Saturday, September 10, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Atlanta Braves (Derek Lowe - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 40,689
In the second game of a crucial three-game series with the Braves - the Cardinals jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, then held on for a 4-3 win, thanks to three solid innings of relief from the back-end of a now very formidable bullpen.
Jaime Garcia (12-7) allowed three runs in six innings for the win, which was preserved by one inning of scoreless relief from each of three relievers: Marc Rzepczynski (1 H - 1 SO), Fernando Salas (0 H - 2 SO) and Jason Motte (0 H - 1 BB). Motte, who had unofficially become the Cards' closer - earned his 4th save of 2011.
Atlanta starter Derek Lowe (9-14) gave up an RBI single to Albert Pujols and an RBI double to David Freese in the first-inning - to stake Garcia to a quick 2-0 lead.
Then in the third, back-to-back doubles by Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman - plus an RBI single off the bat of Yadier Molina gave the Redbirds a 4-0 lead. That was just enough tonight.
Freddie Freeman made things interesting with a fourth-inning two-run home run - then Brian McCann made things even more interesting with a fifth-inning RBI single - to make it a 4-3 game - and that's where it stayed.
After Garcia pitched a scoreless sixth-inning, manager Tony LaRussa went to the bullpen to nail this one down - a formula he used to eventually earn the Cardinals a World Series championship.
Certainly, the Cardinals knew they needed to sweep the Braves in this three-game series if they were to have any chance of overtaking Atlanta in the wild card race. They won the first game on Friday night, after a rare blown save by closer Craig Kimbrell kept the Cardinals alive - en route to a ten-inning walk-off win. They would also take the final game on Sunday, to move within 4.5 games of the Braves - with sixteen left to play.
The wildest finish since 1964 was well under way. Nothing would be decided until Game 162 - aka Wild Card Wednesday. You know what happened. Nearly three years later, it's still hard to believe.