MILWAUKEE (AP) — In a lineup loaded with All-Stars, it was David Freese who all but iced the pennant for his hometown team.
Freese, who grew up in a St. Louis suburb, hit a three-run homer Sunday night and was selected MVP of the NL championship series after the Cardinals finished off the Milwaukee Brewers 12-6 in Game 6.
"I think not too many people get a chance to do this in their hometown. And it's an unbelievable feeling," Freese said. "To be a part of this team, this group of guys, this organization, means a lot. "
Part of a high-scoring offense that includes Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman, Freese went 3 for 4 with a homer in a four-run first inning that got the Cardinals rolling. It was his third home run of the series and fourth in the NL playoffs.
"That's the crazy thing about baseball. You have your ups and downs and you just keep working hard. You get hot every now and then," Freese said. "The timing was unbelievable. Honestly, I wish we could make eight or nine or however many of these and give them to our bullpen. What they did, they really deserve this award. They're why we won this series."
The 28-year-old third baseman has a 10-game postseason hitting streak as the wild-card Cardinals head home to open the World Series on Wednesday night against the AL champion Texas Rangers.
Freese also scored three times Sunday night and batted .545 (12 for 22) in the NLCS with three homers, three doubles, nine RBIs and seven runs.
His huge postseason is a local story that St. Louis fans can love: Freese lettered in baseball all four years at Lafayette High School in Wildwood, Mo., and still lives there.
After graduating from high school, he attended St. Louis Community College-Meremec before transferring to South Alabama. The Padres selected him in the ninth round of the 2006 first-year player draft.
Freese had hits in each game of the NLCS, propelling the Cardinals to their first World Series appearance since beating Detroit in 2006. He had a single, double and homer in the Game 6 clincher.
St. Louis was 10½ games out in the wild card race on Aug. 25 but went on a head-turning run in the final month to overtake Atlanta as the Braves collapsed. The Cardinals then beat the Phillies in the divisional series before eliminating the talented Brewers. Now they get to play the World Series and for the first time in these playoffs will have home field advantage.
"I think we believe. I think that's what you've got to do in this game. We got a group of guys with some talent, desire, and just a ton of heart," Freese said.
"Coming back from 10 and a half or whatever it was, obviously it's a tough battle. But we kept plugging; we kept pushing. The fans deserve that; the organization definitely deserves that, it's kind of surreal that we're here, but this team deserves what we've been rewarded. ...
"This means the world to me, not only to get to the World Series, but to be a part of this group of guys," Freese said. "I haven't been around a better group of guys."
Freese is batting .425 with four homers and 14 RBIs during the postseason. He led the charge as St. Louis battered the Brewers.
— In Game 1, he hit a three-run homer in the fourth inning to erase a 2-1 deficit and give the Cardinals a 4-2 lead they couldn't hold.
— In Game 2, he had two hits and homered in the ninth inning of a 12-3 victory. It was the team's 17th hit, setting a club record for most in a league championship series game.
— In Game 3, he went 3 for 4 with two doubles and a single in a 4-3 victory.
— Moved up to cleanup in Game 4 to give Pujols more protection, Freese responded with two more singles in Milwaukee's 4-2 win.
— Back in the sixth spot in the batting order in Game 5, he singled, walked and scored two runs in the Cardinals' 7-1 victory.
And then there was the final game Sunday night.
Milwaukee started shaky Shaun Marcum, and Freese made sure the right-hander wasn't around for long. He pulled a three-run shot to left field in the first, giving the Cardinals a four-run lead they never relinquished.
In the third, he doubled with one out and scored on a single by pinch-hitter Allen Craig as the Cardinals extended their lead to 9-4 in the inning.
He singled and scored in the fifth when St. Louis made it 11-5.
Freese is in his third major league season after coming to the Cardinals in a December 2007 trade that sent Jim Edmonds to the San Diego Padres.
All three of those years with the Cardinals have been marred by injuries.
Freese began 2009 with the big league club but sprained his left ankle and played only 17 games in the majors. In 2010, he won the starting third base job, only to endure injuries to both ankles that required surgery.
This season, he was batting .356 before he missed 51 games after breaking his left hand on May 1 when he was hit by a pitch from Scott Linebrink in Atlanta. Freese finished with a .297 average, 10 homers and 55 RBIs in 97 games.
Not bad at all, but nothing like October.