Since it was a walk-off win, we’ll start at the end — the bottom of the ninth inning.
The Cardinals trailed 4-2. On the mound for the Marlins: Heath Bell, who’s been very helpful to the Cards this season. First up: Carlos Beltran, who seems like a guy you want up when you need base runners. Oops, not this time. He struck out.
Allen Craig, however, did what he does and singled just through the left side of the infield. And Matt Carpenter kept the momentum going by hitting it deep to left, where it bounced into the Marlins bullpen for a ground-rule double.
Next up: David Freese, pinch-hitting for Tyler Greene. Freeser didn’t start the game, due to a contusion on his leg from being hit by a pitch yesterday. As everyone dreamed of big Freeser at-bats of the past (hint: think October), Bell apparently wanted none of that — he walked him on four pitches. So up came yesterday’s hero, Tony Cruz with the bases loaded and one out. And he continued his RBI tear against the Marlins by hitting a sac fly to score Allen Craig. 4-3 Marlins …
Daniel Descalso then had an epic at-bat — 10 pitches for a walk, after he started 0-2.
That brought up Rafael Furcal — and this. Matty Carp easily scored the tying run before Freeser — sore leg and all — had an amazing slide, thanks to some guidance from Matty, and avoided the tag by John Buck. Walk-off winner!
Thankfully too, because what led to the Cardinals needed the comeback was very disheartening.
The adorable mess that is Joe Kelly started the game, and he was a little messy to start with. He walked two in the first inning. And the walk to Hanley Ramirez, combined with stealing both second third and an error by Tony Cruz, led to a Marlins run — all without a hit in the inning. In fact, Joe only gave up two hits on the day while walking five total and also striking out five. He allowed just the one unearned run.
The Cards tied the game on a Skip Schumaker single in the second, and took a 2-1 lead on Raffy Furcal’s fifth inning single.
Once Joe left after six innings, in came Mr. Perfect Barret Browning.
Poem for the New Poet — July 8
Close game, 2 to 1.
One batter faced and he’s out.
Streak grows to thirteen.
Unfortunately, that was it for Barret — though his perfect streak continues and is now 4 1/3 innings. And we quickly questioned Mike Matheny’s rationale in removing him from the game. Maikel Cleto was next and he gave up a ground-rule double followed by a walk.
He was done, replaced by Victor Marte … who gave up a three-run homer to give the Marlins the 4-2 lead.
Ugh — at the time anyway. And especially since the Cardinals weren’t doing much on offense.
On the plus for the bullpen, Fernando Salas retired the side in the eighth.
The top of the ninth got a little interesting, as Marc Rzepczynski loaded the bases. He left the game for Mitchell Boggs, though (and Tyler Greene moved to right field — what?), and Boggs got a big K.
Of course, it all was just part of the plan to set up the ninth inning dramatics — and it really was a thrilling end.
So the Cardinals enter the All-Star break at 46-40, still in third place in the NL Central and 2 1/2 games behind the first-place Pirates. The Reds are in second, one game back.
Also today, the All-Star festivities officially got under way with the Futures Game this afternoon that featured Cardinals minor leagues Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras. For a look back — wistfully when it comes to the starting pitcher — at the very first Futures Game in 1999, check this out. Chances are you might chuckle at the lead-off batter. (Thanks to Amy for the video post, as well as the pics with this.)