Friday, August 3, 2012 - At Busch Stadium III (Joe Kelly - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers (Randy Wolf - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 41,505
Trailing 3-0 in the fourth-inning, the Cardinals went on to score nine unanswered runs to give rookie Joe Kelly - who survived a shaky three-run second-inning - his second career win. Kelly allowed ten hits and a pair of walks in 5.2 innings - then the Cardinal bullpen - Browning, Mujica, Boggs and Rzepczynski - took care of the final 3.1 innings - keeping Milwaukee scoreless on two hits.
Kelly, who was in and out of trouble throughout his outing - seemed on the verge of escaping a bases loaded two-out second-inning jam - but his mound opponent - Randy Wolf - nixed that thought with a two-run single to give himself an early lead - which was extended when lead-off hitter Norichika Aoki followed up with an RBI single of his own.
But the Cardinals' bats came alive in the fourth-inning. Allen Craig led-off with a single to center, then one out later, moved to third on a Carlos Beltran double. David Freese then scored both runners with a single to center, then one out later, advanced to second on a wild pitch, then scored on Daniel Descalso's double to left field. With first base open, Wolf pitched around Shane Robinson - walking him - with the hope of getting the third out by retiring Joe Kelly.
Kelly had other ideas - giving Wolf a dose of his own medicine - with a run-scoring single to break the tie.
The rest of the game was a showcase of Yadier Molina's talent. After leading off the sixth-inning with a base hit to right field, Descalso moved Yadi up to second with a sacrifice bunt. At this point, Brewers manager Ron Roenicke replaced Wolf with reliever Jim Henderson. With Shane Robinson batting, Molina surprised everybody by stealing third - and when catcher Martin Maldonado's throw sailed into left field, a grinning Yadi trotted home with the fifth run of the game for St Louis. Rattled, Henderson then served up a fat pitch to Robinson, who promptly singled to right. Then pinch hitter Skip Schumaker grounded out as Robinson advanced to second; whereupon Rafael Furcal scored Shane with another base hit to right.
Yadi was at it again in the eighth-inning. This time, he led-off with a single to center off John Axford. With Descalso batting, Molina casually broke for second as a befuddled Maldonado made another errant throw - allowing Molina to ramble into third. Was this game really happening in 2012 - or a quarter of a century earlier - in 1987? This was the kind of havoc that Vince Coleman used to create! Descalso then singled Yadi in from third, as the red-faced Brewers were looking dazed and confused.
With Robinson now batting, Descalso broke for second, as Shane grounded one back to Axford, who tried to turn two - but by the time his throw reached the second baseman's glove, Descalso had already slid safely into second - however, the relay throw to first retired the batter. Pinch hitter Matt Carpenter then walked - as did Furcal - to load the bases.
At this point, Axford was relieved of his duties, as the fifth and final pitcher for the Brewers - Mike McClendon - entered the game. Allen Craig then bounced one right back to McClendon, who got the force out at home - but catcher Maldonado committed his third throwing error of the game (he only had six errors all season) attempting to retire Craig at first. As the ball sailed into right field, Carpenter scored, as Furcal advanced to third and Craig to second. Holliday's infield single down the third base line scored Furcal, to mercifully end the scoring.
The Cardinals had scored nine runs in this game - so effortlessly. Their patient offensive approach served them well in this game - and for the 2012 season, for that matter. It took them to the World Series the following season.
In 2014, the offense has sputtered, but they're still a competitive team with postseason aspirations. Maybe they can regain the approach that served them so well since 2011. Anything can happen in two months. Plenty of time to turn it around.