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Craig makes his mark on Cardinals' title run

Craig makes his mark on Cardinals' title run

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Craig makes his mark on Cardinals' title run
ST. LOUIS -- Allen Craig not only left his mark on this World Series, but he's taking a precious piece of it back with him to his Southern California home.

It was Craig who, after initially turning the wrong way as he gave chase, gloved David Murphy's deep fly ball to left field on Friday night for the final out. The catch set off a frenzied celebration inside Busch Stadium and sealed an 11th World Series title for the Cardinals.

As he ran to embrace center fielder Jon Jay, Craig slipped the ball into his back pocket. It briefly reemerged when closer Jason Motte playfully ambushed Craig's postgame interview. But Craig got it back. And now, it's going home.

"I got it. I got it," he said, amid the champagne-spraying celebration going on in the clubhouse. "I don't know what I'm going to do with it, but I got it."

Fitting that the Game 7 ball goes to Craig, considering he made as much a mark on the Cardinals' 6-2 win over the Rangers as anyone else on his club. Inserted into the lineup only because of an injury to Matt Holliday, Craig broke a 2-2 tie with a solo homer in the third inning. The Cardinals never lost that lead.

It was the fourth game of this World Series in which Craig had delivered a go-ahead RBI. That feat had only been done twice before, first by the Yankees' Lou Gehrig (1928) and then by the A's Gene Tenace (1972).

Craig also became just the second Cardinals player to hit three home runs in one Fall Classic. He joins Albert Pujols -- who reached that total in a single game earlier in the series -- on that distinguished list. Craig, who started just four of the seven World Series games, tallied his in three different games

"It's a lifetime of work to get to where I am," Craig said. "I'm just glad that I could seize the moment and make the most of my opportunities and help the team win."

He did so defensively, as well, on Friday.

With the Cardinals leading, 5-2, in the sixth inning, Craig robbed Nelson Cruz of a solo home run with a perfectly timed leap along the left-field wall. Chris Carpenter followed by retiring Mike Napoli to end the inning and put the Cardinals nine outs away from the title.

"I had a beat on it the whole way, I just didn't know if it was ever going to come down since it was so high," Craig said. "I was just trying to find the spot where it was going to land. And it just happened to be right over the wall, and I'm glad I could catch it."

Craig caught plenty of attention this postseason, even though he started only eight of the team's 18 games. He had RBI hits in each of his first three World Series at-bats and scored twice in the club's Game 7 win.

The Cardinals have already spoken about the necessity of finding Craig a spot in the everyday lineup in 2012, as his production potential was hardly a secret internally. Now word is formally out.

"It's all about making the most of opportunities," Craig said. "You can't let opportunities slip, especially ones in the World Series. I'm just glad to be a part of it."

Jenifer Langosch is a reporter for MLB.com. Read her blog, By Gosh, It's Langosch, and follow her on Twitter @LangoschMLB. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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