The St. Louis Cardinals completed their magical comeback season by beating the Texas Rangers 6-2 in a deciding Game Seven to clinch the World Series last night.
After left-fielder Allen Craig caught David Murphy's fly for the final out, the Cards rushed into the infield to celebrate a season in which they overcame a 10-1/2 game deficit in the last month to reach the playoffs and battled back twice in the postseason for their 11th Major League Baseball crown.
Confetti filled the chilly night air as the raucous, white-towel waving crowd at Busch Stadium roared in delight and fireworks lit the sky.
"There's just one way to describe it - it's unbelievable, amazing, incredible," Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said in a ceremony in the middle of the diamond.
"It's hard to imagine it actually happened."
The World Series Most Valuable Player award went to hometown hero David Freese, whose two-run triple in the bottom of the ninth sent Game Six into extra innings before his 11th-inning home run won that game for the Cardinals to force the decider.
Freese, who also won MVP honours in the National League Championship Series against Milwaukee, drove in two runs yesterday and finished the Fall Classic with seven runs batted in.
"This is definitely a dream come true," the 28-year-old third baseman said after being awarded the trophy and a new sports car. "This is incredible."
It was a wrenching defeat for the Rangers, who had twice been one strike away during Game Six of clinching their first title in 51 years of existence, and who had fallen last year to the San Francisco Giants in their first Fall Classic.
"I just told my team they are champions," said Texas manager Ron Washington. "Someone had to win and someone had to lose and it was the Cardinals who won.
"It was in our grasp and we didn't get it done. We fought hard but the Cardinals were too good. My hat's off to the Cardinals, they cleanly beat us."
The Cardinals rallied one last time in their season of heart-stopping comebacks by spotting the Rangers a 2-0 lead in the first inning before surging to victory.
After back-to-back run-scoring doubles by Josh Hamilton and Michael Young in the first off St. Louis starter Chris Carpenter, the Cards immediately tied the game in their half of the first on a two-run double by Game Six hero Freese.
A solo home run by Craig in the third inning gave St. Louis a 3-2 lead before Texas pitching unravelled in the fifth.
St. Louis tacked on two more runs in the fifth without a hit as the Texas bullpen wilted.
Scott Feldman, who had relieved starter Matt Harrison, issued a one-out walk to Craig and then hit Albert Pujols with a pitch. The runners moved up on Lance Berkman's ground out and with first base open, Freese was intentionally walked.
Yadier Molina walked on a full-count pitch just outside the strike zone to force in a run. Left-hander C.J. Wilson, the Game One and Game Five starter, was brought in to face Rafael Furcal and he hit the shortstop with a pitch to allow another run to score for a 5-2 St. Louis lead.
Molina drove in the last St. Louis run with a seventh-inning single.
Cardinals starter Carpenter, pitching on a short rest period, went six innings for the series-clinching win, giving up two runs on six hits while striking out five.
"It's awesome to get the World Series back in St. Louis and get another ring," said Carpenter, who was also a member of the 2006 World Series-winning Cardinals team.
Pujols, the three-times National League MVP who put on a record-setting offensive display in Game Three with three home runs, five hits and six runs batted in, was thrilled.
"Two months ago we were supposed to be at home watching the World Series," said Pujols. "Now we are the world champions." REUTERS