Josh Hamilton: God called homer

ST. LOUIS, Mo. -- Josh Hamilton said God told him he'd hit a homer Thursday night. But that's the only promise he received.

Hamilton's towering home run into the Busch Stadium lights in the top of the 10th inning pushed the Texas Rangers to a 9-7 lead and moved the franchise for a second time in two innings to the precipice of its first World Series championship.

But the prize ultimately was yanked away when St. Louis third baseman David Freese hit a walk-off homer in the 11th for a 10-9 win.

Hamilton, who has been playing this postseason with a painful muscle pull or tear in his groin or maybe his abdomen, said divine intervention took over when he stepped to the plate in the 10th.

"He told me, 'You haven't hit one in a while, and this is the time you're going to,' " said Hamilton, who had gone 65 at-bats in the postseason without a home run. "You know what? I probably had the most relaxed, peaceful at-bat I've had of the whole series at that moment. It's pretty cool. You ought to try it sometime."

As Hamilton recalled the sequence of events in the Texas clubhouse after Game 6, he ruefully took note of the missing piece in the discussion: God promised him a four-bagger, but made no mention of the Rangers' bullpen collapse or Freese's game-tying triple in the ninth inning and game-winning homer in the 11th.

"There was a period at the end of [the sentence]," Hamilton said. "He didn't say, 'You're going to hit it and you're going to win.' "

For a moment, though, Hamilton was living in the movie "The Natural," he was channeling Kirk Gibson. He homered, and as clubhouse crews covered the visitors' lockers with protective tarp, and carts of bubbly and beer were moved into place, one thought pounded inside Hamilton's head.

"This hurts, this hurts, this hurts, this hurts," Hamilton repeated over and over. "That's probably the slowest I've ever run the bases after hitting a home run. I didn't hear the crowd. I didn't hear anything. I just saw my teammates at the plate, the reaction from the dugout."

Hamilton had cranked Cardinals closer Jason Motte's first-pitch fastball high and deep, well beyond the right-center wall and into a sea of red in the bleachers. Hamilton finally had his first home run of the postseason in his 66th at-bat, a historic one in a historic season.

Seated back on the bench, Hamilton received hearty congratulations and the dugout was electric again. Ian Kinsler stood in front of him and put one hand on each of Hamilton's cheeks and squeezed.

Three more outs and the World Series was theirs. Only it wasn't.

A battery of pitchers couldn't keep the cardiac Cardinals down. Twice down to their final strike, they scored twice in the ninth to tie, twice again in the 10th and then Freese ended one of the wildest, sloppiest, most thrilling and perhaps most remarkable game in World Series history with a leadoff homer in the 11th to force Game 7 Friday night at Busch Stadium.

"I'm not going to lose any sleep over tonight," Hamilton said. "I'm going to do everything I can do to prepare. Guys were already talking about it before coming back in here [to the clubhouse]. It's not over yet, so just shake it off and come back tomorrow."

For Hamilton, his blast seemed the most fitting of storybook endings. His injury has been dissected and analyzed to death. His power had been stripped -- that's been all but evident. Manager Ron Washington has continually refused to take him out of the three-hole and told naysayers that you just have to believe: Hamilton will do something great.

And then he did. In Game 6, he was great, going 3-for-6. He drove in the first run of the game in the first inning, which seems an eternity ago, on a sharply hit single. He reached on an error in the fifth and showed he can still get his wheels going despite the pain that shoots daggers of varying degrees into his side, scoring all the way from first on Michael Young's double.

The real pain, though, came crashing down like a sledgehammer in the 11th. Busch Stadium erupted. The Cardinals dog-piled as if they had just won the World Series instead of tying it up. The Rangers walked off in stunned disbelief.

How will they overcome such a crushing blow? Hamilton, for one, said he will seek a higher power.

"Guys understand we just went through a battle and we fell a little short," Hamilton said. "I guarantee it's going to motivate us not to fall short tomorrow."

Jeff Caplan of ESPNDallas.com and ESPN.com senior writer Jerry Crasnick contributed to this report.