They spotted the Philadelphia Phillies an 11-0 lead only to close the gap to 12-11 with an 11-run burst of their own in the sixth, seventh and eighth innings.
But the Phillies' fifth homer of the night and center fielder Aaron Rowand's second homer of the game, a ninth-inning drive off closer Jason Isringhausen, enabled the Phils to hold on for a 13-11 victory.
"Until I think about it," said manager Tony La Russa, "I'd rank it as one of the best 'almosts' that I can ever remember.
"That's why I continue to say this club has our total respect and admiration. They're amazing."
Outfielder Ryan Ludwick, who drove in three runs for the Cardinals and hit his 14th homer, said, "We showed a lot of heart tonight. We showed a lot of fight in the dog."
But outfielder Skip Schumaker, who had three straight hits, said, "It's another loss. We came back and that's a good thing. But we still lost."
Philadelphia has beaten the Cardinals six times in seven meetings at the newest Busch Stadium, outscoring them 56-32.
Monday marked the 19th time the Cardinals have given up 10 or more runs this season. They have lost 11 of 12 games since the night of Sept. 7, when they were four innings away from seizing the National League Central lead in Arizona.
Their magic number for being eliminated from the division race is five, meaning any combination of Chicago Cubs victories or Cardinals losses totaling five.
PHILADELPHIA 13, CARDINALS 11: The Cardinals nearly pulled off the comeback of the year when they fell behind 11-0 and got back to one run down at 12-11 before they dropped their 11th game in the last 12. At nine games under .500, the Cardinals are eight games out of first place, their most since July 28. Cardinals pitchers gave up five home runs, erasing a 15-hit attack of their own.
NOTES AND QUOTES
--RHP Brad Thompson, who gave up two homers in 3 1/3 innings, has allowed 23 in 117 innings. "That's been the story of my year," said Thompson.
--3B Scott Spiezio, just restored to the active roster after coming out of substance abuse, said he was surprised to be making his fourth start at third base in five games since Friday. "I was thinking this might be my first (start)," said Spiezio of Monday's game. "But they threw me in the fire and I got it out of the way. I think my legs still aren't where they should be, but I feel pretty good for not playing for six weeks."
--OF Chris Duncan is through for the season. The outfielder, who has been bothered by a sports hernia for several weeks, will be operated on Thursday by Dr. Michael Brunt in St. Louis.
--LHP Mark Mulder will undergo an MRI on his left shoulder Tuesday. Mulder, who had shoulder surgery last September, has had three starts where he has worn down after a couple of innings and he has unable to resume his proper arm slot.
--Manager Tony La Russa hopes there is something left for the Cardinals.
"I hope we get enough wins where there's something to hang your hat on," he said. "If we play like we've played the last two weeks, that would leave a bad taste in everybody's mouths. I would like to get us some wins where that would clear away a lot of garbage."
BY THE NUMBERS: 12 -- The number of games under .500 (33-45) the Cardinals are against non-division opponents with three games remaining against Philadelphia and one against New York.