August 13, 2013 - At Busch Stadium III (Adam Wainwright - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Pittsburgh Pirates (Charlie Morton - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 40,253
Looking back on the 2013 season - this is the game that essentially handed the NL Central division title to the Cardinals. A loss would have left them four games behind the Pirates - which would have been their fate if not for a dropped fly ball in the ninth-inning by an otherwise excellent defensive left fielder. What were the odds? 100 to 1?
In the end, the Cardinals would prevail in fourteen innings - thanks to a walk-off single by Adron Chambers that scored Jon Jay from second base with the fourth run of this marathon game with the Pirates.
Four hours and fifty five minutes before that dramatic conclusion, Adam Wainwright took the hill for St Louis - and fell behind quickly - on Andrew McCutchen's two-run opposite-field home run to right field.
After the Cardinals failed to score on Pirates' starter Charlie Morton in the bottom of the first - Wainwright yielded a solo home run off the bat of Jody Mercer, to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead. That would prove to be the last time they'd score over the next twelve innings, as Wainwright righted the ship for the next five innings - and the bullpen took care of the other seven - although there were a couple of tense moments, just for entertainment purposes.
St Louis finally broke through on Morton in the sixth-inning. Consecutive singles by Beltran, Craig and Holliday loaded the bases with no outs. David Freese then hit a convenient ground ball near the bag at second - fielded by shortstop Mercer who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the double play. Beltran scored on the play, but the rally seemed to be going down the drain, with two outs and Craig on third. However, Jay got the run in with a clutch two-out base hit, to make it a 3-2 game.
That's where the score remained as reliever Trevor Rosenthal took over for Wainwright to begin the eighth-inning - which started ominously when Neil Walker doubled into the right field corner. However, second base was as far as Walker would go. The next three Pirate batters - McCutchen, Alvarez and Martin - all struck out chasing 100 mph heat.
The Cardinals still trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth - facing Mark Melancon - who retired Kozma on a ground ball to the second baseman, for out number one. Next up - Daniel Descalso lifted a routine fly ball to left field, which Starling Marte nonchalantly dropped. Kids, this is why they tell you to use two hands when catching those fly balls - just in case the ball happens to hit the heel of the glove, you might be able to grab it with that spare hand before it falls to the ground - in this case, it fell to the ground for a two-base error - because Descalso was hustling all the way on the play - The Cardinal Way.
Melancon temporarily regrouped - striking out Matt Carpenter for the second out of the inning - but he wanted no part of Carlos Beltran - walking him on four straight pitches. However, that meant he had to pitch to Allen Craig - who did what he did best in 2013 - hit with runners in scoring position. In this situation, Craig scored Descalso with the tying (unearned) run - on a single to right field. Beltran was thrown out trying to make it to third, but the damage had been done.
After the Cardinals failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the tenth, eleventh and thirteenth - with pitcher Seth Maness ending the latter innings by first grounding into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third (the eleventh) and then striking out with the bases loaded (the thirteenth). By that time, manager Mike Matheny had run out of options.
Fortunately, Maness was doing good work on the mound - especially in a nerve-wracking thirteenth-inning - when he pitched out of a bases loaded-one-out jam by getting Harrison to ground one near the third base bag - which defensive-replacement-Descalso scooped up, stepped on third and fired a strike to first to end the threat.
Just when it seemed this game would never end - with Jared Hughes on the mound for Pittsburgh - with one out in the bottom of the fourteenth, Jay reached on an infield hit to the shortstop - then with Adron Chambers batting - stole second. Chambers then hit a slicing line drive to left which fell safely in front of left fielder Marte - but he played this one extremely well - throwing a strike to home - but just a split second too late to nail the speedy Jay - who made a very nice fade-away slide to avoid the tag.
Sam Freeman - the sixth Cardinals' pitcher used by Matheny in this game - pitched one inning of scoreless relief for the win - his first (with no losses).
It was a crucial game to win - especially from a psychological perspective. The Cardinals felt like they were never out of any game - and for the most part, they were right.