September baseball makes for some strange situations and some unusual heroes.
So it was Friday night as
the Cardinals, 8-1/2 games behind in the National League wild-card race just
more than a week ago, are just 3-1/2 behind
After veteran right
fielder Corey Patterson dropped
Veteran Rafael Furcal doubled to open the inning and Patterson did some redeeming with a sacrifice bunt. Surprise! First baseman Albert Pujols, who was 4-for-4, was walked intentionally and, suddenly, rookie Chambers, who had come in for defense for veteran outfielder Lance Berkman, was at the plate.
Hitless in his only plate appearance since coming up from Class AAA Memphis, Chambers, after a long at-bat, singled to right to score Furcal and then Greene, who has been up and down a few times with the Cardinals, doubled off the top of the fence atop the left-center-field wall.
Pujols scored, but the speedy Chambers, with a headfirst slide, was out at home.
Chambers, a 38th-round
draft pick in 2007 out of
"I went up there ready to hit and fortunately, I got a hit. I hope another chance comes up so I can do it again."
The Cardinals' pitching was stout throughout, especially holding the first four hitters in the Phillies' lineup hitless in 18 at-bats.
Lefty Jaime Garcia, who held the Phillies to an unearned run over eight innings in his first start against them this season, limited the Phils to one run in seven innings on Friday.
Octavio Dotel, who had fanned
Veteran reliever Arthur Rhodes got a key strikeout on Phillies pinch-hitter Ross Gload in the ninth. Then, reliever Kyle McClellan, 6-6 as a starter, went to 6-0 as a reliever after working a scoreless 10th and Fernando Salas nailed down his 24th save with a scoreless 11th.
"Sometimes, we're not good enough," said manager Tony La Russa. "But the guts of (the team) are outstanding. We hung with it and we got a great win."
1B Albert Pujols, who hadn't been at .300 in any at-bat this year, ended Friday's game at .301 with a 4-for-4 night. He also walked twice, marking the first time in his career that he had been 4-for-4 and had two walks in the same game. He has reached base in 32 consecutive games.
SS Rafael Furcal, who was questionable after suffering a left knee strain on Wednesday, wound up getting two hits and a walk and both scored a run and drove in a run Friday. Furcal is starting to get on base much more now as the leadoff man after hitting too many fly balls, some for home runs, in his first six weeks with the team after coming from the Los Angeles Dodgers.
With LF Matt Holliday out
with an inflamed tendon in his right hand, RF Lance Berkman shifted to the
smaller left field at
C Yadier Molina had a strong all-purpose game. He hit his career-high 13th home run in the eighth, laid down a sacrifice bunt in the 10th and threw out a Phillies runner tying to advance on a short wild pitch in the seventh.
"I've never seen anybody better (as a catcher)," said Tony La Russa. "You can't be better than Yadi on the defensive side and he's as tough an out as we have with men in scoring position."
LHP Jaime Garcia worked
his third straight strong game and improved his career ERA against
BY THE NUMBERS: 14 - Games over .500 for the Cardinals. It is a season high and ensured them a winning season, their 13th winning season in La Russa's 16 seasons as Cardinals manager. Friday's victory was his 1,400th as Cardinals manager.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "I'm sure more than a couple of people thought, 'Where's Berkman?'"
- Manager Tony La Russa, on replacing LF Lance Berkman with rookie OF Adron Chambers, who wound up getting the game-winning hit after 1B Albert Pujols was walked intentionally in the 11th inning.
SS Rafael Furcal (strained left knee) was injured trying to steal second base Sept. 14. He was in the lineup on Sept. 16.
LF Matt Holliday (inflamed tendon in middle finger of right hand) was injured while he was in the on-deck circle Sept. 13 and had to leave the game. An examination the next day revealed the inflammation, and it's questionable whether he will play again this season.
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 declared himself ready to return after a simulated outing on Sept. 10 and was activated on Sept. 14.
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.