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Insider

Rangers' hopes of a rebound

10/28/2011

ST. LOUIS -- The plastic that was supposed to protect the Rangers' lockers from champagne was rolled up and taped to the wall when the Texas players filed into their clubhouse, quietly. It was Ron Washington, a manager who likes meetings less than any other manager and hasn't spoken to his position players together since June, who broke the silence in the clubhouse.

Keep your heads up, Washington told them, and then Michael Young chimed in and talked about how the Rangers would bounce back for Game 7, and it was as if somebody had applied a defibrillator to the Texas Rangers and jolted life back into them. Baseball players are extraordinary at turning a page emotionally, and soon enough, after reporters were let into the room, their pain had seemed to ease, somewhat, considering that they had twice come within one strike of winning the World Series and still lost Game 6.

"If somebody told us in spring training that we would get to play Game 7 of the World Series, we would've taken that in a second," said Scott Feldman, one of the relievers who contributed to the bullpen disaster.

"We know what to do to bounce back," said first baseman Mitch Moreland.

C.J. Wilson walked up to a reporter and smiled. "Tell me this isn't the craziest World Series you've ever seen."

It is now, and Game 6 will go down as arguably the greatest game in baseball history, when you consider the stage, the emotional zigs and zags, the early-game mistakes, the managerial moves, the plot twists, and the fact that the guy who hit the game-tying triple in the ninth and the game-winning homer in the 11th -- David Freese -- is a hometown kid. You almost can't get your brain around all of it, and certainly you wouldn't want to if you were among the hundreds and hundreds of fans who streamed out of the ballpark after the seventh inning, with the Cardinals down 7-4.

What the Rangers -- and the Cardinals, for that matter -- will be telling themselves all day today is this: All we need to do is win a baseball game. Just one game. They've won a ballgame before; it's not that complicated. They make pitches, swing at good pitches and make plays, and they can be champions tonight.

But the challenge for the Rangers is multilayered now, for a couple of reasons. First, it's possible that they could be without their two biggest postseason stars in tonight's game. Catcher Mike Napoli badly sprained his ankle, and while he finished Game 6, afterward he required X-rays to confirm he didn't break it. Napoli has been Texas' best player in the postseason, and his sprained ankle will either keep him out of the game or limit his movement. Nelson Cruz strained his right groin while taking an at-bat and was affected enough that Washington took him out of the game with the score still tied in the 11th inning.

And Washington has to figure out who among his relievers has enough confidence to pitch in the late innings tonight, because Alexi Ogando looks wrecked and lost the plate in Game 6, perhaps overtaken by anxiety; Neftali Feliz has been erratic through the postseason and finally paid for it. Derek Holland, who has grown from a sometimes shaky pitcher to someone oozing confidence in the span of two weeks, will be available tonight, and so will Wilson and Feldman. Washington must decide before the game starts who he believes in, and who can get the biggest outs if the Rangers have the chance.

If Texas wins, the Rangers can look back at Game 6 with some fondness and a sense of history, in the way the 1975 Reds can enjoy the memory of having participated in Game 6 that year. But if the Rangers lose, they are face to face with the kind of ignominy that Bill Buckner and Bob Stanley understand, and will forever be destined to see replays of their own faces of anticipation, twice hanging over the front of their dugout railing, waiting for a celebration that never came -- and for some, may never come unless they win tonight.

Here are the notes sent down from ESPN Stats & Information and Elias, where the folks are working overtime after that classic:

• Freese had the game-tying triple in the ninth before hitting the walk-off homer in the 11th.

He is the first player in World Series history to have a pair of tying or go-ahead hits in the ninth inning or later of the same game.

• Win probability added (WPA) tells us who helped his team the most during the course of a game based on historical play-by-play. David Freese had the single highest WPA in postseason history in Game 6. Lance Berkman also ranked in the top 10 (data from FanGraphs.com and Baseball-Reference.com).

Highest win probability added by a position player in a single game, postseason history:

David Freese, 2011 WS Game 6 -- .953

Kirk Gibson, 1988 WS Game 1 -- .870

Steve Garvey, 1984 NLCS Game 4 -- .854

Charlie Keller, 1941 WS Game 4 -- .826

Cookie Lavagetto, 1947 WS Game 4 -- .822

Lance Berkman, 2011 WS Game 6 -- .817

• The Cardinals came up with some big two-strike hits when they needed them most. Between David Freese and Lance Berkman, all three of the team's game-tying or winning hits came with two strikes.

Freese's game-tying triple in the ninth came on a 98.4 mph fastball from closer Neftali Feliz. It's the fastest pitch Freese has a hit against in his career.

Berkman's game-tying base hit in the 10th came on a fastball inside from Scott Feldman. Berkman saw five pitches in the at-bat and all five were inside. During the regular season against righties, Berkman was just 5-for-43 (.116) in two-strike at-bats ending with a pitch inside. His two RBIs on his hit in Game 6 matched his regular-season total in those situations.

Walk-off HR in Game 6 or 7 of World Series, all time:

David Freese, 2011 -- Cardinals

Joe Carter, 1993 -- Blue Jays

Kirby Puckett, 1991 -- Twins

Carlton Fisk, 1975 -- Red Sox

Bill Mazeroski, 1960 -- Pirates

Ogando, Feliz and Scott Feldman were all credited with blown saves in Game 6 as the Cardinals made five separate comebacks.

It is the first time in World Series history that a team has had three blown saves in a single game.

• Cruz tied Carlos Beltran and Barry Bonds for the most HRs in a single postseason, with eight. Napoli is two RBIs off the single World Series total (behind Bobby Richardson of the 1960 Yankees, who had 12).

Chris Carpenter is likely to start Game 7 for the Cardinals on short rest. He'll be the first pitcher since Bruce Hurst in 1986 to start Games 5 and 7 of a World Series. Hurst also had an extra day of rest due to rain, his between Games 6 and 7.

Carpenter's postseason career:

W-L -- 8-2

ERA -- 3.06

K-BB -- 54-28

Opp. BA -- .245

In Carpenter's 14 postseason starts, the Cardinals are 11-3. He is 2-0 in World Series starts and 2-1 in postseason series-clinching games.

• The home team has won the last eight World Series Game 7s; the last road team to win a Game 7 was the Pirates in 1979 (4-1 win over the Orioles).

• From Elias: The Cardinals are the first team to have a .500 batting average or better from the ninth inning on in a World Series game lasting at least 11 innings. They were 6-for-11 (.545 BA).

• Including the Cardinals' 10-9 win in Game 6, there have now been 13 one-run games in this postseason. That is the most one-run games in a single postseason. The previous record of 12 was set in 1995, 1997 and 2003.

• Game 7 on Friday will be the 38th game of this postseason. That ties the all-time mark set in 2003 for most games in a single postseason.

• From Chris Matcovich of TiqIQ.com, some interesting facts on ticket prices for Game 7: The new average price is $951.34, which is 14.48 percent higher than the average price for Game 7 during the ninth inning of last night's game. Also, the get-in price is $445.

And today will be better than yesterday. Although, if you're a baseball fan, yesterday was pretty good.