But history rears its ugly head when it is revealed that two of the last three times it has happened, the Cardinals have been the squandering team, blowing 3-1 leads to both the Tigers in 1968 and the Kansas City Royals in 1985. St. Louis also lost a 3-1 lead in the National League Championship Series to Atlanta in 1996.
The 1925 Washington Senators, 1958 Milwaukee Braves and 1979 Baltimore Orioles are the other clubs that have seen 3-1 World Series leads escape them.
Shortstop David Eckstein, who was 8 for his last 50 a couple of games ago, now has six hits in his last two games, including three doubles and a single Thursday. He drove in two runs and scored one.
Since mid-August, Eckstein has had a laundry list of ailments, most notably the strained left oblique muscle that kept him out 5 1/2 weeks. And surely he has been affected as the season has dragged into October, although manager Tony La Russa calls the diminutive Eckstein "the toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform."
Adam Wainwright, the Cardinals' new closer, blew his first postseason save but got the win when the Cardinals scored in the eighth on Eckstein's third double.
Right-hander Jeff Weaver, once a No 1 draft pick of the Tigers in 1998, gets the chance to close out his former team Friday night, weather permitting.
REPLAY: Much like Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood slipping and not catching up to Jim Northrup's flyball in Game 7 of the 1968 World Series, the Cardinals benefited Thursday night when Detroit center fielder Curtis Granderson slipped and failed to catch David Eckstein's leadoff drive in the seventh inning.
Eckstein eventually scored the tying run in that inning and then drove in the winner in the eighth with his third double, which just tipped off the glove of diving left fielder Craig Monroe.
Aaron Miles scored the winning run, and closer Adam Wainwright gained the victory in the 5-4 victory that gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead in the World Series.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--SS David Eckstein's four hits marked the eighth time a Cardinal has gotten that many hits in a World Series game. RF Larry Walker was the last to do it, in 2004.
--C Yadier Molina, who doubled in a run in the fourth inning, drew a leadoff walk in the eighth, setting up the winning run. Molina had only three multiple-walk games all season, all against Milwaukee.
--Though he blew the save when he gave up a game-tying double to Brandon Inge, RHP Adam Wainwright was the winning pitcher, extending his streak of scoreless postseason innings to 8 2/3.
--RHP Josh Kinney, who got two outs, extended his streak of scoreless innings to 6 1/3 this postseason.
--3B Scott Rolen, who had two doubles, extended his postseason hitting streak to nine games.
BY THE NUMBERS: 4 -- Number of shortstops who have had four hits in a World Series game now that the Cardinals' David Eckstein has joined the club. Milwaukee's Robin Yount did it twice in 1982, and the others were Kiko Garcia of the Orioles in 1979 and Maury Wills of the Dodgers in 1965.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "He's the toughest guy I've ever seen in a uniform." -- Manager Tony La Russa on SS David Eckstein, who is playing in the World Series despite an assortment of injuries.