Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2011 - Pujols, Freese & Molina Go Deep in 6-4 Win Over Pirates

Friday, July 22, 2011 - At PNC Park (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Paul Maholm - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  38,490

The Cardinals staked Chris Carpenter to a 4-0 first-inning lead - on a pair of two-run home runs - then Carpenter later helped his own cause with a run-scoring single - as St Louis held on for the win, to move into a virtual tie with Pittsburgh for second-place in the NL Central - one game behind first-place Milwaukee.

Jon Jay started the first-inning rally against Pirates starter Paul Maholm with a one-out triple to right field, bringing Albert Pujols to the plate - in his favorite ballpark to hit.  As if on cue, Pujols launched one to deep right-center field - three rows deep - to put the Redbirds quickly on top, 2-0.

One out later, after Lance Berkman doubled down the left field line, David Freese belted an opposite-field home run deep to right field to give the Cardinals a four run advantage right off the bat.

The Pirates cut that deficit in half in the second-inning.  With two out, Garrett Jones doubled, followed by a run-scoring single from Ronnie Cedeno, a scratch infield single from Michael McHenry, then an RBI single from Maholm - trying to help his own cause.

Carpenter returned the favor in the third-inning - lining a two-out base hit to right-center field, to score Yadier Molina, who had doubled.

Pittsburgh scored two more runs in the sixth-inning - but questionable base-running took them out of a potentially big-inning, when they collected five hits of a tiring Carpenter.

With one out, and runners on second and third, Garrett Jones brought both home with a bloop single near the line in left field - but was nailed by a strong throw from Matt Holliday when he tried to stretch it into a double.  That play loomed large when the next two batters - Cedeno and McHenry - also singled; however, the inning ended when pinch hitter Xavier Paul grounded out to Pujols at first base - unassisted.

Then Yadi gave the Cardinals a bit more breathing room with a two-out solo home run in the eighth-inning - giving the Cardinals a 6-4 lead - and that's where it finished, after Fernando Salas worked a scoreless ninth-inning for his 18th save of the season.

Carpenter, who had gotten off to a slow start, improved to 6-7.  By the time the regular season ended, it's safe to say he had his "A" game going.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 2012 - Cards Tie Franchise Record - 12 Runs in the 7th-Inning

Saturday, July 21, 2012 - At Busch Stadium III (Jake Westbrook - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Garza - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  43,424

On September 16, 1926 - at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia - the Cardinals won both games of a double-header against the Phillies, by scores of 23-3 and 10-2.  In that first game, the Redbirds established a franchise record by scoring twelve runs in a single inning.  The details of that big third inning are not known, but we do know that for the full nine innings, the Cardinals amassed 22 hits, walked eight times, reached base on four Philadelphia errors, and stole seven bases.  Of the 22 hits, the Cardinals had just four extra base hits - all doubles.

It would take another 13,475 regular season games for the Cardinals to score a dozen runs in a single inning again.  And we do know all the details for this one.

Both starting pitchers - Jake Westbrook and Matt Garza - allowed nary a run.  However, Garza made an early exit - leaving the game after just three innings pitched - apparently, some physical discomfort caused his removal.  At any rate, reliever Justin Germano worked the next three innings, unscathed.  His undoing would prove to be a slow roller down the third base line off the bat of David Freese - leading-off the bottom of the seventh-inning.  Freese beat it out for a rare infield single - the first of ten hits the Cardinals would tally - and the only one allowed by the unfortunate Germano.

James Russell then came in from the Cubs' bullpen to face Jon Jay - who was retired on a botched bunt attempt.  But then, pinch hitter Allen Craig (batting for Jake Westbrook, who improved to 8-8 after this win) hit the first of seven doubles the Redbirds would notch in the lucky seventh - a total that tied a major league record for two-base hits in a single inning.

With runners on second and third, Rafael Furcal drove in the first run of the game with a ground ball single into left field.

Skip Schumaker followed that up with a triple, to make it a 3-0 lead.

After Matt Holliday walked, Carlos Beltran scored Skip with a ground rule double down the right field line, which bounced into the stands, causing some poor guy to spill his beer all over himself - and he didn't even get the souvenir.  It's now 4-0.

After Yadier Molina was intentionally walked to load the bases (sure, why not?), Russell got the second out of the inning when he induced Lance Berkman to popup to the second baseman.

