'Unbelievable' Game 6 ranks among best
Players on both sides struggle to find precedent for classic
ST. LOUIS -- For the Rangers and Cardinals, there is good precedent, there is bad precedent and there is no precedent.
First, the no precedent. Until Thursday, no team in World Series history had rallied to overcome a ninth-inning deficit and an extra-inning deficit in the same game. None.
Only two Fall Classic teams had rallied from a deficit in the eighth inning or later before winning in extras to force a Game 7. The 1986 Mets did it, winning the World Series two days later. The '75 Red Sox did it, ultimately losing Game 7 to the Reds.
One of those two clubs is about to have company in the form of the 2011 Cardinals, who twice rallied on Thursday to tie the Rangers in Game 6, ultimately winning, 10-9, on David Freese's home run in the 11th. Either the Cardinals will join the Mets as the only team to follow such drama with bliss, or they will join the Red Sox as one of history's all-time buzz-kills.
"This is pretty special," Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols said. "This is what baseball is all about."
That the Cardinals rallied from behind to make up multiple-run deficits not once, but twice in the ninth inning or later was incredible enough. That they found themselves a strike away from elimination on each occasion was almost incomprehensible.
Afterward, various players compared Game 6 anecdotally with other games throughout their careers. Or at least they tried to.
Lance Berkman cited the 18-inning game he and his Astros teammates stole from the Braves in Game 4 of the 2005 National League Division Series, after rallying to tie the game with two outs in the ninth. But that comeback occurred during the first round of the playoffs, not the last. And the Astros were not facing elimination.
Chris Carpenter and Skip Schumaker recalled watching Game 163 between the Tigers and Twins on television in 2009 -- a game that the Twins tied in the 10th before winning it in the 12th. But again, the stakes in that one were not quite so high.
Asked to provide comparisons, most of the Cardinals racked their brains, to no avail.
"It's the most unbelievable game I've ever seen in my life," Schumaker said. "I'm not sure there's a game like this ever in World Series history. This is absolutely a classic."
Most of the Rangers agreed.
"I've never seen anything like it before," said 18-year veteran Darren Oliver. "It's pretty much everything you could ask for."
Perhaps on some strange level, the Cardinals could have seen this coming. Two days earlier, as both teams worked out at Busch Stadium in preparation for Game 6, sports highlight shows around the country took to reflecting on the 25th anniversary of 1986 World Series Game 6, showing clips of Bill Buckner's blunder and Ray Knight's winning run.
In a way, those reflections may turn out to be prophetic. Not since the 1986 Mets has a team been down to its final strike while facing elimination twice in the same World Series game, then gone on to win the championship. The Cardinals have a chance to do so on Friday.
"You can't compare it to much," St. Louis closer Jason Motte said.
The Cardinals also became the first team in history to score runs in the eighth, ninth, 10th and 11th innings of the same World Series game. The Rangers became the first team in history to blow three -- count 'em, three -- saves in the same World Series game.
Comparable games do exist throughout the history books, perhaps even examples that parallel Game 6 in terms of drama. The Red Sox famously came from behind twice in the late innings of the 2004 American League Championship Series, winning Games 4 and 5 in extras after rallying in regulation. The '02 Angels rallied from two runs behind in the eighth inning of World Series Game 6, before winning the championship the following night. On each occasion, those teams faced elimination.
But no team had quite matched this set of qualifications: two late rallies in the ninth inning or later, twice down to a final strike with baseball's highest stakes on the line. It just had not happened. Ever.
"I think this is something the fans, not just in St. Louis, but fans all over the country, they're going to remember this game," Pujols said. "Our main goal is hopefully we can try and finish this off [on Friday]. I think it's going to be sweeter."
If anything, it will be unprecedented. Though they have not announced it, the Cardinals will almost certainly hand the ball to Carpenter, who has already pitched twice in this Series. Asked about Game 7, Carpenter said simply, "We've been there before."
He meant it in the context of the Cardinals playing a must-win game. Had he clarified, Carpenter might have noted the fact that in reality, no -- no team has ever quite been here before.