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It wasn't pretty, but the Cardinals notched a huge win Wednesday

The Cardinals' 16-inning win over the Cincinnati Reds was extremely frustrating.

It was a game that the team simply had to have. A win would keep the Reds at bay, a game and a half behind St. Louis, while the Redbirds had a chance to pull back to within one game of the Pittsburgh Pirates for first. A loss meant the Cardinals could be playing today to stay out of third place.

Still, despite the gravity of the game, the Cardinals played a sloppy contest in which they left seven runners on base. In the first inning Matt Carpenter started things off on a positive note by singling to lead off the game and it seemed that the slumbering Redbirds bats might finally wake up. But before fans could have time to muster much hope, just like clockwork, Carlos Beltran hit into a tailor-made double play. Matt Holliday flied out and Cincinnati starter Bronson Arroyo got out of the first with only nine pitches thrown.

In contrast, St. Louis starter Shelby Miller walked the leadoff man, Shin-Soo Choo, and allowed a hit to second hitter Brandon Phillips. Rookie second baseman Kolton Wong and out of position shortstop Daniel Descalso neglected to cover second base and Phillips was able to make it second and third with no outs. Miller struck out Joey Votto for the first out. But then he walked Jay Bruce to load the bases.

Miller eventually put a zero on the scoreboard with a pop out to first base and a lazy fly to centerfield. But he had to throw 22 pitches to do so, setting the tone for the night: Everything was going to be difficult for St. Louis.

The Reds got their first two hitters on in the second and Arroyo moved them up with a bunt to score one run. Then Miller uncorked a wild pitch to allow a second. The Cardinals tied the game when Carpenter and Beltran started the fourth with singles. Holliday drove in one with a sacrifice. Then Allen Craig tied the game with a single -- and then had to leave the game when he twisted his ankle running the bases.

St. Louis finally took the lead in the 14th inning on a solo homer by Matt Adams. But the Reds were able to tie the game in the bottom of the frame when they got a lead-off single and then performed their new trick. They pinch ran with Billy Hamilton who stole second base and then scored a run on a single.

Adams put the Cardinals back ahead in the 16th on a second shot from Adams, who replaced Craig at first base. And this time the Birds were able to hold on for the win.

In a familiar situation, the Cardinals could salvage a terrible road trip through Pittsburgh and Cincinnati today with a win. Although they would come home with a losing record over the seven-game stretch, they'd at worst be a game out of first with three weeks to go in the season and the easiest schedule in baseball for the remainder of the campaign.

To do that, Lance Lynn has to turn around his recent slump. He's 13-9 with a 4.29 ERA and he'll face Reds hurler Tony Cigrani who is expected to come off the disabled list to make the start for the Reds. Cigrani, 6-3 with a 2.76 ERA, is a lefty -- which seems to always be a problem for St. Louis -- and the Birds will likely have to be without righty first baseman Craig. So it ain't gonna be easy. But the Cardinals need to find a way to get it done.