Suddenly, another pitcher was summoned from the Cubs' bullpen - Manny Corpas - who would face four batters in rapid succession:  Freese - a two-run double (6-0 now) - Jay - another two-run double (8-0) - Craig - his second double of the inning, which scored the last guy who doubled, to make it 9-0.

After Furcal walked, Rafael Dolis came in out of the pen, and held Schumaker to a single - although it did drive in another run (10-0).

The scoring concluded after Matt Holliday hit the record-tying seventh double - scoring Furcal and Schumaker with the 11th and 12th runs of the inning.

Although the scoring would end, the hilarity continued when Dolis struck out Beltran on a wild pitch - as Beltran reached first base, and Holliday ambled into third.

With a chance to re-write the record book, Matheny decided to give Molina the rest of the night off - sending Tony Cruz in to pinch hit - and he struck out on a non-wild pitch.

The inning was finally over - 17 batters and 37 minutes after it started.

The Cardinals finished with nine doubles - four shy of their own major league record for most two-base hits in a single game.  It happened in the second game of a double header between the Cardinals and Cubs on July 12, 1931 - St Louis had 13 doubles - Chicago 10 doubles - the 23 combined doubles is also a major league record in a single game.  The two teams combined for nine doubles in the first game of the double-header.  The 32 doubles between two teams in a double-header also happens to be a major league record.

No other major league team had even hit as many as nine doubles in a single game since - until the historic night of July 21, 2012.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20, 1974 - 3-Run 9th Lifts Cards to 6-5 Walk-Off Win Over Astros

Saturday, July 20, 1974 - At Busch Stadium II (Alan Foster - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Dave Roberts - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  13,448

Capping off a dramatic three-run rally - Tim McCarver's two-out bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth turned a 5-4 deficit into a thrilling 6-5 walk-off win over the Houston Astros.  The Cardinals (45-49) were in third-place in the NL East after this come-from-behind win - but only three games out of first - and climbing.

The Cardinals scored first in this game - in the third-inning - when Lou Brock's one-out double off Astros starter Dave Roberts was followed by utility infielder Jerry DaVannon's run-scoring single.

The Astros tied the game in their next turn at bat.  Bob Watson led-off the fourth-inning with a single - then Lee May reached base when Mike Tyson - playing shortstop - booted his ground ball.  Instead of turning a double play, the error now had Houston runners on first and second with nobody out.

Then came the defensive play of the game, which in essence, saved the game for the Cardinals.

The next batter for Houston - Milt May (no relation to Lee) - hit a ground ball that seemed destined for right field - however, DaVannon - playing second base - made a nice play to his left and quickly threw to first baseman Joe Torre for the out - who in turn threw a bullet to Tyson covering second, tagging out the lumbering Lee May, sliding into the bag.  Suddenly, there were two out, with a runner at third.  When the next batter - Doug Rader singled home Watson with the tying run - the unusual 4-3-6 double play loomed large - preventing a potentially big inning for the Astros.  For the Cardinals, escaping with a 1-1 tie was a bargain.

The Redbirds broke the tie in the sixth-inning on a pair of one-out doubles by Reggie Smith and Joe Torre, and a two-out RBI single by Mike Tyson - which plated Torre, to give St Louis a short-lived 3-1 lead.

Houston scored four times in the eighth-inning when Foster simply ran out of gas.  The Cardinal starter would face four batters in the inning - unable to record a single out.  The first batter - Roger Metzger - singled - scoring on Cesar Cedeno's double - who then scored on Bob Watson's single to right field - who then advanced to second on the throw home.  The game was suddenly tied, 3-3.

After Lee May was intentionally walked, manager Red Schoendienst made the first call to the bullpen - bringing in Rich Folkers to face Milt May - who laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up to second and third.  After Doug Rader was intentionally walked, the veteran thorn in the side to the Cardinals - Tommy Helms - singled Watson in from third, as the bases remained loaded.

Orlando Pena - the 40-year old much-traveled reliever - then came in to face the dangerous Cliff Johnson - retiring the slugger on a pop fly to the shortstop, for the second out of this very long inning.

Enter Al Hrabosky - The Mad Hungarian - to face rookie Greg Gross - who walked, to force in the fourth run of the inning.  Hrabosky struck out the next batter - Metzger - to retire the side.  But the situation looked bleak for the Cardinals - trailing 5-3, as they hit in the bottom of the eighth.  The situation looked even bleaker when they failed to score.

