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Memories of 2011: David Freese Is Savoring A Sentimental Journey With the Dodgers

I could be wrong, but I’m thinking that the affable fans of the Milwaukee Brewers will not be in their usual hospitable mood when David Freese walks onto the field at Miller Park dressed in Dodger blue.

The Brew Crew’s great fans will likely remember the 2011 NLCS and the substantial damage inflicted by the baseball bat carried by Freese. And the memories may have them seeing red.

St. Louis Cardinals red.

And Freese played a lead role in knocking the betting-line favorite Brewers out of the postseason . He sent their fans back into the Green Bay Packers’ football season.

In six games vs. Milwaukee in the 2011 NLCS, Freese stepped into the box for 25 plate appearances. He went off for 12 hits, three doubles, three homers, seven runs, nine RBIs, a batting average of .545, an onbase percentage of .600 and a slugging rate of 1.091.

That series was part of Freese’s October demolition derby. He helped the Cardinals take down the Philadelphia Phillies, Brewers and Texas Rangers on the way to winning the 11th World Series in franchise history.

In 71 plate appearances over 18 postseason games, Freese batted .397,  reached base 47 percent of the time, slugged .794, rang up a 1.258 OPS. The baseball heroism included five homers, 21 RBIs, 12 runs, eight doubles …

And a very famous game-tying, season-saving triple in the bottom of the ninth inning of World Series Game 6 …

Which led to the game-winning, season-saving home run — two innings later — that delivered a joyous conclusion to Game 6 …

Which set up Game 7 … and Freese calming a roiling sea of red at Busch Stadium with a two-run double in the bottom of the first, after the Rangers had jumped to a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals won 6-2, and opened a dancing-in-the-streets celebration outside the ballpark.

Freese produced other grand postseason moments for the Cardinals.

There was his remarkable composure and focus in the top of the ninth at Washington in the fifth and final game of the 2012 NLDS. Trailing the Nationals 7-5 and on the verge of elimination, the Cardinals rallied for four runs to advance to the NLCS. After walking — somehow laying off two pitches on the razor’s edge of the strike zone — Freese came around to score on Pete Kozma’s winning two-run single that put the Cardinals on top 9-7.

In 2013 NLDS Game 5, Freese slammed a two-run homer off Pittsburgh Pirates starter Gerrit Cole  in the bottom of the second to launch the Cardinals to a 2-0 lead and series-clinching 6-1 victory.

Freese frame these moments.

They’ll exist forever in our memories.

It’s hard to believe, but Freese is 35 years old now. But he isn’t done. Not yet.

The Atlanta Braves were leading the LA Dodgers by a run in NLDS Game 4 on Monday night. It was the sixth inning. If the Braves could hold on, the series would be tied 2-2. With runners and second and third, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts called on Freese. Time to pinch hit.

Time for another October moment.

“That’s just where I want to be,” Freese told reporters after the game. “I think about this all the time.”

Confronting Braves’ reliever Brad Bach, Freese finessed a 3-2 count.

And then the native St. Louisan and eternal favorite son smashed a 96 mph fastball up the middle to drive in two runs for a 3-2 lead. Freese’s teammates took it from there, wrapping up a 6-2 win to move onto the NLCS.

The Dodgers will head to Miller Park for Games 1 and 2.

“A lot’s happened since the last time I played Milwaukee in the postseason, huh?” Freese told reporters.

The Dodgers acquired Freese from the Pirates on Aug. 31 — just in time to make him eligible for LA’s postseason roster.

The Cardinals attempted to trade for Freese around that time — but the Pirates’ front office didn’t want to trade Freese to an NL Central rival.

Since joining the Dodgers, Freese has consistently cranked big hits in his platoon and pinch-hit role In the final month of the regular season, Freese had 15 hits in 39 at-bats (.395) with a .489 OBP and .641 slug.

Money.

In the NLDS triumph over Atlanta, Freese had three plate appearances and drove in three runs with a sac fly in Game 1, and the momentum-changing two-run single in Game 4.

Money.

“There are certain types of players that can really succeed in that setting,” Dodgers GM Farhan Zaidi told reporters. “That was a huge part of our thought process in acquiring him.”

Added Roberts: “Putting him in a spot in a big moment, you just can bet on the pulse,” the manager said in the postgame news conference. “He’s obviously come up with some big hits for us in such a short period of time. But obviously this is probably the biggest one. We’re lucky to have him.”

Freese is savoring his sentimental journey that takes him back in time.

To 2011. When he was 28 years old  … and the MVP of the NLCS and the MVP of the World Series … and the MVP of all of St. Louis. Doing wondrous things for his hometown team. Freese was the talk of the town, the toast of the town. Special days. The best days.

“You never know if you’re going to get back,” Freese told the Los Angeles Times. “Obviously, my career is winding down. It’s crazy. You never know what this game is going to give you, what opportunities arise for you. You just gotta be ready.

“That’s what I learned over the years. Whether you’re in high school, college, whatever, just be ready. You don’t have to be the best player in the world, you don’t have to make the most money, but you’re going to have a shot to do something cool. I learned that early in my career.”

And the other Dodgers have Freese as their touchstone. They are determined to win the franchise’s first World Series since 1988. It’s been a frustrating quest. But Freese has been there. He has saved a season. He has owned the World Series. He has won the World Series.

“Guys flock to him,” Dodgers third baseman Justin Turner said. “He leaves a good impression on a lot of young guys.”

Freese made a lasting impression on Brewers fans back in 2011.

Here he comes again.

Once upon a time, Freese wore red and made the Milwaukee fans see red.

Now he’s wearing Dodger blue … and will try to make Milwaukee feel blue.

Thanks for reading …

–Bernie

More: Former Cardinals in the Postseason: Have a Holliday Martini, and Freese It.