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Cardinals Are 2011 World Series Champions

SCOTT SIMON, host: This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon. Time for sports.


SIMON: And the St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions. The Cards beat the Texas Rangers 6-2 in the 7th and deciding game last night, in a game that was cut and dried compared to the twisting, turning drama of game 6. But Cardinal fans can enjoy winning the team's 11th world championship, the second largest number in baseball history. NPR's sports correspondent Tom Goldman was there and filed this report.

TOM GOLDMAN: How do you follow up one of the greatest games in World Series history? Answer: it's hard.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIREWORKS) Oh, there was euphoria, and fireworks moments after the Rangers' David Murphy flied out to left field to end the game. But for chunks of the previous three hours and 17 minutes, Busch Stadium was weirdly quiet - white rally towels sometimes hanging limply. Of course, partly to blame was the hangover from epic game six the night before, when the Cardinals battled back after twice teetering, a strike away from elimination. Last night started with the look of a good sequel. The Rangers rang up St. Louis ace starting pitcher Chris Carpenter for two runs in the top of the first inning. In the bottom? The comeback Cards did it again. David Freese, a guy you'll hear more about in a bit, slugged a two-run double, wiping out the Rangers' early advantage. Texas manager Ron Washington was asked afterwards if that was like another punch to the gut, like so many the night before. He said no.

RON WASHINGTON: We wasn't behind. You're still in the ballgame. We just didn't get an opportunity the rest of the day to get that hit, to make that difference.

GOLDMAN: Now, far be it from any of us observers really to know what's happening on the field. But from off, it sure looked at times like the Rangers weren't making their opportunities. One hit in the final four innings? In game six, staring at elimination, the fire-breathing Cardinals scored in each of the final four innings. In Texas's defense, Chris Carpenter finally started throwing like the dominant pitcher he is. In the champagne-scented St. Louis clubhouse, Carp, who started on short, three-days' rest, explained his early struggles.

CHRIS CARPENTER: I was a little excited. You got to control the adrenaline, control what's going on in the early part of the game. And, obviously, you know, the command that I had early on wasn't as good as I'd like. But I was able to collect myself and make pitches when I had to...

GOLDMAN: And the Rangers didn't. The Texas pitching staff, especially the relievers, had been so dependable during this postseason. But a meltdown in the 5th inning was costly. St. Louis loaded the bases, then Texas relievers walked the man at the plate.


GOLDMAN: That bumped the Cardinals' lead to 4-2. The next batter...


GOLDMAN: ...was hit by the Texas pitcher, pushing in another run, 5-2. Not much more to say, which is really OK because the story of this World Series was so much bigger than the final workmanlike game. It was the story of David Freese, who grew up in St. Louis, being named World Series most valuable player on the heels of winning the MVP award for the National League championship series.

DAVID FREESE: No, I've had plenty of days in my life where I, you know, thought I wouldn't even be close to being a big leaguer. To do this is, you know, I'm just full of joy - finally.


GOLDMAN: It was the story of game 6, a classic that left Texas manager Washington wondering what if?

WASHINGTON: You know, if there's one thing that happened in this World Series that I'll look back on is being so close; just having one pitch to be made and one out to be gotten and it could've been a different story.

GOLDMAN: And so many other stories - the 9th inning Texas rally in game two; the Albert Pujols three-home-run barrage in game 3 that drew comparisons to a fellow named Babe Ruth; the bullpen phone debacle in game 5. After last night's confetti settled on the floor of Busch Stadium, it was the story of the Cardinals, behind 10 and a half games in late August, roaring back to make the playoffs on the last day of the regular season and then making the playoffs theirs. The comeback Cards finally in front - for good. Tom Goldman, NPR News, St. Louis. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.