The Cardinals made their first World Series appearance since 2006, in which they defeated the Detroit Tigers four games to one to win their National League-leading 10th World Series title. This was manager Tony La Russa's sixth World Series appearance as manager and his third such appearance with the Cardinals. The Cardinals' last postseason appearance was in 2009, where they were swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLDS. They finished the 2010 season with a record of 86–76 (.531), finishing in second place in the National League Central standings, five games behind the Cincinnati Reds.
The Cardinals spent much of the early part of the 2011 season in first place in the NL Central standings, but dropped to second place for good on July 27. Going into September, the team trailed the Atlanta Braves in the NL Wild Card standings by 8 1⁄2 games. The Cardinals amassed a 17-8 record from September 1 to 27, while the Braves were 8-17 over that same interval. Meanwhile, on September 23, the Milwaukee Brewers clinched the NL Central division title. On September 28, with the Cardinals and Braves tied atop the Wild Card standings on the last day of the regular season, the Cardinals routed the Houston Astros 8-0, while the Braves lost to the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 in 13 innings, securing the Cardinals' second wild card postseason berth in franchise history. St. Louis finished with a record of 90-72, six games behind the Brewers in the NL Central but one game ahead of the Braves in the Wild Card. They defeated the Phillies in the National League Division Series three games to two, and then defeated the Brewers in the National League Championship Series four games to two.
Before Game 7 in the World Series, the Cardinals replaced Matt Holliday, who sprained his wrist in Game 6, on their roster with Adron Chambers. Josh Hamilton and Michael Young had RBI doubles in the first inning against Chris Carpenter, who became the first pitcher in a decade to make three starts in one Series. David Freese had a tying, two-run double in the bottom of the first, and Allen Craig hit a go-ahead homer in the third. St. Louis added two runs off the Texas bullpen in the fifth inning without getting a hit. Yadier Molina walked with the bases loaded and Rafael Furcal was hit by a pitch, forcing in another run.