Third baseman David Freese has been one of the best hitters in the majors this season with two outs and runners in scoring position. He displayed why on two occasions Wednesday night.
After tripling in two runs with two outs in the first inning, Freese launched a three-run homer off New York Mets reliever Pedro Beato with two out in the seventh inning as the Cardinals overcame a 4-3 deficit to post their 12th victory in their last 14 games.
Their 6-5 win moved the
Cardinals to within 1 1/2 games of Atlanta in the National League wild-card
race, and they could be only a game back after Thursday, when the Braves are off
while the Cardinals meet the Mets again.
Freese's 10th homer of the season followed two-out singles by Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman, who have started three two-out rallies between them in the last two nights. Freese is 16-for-40 (.400) with two out and runners in scoring position this season.
"David Freese was as clutch as Jaime (Garcia) was," said manager Tony La Russa.
Garcia, who permitted four unearned runs in the third inning, didn't let the game get away from him as he pitched a strong 7 2/3 innings. He didn't walk a hitter for the second time in his last three starts as he posted his 13th win, tying his total of last year.
"What Jaime did without getting frustrated to keep us in the game was classic," said La Russa. "That's as impressive as anything he's done for the last couple of years. And he's done a lot of impressive things.
"We've played ourselves back into this," said La Russa. "You can feel it, hear it. The dugout's on fire. The real fun is playing meaningful games at this time of year."
1B Albert Pujols and RF Lance Berkman, the power in the Cardinals' lineup, turned tablesetters in the first two games of the series. In three of the Cardinals' five multi-run innings over the last two days, Pujols and Berkman each reached base with two outs and nobody on ahead of them and in another one they both singled with nobody out.
Berkman said, "The tendency when you get into those big situations is to try to hit the big home run or a double. But the reality is that these games are most often won by a couple of guys getting on base via a hit or walk. If we have to do that, it's perfectly fine with me. If we hadn't set the table, we might not be talking."
LF Matt Holliday, who had to cut short his hitting session on Tuesday as he tries to recover from an inflamed tendon in the middle finger of his right hand, did more on Wednesday and might hit against live pitching Thursday. He may or may not be able to play before the end of the season. Holliday has missed seven games since he got hurt.
LHP Jaime Garcia didn't walk anybody for the second time in his last three starts as he tied his victory total of last season (13). All four runs Garcia gave up were unearned. He has given up a league-high 23 unearned runs for the season.
C Yadier Molina, whose single-season best average was .304 in 2008, reached .300 with a two-hit night. "He's just having a great year," said manager Tony La Russa. "You can explain that a lot of different ways. That's one."
RHP Eduardo Sanchez, taken off the 60-day disabled list last week after recovering from shoulder problems, probably won't pitch in the last week of the season. "I don't think about it too often," said manager Tony La Russa. "I don't think there's anything wrong if he doesn't pitch."
Pitching coach Dave Duncan, on leave for the last month as he helps care for his ailing wife, Jeanine, might not be back the rest of the season. "We talk every day," said La Russa. "But that's not the priority right now."
BY THE NUMBERS: 100 - Runs scored by 1B Albert Pujols this season. It's the 10th time in his career he has reached 100, and he missed by just one run in 2007.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "Now we're here. There's no time to take the foot off the gas."
- 2B Skip Schumaker, on
the Cardinals moving to one loss behind
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 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
David Freese's hitting and Jaime Garcia's pitching help the Cards close the gap in the wild card race.