David Freese plays the hero again as Cards force Game 7

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The fairytale continues for a certain St. Louisan.

Cardinals third baseman David Freese, a child of the Gateway City’s western suburbs, played the hero two different times in Thursday night’s thrilling 10-9 Game 6 victory over the Rangers, continuing to build on his magical 2011 postseason run.

In the bottom of the ninth inning, with the Cardinals down 7-5, Freese ripped a ball over the head of Rangers right fielder Nelson Cruz to score Albert Pujols from second base and Lance Berkman from first. Then in the 11th, with the Redbirds needing a final knockout punch, Freese launched a walkoff home run to straightaway center field.

Freese muffed an easy pop-up earlier in the game, and he’s struggled at other times defensively throughout this improbable October run, but his bat has more than made it up for his misgivings at the hot corner.

The 28-year-old was 5-for-18 with a home run, two doubles and five RBI in the Cardinals’ NLDS defeat of the Phillies, then went 12-for-22 with three home runs and nine RBI in the Birds’ NLCS defeat of the Brewers. And now he’s 7-for-21 with a home run, two doubles, a triple and five RBI in this stunning Fall Classic.

Freese has tallied 48 total bases in these playoffs, setting an all-time record. Behind him is teammate Albert Pujols, who has 47. We’d bet that will might find a long-term crown-wearer in Friday night’s Game 7.

Oh good, it’s “Yasiel Puig is a showboat” season

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With the Los Angeles Dodgers punching their ticket to the World Series, Yasiel Puig is now going to be the subject of commentary by people who tend not to care about Yasiel Puig until it’s useful for them to write outraged columns or go on talk radio rants about baseball deportment.

We got a brief teaser of this last night when, after scoring the Dodgers’ ninth run on a Logan Forsythe double, TBS analyst Ron Darling criticized Puig for his “shenanigans” and “rubbing it in.” Never mind that his third base coach was waving him home and that, if he didn’t run hard, he was just as likely to be criticized for dogging it. In other news, baseball teams don’t stop trying in the fourth inning of baseball games, nor should they.

That was just an appetizer, though. The first real course of the “Puig is a problem” feast we’re likely to be served over the next week and a half comes from Phil Mushnick of the New York Post, who wrote it even before the Dodgers won Game 5 last night:

If you were raised to love baseball and to recognize the smart, winning kind from everything less, the Dodgers’ Yasiel Puig is insufferable. As the sport is diminished by professionals who disregard the basic act of running to first base as a matter of style, Puig, an incurable home-plate poser, often makes turning doubles and triples into singles appear effortless . . . In the postseason, Puig continues to behave as if he’s in the Home Run Derby. He even seems to relish his high-risk flamboyant foolishness despite frequent backfires.

This may as well be a fill in the blanks column from 2013 or 2014, when “Puig is a flashy showboater who costs his team more than he gives it” columns were all the rage. It ignores the fact that Puig, commonly dinged for being lazy, worked his butt off in 2017, particularly on defense, to the point where he has a strong case for a Gold Glove this year. It also ignores his .455/.538/.727 line in the NLDS sweep of the Diamondbacks and his .389/.500/.611 line against the Cubs in the NLCS. In the regular season he set career highs for games, homers, RBI, stolen bases and almost set a career high for walks despite having seventy fewer plate appearances than he did back in 2013 when he walked 67 times. He’s not the MVP candidate some thought he might be, but he’s a fantastic player who has been a key part of the Dodgers winning their first pennant in 29 years.

But the dings on Puig from the likes of Mushnick have rarely been about production. They’ve simply been about style and the manner in which he’s carried himself. To the extent those issues were legitimate points of criticism — particularly his tardiness, his relationships with his teammates and his at times questionable dedication — they have primarily been in-house concerns for the Dodgers, not the casual fan like Mushnick. On that score the Dodgers have dealt with Puig and, by all accounts, Puig has responded pretty well. An occasional lapse to be sure, but nothing which makes him a greater burden than a benefit. I mean, if he was, would be be batting cleanup in a pennant-clinching game?

So if the beef with Puig is not really about baseball, what could Phil Mushnick’s issue with him possible be?

I, for one, have no idea whatsoever.