Friday, September 20, 2013 - At Miller Park (Shelby Miller - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Milwaukee Brewers (Johnny Hellweg - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 37, 148
Carlos Beltran's tenth-inning sacrifice fly scored Kolten Wong from third base - lifting the tenacious Cardinals to a come-from-behind 7-6 win over the Brewers at Miller Park. This win, coupled with Pittsburgh's loss to Cincinnati, gave the Redbirds a two-game lead over the second-place Pirates in the tight NL Central race.
The three Matts - Carpenter, Holliday and Adams - had three hits apiece to wreak havoc throughout this game, while Aramis Ramirez was wreaking havoc on his own - starting with a first-inning three-run home run off Cards starter Shelby Miller - to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead.
Holliday had driven in Carpenter in the top of the first to give the Redbirds a brief 1-0 advantage.
After that shaky start, Miller settled down - allowing just one more run over the course of his six-inning stint - as the Cardinals were trying to claw their way back into this game.
Perhaps Shelby's biggest contribution to his team came when he was taking his turn at bat - leading off the fifth-inning, still trailing 3-1 - when Milwaukee starter Johnny Hellweg inexplicably hit him with a pitch. As far as the Brewers were concerned, giving a weak-hitting opposing pitcher a free pass to open an inning was a Cardinal sin. Sure enough, it came back to haunt them, as Holliday singled Miller home from second, to cut the Brewers' lead to 3-2.
Milwaukee got that run back in their half of the fifth - when Ramirez got his fourth RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly - scoring Norichika Aoki from third.
Still trailing 4-2 to start the seventh-inning, the Cardinals rallied off Brewers reliever Mike Gonzalez. Back-to-back doubles from Carpenter and Beltran suddenly made it a 4-3 game.
After another pitching change - Brandon Kintzler now on the mound for Milwaukee - Matt Adams tied the game for the first time since it was nothing to nothing with a base hit to right - scoring Beltran.
It was still tied at four runs apiece when the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the top of the ninth - facing reliever Jim Henderson. The first batter - Holliday - walked. The second batter - Adams - hit one far over the right field wall - into the second deck - to put St Louis on top for the first time since the first-inning - 6-4.
A shell-shocked Henderson handed the ball over to reliever Donovan Hand - who did the job - retiring the side with no further trauma.
All Star closer Edward Mujica - trying to protect a two-run lead - was greeted with a lead-off Jeff Bianchi double to start the bottom of the ninth. After retiring Yuniesky Bentancourt on a ground ball to the shortstop, Aoki singled - putting runners on the corners for pinch hitter Logan Schafer - who singled home Bianchi - as Aoki stopped at second. The last batter Mujica would face as a member of the Cardinals in a save situation - Jonathan Lucroy - walked - to load the bases.
With the game on the verge of slipping away, Cardinal manager Mike Matheny brought in newly acquired reliever John Axford - trying to protect a slim one-run lead with the bases loaded with former teammates - and just one out. Making the situation even more difficult - Axford's first assignment was to somehow retire RBI-machine Ramirez. As luck would have it, Axford induced a weak ground ball that dribbled down the third base line - which third baseman Daniel Descalso, trying to make a bare-handed play, couldn't find the handle.
The game was now tied - the bases were still loaded - with the dangerous Carlos Gomez trying to end it with one swing of the bat. In a sense, that's what happened. His ground ball to Descalso's left was fielded cleanly - then delivered instantly back to Molina for the force out at home - who then fired a strike to first to complete the stunning double play. Both teams had scored two ninth-inning runs - but when the Brewers failed to finish it off, the Cardinals had regained the momentum - and they took advantage of it right away.
Michael Blazek - the seventh Milwaukee pitcher - began the tenth-inning by walking pinch hitter Kolten Wong - who promptly found himself standing on third after another one of Matt Carpenter's major league-leading fifty-five doubles. That also happened to set a franchise record for most doubles in a single season by a left-hand batter - a record formerly owned by the late, great Stan Musial.
Carlos Beltran then brought Wong in from third with a sacrifice fly deep to right field - to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead.
Carlos Martinez - the seventh St Louis pitcher - retired the Brewers in order in the bottom of the tenth, to earn his first career major league save. John Axford (7-7) picked up the win for the team he frequently mocked on Twitter ("St Louis sucks" - type stuff) - but he seemed to have no problem fitting in with his new teammates as the season wound down - successfully, for the Cardinals - not so well for his old team.