ST. LOUIS (KMOX) — Early momentum was almost a bad thing in the first two games of this NLDS series. And that trend continued on Wednesday evening at Busch Stadium, as the Cardinals scored five runs in the middle innings to win 5-3 to force a deciding Game 5 back in Philadelphia.
The win for the Cardinals not only keeps them alive for another day, but sets up what should be a classic showdown between pitchers Chris Carpenter and Roy Halladay on Friday night at Citizens Bank Park.
David Freese, the St. Louis native, was batting just .167 along with 6 strike outs and an RBI in his first career postseason series. He would go down on strikes in the first at-bat, but then came alive in the fourth when he jumped all over a hanging curveball from Roy Oswalt on the first pitch he saw for a 2-run double. Then he crushed an Oswalt fastball onto the centerfield hill to give the Redbirds a 3-run cushion in the sixth. By far the biggest game of his career, Freese finished the game 2-for-3 with 4 RBI’s.
A topic in the pregame interviews, the afternoon Busch Stadium shadows instantly played a part as lead-off hitter Jimmy Rollins drove the first pitch of the game off starter Edwin Jackson deep to center over Jon Jay, who could not get a read on the ball off the bat. Manager Tony La Russa did not want the shadows to be any kind of excuse for his ball club, yet that play, or miss play by Jay, was certainly the result of the troublesome spotty sunlight.
Though only a double, the Phillies took a quick 2-0 advantage on a Chase Utley RBI triple and Hunter Pence RBI single. After Rollins and Utley scored in the first, that gave them a combine 11 runs scored in the series. The inning could have been worse with Ryan Howard batting and still no outs, yet Jackson was able to get 2 outs on a ‘stike’em out, throw’em out’ to end the Phillies’ rally.
Jackson gave up the 2 earned runs in the first, but was able to settle down and contain the potent Phillies lineup for his final five innings. He would finish the game 4 strike outs, one walk, and 5 hits allowed.
In the bottom half of the first, the Cardinals were able to get on the board when Lance Berkman put the ball off the right center field wall, missing his second home run of the series by just a few feet, to drive in Skip Schumaker. Berkman would get a triple because Phillies’ centerfielder Shane Victorino slipped and threw the ball into the ground.
Jumping to the bottom of the fourth, the Cardinals were able to take advantage of Phillies’ starter Roy Oswalt who was suddenly having command issues. Following a walk to Berkman and hitting Matt Holliday, the Cardinals took a 3-2 lead when David Freese pulled a double down the left field line.
Oswalt, who was making his eleventh career postseason start, gave up just 4 hits, one walk, a hit by pitch, and one run to the rest of the Cardinals’ lineup, but got burned by David Freese twice in the fourth and sixth innings.
The Phillies would have been able to tie the game in the top of the sixth, yet Albert Pujols made heads up play to come off the base when Chase Utley was attempting to take third base on a groundball to shortstop from Hunter Pence. Ryan Howard’s fly out to centerfield one at-bat later would have surely tied the game.
Philadelphia would add one more run in the eighth inning on a wild pitch and had the tying run at the plate in Ryan Howard. Yet, the other St. Louis native in this series struck out for third time on Wednesday bringing his series average to .133 plus giving him a total of 6 strike outs.
‘De facto closer’ Jason Motte had a shaky start to the ninth inning by throwing three balls to Shane Victorino, but then proceed to toss nine consecutive strikes to earn his second save of the series.
NOTES … Skip Schumaker left the game at the end of the fifth inning with a left hamstring strain … Ben Francisco’s 3-run home run in Game 3 was the first time in MLB history that a pinch-hitter had 3 RBI’s plus accounted for all his team’s runs in a postseason victory; only one other pinch-hitter has driven in 2 runs, accounting for all of his team’s runs in a postseason win, Dane Iorg for the Royals against the Cardinals in Game 6 of the 1985 World Series … In previous instances that the Phillies have held a 2-1 advantage in a postseason series, they have won all those series … During the bottom of the fifth inning with Skip Schumaker batting and a 1-1 count, the infamous Busch Stadium squirrel scampered across home plate while Roy Oswalt was making a pitching; home plate umpire Angel Hernandez called the pitch a ball to Oswalt’s dismay … David Freese was the first St. Louis native to hit a home run for the Cardinals in the postseason since the 1968 World Series when Mike Shannon went deep in Game 7 … The cameras were flashing especially in the bottom of the eighth when Albert Pujols possibly had his final at-bat at Busch Stadium against none other than Brad Lidge, who gave up one Pujols’ more famous hits … Tune into KMOX 1120 AM for the Charter Communications Pregame Show on Friday at either 6:12pm or 6:42pm depending on the result of the Game 4 between the Milwaukee Brewers and Arizona Diamondbacks.
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