Die by the sword, live by the sword?
The Cardinals took a page out of their opponents' playbook Friday night and scored a run in their last at bat to tie the game and steal a save from their closer. Then they held serve with the bullpen until they could score a couple more and walk away with a finely pilfered win.
Tied at three with two out in the top of the 11th, Nick Punto tripled into the right field corner and drove in Ryan Theriot and Mark Hamilton.
Jason Motte walked the leadoff man in the bottom of the inning before striking out a pair -- nearly getting a double play when home plate umpire Tim McClellan hot dogged a third strike call. Alex Gonzalez thought it was ball four and took two or three steps toward first base before McClellan dramatically called the pitch a strike. Dan Uggla was also fooled, taking a couple of steps toward second base before having to dive back into first ahead of the throw from Cardinals backup catcher Gerald Laird.
Starting backstop Yadier Molina had a leadoff hit in the top of the ninth to spark the St. Louis rally. But he was lifted to use Tyler Greene as a pinch runner. Ryan Theriot was up when manager Tony La Russa called for a hit and run. Somehow Theriot managed to put the bat on an inside pitch and drive it though the vacated second base home to send Greene all the way to third. Daniel Descalso drove in the tying run with a sacrifice fly -- and almost got more when the leftfielder and centerfielder bumped into each other trying to make the play.
La Russa gambled, taking out Motte after he struck out the two previous hitters, to go to a very shaky Trever Miller. If Miller wouldn't have got his man out, the Cardinals would have been forced to go to Fernando Salas -- who has thrown a lot of pitches lately -- or Ryan Franklin with the tying run in scoring position and the winning run on base. Frankly, I don't think I could have taken it.
But Miller got a one out save -- his first out recorded in six consecutive appearances. He is the fifth St. Louis pitcher to get a save this month which, according to Fox Sports Midwest, hasn't happened since 1977. Eduardo Sanchez pitched two fantastic innings of relief with the game on the line. He allowed no hits and one walk while shutting out Atlanta on three strikeouts.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Punto
Cardinals Play of the Game: Punto's triple
Lowlight: While I'm glad for the win, the Birds bats once again let Chris Carpenter down. Carp held Atlanta to three runs through seven innings. He wasn't lights out, but Carpenter certainly pitched well enough to win. Still, once again, he walks away with no decision.