After the Mad Hungarian kept Houston from scoring in the top of the ninth, he retreated to the dugout, lit up a cigarette, popped open an ice cold Budweiser, and enjoyed the show - looking forward to picking up an easy win in relief.

Houston pitcher Mike Cosgrove, who entered the game in the eighth-inning to get the final out - started the ninth, trying to protect a 5-3 lead.  Luis Melendez - the speedy part-time outfielder - pinch hit for Hrabosky to open the bottom of the ninth - and he was successful - plugging the gap in right-center field for a triple.  Lou Brock brought Luis in with a ground ball to the second baseman, but it cost the Cardinals the first out of the inning.

Jerry DaVannon - who drove in the first run for the Redbirds, and made a nice play at second base to save at least a run or two - did what he needed to do in this situation - walk.  Bake McBride - 1974 NL Rookie of the Year - followed that up with a single to right field.  The next batter - Reggie Smith - tried to win it with one swing - but his fly ball to right field was caught just shy of the warning track.

Don Wilson - normally a starter for the Astros - was then summoned into the game to try to get that elusive third out, with Joe Torre coming to the plate.  But Wilson was a bit wild - as a patient Torre coaxed a two-out walk to load the bases.  That gave Tim McCarver - who entered the game in the eighth-inning as a pinch hitter (unsuccessfully) - another shot.  This time, the veteran catcher - in his second tour of duty with the Cardinals - delivered the game winning hit - a line drive single to center field - scoring DaVannon from third and then McBride - who was flying in from second with the game winning run.

For McCarver, who saw little action in '74 - this was probably the highlight to his season.  By September 1, he would be gone - sold to the Boston Red Sox for an unspecified sum.

For the Cardinals - a team on the rise - their quest for a division title would fall a little short, despite a strong 41-26 finish (third best in the NL).  Unfortunately for the Redbirds, the Pittsburgh Pirates (44-49 at the time) would finish the season with a 44-25 record to win the East - and send the Cardinals home for the postseason.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19, 1983 - Neil Allen Blanks Padres on 3 Hits

Tuesday, July 19, 1983 - At Busch Stadium II (Neil Allen - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Diego Padres (Tim Lollar - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  31,395

On June 15, 1983, the St Louis Cardinals traded the popular, line-drive-hitting Gold Glove first baseman - Keith Hernandez - to the New York Mets, for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  While the acquisition of Hernandez was one of the key ingredients to the mid-'80's rise of the Mets - the Cardinals, on the other hand, became National League champions in '85 and '87, in spite of this trade.

To Allen's credit, he pitched well for St Louis, initially.  In fact, his first starting assignment with the Cardinals came against the Mets, at Shea Stadium - pitching eight strong innings in a 6-0 St Louis win.

One month later, as the Cardinals desperately tried to cling to first place in the weak NL East, Allen had his finest outing in a Cardinal uniform - going the distance - blanking the San Diego Padres on three hits.  He walked just one, while striking out just three.

Strangely enough, Padres starter - Tim Lollar - also allowed just three hits in his eight innings of work.  But thanks to a home run from an unexpected power source and a bunch of walks, the Cardinals manufactured four runs - more than enough to win on this night.

After Allen induced Steve Garvey to ground into an inning-ending double play (following a one-out walk to Juan Bonilla), the Cardinals wasted little time in putting pressure on Padres starter - Tim Lollar.  Lonnie Smith led-off with a single to right field - and with Willie McGee batting - stole second.  When McGee grounded one right back to the pitcher, Lollar had the presence of mind to catch Lonnie straying too far away from the second base bag.  Smith was retired in an unusual pitcher-to-second baseman-to-catcher putout at third base - and in the pursuit of Lonnie, Willie had time to scamper to second base.  With David Green now batting, McGee stole third - then raced home when Green was retired on a ground ball to the shortstop.

Little did anyone know, that one run was going to be enough to win this game.  The Padres would only have three more base runners for the rest of the game - a pair of singles by Rupert Jones, in the third and fifth-innings, and a one-out single by Alan Wiggins in the ninth.  That was it.  San Diego never even got a runner in scoring position all night long.

Meanwhile, still nursing that 1-0 lead in the fifth-inning, Ozzie Smith connected for his second home run of the season - a two-run shot (following a walk to Tommy Herr).  He would go on to hit one more in '83 - a new career high.  Ozzie had two home runs in '82 - his first season with St Louis - prior to that, in four seasons with San Diego, the Wizard had just one home run to his credit - in 2536 plate appearances.

