The Cardinals miraculously pulled out a game they couldn't afford to lose Friday night against the Milwaukee Brewers and stretched their National League Central Division lead back to two games with eight left to play.
The Cardinals battled back from a 3-1 deficit to go ahead 6-4 in the ninth when Matt Adams hit a monster two-run homer. But manager Mike Matheny summoned struggling closer Edward Mujica into the game -- and then inexplicably watched as Mujica allowed four of the first five batters he faced to reach while Randy Choate and John Axford stood ready in the bullpen.
When Axford was finally summoned, the bases were loaded with one out and the lead was reduced to 6-5. He managed to get a weak grounded from Milwaukee cleanup hitter Aramis Ramirez. But Daniel Descalso couldn't make a bare-handed play and the game was tied. Needing only a sacrifice fly to win the game, the Brewers were coaxed into a double play by Axford to end the threat.
Kolten Wong walked to start the 10th and then went to third when Matt Carpenter doubled. Carlos Beltran just missed a three-run homer to right field. But the long fly was good enough to drive home a run by sacrifice and to allow Carpenter to go to third. But the Birds were unabe to drive the second run home and were forced to use rookie Carlos Martinez to take a second shot at closing out the game.
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Martinez threw two quick balls to start the bottom of the 10th and then got a talking to on the hill from catcher Yadier Molina. After that Martinez was all business and finished off the game without further problems.
The question remains, however, who will be the Cardinals closer the rest of the way? In effort to build Mujica's confidence, Matheny seemed to have shredded the last remains of his self esteem ala Mitchell Boggs.
After the game Matheny said Mujica was only one grounder away from the save. But that's a pretty glib way of looking at things when opponents are hitting .500 against Mujica for the month. His troubles aren't a one-time thing and it's unfair to leave him out there to twist in the wind while he isn't right.