Friday, September 16, 2011 - At Citizens Bank Park (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Philadelphia Phillies (Vance Worley - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 45,572
Cardinals' rookie Adron Chambers picked a good time to get his first major league hit. Batting with two runners on in a 2-2 tie with the Phillies - Chambers - in only his second major league at bat - lined a single to right, scoring Rafael Furcal from second base with the go-ahead run. The Cardinals added an insurance run when the much-maligned Tyler Greene scored Albert Pujols from second with a double high off the wall in left - which missed going in the seats for a three-run homer by a couple of feet.
Chambers almost scored as well, but was out on a close play at the plate. It didn't matter, as a smiling Adron received a well-deserved hero's welcome in the Cardinals' dugout - while Fernando Salas was busy working an uneventful inning of relief for his 24th save of the season - giving Kyle McClellan (12-6) the win after pitching a perfect tenth-inning of relief.
The Cardinals had great pitching all throughout this game - and if not for a dropped fly ball by right fielder Corey Patterson - they would've walked away with a 2-1 win in regulation. But that would've been too boring - something the '11 Redbirds definitely were not.
Phillies starter Vance Worley pitched quite well in his six-inning stint - allowing just one run on six hits and three walks. But his control problems cost him in the second-inning, when he issued all three of those walks - the last one to Rafael Furcal with the bases loaded forced in the first run of the game - staking Jaime Garcia to an early 1-0 lead.
However, that lead was short-lived, as Garcia yielded back-to-back doubles to Polanco and Mayberry in the bottom half of the second to tie the game at one run apiece. That would be the only run Philadelphia would score on Garcia in his seven innings of work.
In the eighth-inning, with reliever Bastardo pitching for the Phillies, Yadier Molina lined a one-out solo home run off the left field foul pole - staking Garcia to a 2-1 lead.
After Rzepczynski and Dotel collaborated on a scoreless eighth-inning, Jason Motte was called on to nail it down in the ninth - but Ryan Howard's two-out pinch hit double kept the inning alive for Carlos Ruiz. Then Cardinals right fielder Corey Patterson kept the inning - and the game - alive for Philadelphia when he dropped Ruiz' fly ball for a very costly run-scoring error.
Had the Phillies gone on to win this game, they would have clinched the NL East title. That explains why a grinning Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino was busy getting Ruiz' attention on second base - popping an imaginary bottle of champagne, then guzzling an imaginary glass of bubbly - while his chortling teammates joined in on the mock celebration.
It was quite a show, and it's unlikely the Cardinals on the field and in the dugout failed to miss their little vaudeville act. "Not tonight" became the unofficial mantra for the Redbirds - who could ill-afford to lose this one in their hunt for that all-important wild card slot.
Arthur Rhodes then came out of the bullpen to relieve a distraught Motte - striking out his man to end the threat - and send the game into overtime.
After McClellan did his job in the tenth, Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer was summoned to face the Cardinals in the eleventh. Furcal greeted him with a lead-off double down the right field line. Patterson then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to third. Predictably, Albert Pujols was intentionally walked - bringing Adron Chambers - who had entered the game a bit earlier after a series of pitching changes created lineup changes - such as the one which removed cleanup hitter Lance Berkman from the game.
As the Citizens Bank Park crowd watched in horror, Berkman's replacement - Chambers of all people - got the biggest hit of the year for St Louis - driving in the go-ahead run in a game the Cards could ill-afford to lose.
Fernando Salas officially put the Phillies' champagne celebration on hold when he struck out Marberry to preserve the 4-2 win.
Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets were doing their part in aiding and abetting the dreaded Redbirds by knocking off the Braves, 12-2.
St Louis (82-68) now trailed wild card-leader Atlanta (86-65) by 3.5 games. Somehow, that lead didn't seem like such a big deal.