David Freese had forced extra innings with a double off Rangers closer Neftali Feliz after the Cards were down to their last strike of the season in the ninth. Now they were in the same boat, and this time it was Berkman who delivered off Scott Feldman with two outs and two strikes -- setting up Freese's 11th-inning heroics and an 11th title a night later for St. Louis.
"Berk went up there attacking and fouled off the first pitch," La Russa writes. "After a ball, he fouled off the next one. We were down to our last strike for the second time in the game. We'd been in the same spot in the ninth. Two thoughts competed in my mind. Whenever you're behind and end up losing but don't go quietly, you feel good about how you competed. A spirited rally means something. We were fortunate that the lineup had turned so that, if we had to be in this position, either Albert [Pujols] or Lance would be in there. Also, a brief image of Adron Chambers sprinting home to score the winning run in that game in Chicago briefly flashed through my mind. I was still hopeful.
"Feldman threw a fastball in, but missed just slightly, and Berk lined it, not a bullet but solidly, into center field. We were tied at 9-9."
The book, authored with veteran St. Louis baseball writer Rick Hummel, will be released Sept. 25 by HarperCollins, and it will be available in the MLB.com Shop. It represents the first memoir by Major League Baseball's third-winningest manager, who retired after the Cardinals' 11th World Series title. La Russa came to the MLB.com studios in New York for his readings from Chapter 22, and this is the second of three exclusive video excerpts being posted between now and that release.
The Rangers had a two-run lead entering the bottom of the 10th. The Cards had David Descalso on third and Jon Jay on second with one out, and La Russa writes that Texas' decision to play the infield back proved significant.
"Scott Feldman, a right-hander, was called in to face [Ryan] Theriot and Albert, the next two hitters and both right-handers," La Russa writes. "Feldman got Theriot on a ground ball to third, but Descalso was able to score because the infielders were playing back. They had traded an out for a run.
"Being down one instead of two was huge. Though Jay wasn't able to advance, with his speed, any ball into the outfield would give him a great chance of scoring to tie the game. The Rangers weren't going to let Albert beat them. They intentionally walked him, the potential tying run, to face Berk. He was 2-for-4 and had walked once, driven in two runs, and scored three. Berk was 3-for-9 against Feldman. Also, Berk had been clutch for us all year, he was having a productive year as a run producer, and he'd been seeing the ball well all night."
In "One Last Strike," La Russa explains that his final season of managing was the culmination of a lifetime spent studying the game. Exploring his own scrutinized and sometimes misunderstood approach to managing, he shows a counterintuitive belief in process over result, present moments over statistics, and team unity over individual talent.
In Chapter 22, that introspection comes to light as La Russa reveals his own disbelief over a potentially key faux pas he had committed: wasting pitcher Edwin Jackson. La Russa had no more position players left on the bench, and he had decided an inning earlier that he would bat Jackson, a decent hitter, in the pitcher's spot should Jay fail to get on base. But with Descalso on second and Jay on first and no outs in the 10th, La Russa sent Jackson up, and then recalled him, opting to have pitcher Kyle Lohse, the better bunter, sacrifice them over.
That maneuver meant Jackson would not have been available later as an emergency pinch-hitter. La Russa explains what he was thinking as he had to scratch Jackson off the scorecard in the dugout: "You've got to be kidding me."
"As bad as I felt about wasting Jackson, I at least had the presence of mind, earlier in the inning, to call down to the bullpen, telling them to get Jake Westbrook up," La Russa writes. "I'd seen dozens of extra-inning games like this -- lots of back and forth and then a long stretch when neither team is able to score. The ebb and flow takes on that cadence of in and out. I also knew that we'd gone through a lot of pitchers, so if the game did evolve into a marathon, I wanted the guy who could go that distance in there for us.
"I was hoping Jake would be needed."
And he was, thanks to Berkman.
"One Last Strike" will offer amazing insight into the journey that led to the Redbirds' title, as La Russa opens up about the devastating injuries, bullpen woes, crucial games and the guys who made it all possible. La Russa writes candidly about his decision to retire.
"I wanted to write this book because there's a story that answers the question I got asked at the end of last season: How did you club win the world championship, especially when you had to come from so far behind?" La Russa said. "This is the first time I went back and realized everything the club went through and overcame to be the champion -- big, big difference looking back instead of looking forward."