David Freese of the St. Louis Cardinals hits against the Philadelphia Phillies during the National League Division Series at Busch Stadium in St. Louis, Missouri. (Photo by Dilip Vishwanat/Getty Images)

Cardinals Beat Phillies 5-3, Send Division Series To Game 5

David Freese drove in four runs and Jason Motte closed out the Cardinals' 5-3 win over the Phillies, and the teams will play a decisive Game 5 Friday night in Philadelphia.

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16 Total Updates since October 5, 2011
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Cardinals vs. Phillies, Game 4: Highlights From The Live-Blog

The St. Louis Cardinals forced a return to Philadelphia with a 5-3 victory over the Phillies on Wednesday night. The Cardinals received a big game from third baseman David Freese with his four RBI night. Now the Cardinals will be at Citizens Bank Park with Chris Carpenter facing Roy Halladay in a decisive Game 5 game.

The Baseball Nation guys were all over this game. Here are the highlights of the live blog:

• Who's that playing left field and batting in the middle of the Cardinals' lineup?

Yes, it's Matt Holliday, whose finger injury has heretofore limited him to a (successful) pinch-hitting appearance in Game 3. He's been injected with a numbing agent, and says he's "good enough" to play tonight.

After missing the first three games of the series, Holliday was finally back in the lineup, but how was he going to perform?

• Whatever Holliday and the Cardinals needed to do, they were going to be down by the time they came to bat in the bottom of the first inning. As Rob Neyer narrates:

Jimmy Rollins drove Edwin Jackson's first pitch to straightaway center fielder, and deep. Center fielder Jon Jay completely lost the baseball in the sun; by the time he started sprinting toward the fence it was too late, and the ball bounced over the fence for an automatic double.

You can see a GIF of that here, but the far funnier one comes from Shane Victorino. The Cards, down by two runs after the Phillies scored following Jay's experience in the outfield, answered back with a Lance Berkman RBI double. But it was Shane Victorino's, well, just take a look at this:


• With the Cards down, 2-1, Grant Brisbee asked, "Is this Pujols's last game as a Cardinal?" The answer, of course, is no, but then Grant was just trolling.

• Jeff Sullivan was bemoaning the improved defense in the game since it made the game boring. That was before the bottom of the fourth inning, when Roy Oswalt put Lance Berkman and Matt Holliday (welcome back, Matty!) on base with a walk and a hit-by-pitch. And then Oswalt did this:

Oswalt's first pitch to David Freese was a hanging change-up, which Freese lined into the left-corner, both runners scoring easily.

Ooph. Cards take a 3-2 lead.

• What's Edwin Jackson's master plan for the Cardinals? It might be what Grant wrote about originally, or it might just be this:

UPDATE: EDWIN JACKSON CAN CONTROL SQUIRRELS WITH HIS MIND. WE ARE NOT SAFE TO TALK HERE. PLEASE MEET ME AT THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AT THE CORNER O^%&#&**@@@@&NO CARRIER"

There was another squirrel during this series:

Cardinals-squirrel_medium

Albert Pujols made a heads-up defensive play during the sixth inning to prevent Chase Utley from reaching third base safely. Then in the bottom of the sixth, that David Freese guy showed up again. He had Matt Holliday on base and sent a ball sailing all the way to the place where Kennedy assassination buffs love to talk about:

The ball landed on the grassy knoll in center field beyond the fence to boost the Cardinals' lead from one to three. (emphasis added)

The Cards were up, 5-2, and went on to win, 5-3. Time for a showdown in the City of Brotherly Love (which, I assure you, won't be all that loving to the Cards).

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: David Freese, Edwin Jackson Send Series Back East

Jackson allowed two runs in six innings, Freese drove in four runs with a double and a homer, and this series will pick up with a decisive Game 5 in Philadelphia on Friday.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: Inanimate Object Helps Phillies Get Closer

The Phillies came into the eighth inning down by three runs and running out of outs. With Michael Martinez on second base, Chase Utley grounded a pitch down the first-base line.Right down the first-base line. Exactly down the first-base line. Enough to hit the bag, pop up in the air, and allow Utley to reach on a single. I could .gif that, but I'm running out of steam, so here's the same thing, just in a different game.


Pujols didn't put his hand on his hip all sassy-like, so this one's better. Trust me. But the play put runners at first and third with one out. Martinez eventually scored on a wild pitch to cut the Cardinals' lead to 5-3.

