Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2011 - Bullpen Nails Down 4-3 Win Over Braves

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.

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