With the tying run at second base, the go ahead run at first and Albert Pujols at the plate with one out, it took a huge effort to save the Pirates' 4-3 lead in the ninth inning.
And Jose Oquendo was just the man for the job, apparently.
Pujols singled to the left of the Pittsburgh shortstop who chased the ball into short left field while Randy Winn headed home with the tying run. But a funny thing happened between third and the plate: St. Louis third base coach threw up the stop sign to a stunned Winn and Albert Pujols looked like he was about to blow a microchip as he seethed at first base.
Cardinals outfielder Allen Craig dives in to second ahead of the throw for a double in the second inning Tuesday. AP photo.
Oquendo probably figured he wouldn't risk making an out at the plate -- although it seemed like Winn would have scored easily -- because $17-million-a-year slugger Matt Holliday could tie the game with a measly sacrifice fly or win it with a base hit. Unfortunately, Holliday -- who homered in the first inning to give the Redbirds a 2-0 lead -- popped up the first pitch he saw to bring Felipe Lopez to the dish needing a base hit. Lopez swung at a pair of balls, then popped up to end the game and jab a pretty serious blow to the Birds' post season hopes.
Adam Wainwright pitched very well until a long fly ball to center went from being an out to a triple when it bounced out of Jon Jay's glove. He allowed two runs to tie the game that inning -- and another pair in the seventh to give the Pirates the lead.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Pujols was 3-for-5 with a run scored.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Pujols' screwed up game-tying single.
Lowlight: Oquendo's gaffe.