Ryan Howard came up as the tying run with two outs against left-handed reliever Marc Ryze ... Marc Rzypynsk ... Marc Rezyp ... Steve Kline, who struck Howard on three straight pitches.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: David Freese Provides Huge Insurance

Albert Pujols helped to preserve the Cardinals' 3-2 lead in the top of the sixth with a heads-up play to throw out Chase Utley at third base. In the bottom of the sixth, David Freese added to that lead and gave the Cards an awful lot more breathing room.

You'll recall that it was Freese who, in the fourth, knocked a two-run double to put the Cards in front. In the sixth, he batted against Roy Oswalt with two out and Matt Holliday on first. Freese launched a high and deep fly ball to straightaway center that kept chasing Shane Victorino back and back until he ran out of back. The ball landed on the grassy knoll in center field beyond the fence to boost the Cardinals' lead from one to three.

To the seventh we go, with St. Louis ahead 5-2 and in position to force a Friday Game 5. The Phillies still have time to rally, but Tony La Russa has opted to pull Edwin Jackson and go to his bullpen, so you can feel free to check back in every half-hour or so. This could be a while. 

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Albert Pujols Is Smarter Than Chase Utley, Even

Albert Pujols is great.

You knew that already. But you might have merely known that Albert Pujols is a great hitter. Which he is.

But Albert Pujols is also a great baserunner. While he's not a fast baserunner, every season he gains a few bases here and a few bases there with his intelligent running.

Pujols is also a great fielder. He's won two Gold Gloves, including in 2010, but has probably deserved at least four and probably more.

Just now, Pujols made an absolutely brilliant play that may well have saved the Cardinals a run and preserved their slim lead in this game they simply must win.

Chase Utley led off the top of the sixth with a walk. With a full count to Hunter Pence, Utley ran on the next pitch, which Pence grounded to shortstop. It would have been a close play at first base, but Pence would have been out by a step or two. Except he wasn't. Because Utley never stopped running, and Pujols eschewed the easy out, instead coming off the bag to grab the throw and fire to third base to nail Utley from here to there.



Had Pujols taken the free out, Utley would likely have scored the tying run eventually. Instead, the Phillies got nothing when Ryan Howard flew out to center and Shane Victorino grounded to second.

Albert Pujols's hitting statistics will perpetually bedazzle. But there's a lot more to him than those gaudy stats.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: Fifth Inning Highlighted By Squirrel

That headline tells you what you need to know about the fifth inning. Yes, it's a little strange to see a squirrel running around during a Major League Baseball game, but just as the Cardinals and Phillies were interrupted by a squirrel today, they were interrupted by a squirrel yesterday, too. Maybe the same squirrel. And, at the end of the day, it's a squirrel. We see squirrels all the time. They aren't that interesting. But they're more interesting than that fifth inning just was.

 

Placido Polanco led off the top of the fifth with a base hit, suggesting that something interesting might be on the way. Three outs later, nothing. So then it was the Cardinals' turn, but three outs later, nothing. Rafael Furcal led off with a terrible terrible bunt attempt that he popped up to Polanco in foul territory, and Skip Schumaker grabbed at his hamstring after a swing, and there was a squirrel, but there was little baseball activity of note.

Which, I guess, is fine with the Cardinals, since they're in the lead, and now the Phillies have one fewer inning with which to work. Off to the sixth we go. 

---

Update of note: Schumaker was removed shortly thereafter with a cramp, and replaced by Ryan Theriot. Something interesting! 

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Dissecting Edwin Jackson's Master Plan

Last month, I wrote an article wondering exactly what Edwin Jackson was up to. It's a bit of an obsession of mine. The short version: Jackson is responsible for Ian Kennedy and Daniel Hudson on the Diamondbacks, Curtis Granderson on the Yankees, and Max Scherzer and Austin Jackson on the Tigers. It was written just as the Rays were starting to make a little noise, which made me note that Jackson was traded straight up for Matt Joyce, whose surprisingly good season was a big reason the Rays made the playoffs.

What I didn't expect at the time, though, was that the Cardinals would come back too. Beyond spooky. It's obvious that Edwin Jackson has a plan. He can see into the future. Don't put money in his March Madness pool. But what is the plan?

We've figured it out with the Rays' game yesterday. Joyce was the winning run in the ninth inning, and he popped out. Jackson correctly saw that Dan Johnson would have pinch-hit and ended the game, and that the Rays would have won in Arlington. Tricky.

Now in today's game, he gave up a couple of runs before the first out. That was to throw you off the scent of his necromancy. Now he's in control again, and the Cardinals have a lead.

