ST. LOUIS — One strike was all that separated the Texas Rangers from clinching their first World Series title.
First David Freese swung at a 1-2 fastball from Neftali Feliz in the ninth inning, and the ball sailed over Nelson Cruz for a two-run game-tying triple.
In the 10th, Lance Berkman drilled a single to center on a 2-2 pitch from Scott Feldman to make it 9-9.
Two two-run leads had been blown. And now the Rangers might have blown their chance at becoming world champions.
Freese started the 11th inning with a home run off Mark Lowe, and St. Louis forced a seventh and deciding game in the World Series with a remarkable 10-9 victory.
The Rangers, who have made a living the past two seasons by showing their resiliency, will start Matt Harrison against either Kyle Lohse, Edwin Jackson or Chris Carpenter at 8:05 EDT Friday night.
"It's not that easy to win a world championship, as we found out tonight," Rangers manager Ron Washington said. "We had the right people in the right spots, and they beat us.
"We'll bounce back tomorrow. We've been in some tough spots before, and we've responded. I expect us to respond tomorrow."
The Cardinals were within an arm's reach throughout the game, even after a three-run seventh that included back-to-back homers from Adrian Beltre and Nelson Cruz appeared to put them away.
But St. Louis didn't go away. That included in the ninth, when Albert Pujols and Berkman reached, and Freese delivered with two outs.
But Josh Hamilton appeared to have saved the Rangers in the 10th inning. His first homer of the postseason and first since Sept. 23 came after Elvis Andrus' one-out single against Jason Motte.
Hamilton swung at the first pitch, a 98-mph fastball, and it got over the wall in right-center field.
The Rangers chose Darren Oliver to start the 10th against two left-handed hitters, but both of them singled. After a sacrifice bunt, Scott Feldman got Ryan Theriot to ground out to third as a run scored.
Pujols was walked intentionally, and Berkman evened the game for a fifth time as Jon Jay sprinted home from second base.
The Rangers got a one-out single in the 11th from Mike Napoli, but he didn't advance. Lowe entered from the bullpen, and Freese hit the sixth pitch of the at-bat out to straightaway center field.
"I've been saying that it's not over until you get that last out, and I was just sitting there praying that we'd get that last out," Washington said.
"We didn't get it. You have to tip your hat to the Cardinals."
Neither starter opened the game particularly well, with the first three Rangers reaching in the first inning against Jaime Garcia. A Hamilton singled scored Ian Kinsler for a 1-0 lead before Garcia got the next three hitters without a ball leaving the infield.
Skip Schumaker notched a one-out single off Colby Lewis in the Cardinals' first and scored two batters later as Berkman crushed the first pitch he saw for a two-run homer.
Garcia surrendered a two-out ground-rule double in the second to score Craig Gentry and tie the game at 2-2 after Lewis had bunted into a double play.
Garcia was gone by the fourth, when the game got sloppy. The next four runs were all unearned as Matt Holliday and Freese allowed popups to fall to start the fourth and fifth.
Michael Young committed two errors at first base, including one in the sixth that allowed the Cardinals to forge a 4-4 tie.
Lewis got the first hitter, Pujols, in the sixth. St. Louis, though, saw its next five hitters reach without a ball leaving the infield. Berkman beat out an infield hit, but Holliday appeared to be out as he sent a chopper to first base.
Young turned to throw to second, and the ball popped out of his hand. He couldn't recover, and Holliday was safe on Young's second error of the game.
Lewis walked Freese to load the bases before giving way to Alexi Ogando, who walked Yadier Molina to force in the tying run. Napoli, though, changed the inning when he picked off Holliday at third for the second out.
Ogando walked Punto to load the bases, Derek Holland entered and got Jon Jay on a tapper to the mound to end the inning.
Then Beltre struck with a 410-foot shot to start the seventh. Cruz followed with a 419-footer that reached the third deck. With two outs, Kinsler delivered, singling home Holland for a 7-4 lead.
Allen Craig hit a solo homer in the eighth off Holland to make it a little more interesting. It turned out to be a run that helped the Cardinals survive for a seventh game and might have crushed the Rangers' chance at a world title.
"I understand that it's not over until you get that last out, and we didn't get that last out," Washington said. "It just wasn't meant to happen tonight."