The Cardinals added one more run in the sixth-inning - when seldom-use utility infielder Floyd Rayford doubled - scoring McGee from second base.

After this win, Neil Allen had improved to 4-1 with his new team, as the Cardinals maintained the illusion of competing for a second straight division title.  At the time, their record of 46-44 was good enough for the top spot in the NL East - but only a game ahead of Pittsburgh, a game and a half ahead of Philadelphia, and two games ahead of Montreal.  Two nights later - after losing the next two games with San Diego, the Cardinals had slipped to third place - and would never see first again in '83.

The season that began with high hopes had slowly faded into mediocrity, thanks to a 33-39 finish.  Even the Mets - who were mired in last place at the time - finished the rest of the schedule just a game under .500.  They now had their first baseman of the future - the Cardinals now had their excess baggage.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18, 2010 - How Sweep It Is! Come-From Behind Walk-Off Winner Over Dodgers

Sunday, July 18, 2010 - At Busch Stadium III (Jeff Suppan - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Los Angeles Dodgers (Vincente Padilla - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,743

After being swept by the Dodgers in three straight NLDS games in the 2009 postseason, the Cardinals were hoping to get some measure of revenge in 2010.  They didn't get it in LA, that's for sure - getting swept in a three-game series (June 7 - 9) when everything seemed to go wrong for the Redbirds.  The frustration from '09, combined with that early June sweep had the Cardinals chomping at the bit by the time LA arrived in St Louis right after the All Star break - for a crucial four-game series.  After taking the first three games over LA - when everything seemed to go wrong for the Dodgers this time around - the Cardinals tried to make it a four-game sweep - on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball.

The Dodgers had other ideas.  Leading-off the fifth-inning for LA in a scoreless ballgame, Ronnie Belliard singled to left off Cards' starter Jeff Suppan - but was erased on a force out grounder by Xavier Paul - who was now the runner on first base with one out.  Next up - A.J. Ellis - singled to left, advancing Paul - who was running on the pitch - all the way to third.  Then the  pitcher, Vincente Padilla helped his own cause with a double down the left field line to score Paul, as Ellis stopped at third.

This had the makings of a big inning, but Suppan was able to wriggle out of further trouble when he got Rafael Furcal on a short fly to right field, then retired Jamey Carroll on a ground out to the second baseman.

Suppan would work another scoreless inning, before giving way to an erratic Mitchell Boggs to start the seventh-inning.  The Dodgers still led by that same 1-0 score, as the Cardinals could only muster one hit in Padilla's six innings of work - although he walked five - but none of the free passes cost him.

It was Belliard again causing trouble for the Cardinals, with a lead-off seventh-inning single to left.  After Paul was retired on a fly ball to center, Ellis hit a slow roller to third baseman Felipe Lopez, who rushed his throw to second, trying to start a double play - instead, the throw sailed into right field for a very costly error.

With runners on first and second, Garret Anderson pinch hit for Padilla - delivering a run-scoring double to give LA a 2-0 advantage.  With first base open, Furcal was intentionally walked - loading the bases.  Then, with Carroll batting, Boggs uncorked a wild pitch - scoring Ellis with the third Dodger run.  Somehow, Carroll struck out - but that would be the last batter Boggs would retire in this game.  After an intentional walk to Andre Ethier loaded the bases once again, Boggs accidentally walked Matt Kemp to force in the fourth Dodger run.

That was enough for manager Tony LaRussa - relieving his rattled reliever of his duties for the afternoon - bringing in Dennys Reyes to face Blake DeWitt - who grounded one to Lopez at third, who got the force out at second this time.  The inning was finally over - and the Cardinals' chances of winning this game seemed "over" as well - especially after they failed to capitalize on a seventh-inning lead-off double by Randy Winn, off the new Dodger pitcher - Travis Schlichting - who retired the next three batters to keep the Cards scoreless and frustrated, heading into the eighth-inning.

After a St Louis reliever by the name of Evan Maclane kept it a 4-0 deficit with one inning of scoreless work (the only complete big league inning he'd ever pitch) - the Redbirds started working on getting back into this game in their half of the eighth, with Schlichting still on the mound for LA.  Brendan Ryan coaxed a lead-off walk - but Lopez, trying to atone for his error that handed the Dodgers two unearned runs in the seventh - tried too hard - flying out to left for the first out of the inning.  After Jon Jay drew the second free pass off Travis, Justin Miller came in from the bullpen to pitch to the young rookie - Allen Craig - who was playing first base today, as Pujols was given a rare day off - at least as a starter.