Now we know that if Austin Jackson and Curtis Granderson were switched last night, things would have been a lot different. It looks like Jackson is setting up a Yankees/Cardinals showdown. Sorry Rangers fans. Also, sorry Brewers fans. Looks like Jackson wants to face the Diamondbacks too.

Remember: you wont hear the "so-called" "mainstream media" do any "reporting" on "this." They're too scared, man. They're too scared.

UPDATE: EDWIN JACKSON CAN CONTROL SQUIRRELS WITH HIS MIND. WE ARE NOT SAFE TO TALK HERE. PLEASE MEET ME AT THE PUBLIC LIBRARY AT THE CORNER O^%&#&**@@@@&NO CARRIER"

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: St. Louis Up 3-2 Thanks To Oswalt's Control Woes

In 23 starts this season, Roy Oswalt walked more than two batters in a game just once, and hit batters with pitches only five times.

Which made his sudden loss of control in the bottom of the fourth inning all the more surprising, as Oswalt needed only six pitches to walk Lance Berkman and plunk Matt Holliday. And after falling behind 2-0 to Yadier Molina, Oswalt gave up a drive to deep right field that Hunter Pence was just able to snag.

Crisis averted? Hardly.

Oswalt's first pitch to David Freese was a hanging change-up, which Freese lined into the left-corner, both runners scoring easily.

Freese moved to third on Jon Jay's ground-out, but was stranded when Oswalt retired Edwin Jackson on a fly to Pence. Oswalt lost his lead, but seems to have regained his control.

Through four full innings, it's Cardinals 3, Phillies 2.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: Game Takes A Turn For The Boring

There's an expression: Defense wins championships. I think it's meant to apply to football and basketball, not baseball, but stick with me here. If defense wins championships, then poor defense loses championships, right?

Well, in the first inning, both the Cardinals and the Phillies tried to lose championships. Jon Jay lost a ball in the sun that went for a big double, and then Shane Victorino slipped and threw a ball backwards, and that went for a double and a one-base error. In large part because of the terrible defense, the Phillies held a 2-1 lead.

Since then, the defense has shaped up, and the game has gotten way more dull. The second inning saw six batters bat and six batters make outs. The third inning saw eight batters bat and six batters make outs, but the two batters who didn't make outs hit singles, and they hit one for each team. This is a rather wordy way of saying that nobody scored in the third inning.

And so we go to the fourth with the Phillies still up 2-1, and the score might just stay where it is unless one of these center fielders lets a ball bounce off his head or get stuck in his pants or something. 

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Is This Pujols's Last Game As A Cardinal?

During CC Sabathia's last start, I wondered if it was his last start as a Yankee. It probably wasn't, but I like to -- how do the French say? -- troll.

But seriously, no foolin', hey, this could really be Albert Pujols's last game as a St. Louis Cardinal. It would be creepy to see Pujols in another uniform, so I'm hoping it isn't his last game. It really could be, though. It's bizarre to think about.

There are still some good odds he'll be a Cardinal. The Red Sox and Yankees already have bazillion-dollar first basemen, so the usual suspects are out. But it takes an elimination game like this to really make a feller think. The Cardinals already re-signed Lance Berkman and Chris Carpenter, hoping to contend next year, so it looks like they think they have a shot to keep the band together. 

Still, just say it out loud: "And at first base, hitting third for your Miami Marlins, Albert Pujols. Also, we have a new stadium now which totally fixes everything. Look at the Pirates." Though they probably wouldn't editorialize over the P.A., it's worth saying out loud just to be icky.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: Berkman Gets A Run Back

It would have been understandable if the Cardinals were a little discouraged with how the top half of the first inning went. Before there was a single out, the Phillies had two runs and the Cards were staring elimination in the face. And elimination has all sorts of cold sores and stuff. Gross.

But the Cards struck back in the bottom half of the first. Skip Schumaker singled and, with two outs, Lance Berkman hit a double that missed being a home run by a few feet. The double put the Cardinals within a run, 2-1.

It wasn't just the Cardinals fans who could celebrate a little bit on this, though. Shane Victorino gave the world a gift on the play. An honest, beautiful gift to share with the world.


Hat-tip to, I think, @DHM


His everything exploded on that play. He has to go on the DL now with an exploded everything, and possibly with a strained humility. I'd like to think that video is what's inside the glowing briefcase in Pulp Fiction.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: Sun Gets In Eyes, Phils Up 2-0 Early

Well, that didn't take long.

