Freese ices Phils

Posted: October 05, 2011

ST. LOUIS – As the ball climbed ominously toward him, and the noise in Busch Stadium swelled until it filled his shaved head, Shane Victorino retreated rapidly to the green centerfield wall.

Once there, even though it soon became clear the ball would come to rest far beyond it, he climbed the wall, climbed it as desperately and crazily as the now-famous St. Louis squirrel had scaled the expensive seats near home plate an inning before.

It was as if the centerfielder were unwilling to accept what by then had become clear, that thanks to, of all people, David Freese, the Phillies wouldn't be spraying any champagne in their Busch Stadium locker room Wednesday night.

Freese, the 29-year-old Cardinals third-baseman who was playing in his first postseason and who had struck out in seven of his 13 at-bats before his fourth-inning double put the Cards ahead, singlehandedly flattened – for the moment anyway -- the Phils' hopes of moving on to their fourth straight NL Championship Series.

His home run and double off Roy Oswalt pushed St. Louis to a 5-3 win that kept alive their hopes, their season and perhaps even their affiliation with free-agent-to-be Albert Pujols.

To make it all more frustrating for the Phillies, Tony La Russa and his staff had considered benching Freese for Game 4 and, immediately after his home run, he was pulled on a double-switch.

"We discussed whether it should be Freese or [David] Descalso in there," La Russa said of his pregame lineup considerations, "because Descalso has done a really good job. We know what David Freese is. This guy is a real tough competitor and he wipes the slate clean. The vote was for David because we knew David was going to take a really tough at-bat whether he strikes out or whatever. That's just what he is."

In what must have brought back images of the equally unimposing Cody Ross' outburst against them last October, the relatively unknown Freese, who had just five home runs before this season and had had three hits the series, unexpectedly rose up against the Phillies.

"I got like what? 20 strikeouts in this series?" a relaxed Freese said afterward. "You go up against pitchers like this and you might have a tough night or two. But that's the beauty of this game."

After Oswalt struck him out in the second inning, Freese said he went down in the cage behind the Cardinals dugout and worked on a few things.

"I worked on getting my front foot down," he said. "That's very important for me in terms of my timing. And when you go against this staff, you knowyou're going to have to grind it out."

If the Phils end up losing Friday's Game 5, which now will decide this all-squared NL division series, it will have been Freese who, with his improbable Game 4 performance, helped put their World Series dreams in cold storage.

Charlie Manuel was asked if he were surprised that of all the Cardinals, it was Freese who beat his ballclub and put their 102-win season on the brink of conclusion.

"I think I don't have to say too much about David Freese," Manuel said. "I think that he kind of won the game."

With the Phils in front, 2-1, in the fourth and Oswalt looking strong, Lance Berkman walked to begin the inning and Oswalt hit Matt Holliday. One out later, Freese stepped to the plate.

He laced a double down the leftfield line on a sloppy curveball, the one pitch Oswalt admitted he'd like to have back, and St. Louis led, 3-2. At second base, Freese crossed his arms violently in celebration.

"That was just excitement," Freese explained. "We kind of cross our arms on doubles. That's kind of our thing."

It stayed that way until the sixth when, with two outs and Holliday on base, Freeese belted a fastball over Victorino's head and onto the green lawn that serves as a batting backdrop here.

"I don't even really remember it," said Freese. "It's a dream to be a part of this. Ever since I got traded over from San Diego, I always just thought about the postseason, the playoffs and being a Cardinal."

The pitch he hit from Oswalt was a first-pitch strike, a particular favorite.

"I go to the plate ready to hit," he said. "You look at my numbers, I don't walk a lot. I go up there trying to find a barrel. If I see something I like, I'm going to go after it and sometimes it gets me in trouble. But I think you've got to be aggressive."

Contact staff writer Frank Fitzpatrick at 215-854-5068,, or @philafitz on Twitter. Read his blog, Giving 'Em Fitz, at

comments powered by Disqus