By defeating the Pirates 3-2 this afternoon in Pittsburgh, the Cardinals won the three-games and kept pace with the Wild Card frontrunning Braves, who defeated the Marlins in Atlanta. Thus, the watched results on the field at PNC Park were more enjoyable than those from Georgia posted on the outfield scoreboard. Such is the life of the pennant race pursuer and its fan base.
Rafael Furcal led the game off with a bang in the form of a double. (His leadoff fireworks are usually dingers.) Despite manager Tony La Russa doing his part to smother a potentially big inning by ordering No. 2 hitter Jon Jay to lay down a sacrifice bunt, Allen Craig--filling in for the injured Matt Holliday who embarked for St. Louis to undergo testing on his injured hand--salvaged the frame by driving in Furcal, which gave the Cards an early 1-0 lead. With the game tied at one, Yadier Molina added a laser of his own off the bottom of the right-field wall that plated two Cardinals. It would be all that starter Edwin Jackson, who gave up 2 runs over 6.2 IP, and the bullpenners would need. Marc Rzepcenszki struck out all three Pirates he faced; Octavio Dotel recorded the final out of the eighth; and, Jason Motte emerged from the bullpen breathing fire, earning the save with a 1-2-3 ninth that featured two strikeouts.
We discussed on Monday that the respective home stretches for the Braves and Cardinals favor the club ahead by 4.5 games. The results of the week's first half proved this view correct. The Cardinals won the rubber match of their series against the Pirates today at PNC Park shortly after the Braves won the rubber match of their series against the Marlins at Turner Field. As when the Braves left town on Sunday after suffering a sweep to the Cards, Atlanta leads the Wild Card by 4.5 games. According to Cool Standings, the Cardinals' playoff chances were 7.7 percent after play on Sunday; after today's game, their chances are at just 3.8 percent.
After an off-day tomorrow, the Redibirds engage the juggernaut that is the Philadelphia Phillies in a four-game series. The Braves also have tomorrow off and will play host to the Metropolitans for a three-game weekend series.