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.