Before today's Game 4 between the Cardinals and Phillies in St. Louis, Albert Pujols complained about the game's twilight start, which would make things uncomfortable for the hitters. And for the fielders, too, as things turned out.

Jimmy Rollins drove Edwin Jackson's first pitch to straightaway center fielder, and deep. Center fielder Jon Jay completely lost the baseball in the sun; by the time he started sprinting toward the fence it was too late, and the ball bounced over the fence for an automatic double.

Jaysun

It didn't take long for the Phillies to capitalize, either.

Chase Utley ripped Jackson's third pitch of the inning down the right-field line for a triple, and Hunter Pence lined Jackson's fourth pitch of the inning into left field for an RBI single.

So the damage was done, but Jackson did fight the ship, striking out Ryan Howard looking -- with Pence nipped at second trying to steal -- and getting Shane Victorino on a fly to left field that Matt Holliday didn't lose in the sun.

After just half an inning it's Phillies 2, Cardinals 0.

p.s. Oh, right: Maybe this wasn't such an awesome idea.

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Cliff Lee: Ace Reliever

We're at the point in the playoffs when the regular rules don't apply. From Danny Knobler of CBS Sports:

Charlie: Cliff Lee available in bullpen tonight. Wow.

I'm going to make a big assumption that Charlie isn't "Charlie from Drexel Hill" who called WIP just now to see if the Phillies could trade Evan Longoria for Placido Polanco now the the Rays are out of it. It's probably Charlie Manuel.

And there's a chance that the Phillies' manager will use Cliff Lee out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS if needed. Wow, indeed.

This sort of thing isn't new, of course. Sometimes, this gambit works out just swimmingly. Sometimes it doesn't work out quite as well as planned. (Though dig that hold for Lincecum! Great job, Timmy!)

It's hard to imagine exactly what role the Phillies would use Lee in, though. Would it be in case of an Oswalt meltdown? Would it be in the even that they need a bridge from the sixth inning to the eighth? That part's still unclear.

But it's interesting. All hands on deck. The Phillies are up in the series 2-1, but they're probably right to treat every game for the rest of the series as their most important of the year.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: St. Louis Lineup Features Matt Holliday, Finally

Tony La Russa, Esq., has announced his Game 4 lineup against the Phillies and Roy Oswalt, and there's a highly welcome addition. See if you can spot him, somewhere around the middle!

1. Rafael Furcal# SS
2. Skip Schumaker*, 2B
3. Albert Pujols, 1B
4. Lance Berkman#, RF
5. Matt Holliday, LF
6. Yadier Molina, C
7. David Freese, 3B
8. Jon Jay*, CF
9. Edwin Jackson, P

Yes, it's Matt Holliday, whose finger injury has heretofore limited him to a (successful) pinch-hitting appearance in Game 3. He's been injected with a numbing agent, and says he's "good enough" to play tonight.

Holliday replaces Allen Craig, who's had a great season but obviously isn't the equal of Holliday as a hitter. A healthy Holliday, anyway. It's certainly possible that the right-now Allen Craig is better than the right-now Matt Holliday, but presumably the Cardinals know more about Holliday's right-now than we do.

Prediction, Holliday will get a shot against Brad Lidge at some point, numbing agent y slider.

First pitch at 6:07 Eastern Daylight Time, and later in other parts of the world.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies: Charlie Manuel's Game 4 Lineup

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel has produced his lineup for this evening's Game 4 against the St. Louis Cardinals, for a contest the Phillies would like to win and the Cardinals must, or be eliminated from this Division Series.

1. Jimmy Rollins#, ss
2. Chase Utley*, 2b
3. Hunter Pence, rf
4. Ryan Howard*, 1b
5. Shane Victorino#, cf
6. Raul Ibanez*, lf
7. Placido Polanco, 3b
8. Carlos Ruiz, c
9. Roy Oswalt, rhp

There's absolutely nothing new here, as this was Charlie Manuel's preferred lineup against right-handed pitchers (like Edwin Jackson) with Pence aboard and everyone healthy. Which, by the way, is another reason to like the Phillies' chances this month: everyone's healthy, or at least healthy enough to play.

You'll notice that Manuel is doing now that he didn't used to do: break up his left-handed hitters. Tony La Russa probably appreciates the challenge, but pitching to the Phillies isn't as easy as it once was.

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Cardinals vs. Phillies, NLDS Game 4 Preview: Time, TV Schedule And More

Champagne will be on ice when the Philadelphia Phillies try to close out their NLDS showdown with the St. Louis Cardinals. They lead the series 2-1.

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