It's hard to get around the fact that the Cardinals are in a sink or swim part of their schedule when it comes to their hopes of winning the National League Central division title.
So it didn't look good when Lance Lynn started taking on water with four runs allowed on six hits and two walks in two-plus innings.
But the club turned in its gutsiest performance of the year, battling back from a 4-1 deficit with a run in the fourth and six more in the sixth inning en route to an 8-5 win.
Joe Kelly saved the day with three innings of relief work to settle the Cardinals down and give them a chance to fight back. He turned in three innings with one run allowed. But things got more than a little dicey in the bottom of the fifth when the Reds loaded the bases with him and he ended up in a full count battle with two outs. Kelly managed to get out of the mess and the Birds went right to work.
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In the tip of the sixth Carlos Beltran led off with a single and then Matt Holliday made it two on with no outs thanks to a base hit. Allen Craig hit a long fly ball which Mike Shannon declared was going to be a home run... if it wasn't foul. To avoid a repeat of the confusion and disappointment of fans on the radio, Craig launched a ball over the centerfield fence that wouldn't have blown foul in a hurricane.
With the Cincinnati audience shocked into silence Yadier Molina came to the plate. His appearance roused the crowd from its shock just long enough to boo for a few seconds. Then his solo homer -- which gave St. Louis a 6-5 lead -- shut Reds rooters up again.
But the Redbirds weren't done. David Freese walked and Skip Schumaker singled then moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. Rafael Furcal singled one run home and then Matt Carpenter came in to pinch hit for Kelly and pushed the other one across the plate with a sacrifice fly that put the Birds up 8-5.
Kelly probably didn't mind being lifted. The Cardinals couldn't score for him on a dare when he was in the starting rotation. So, staked to a three-run lead he exited and hoped the rest of the bullpen could nail things down.
Edward Mujica and Mitchell Boggs ushered the game to Jason Motte -- who made things too interesting with a pair of line drive hits given up when he was ahead in the count. That put the potential tying run at the plate in the form of former Cardinals third sacker Scott Rolen. But Motte got a strikeout and the Cardinals cut the Cincinnati division lead to six games. Kelly got his fourth win of the season and Motte saved his 30th contest.
The Pirates lost to Milwaukee to extend St. Louis' lead over the Bucs to two games.
Cardinals Star of the Game: Allen Craig, Yadier Molina and Skip Schumaker all had three hits and Craig and Molina both hit home runs. But Craig filled the production stats categories the best with two runs scored and three driven in.
Cardinals Play of the Game: Molina's homer. His play was more impressive when the fact of how hostile the crowd was toward him is considered.
Lowlight: David Freese was hit by a pitch and had to leave the game. Hopefully it's nothing serious.