allowed the Cardinals to bring back Chris Carpenter in Game 7. I still don’t know what happened with that. Normally you don’t call a game that quickly. Carpenter doesn’t get a chance to shut us down without that delay.”

Harrison: “We were in shock about what happened. I don’t think people ever talked too much. I was confused about what happened.”

Feldman: “I don’t even know what to say about that one. I can’t believe it’s been five years.”

Nadel: “I didn’t sleep at all after Game 6, but I didn’t want to watch replays because it was hard. The only thing I didn’t want to see was replays of the Cruz play. I’ve seen replays of Berkman’s hit. I’ve seen the Freese homer. All the things that had to happen for us to lose was an incredible convergence of events, including the rainout that didn’t rain.”

Young: “We had that game. It was one of those things. I’m convinced the 10 best teams make the playoffs and it’s such a special time. The hottest team wins it. If we had home-field advantage, I don’t think we lose that series. There are reasons why the Cardinals won. They executed when they had to. It’s tough. It’s one of those things I think we all think about and wonder how in the world that happened.”

Washington: “It’s always going to be hard because you had a chance to win a World Series. You don’t get that opportunity often. We had it. We didn’t win it. That’s the one thing that screws with me. We brought life back into the community and they supported us. That’s going to haunt me because I don’t know when or if I’ll get to another World Series.”

Staff writer Jeff Wilson contributed to this report.

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