Before the three-game weekend series with the Atlanta Braves began, the Cardinals knew they would have to win all three to even have a chance to catch the Braves for the National League wild-card spot.
Now they just have to win two.
And it got more than a
little wild at the end Friday night. They were down by two runs with two out in
the ninth inning before first baseman Albert Pujols squirted a single over the
first-base bag, scoring two runs off
Pujols helped run the Cardinals out of that inning, but the Cardinals scored once in the 10th, the winning run scoring on a sacrifice fly by second baseman Nick Punto and they still are alive after a 4-3 win.
The Cardinals trail the
Braves by 6 1/2 games for a playoff berth. If the Braves merely go 8-9 in their
remaining 17 games, two of which are with the Cardinals this weekend, the
Cardinals would have to go 15-3 to tie
The Cardinals are in a similar spot with the Milwaukee Brewers, who are seven games ahead of the Cardinals in the National League Central. But the Cardinals don't play them anymore.
The Cardinals (77-67) moved 10 games over .500 for the first time since June 11, which was precisely the last time Kimbrel allowed a run to anyone.
"You need to get to double figures (over .500) to claim anything about your season," said manager Tony La Russa. "We're there. We'll see what happens tomorrow."
The Cardinals stranded numerous runners and lost three on the bases.
"We weren't as sound fundamentally as we have been lately," La Russa said. "It would have been a disappointing loss because we didn't take advantage of some situations and created some situations for them.
"What would have been a disappointing loss becomes a terrific win."
2B Nick Punto, who hit
the game-winning sacrifice fly in the 10th inning, hadn't played for the
Cardinals since July 28, having been on the disabled list (strained left
oblique) for the third time this season. But manager Tony La Russa called on him
late in Friday's game because La Russa recalled that one of Punto's best series
of the season had come in
In three meetings with Atlanta RH reliever Craig Kimbrel, the major league saves leader, the Cardinals have hung two blown saves and a loss on Kimbrel, who walked two hitters ahead of Albert Pujols' game-tying hit. "Where do you begin to describe it?" said manager Tony La Russa. "There are two outs and you get to the guy who is up for the MVP he's been so tough. This just shows you. He's walking a couple guys, kicking himself, and Albert squirts the ball and the score is tied. No automatics in that last inning."
RHP Edwin Jackson posted
his fifth straight quality start, giving up two runs in the first inning but
none after that. In his last two starts,
SS Rafael Furcal had hit six homers and hadn't stolen a base in his first six weeks with the Cardinals. But he swiped his first Cardinals base and No. 299 of his career on Friday.
RHP Chris Carpenter, explaining further the incident involving Milwaukee CF Nyjer Morgan on Wednesday, admitted he had cursed Morgan after striking him out in the ninth inning of a 2-0 shutout win. Morgan responded with words of his own and then threw his chewing tobacco near the mound. Earlier, Morgan had been yelling at Carpenter from second base after getting a double. Carpenter had given reporters the impression that he hadn't said anything to Morgan that night, and he wanted to clarify his position because he didn't want "to come across as a liar."
OF Allen Craig singled in the eighth inning Friday. He is 6-for-17 (.353) as a pinch hitter this season.
INF Daniel Descalso's key sacrifice bunt in the 10th inning came on an 0-2 count. It was his team-leading ninth sac bunt of the season but first since July 27.
BY THE NUMBERS: .509 - 1B Albert Pujols' average on 3-0 counts in his career. His first-inning single Friday made him 29 for 57 in such situations.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "For you to steal a base, you've got to be on base - because you cannot steal first base. I haven't been getting on base a lot."
- SS Rafael Furcal, who hadn't stolen a base for the Cardinals in his six weeks with them until he got one Friday. He was hitting .215 at game time.
RHP Eduardo Sanchez (mild right shoulder strain) went on the 15-day disabled list retroactive to June 13. He began a rehab assignment with Class AA Springfield on July 7 but had renewed soreness soon after and was shut down until late August or early September. He was transferred to the 60-day DL on July 31. Early in September, Sanchez began throwing bullpen sessions as if they were game situations, i.e., getting up and down. He was expected back by the middle of the month.
RHP Adam Wainwright (Tommy John surgery in February 2011) went on the 60-day disabled list March 25. He will miss the entire 2011 season. Wainwright was getting closer to throwing a full-strength bullpen session in September. But he will not be allowed to throw his signature curveball until next year.
VIDEO FROM FOXSPORTSMIDWEST.COM
Nick Punto, Tony La Russa and Albert Pujols share their thoughts on defeating the Braves 4-3 in extras.