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In the span of two swings by David Freese, the St. Louis Cardinals went from packing their bags for next season to World Series favorites.

Trailing 3-2 in the series against the free-swinging Rangers, the longshot Cardinals used a little late-inning magic for an unlikely 10-9 win in 11 innings over Texas in Thursday’s Game 6.

Not only did the Cardinals live to see another day, but St. Louis now appears to have all the advantages heading into Friday’s Game 7. Momentum? Check. Home-field advantage? Check. Ace on the hill? Check.

They’re currently listed as -140 favorites for tonight’s game. Let’s count the ways.

Momentum – If Freese’s heroics (a two-run, game-tying triple in the ninth and a walkoff blast in the 11th) don’t have the Cardinals riding high, something is severely wrong. The players are probably champing at the bit to get back to the ballpark and keep the good vibes rolling.

Home-field advantage – If there is one stat that should point to a St. Louis victory tonight, it is this: The home team has won Game 7 the past eight occurrences. Playing the most important game of the season in front of your raucous crowd certainly can be a difference-maker. The Cardinals certainly hope so.

Ace – While there has yet to be an official announcement, all signs are pointing towards Chris Carpenter taking the ball for St. Louis. Reports state that the veteran right-hander will start on short rest Friday night. If I’m betting on the Cardinals, I’d feel a whole lot better with Carpenter out there as opposed to Edwin Jackson or Kyle Lohse.

Carpenter has made five starts this postseason, going 3-0 with a 3.30 ERA. This would be his third outing of the World Series, which would make him and Curt Schilling the only two pitchers with three appearances. Carpenter tossed seven solid innings in a Game 5 no-decision after earning the win in the series opener.

Lack of offense was not to blame in the Rangers’ latest loss. They pounded out 15 hits Thursday, including three home runs. Josh Hamilton’s two-run shot in the 10th inning – his first of the playoffs – appeared to be the final dagger, but a St. Louis rally negated that.

Texas will send Matt Harrison to the mound for the critical Game 7. He is 1-1 with a 5.02 ERA in the playoffs, and was chased after allowing three runs in 3 2/3 innings in his lone start of the series.

Given how proficient the Rangers offense has been all season, and knowing their ability to change the game with one swing of the bat, it would be easy to assume they will win a slugfest. While there may be a lot of runs to go around, Harrison is the more likely candidate than Carpenter to serve them up in bunches.

The Cardinals seem destined to bring home the championship at this point. And the extra momentum is only going to fuel them more. I think St. Louis is the bet tonight and see them winning 6-4 in front of their home faithful.


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