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ST. LOUIS (AP) — Allen Craig drifted back, reached up and made the catch, setting off a stampede from the dugout.

The St. Louis Cardinals, the team that wasn’t even supposed to be here, had won a most remarkable World Series.

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A day after twice being down to their last strike, the Cardinals became champions by beating the Texas Rangers 6-2 in Game 7 on Friday night, boosted by another key hit from hometown MVP David Freese and six gutty innings by Chris Carpenter.

“It’s hard to explain how this happened,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said.

Beyond that final boxscore, that is.

Pushed to the brink, the Cardinals kept saving themselves. A frantic rush from 10 1/2 games out in late August to reach the postseason on the final day. A nifty pair of comebacks against Philadelphia and Milwaukee in the playoffs. And then two desperate rallies in Game 6.

“This whole ride, this team deserves this,” said Freese, who added more hardware to the trophy he won as the NL championship series MVP.

But how? How did they do it?

“It’s a long season. If you watch the history of baseball, teams come back. And sometimes they could have come back but they give in or give up,” La Russa said.

“Started winning some games so we can regain some respect, and then it got better,” he said. “Play every game like it’s the last game.”

Following that comeback in Game 6 that resulted in a 10-9 win in 11 innings, the Cardinals captured their 11th World Series crown. Only the New York Yankees own more with 27.

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