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June 30: Cardinals 9, Orioles 6

It wasn't pretty. But if you would have told me three days ago that the Cardinals would sweep their next series and end up back in a first place tie, I wouldn't have believed it.

So I'll take an ugly win over Baltimore in which the Cardinals jumped out to an 8-0 lead then had to hang on for dear life to win 8-6 after the tying run reached base in the bottom of the eighth.

Jaime Garcia started off well. But he stumbled in the fourth. With two outs and the bases empty he gave up a pair of singles before Orioles eighth place hitter Nolan Reimold hit his fourth homer of the season to cut the lead to 8-3.

In the sixth inning Mark Reynolds hit a two-run shot to cut the score to 8-5 and chase Garcia from the game. The St. Louis lefty ended up surrendering five earned runs on 10 hits over 5 1/3 innings. But he earned his seventh win of the season.

Lance Berkman hit his second homer of the game -- a 444-foot shot -- in the seventh inning to give the Cardinals a much needed insurance run and after an exciting eighth, the Birds slammed the door.

Cardinals Star of the Game: Berkman with two homers, two runs scored and three RBIs in five at bats. One of his homers came from each side of the plate.

Cardinals Play of the Game: Jon Jay, who was 3-for-5 on the night with a run scored and three RBIs, hit his first homer in the majors off a lefty in the third. The three-run shot seemed at the time to put the game away.

Lowlight: Colby Rasmus seemed poised to carry a bigger share of the load with homers in each of the first two games of the series. But he struck out twice and hit into a double play Tursday while wearing the collar.