Craig was off to a horrendous start to his major league career, but this game was the turning point for him.  With one swing of the bat, the four run deficit was cut in half, as Craig scored both Ryan and Jay with a double down the left field line.  Manager Joe Torre sensed this one getting away from him, and quickly brought in the veteran Jonathan Broxton to pitch to Matt Holliday - who flew out to right field for the second out of the inning.  However, Randy Winn - whose lead-off double the inning before was wasted, promptly brought Craig home with a single to right field - making it a 4-3 game now.  There was more drama in this inning, but no more scoring.  After Skip Schumaker walked, LaRussa sent Albert Pujols in as a pinch hitter for catcher Jason LaRue - but he grounded out to short to end the inning.  However, the Redbirds were back in it - and LaRue's defensive replacement behind the plate would ignite the game winning rally in the ninth-inning.

After Ryan Franklin pitched a scoreless ninth-inning for St Louis, all he had to do was sit back and enjoy the final stage of the Cardinal comeback.  Yadier Molina - just in the game - led-off the bottom of the ninth with a single to right field.  After Ryan bunted him down to second, Lopez again tried to atone for his two-run error by hitting a walk-off two-run home run.  He almost did it, but his fly ball deep to left field was hauled in at the warning track, for the second out in the inning.

Jay drew another base on balls, putting runners on first and second - for a relaxed and confident Allen Craig - enjoying the best day of his brief major league career.  Allen lined a single to center, scoring Molina with the tying run.  With the winning run now on second base, Matt Holliday - who had been having a tough day to this point - promptly ended it with a base hit to right.  As Jay streaked home with the game-winning run, the Redbirds had completed the four-game sweep - and were still in first place (51-41) in the NL Central - a half game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they would finish the season with a dismal 35-35 record, to finish five games behind the Reds.  Inexplicably, their season record against five sub-.500 teams (Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Marlins and Royals) was 21-32.  Their worst offense was losing ten out of fifteen games against the hapless Houston Astros.  This would shape up to be one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory - when the Cardinals seemed to have plenty of talent to go deep into the postseason - but they never got there.

As 2010 ended in disappointment for Cardinal fans, 2011 would be quite a different story, altogether.  "2011 would be quite a different story!"  (If you get it, you know this is a gag from the movie, Airplane!)  If you don't get it, and find it offensive, please head over to your favorite social media site to voice your concerns, pipe shot.

Thanks, Management

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 2000 - 3-Home Run Attack Silences Metrodome Fans - An 8-3 Winner Over Twins

Monday, July 17, 2000  - At The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Pat Hentgen - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Minnesota Twins (Mike Lincoln - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  20,171

As the Cardinals discovered in the 1987 World Series - beating the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, with 50,000 screaming fans serving as an eardrum-throbbing distraction for the visiting team, is virtually impossible.  The 1991 Atlanta Braves came close to pulling it off, but they too were swept in four straight World Series games in that deafening hellhole.

It's a little easier when the decibel level is a bit lower than that of a jet's engine at take-off - when only 20,000 or so moderately enthused fans are in attendance - like in this particular inter-league game - when the Cardinals managed to take control early on, keeping the fans out of it - but then again, this wasn't the World Series.

The Cardinals scored first - on a second-inning solo home run from the soon-to-be-departed Chris Richard (traded to Baltimore for lefty reliever Mike Timlin).  They added another run in the third-inning, on Thomas Howard's RBI single - scoring Jim Edmonds, who doubled to lead-off the inning.

However, the Twins scored a run off the veteran Pat Hentgen - a Cy Young Award winner in '96, having his last quality season as a starter in 2000.  A young David Ortiz drove in Cristian Guzman from third with a ground-out to the second baseman, to make it just a 2-1 St Louis lead.

In the fifth-inning, the Redbirds got a two-run home run off the bat of Fernando "Double Grand Salami" Tatis, to extend the lead to 4-1.

Minnesota knocked Hentgen out of the game in the seventh-inning, after consecutive singles by Jacques Jones and Marcus Jensen suddenly brought the tying run to the plate.  Heathcliff Slocumb took over on the mound and escaped major damage, when only Jones came around to score.

