Long after the smoke had cleared from the celebratory fireworks and hours after his torn jersey had been collected, authenticated and stamped with a hologram for the Hall of Fame, Cardinals third baseman David Freese exchanged texts with teammate Jon Jay late Thursday night.
As they replayed Game 6 through their conversation, Freese said they focused on the series of essential plays that came between Freese's game-tying triple and his walk-off homer in the 11th inning. The 10-9 victory against Texas that forced Friday's World Series Game 7 will be remembered for the biggest blows of the night.
But behind them were hidden heroics.
"We were talking about how ... there were so, so many small things that allowed the other things to happen, small things that may go unnoticed, and really shouldn't," Freese said in between rounds of batting practice Friday afternoon. "People who are around the game know that those are the things that let the big stuff occur."
As the Cardinals rallied five times from deficits, including twice being down to their final strike, they paved the way to Freese's extra-base jolts with incremental baseball. Kyle Lohse punched a sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning that moved the tying run into scoring position. In his first at-bat as a replacement for Matt Holliday, Allen Craig had a solo homer that inched the Cardinals back from a three-run deficit. Albert Pujols, if anything he does can be lost in the shuffle, cracked a double in the ninth inning to spur the Cardinals' first rally. Jake Westbrook pitched the first scoreless frame of extra innings to give the Cardinals a chance to win the game and not, for the first time, erase a deficit.
And Jay and Daniel Descalso, two October rookies, had four hits in their final four at-bats, including a hit apiece off a lefty to spark the 10th inning rally.
"You had to take all of the things that factored into the win," Descalso said. "It took almost the whole 25-man roster to survive and to come back and to come back again and then, finally, go ahead. A lot of little things happened."
Jay and Descalso had the biggest of those little things.
In the 10th inning, Texas manager Ron Washington went to veteran Darren Oliver to replace closer Neftali Feliz and, specifically, erase the two young lefthanded hitters the Cardinals had coming up to lead off the inning. The Rangers held a two-run lead, 9-7, on the strength of Josh Hamilton's two-run homer, and they were three outs away from the franchise's first World Series championship.
Oliver held lefties to a .227 average during this past season, and he struck out one out of every four he faced. Descalso batted .190 against lefties this season. Jay fared much better — .287 average against lefties — but has struggled mightily through this postseason. He took a one-for-17 World Series into his at-bat against Oliver.
"If you watch us play, if you watch what Dan did, he has been clutch as anybody on our club," manager Tony La Russa said. "He's just been a real clutch, winning player. ... And Jon, I mean, he's in a struggle right now but against lefthanders ... he's a tough out against them. We were fortunate we had a couple of guys who were going to compete and make something happen."
Descalso led off the 10th inning and after getting ahead in the count 2-1, he fouled off four consecutive pitches from Oliver before lashing a single to right field.
Jay followed with an 0-1 lofted single to left.
"I've had to do that a lot this year," said Descalso, who had a series of late-and-close base hits in middle of the regular season. "It's not like it's something that's new to me. I'm comfortable in that role coming off the bench. I'm ready to play in that situation. I know to have a short, compact swing and get a good pitch to swing."
With those two lefties on base, Edwin Jackson went to the plate. La Russa hadn't expected to have him announced and quickly had to burn him to get the bat in Lohse's hand. A better bunter, Lohse spied that the Rangers' corners were crashing from their positions. On the second pitch he saw from Oliver, Lohse tried to shove his bunt past the onrushing third baseman Adrian Beltre. He got it in the air, but past Beltre's glove to move Jay and Descalso ahead.
"If you push it too hard you're going to get a double play there, at least," La Russa said. "That's what keeps bunt defenses honest is a guy like that."
Descalso scored on Ryan Theriot's groundout, and Jay followed him home when Lance Berkman lined a two-strike base hit to center. That tied the game and set the stage.
Descalso and Jay didn't start the game. Lohse had only one appearance in the game. Yet, combined they had four hits and one key bunt that led the game to Freese's eventual winner.
That was the gist of his texts with Jay.
The power means little without the prelude.
"Those four (at-bats) right there," Freese said. "Hamilton hits the home run, then this happens, that happens, and they're not throwaway (at-bats), but if you don't get a hit, you know where things are going. In that situation, coming off the bench like they did — anybody who has played the game knows how hard it is to come off the bench in that situation. It is borderline impossible to get something going there, and they did it twice."