It wasn't pretty. But the Cardinals found a way to pull out a very important victory Sunday against the Marlins and their struggling closer, Heath Bell.
The Birds hung out starting pitcher Joe Kelly to dry. The rookie threw six excellent innings, allowing only a run on an error. He surrendered only two base hits -- although he was unusually wild, walking five Miami hitters.
But they scored three times against Bell in the ninth inning -- on three hits and two walks. With two out and two on, Daniel Descalso fouled off several tough pitches before drawing a walk and bringing Rafael to the plate.
The St. Louis shortstop got behind 1-2 on a questionable call on a pitch that appeared to be both low and outside. But Furcal rallied and hit a line drive between short and third that easily tied the game at four runs. Although the ball was hit right at Miami left fielder Logan Morrison, third base coach Jose Oquendo sent the runner. Morrison pegged a perfect throw to the plate that beat Freese by three steps. But catcher John Buck bobbled the ball and that gave Freese just enough time to get under the tag.
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It looked like the Cardinals were going to fumble away another good start, scoring only two runs in support of Kelly. Maikel Cleto came into the game and allowed a pair of baserunners on a hit and a walk before Victor Marte came into the game and promptly threw gasoline on the fire in the form of a three-run homer.
The St. Louis bats were quiet after that until the ninth inning when Bell came in to the game and gave the Cardinals new life. The win allowed the Birds to keep pace with the Pirates who won big over the Giants earlier in the day. And it allowed them to rise back to six games over .500 for the first time in quite a while.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Furcal
Cardinals Play of the Game: Furcal's game winning hit.
Lowlight: Another crummy performance from Cleto put Marte in a bad spot -- and the bullpen nearly cost the Birds another important game.