I just love a team with no quit in it.
The Cardinals only led after one inning all night against the Brewers. And, fortunately, it was the ninth inning. Matt Holliday hit a ninth inning homer -- down 3-2 with one out an Albert Pujols on first base via a walk -- over the centerfield wall to give the Birds a 4-3 victory.
"It's fun playing with these guys," Holliday said during the postgame interview on FSN Midwest. "It's a really good group with some really good players."
Cardinals slugger Matt Holliday watches his game winning homer fly over the centerfield boards Tuesday against Milwaukee. AP Photo.
The homer saved the Cardinals from allowing the Cubs, who beat the Pirates earlier in the night, to gain any ground on them in the standings for the first time in more than a month. The lead in the NL Central remains at 11 1/2 games while the Cardinals magic number shrank to 13.
At the time of this posting, the Cardinals extended their lead for best record -- and home field advantage in the playoffs -- to three games over Philadelphia and were half a game ahead of the NL West leading Dodgers who trailed late against Arizona.
The Cardinals got off to a rough start when John Smoltz struggled out of the gate, allowing three runs in the first two innings. But Smoltz got better as the game went on -- a luxury he won't be allowed if he is eventually moved to the bullpen -- pitching five innings, allowing six hits and three runs with no walks and seven strikeouts. Four of the whiffs came in his last two innings. He would have probably stayed in the game if manager Tony La Russa wasn't tempted to pinch hit for Smoltz in the top of the sixth.
Smoltz had trouble with the home plate umpire all night who seemed to squeeze him on a number of good pitches. But the plate umpire was harking off pitchers and hitters on both sides equally, so he had that going for him.
The Cardinals looked like they blew their best chance to win the game when they had the bases loaded and one out in the eighth. But Colby Rasmus, who came off the bench, fouled off several tough pitches before eventually striking out for the second out. Julio Lugo battled, too. But he ended up grounding out and then Trever Hoffman came in to close it out.
For the record, the Birds had no pre-planned routine following the homer. Holliday passed out a couple of high fives after he quickly ran around the bases, acting like maybe he had been around the block once or twice before. Kyle McClellan pitched a 1, 2, 3 bottom of the ninth as St. Louis closer Ryan Franklin continues to rest.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Holliday.
Lowlight: It looks like Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina is wearing down at the plate. The last couple of years he has been a really tough out with men on. But lately he has been a double play hitting machine. He does deserve credit for making contact on a very low ball on a hit and run in the eighth to protect the runners...