Hello, first place!
The Cardinals came back from a 4-0 deficit in the eighth inning Sunday to sweep the Dodgers in a four-game set and regain first place from the Reds with a 5-4 win.
It was the third time in 39 tries this season that St. Louis came back after trailing at the start of the ninth inning. And it couldn't have been a closer shave with rookies Jon Jay and Allen Craig both at the plate against 100 MPH fastballer Jonathan Broxton and down to their last strike before breaking through. Jay milked a hard-fought walk in his turn at the dish, then Craig hit a two-strike single to plate Yadier Molina with the tying Run. Matt Holliday then came up to bat and hit a long fly to right beyond the stretched arm of the Dodgers outfielder to seal the win.
In all, the Cardinals managed four hits and two walks in 1 1/3 innings against Broxton, one of the best closers in baseball. Through the first six innings of the game, they managed only one safety.
Underlining the fact that the game was a complete steal of a victory is the fact that manager Tony La Russa fielded a starting lineup so crowded with benchwarmers that it would have caused the team to be fined if it were a spring training game.
Jason La Rue started behind the plate in the place of Yadier Molina, Allen Craig played at first base instead of Albert Pujos and Jon Jay played in centerfield in place of Colby Rasmus. Those substitutions were on top of Randy Winn playing in right field instead of disabled fly chaser Ryan Ludwick and Felipe Lopez manning third base in place of the injured David Freese.
To add to the obstacles the Birds had to face, superstar Albert Pujols was unable to come through in his lone at bat.
Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan got the game off to a very good start with one run allowed in six innings. It's a shame he couldn't have walked away with his first victory of the year. But he seemed to be on the edge of being released a couple of starts ago. He was certainly encouraging enough to keep around for a while longer.
In an intereting side note, the game was the 1,996th match between the Cardinals and Dodgers. With the four-game sweep, St. Louis tied the all-time series at 998 games apiece.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Craig had his best day as a major leaguer with a double and a single. He also walked once, scored once and drove in three runs in addition to having a good day in the field at first base.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Holliday's game winning hit with two out in the bottom of the ninth.
Lowlight: Colby Rasmus whiffed in a pinch hitting appearance. That's four strikeouts in his last five at bats.