Nursing just a two-run lead, as the Cardinals began the eighth-inning, facing reliever Jason Ryan - Placido Polanco started a rally with a one-out single to center.  Manager Jim Kelly went to the bullpen again - bringing in Travis Miller to pitch to Fernando Vina - and that worked, as Vina struck out.  However, after Edgar Renteria walked, Edmonds gave the Cardinals some breathing room with a three-run bomb to right field.  Just like that, it was 7-2, in favor of St Louis - putting the Homer Dome crowd noise on "mute".

Both teams exchanged meaningless ninth-inning runs, as the Cardinals won for only the second time in this facility since inter-league play began in 1997.  With this win, Hentgen improved to 9-6 - and with his loss, Mike Lincoln had slipped to 0-3.

The home field advantage was diminished, but not vanquished in Minnesota - St Louis would still lose two out of three to a mediocre Twins team in this series.  But at least their hearing wasn't adversely affected this time around.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16, 2012 - 3-Run 9th Stuns Brewers at Miller Park

Monday, July 16, 2012 - At Miller Park (Lance Lynn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Brewers (Mike Fiers - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  30,128

For eight innings and two-thirds innings, the Cardinals' offensive production amounted to five hits, five walks and no runs.  However, as the Brewers were reminded, getting that last out isn't always so easy.  Three hits and a walk later, the Redbirds scored three times to overtake the Brew Crew - handing them a 3-2 loss, right there in front of their stunned Miller Park faithful.  It was beautiful.

The much-maligned Lance Lynn pitched seven strong innings - allowing one run on seven hits, no walks and ten strikeouts.  The only mistake that cost him was a seventh-inning pitch that Corey Hart belted out of the park - giving Milwaukee a 1-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Mike Fiers - who also worked seven innings - kept the Cardinals scoreless on four hits, four walks and four strikeouts.  Francisco Rodriguez worked a scoreless eighth-inning for Milwaukee, before turning the ball over to John Axford - the closer who had been nearly flawless in 2011, but not quite so flawless in 2012.  His record would fall to 2-6 after this loss.

In the meantime, with someone named Barret Browning now pitching for the Cardinals to start the eighth-inning - trouble was brewing.  A one out walk to Norichika Aoki prompted rookie manager Mike Matheny to bring in Jason Motte to face Carlos Gomez - who flew out to right field - and the despicable Ryan Braun - who doubled to right field, scoring Aoki with an insurance run.  Motte then retired Aramis Ramirez on a pop fly to the second baseman - but with two runs to work with, Axford's save opportunity looked promising.

However, after Matt Carpenter led-off the ninth with a base on balls, a murmur of trepidation could be heard in the house that Miller built.  Matheny then sent Lance Berkman in to pinch hit for Daniel Descalso - and Lance gave that ball a ride, backing Gomez to the wall in center field to make the catch.  The next pinch hitter - Carlos Beltran - hit one deep to right field, but Corey Hart also flagged it down at the base of the wall  - for out number two - as the crowd exhaled in relief - many now happily chortling their disdain for the team they refer to as the "crying birds" - the team that had the audacity to reach the postseason the year before, and knock tha Crew outta tha playoffs - as Nyjer Morgan aka T-Plush aka T-Gumbo might have said.

It's hard to figure out their deep seated resentment towards the Cardinals - and their fans - but it's always fun whenever their chortling turns into stunned silence - bringing many into such a state of depression, only a case of Miller can remedy.

The chortling subsided a bit, after the next batter - Rafael Furcal - beat out a slow roller down the third base line for an infield single.  Next up - Skip Schumaker - walked, to load the bases.

As Matt Holliday stepped into the batter's box, the only audible sounds in the ballpark were the beer vendors hawking their product that made Milwaukee famous - oblivious to the pending doom that was about to occur:  Holliday grounded one into right field, chasing home both Carpenter and Furcal with the tying runs.

The next batter - Allen Craig - blooped a single which fell safely between the shortstop, left fielder and center fielder - to score Schumaker with the go-ahead run.  The side was finally retired when Molina hit one deep to center field, which again backed Gomez to the wall to make the catch.

By this time, the few thousand Cardinal fans who made the six hour drive to catch this game seemed to be enjoying themselves, as Motte - now in line to secure the win (to improve to 4-3) - struck out Hart and Weeks before retiring Maldonado on a ground ball to third, which Matt Carpenter (defensive replacement) scooped and fired to first for the game winner.

By season's end, the Cardinals would earn a wild card spot by winning 88 games - to the Dodgers' 86 games.  Having this one in the win column didn't hurt.