ST. LOUIS (AP) — David Freese, the hometown boy made good, is the MVP of the World Series.
Down to their final strike in Game 6, the Cardinals’ reluctant hero delivered a tying two-run triple in the ninth inning Thursday night. Freese then did one better: a leadoff homer in the 11th that gave St. Louis a dramatic win over the Rangers and forced the first Game 7 since 2002.
Freese, the NL championship series MVP, capped his memorable October with another strong performance Friday night, hitting a two-run double in the first inning to tie it 2-all.
Playing solid defense at third base and also drawing a pair of walks that helped lead to runs, Freese was again front and center in a 6-2 win that wrapped up the Cardinals’ 11th championship.
“This means everything,” Freese said.
When the final out was made, Freese threw his arms in the air and dashed for the mound, where he joined a happy scrum as confetti floated down from the upper reaches of Busch Stadium.
Freese batted .348 in the World Series, with seven RBIs, three doubles and one big homer. He’s the fourth Cardinals player to win the MVP award, joining Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson in 1964 and ’67, catcher Darrell Porter in 1982 and David Eckstein in their 2006 victory over Detroit.
“You learn from all these veterans about how to go about this game and I wouldn’t be here without them,” Freese said.
Freese could just as well be the MVP of the entire postseason.
The kid who grew up in a St. Louis suburb hit a three-run homer in Game 6 of the NLCS against the Milwaukee Brewers.
Then came his stirring performance against the Texas Rangers in the Fall Classic.
Often lost in a high-scoring lineup that includes Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, Freese left his impression on baseball’s grandest stage out of necessity.
Holliday struggled most of the series before spraining his right wrist during Game 6, keeping him off the roster Friday. Pujols was intentionally walked whenever he was a threat.
That left the offense to Freese, who had given up on baseball after high school, spurning a scholarship offer from Missouri to simply be a college student. He even rebuffed the Tigers’ coaches when they called midway through his first semester to find out whether he’d changed his mind.
It wasn’t until about a year out of high school that the itch to play finally returned.
Freese gave in and enrolled at St. Louis Community College-Meremec, and his play there caught the attention of the coaching staff at South Alabama. Freese blossomed into the Padres’ ninth-round draft pick in 2006, and a trade to the Cardinals eventually brought him home.
“If you wrote a story like that — a guy gets traded, comes back to his hometown, he’s a hero — if you sent that in the script, it would get thrown back in your face,” Commissioner Bud Selig opined before the start of Game 7.
This wasn’t a perfect fairy tale, though. That would be too easy.
Freese needed season-ending surgery to repair a torn tendon in his right ankle last year, and he broke his left hand when he was hit by a pitch earlier this season. He was hit by another pitch in August and sustained a concussion.
Each time, he came back better than before.
He was at his best against Texas.
In the World Series opener, with the game tied in the sixth inning, Freese delivered a timely double. He alertly moved to third base on a wild pitch, allowing him to score easily for the eventual winning run on Allen Craig’s single to right field.
Freese scored the Cardinals’ only run in a 2-1 loss in Game 2, and then drove in a pair of runs in a 16-7 victory in Game 3 — a performance that will be forever overshadowed by Pujols’ three homers.
Nobody could overshadow Freese in Game 6.
After committing a critical error when an easy popup bounced out of his glove, Freese more than made up for it with his bat. Down to his final strike, his two-run triple in the ninth forced extra innings, and he joined Bill Mazeroski, Carlton Fisk, Kirby Puckett and Joe Carter as the only players to hit a game-winning homer in Game 6 or later of a Fall Classic.
That’s pretty select company.
Much like the company he’ll enjoy as MVP of the World Series.
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