The St. Louis Cardinals caught a couple of breaks ball in the postseason chase. They need more help from Washington today and Philadelphia over the final three games of the regular season to try and steal the wild card away from the Atlanta Braves.
Carlos Marmol walked in a run and let the winning one score on a wild pitch in the bottom of the ninth, allowing St. Louis to steal a crucial 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs yesterday at Busch Stadium.
The victory, combined with Atlanta's loss at Washington, moved the Cardinals within two games of the Braves in the wild card standings. Time, though, is running out on Tony La Russa's club. With just four games remaining, it's essential that the Cardinals win not only the finale of this three-game series, but also sweep the Astros in Houston.
After today, the Braves return home to host the NL East-champion Phillies.
"Let's cut to the chase here, we have to win every single game," said Cardinals second baseman Skip Schumaker. "So this was as big as any single game."
Should the Cardinals fail to make the playoffs, today could mark the last home game for Albert Pujols, a pending free agent. The three-time MVP has hit .329 with 445 homers and 1,328 RBI over 11 seasons since breaking into the majors with St. Louis in 2001. He has hit at least 30 homers in each of his 11 years and is two RBI shy of reaching the 100 mark for the 11th time as well.
In yesterday's game, Alfonso Soriano hit a run-scoring single in the first inning, but in the ninth, Matt Holliday started the rally with a one-out single against Marmol (2-6). Pinch-runner Tyler Greene stole second and moved to third when he was hit by catcher Geovany Soto's throw.
With the tying run on third base, Marmol struck out David Freese and walked Yadier Molina, who was replaced on the bases by Adron Chambers. Marmol walked Schumaker on five pitches to load the bases, then ran a 3-1 count to Ryan Theriot.
He managed to get another pitch over the plate, but his sixth pitch to Theriot was out of the zone, forcing in Greene with the tying run.
The Cardinals won the game when Marmol hooked a pitch inside to Rafael Furcal, forcing him to step back from his batting stance. The ball flew past Soto, bouncing off the backstop toward third base as Chambers crossed the plate with his arms raised and teammates streaming out of the dugout.
Cubs manager Mike Quade said Marmol had used his fastball well during his last few appearances, but couldn't control it Saturday.
"Got a couple outs, got ahead in the count with it, but just wasn't consistent with that or the slider," Quade said. "It's a tough nut when you're trying to protect a one-run lead and you're struggling with both pitches."
Edwin Jackson starts today's game for the Cardinals. His 12 wins are his most since 13 for Detroit in 2009 and two shy of his career-high set with Tampa Bay in 2008. The right-hander is 3-0 over his last six starts and hasn't lost since August 20 at Wrigley Field. He has a 2-3 record with a 5.75 ERA in six career starts vs. the Cubs.
Randy Wells had his career-high five-game winning streak broken on Tuesday after surrendering five runs on six hits and two walks in five innings in a 5-1 setback to Milwaukee. He's 2-2 with a 4.54 ERA in seven games (six starts) against the Cardinals.
St. Louis has won nine of 14 meetings with Chicago this season, with a 6-2 mark at home.