Lance Berkman was ready for his moment.
With the Cardinals down to their final strike for the second time, the NL comeback player of the year was in the hot seat.
Staying cool and calm, Berkman stroked a game-tying single in the 10th inning of Game 6 of the World Series one inning after David Freese's two-run triple off Neftali Feliz had tied it.
"I actually felt pretty good about it, because I felt like I was in a no-lose situation," Berkman said. "If you don't come through right there, it's only one at-bat and it's over with, and they might talk about it for a couple of days but it's not that big a deal.
"If you come through it's the greatest."
Then there's the bonus. The next time you don't get that big hit, the criticism might be a bit muted.
"You've built a little bank account," Berkman joked. "If I don't come through tomorrow I can be like, 'Well, I came through in Game 6, what do you want from me?'"
Berkman batted cleanup, moving up one spot and switching spots with slumping Matt Holliday. It turned out to be a brilliant move by manager Tony La Russa.
"I think Tony did that because his timing has been off," Berkman said. "He kind of mixes it up. Tomorrow, if Matt plays, he'll probably be hitting fourth because they're going to start that lefty [Matt Harrison]."
Berkman paid off immediately with a two-run home run in the first inning, then he made the Rangers pay for yet another intentional walk to Albert Pujols in the 10th to set the stage for Freese's game-winning homer in the 11th of a wild, resurgent 10-9 victory on Thursday night.
"I'm definitely not loose, I don't think this is fun," Berkman said. "It's obviously fun when you win, but going into the game it's not fun. It's not fun to go up there with a season on the line.
"But you know, I think the experience is incredible."
Berkman was 3 for 4 and scored three runs, helping to add another improbable chapter to the wild-card Cardinals' October story. He said he prayed, not for "hits and stuff" but for a "calmness and an ability to compete, because I think that's all you can ask for."
"The tendency in these big situations and these big games, your emotions get going, you try to do too much," Berkman said. "If you're a .300 hitter, all you can reasonably expect to do in big situations is hit .300.
"I mean, you can't be better than you are."
Holliday has no RBIs in the series, and he made two critical mistakes in Game 6.
First, he dropped a shallow pop fly by Nelson Cruz to start the fourth, colliding with shortstop Rafael Furcal right after the ball popped free. Perhaps more damaging, the Cardinals had the bases loaded in the sixth when he was picked off third with a strong throw from catcher Mike Napoli combined with a strong defensive play at third by Beltre, who blocked Holliday from the bag with his foot.
Holliday injured his right hand in a different spot on the play and was removed before the seventh with a bruised right pinkie. He was hampered down the stretch in the regular season and at the start of the playoffs by an inflamed tendon on his right middle finger.
La Russa said Holliday has a "pretty good bruise." Team trainers initially had believed the pinkie had been fractured.
Freese's game-winning homer was the Cardinals' first in the post-season since Jim Edmonds in Game 6 of the 2004 NLCS against the Houston Astros in a series the Cardinals won 4-3 to reach their first World Series since 1982.