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World Series Game 7: Cardinals win unlikely 11th championship

Score and situation: The St. Louis Cardinals completed a stunning weeks-long rally, from 10 1/2 games out of a playoff spot on Aug. 25 to World Series champions with a 6-2 victory against the Texas Rangers in Game 7 on Friday night.

[Related: Cardinals win World Series the easy way | Highlights]

Leading lads: Manager Tony La Russa, even with all of his curious and agonizing pitching changes, and despite his horrendous botching of Game 5 with an ill-timed game of telephone tag with the St. Louis bullpen, kept the players in the clubhouse believing, and focused, despite the 999-to-1 odds against them.

Among the players, hometown kid David Freese(notes) won World Series MVP, thanks in no small part to his enormous Game 6, along with a tying two-run double in Game 7. Allen Craig(notes) came through, whether as a pinch-hitter early in the Series or a starter in Game 7, when he hit the go-ahead home run in the third inning. Filling in for injured Matt Holliday(notes), he also appeared to save a run with a leaping catch at the fence. Lance Berkman(notes) continued his revival and finished with a .423 batting average in the Series.

[Video: The final out | Champagne celebration]

Chris Carpenter, pitching again (on three days of rest) thanks to the rainout of Game 6, allowed two runs and six hits over six innings. St. Louis' bullpen, which had been instrumental throughout the playoffs, finished off the Rangers with three scoreless innings.

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World Series Game 7: Cardinals win unlikely 11th championship

Head hangers: Twice in Game 6, the Rangers came within a strike of winning their franchise's first World Series. They very well could return to the Fall Classic in 2012, but the bitterness of losing in back-to-back seasons will remain for a long time.

[World Series slideshow: Check out photos from Game 7]

Rangers pitchers issued a record 41 walks in the World Series, though several were either intentional or, at least, obvious attempts to pitch around people. How differently might the Series have gone had the Rangers just gone after the likes of Albert Pujols(notes) and — heck — frequent No. 8 hitter Nick Punto(notes)?

Michael Young(notes) had a brutal Series in the field and wasn't anything special at the plate in the cleanup spot. Ian Kinsler(notes) had two hits and batted .360 in the Series but got picked off for what seemed like the umpteenth time.

[Y! Sports shop: Buy Cardinals title gear]

Key play: With Texas leading 2-0 in the bottom of the first, left-hander Scott Harrison got two outs, then timidly walked Pujols and Berkman to set up Freese, who lined a two-run double in the gap to tie the score. The Rangers never led again.

What they'll be talking about: If not St. Louis, where will free agent-to-be Albert Pujols play next?

What's next: The Cardinals and the Miami Marlins christen a new ballpark in South Florida on April 4, 2012.

Follow Dave on Twitter — @AnswerDave and engage the Stew on Facebook throughout the playoffs

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