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The St. Louis Cardinals captured their first World Series title since 1982 with a 4-2 win over the Detroit Tigers on Friday night. ((Elsa/Getty Images))

The St. Louis Cardinals are World Series champions.

Jeff Weaver pitched eight spectacular innings to help the Cardinals put away the Detroit Tigers in five games with a 4-2 win Friday night in St. Louis.

The victory gave the Cardinals their first World Series title in 24 years, ending a run of futilityin the Fall Classic that included losses in 1985, 1987 and 2004.

"I don't think anybody in uniform didn't do something in the post-season. Everyone did," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said. "The defence was great. The pitching was great. Timely hitting. The best bench I've had in a long time. They just refused for us to lose."

David Eckstein received World Series most valuable player honours aftergoing 2-for-4 with two runs batted in and a run scored in Game 5.

Eckstein also doubled home the winning run in the eighth inning of the Cardinals' victory in Game 4.

It was a most unlikely championship for the diminutive shortstop and his teammates, who were written off by many observers after winning just 83 games in the regular season and limping into the playoffs on the heels of a late-season slump.

"No one believed in us, but we believed in ourselves," Eckstein said.

The Cardinals also quietened talk that the National League was vastly inferior to the American League by easily defeating the AL champion Tigers, who came into the World Series on six days' rest.

But the Tigers looked more rusty than rested,committing eight errors, the most by a team in the Fall Classic since the 1956 New York Yankees.

"We didn't play well enough," Tigers manager Jim Leyland said. "There's no excuse here. I don't really know what the reasons were."

Weaver an instant hero

Weaver, salvaged from the scrap heap in a mid-season trade with the Los Angeles Angels, became an instant hero in St. Louis with his performance on Friday night. The 30-year-old right-hander surrendered just one earned run on four hits while striking out nine and walking one.

"It's the belief in yourself, knowing that you're going to work through it," Weaver said. "Never say die. Just keep working."

Yadier Molina, who sent St. Louis to the World Series with the winning home run in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the New York Mets, had another big night, going 3-for-4 with two runs scored.

Detroitstarter Justin Verlander allowed three hits over six innings but made a throwing error in the fourth inning that led to two Cardinals runs, the difference in the game.

Verlander'swas the fifth errorby Detroit pitchers in the World Series, adding to a recordDetroit set in Game4.

Detroitput the tying run on first base with two out in the ninth inning against Cardinals closer Adam Wainwright, but the rookie struck out Brandon Inge to end the game and send the Busch Stadium crowd into a frenzy.

Cards pounce on Tigers' errors

The Cardinals looked to be in good shape early as Verlandergot off toan erratic start in the first inning. A pair of wild pitches mixed in with three walks loaded the bases for Ronnie Belliard, but Tigers shortstop Carlos Guillen made a nice play to range for a ground ball behind second base and threw out Belliard at first.

Verlander wasn't so lucky in the second. With two out and a runner on third, Eckstein chopped a ground ball down the third-base line. Inge made a terrific diving stab, but his throw to first sailed well wide, allowing Molina to score the game's first run.

Inge was charged with an error, his third of the World Series.

In the fourth inning, it was the Cardinals' turn to misplay the ball. Right-fielder Chris Duncan and centre-fielder Jim Edmonds converged on a fly ball and Duncan dropped it, letting Magglio Ordonez reach second.

Sean Casey made the Cardinals pay for the miscue, clubbing a towering home run just inside the foul pole in right to put Detroit up 2-1.

But the Tigers gave the lead right back in the bottom of the inning. With one out and runners on first and second, Verlander fielded a bunt from Weaver and threw to third for the force out. But his throw went into left field and Molina trotted home.

To make matters worse, Eckstein followed with a groundout that scored the Cardinals' second unearned run of the inning and put St. Louis back in the lead.

Yet another fielding gaffe put the Tigers in an even bigger hole in the seventh.

Eckstein led off with a ground ball to the hole between shortstop and third. It figured to be a close play at first, but Guillen double-clutched on his throw and the hustling Eckstein beat out an infield single.

Two outs later, Rolen smacked a single into right field to score Eckstein from second and put St. Louis up 4-2.

With files from the Associated Press