Anyone who doubts that the St. Louis Cardinals are a team of destiny must have went to sleep and missed Game Six of the World Series on Thursday night.
Fortunately for those unlucky fans, Game Seven between the Cardinals and Texas Rangers at Busch Stadium will be on Friday night and if the game goes late they can catch up on their rest next week when clocks are set back an hour.
St. Louis pulled off a dramatic victory in the 11th inning off David Freese's walk-off home run, and while the Cardinals outscored the Rangers 6-2 from the eighth inning to the dramatic conclusion.
It's been a magical time for St. Louis for several weeks. The Cardinals found a way to squeak into the playoffs by heating up in the last three weeks of the season, winning 16 of 21 games, while the Atlanta Braves lost 16-of-23 games in nearly the same stretch. St. Louis kept their hot streak going in the postseason when they got by heavily favored Philadelphia Phillies, and past the surging Milwaukee Brewers.
Fate has been on Tony La Russa's squad. Look no further than the rain postponement on Wednesday that will now allow ace Chris Carpenter to start in Game Seven.
Carpenter, who threw 101 pitches and gave up just two runs in seven innings in Game Four, will be pitching on three days rest. The question is: will he be effective? La Russa may go to Jake Westbrook, who pitched one inning ane only threw 10 pitches, at any point of the game if he thinks his ace is fatigued.
The Rangers, meanwhile, head into Game Seven with questions about their bullpen. Reliable closer Neftali Feliz conceded the double to Albert Pujols, the walk to Lance Berkman, and the triple to Freese that sent the game into extra innings. Prior to Game Six, Feliz had only given up one run in 10 postseason appearances this October.
In Game Six, five of the eight pitchers manager Ron Washington used gave up at least one run.
Meanwhile, the Rangers' season hinges on starter Matt Harrison. The 26-year-old hasn't had a quality start in the postseason, so Washington might be quick to pull him in the early innings if he struggles.
One pitcher who Washington will probably avoid is Alexi Ogando. The starter-turned-reliever walked in a run, threw a wild pitch, and then walked Nick Punto, in Game Six, and gave up three earned runs in a third of an inning in Game Three.
Instead, Washington will likely trust Mike Adams, who has been one of the better middle relievers in baseball over the past four seasons, and his been strong in the postseason. Washington may also turn to C.J. Wilson, Scott Feldman, and Derek Holland. Despite the blown save, Feliz will likely play an important role for the Rangers.
Though there is no need to rest a pitcher with Friday night's game as the last meaning full one for about five months, both La Russa and Washington will be cautious as to which pitchers still has something left this deep into the season. Every pitcher will be fair game, but if Game Seven goes into extra innings as it did in Game Six, pulling a pitcher too soon could have disastrous effects.
As for the bats, Cardinals' left fielder Matt Holliday, who has only three hits in 19 at-bats, will miss Game Seven because of a sprained right wrist. Allen Craig will likely start in his place.
Rangers' catcher Mike Napoli has been on a tear, and has four hits in eight at-bats against Carpenter, as does third baseman Adrian Beltre. Michael Young has only two hits in 12 at-bats against Carpenter.
Game Six was a classic. Game Seven will be an avalanche of emotions.
PREDICTIONS: This will be among the most tactically managed game in years, as it is the first Game Seven since 2002, and because the rain postponement on Wednesday altered the pitching matchups. Texas won't falter simply because they failed to hold a lead in Game Six. But the Rangers probably won't get a big game from Nelson Cruz who hasn't hit right-handed pitching well and is nursing a groin strain. The Cardinals can expect Freese and Berkman to step up, as Pujols won't receive pitches to hit.
The Cardinals are the team with magic on their side.
PREDICTED SCORE: Cardinals 6, Rangers 4