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Questionable decision, controversial call hurt Rangers in fifth

The St. Louis Cardinals only scored two runs in the fifth inning of their 6-2 World Series clinching victory over the Texas Rangers on Friday night. But it was the manner in which they scored that drove the dagger deep into the heart of Texas.

The Cardinals did not collect one hit in that inning, or benefit from a single Rangers error. They did, however, benefit from a questionable intentional walk decision by manager Ron Washington, which was soon followed by Jerry Layne's highly controversial ball four call to Yadier Molina that forced in the first run.

[Related: Rangers had nothing left in tank for Game 7]

Here's a little breakdown of the key components that went into that fateful frame for Texas. An inning that proved to be as painful as the ninth, 10th and 11th innings in Game 6. {YSP:MORE}

The decision: Scott Feldman took over for Matt Harrison to start the inning and he did so in sloppy fashion, walking Allen Craig and then nicking Albert Pujols' jersey on an 0-2 pitch. Lance Berkman bounced out to Michael Young for the second out, advancing the runners to first and third. That set up David Freese with an opportunity to add to his postseason-record 21 RBIs.

[Related: Cardinals win World Series the easy way | Highlights]

But Ron Washington passed, electing to load the bases and take his chances with Yadier Molina instead. Personally, I didn't hate the decision to pass on the hottest hitter in October. But it was obvious from the responses I read on Twitter that loading the bases under any circumstances was not the popular call with the masses. Despite how it happened, their argument would be solidified by what followed.

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The call: Feldman quickly fell behind Yadier Molina 3-0, missing with a pair of sinkers and a four-seam fastball. After Molina took another sinker for strike one, Feldman caught all of the plate for a called strike two. Molina didn't agree, however, selling the pitch by taking a step toward first and flipping his bat away.

That set up the pivotal pitch of Game 7. Feldman again fired a sinker, this time catching the outside corner according to every eyeball and piece of technology fixated upon it. Well, except for the one who's opinion actually mattered. Layne ruled the pitch outside, sent Molina to first, and the Cardinals added to their lead.

[World Series slideshow: Check out photos from Game 7]

Unfortunately, inconsistent strike zones have been the most consistent aspect to this year's playoffs. In this case, I don't know if Layne was influenced by Molina overselling the pitch before or Mike Napoli having to reach back a bit to receive it. But there's little question the pitch was a strike, and if called correctly, it would have changed the entire dynamic of the game and given Texas a much more positive outlook. Instead things would only get more difficult.

The capper: C.J. Wilson would be summoned to finish the inning. He eventually did, but not before hitting Rafael Furcal with his first pitch, forcing in the second run. Looking back this run may not appear to mean anything, but you could tell if took a little more air out of their lungs.

The scoring: 2 runs, 0 hits, 0 errors, 3 walks (1 intentional, 1 poorly called), 2 HBP and 1 heartbroken fanbase.

The aftermath: I can't imagine the roller coaster of emotions Rangers fans went on over that 24-hour period. Going from one strike away from their first World Series championship — twice — to throwing a strike at the most critical moment of Game 7, and not getting that call, is likely to cause Nolan Ryan and several thousand others some sleepless nights over the next four months.

[Y! Sports shop: Buy Cardinals title gear]

I know they're a resilient bunch. They should be competitive again next season with or without C.J. Wilson. But it will be very interesting to see how the organization reacts and recovers from coming up short for a second straight season.

Follow Mark on Twitter — @Townie813 — and engage the Stew on Facebook

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