Monday, October 1, 2012 - At Busch Stadium III (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Cincinnati Reds (Bronson Arroyo - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 38,480
The Cardinals got a quality start out of Jaime Garcia - not to mention a quality at bat - as the Redbirds beat the Cincinnati Reds by a score of 4-2, to remain two games ahead of the Dodgers for that second wild card spot. With just two games remaining on the schedule for both teams, the magic number to clinch their second straight postseason berth was down to a single game - one more St Louis win or one more LA loss would do the trick - and as it turned out, they got one of each.
This particular game was technically, a come-from-behind victory - although they weren't behind for long. Cincinnati scored a third-inning run on a one-out single from Drew Stubbs, a sacrifice bunt from pitcher Bronson Arroyo, and a single off the bat of Brandon Phillips - who was greeted with the usual chorus of boos from the non-appreciative Cards fans in the ballpark tonight.
Jaime Garcia personally got that run back, leading-off the bottom of the third for St Louis - with a well placed fly ball down the right field line that barely drifted into the seats for a game-tying home run. Inspired, the Redbirds kept pecking away at Arroyo. With one out, Carlos Beltran - arguably the best free agent signing in major league baseball in the wake of the Pujols defection - started the rally with a base on balls. After Matt Holliday singled to center, Allen Craig scored Beltran with a double down the left field line - then Yadier Molina scored Holliday with a sacrifice fly deep to center field.
In the St Louis sixth, Molina singled off reliever Alfredo Simon with one out - then scored on Daniel Descalso's two-out triple, to pad the lead to 4-1.
The Reds struck back in the seventh. With one out, former Cardinal fan-favorite Scott Rolen, launched a double deep to center field, then advanced to third on a rare passed ball by Molina. Ryan Hanigan brought Rolen in with a sacrifice fly to left field - to reduce the Cardinal lead to 4-2.
But that's as close as it got. After Drew Stubs singled with two out in the seventh, manager Mike Matheny brought in Edward Mujica to face Chris Heisey - and he got his man on a popup to second.
Mitchell Boggs pitched a perfect eighth, setting up Jason Motte for his National League-leading 41st save of the season. After retiring Jay Bruce on a ground ball to second, Motte finished 'em off in style - striking out Rolen and Hanigan to put this one in the win column for the Redbirds.
The 2012 Cardinals were about to prove the skeptics - who doubted they had what it took to reach the postseason without the services of the departed Pujols - wrong. Not only would the underdog Cardinals reach the postseason - they would go deep into the postseason. Alas, they would fall a game short of playing in their second consecutive World Series - but more postseason magic would unfold in the next year with another trip to the Fall Classic.
Alas, they lost to the Boston Red Sox last year - but while Boston was busy finishing in last place in the American League East in 2014, the Cardinals were winning an improbable NL Central title - and hoping to take care of unfinished business from last year's postseason run.