The Cardinals, left for dead -- again -- after a brutal ninth-inning loss to the New York Mets here on Thursday and a setback by Chicago the next night, have been revived.
Yadier Molina's seventh-inning homer tied the score at 2-2 today against the Cubs and Rafael Furcal untied it with a leadoff homer in the eighth off Belleville native Randy Wells. The Cardinals' 3-2 win, saved by Jason Motte with a perfect ninth, brought them for the first time to a position one game behind the Atlanta Braves in the National League wild-card race.
The Cardinals, who completed their home schedule today, will finish their season with three games at Houston, beginning Monday night. The Braves will entertain National League Eastern Division leader Philadelphia for three games.
If the Braves and Cardinals are tied at the end of the regular season, there will be a one-game wild-card playoff here on Thursday.
"What a finish. Great finish," said manager Tony La Russa. "And I liked it mostly because two guys who had a tough day Thursday -- Motte and Furcal -- put us in this position."
Motte had walked three hitters in the dreadful ninth inning on Thursday and Furcal had booted a double-play ball that had greased the skid.
"Every once in a while, there's justice in this game," La Russa said.
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, said, "There's no one here who deserved that home run more than (Furcal), after what he's gone through the last couple days."
Pujols was granted standing ovations in each of his four at-bats, went hitless in could be his final game as a Cardinal at Busch Stadiuim. Pujols will be a free agent at the end of the season but said it hadn't crossed his mind about it being potentially his last home game as a Cardinal.
"It never has," said Pujols. "You still have the season. Those decisions are going to come in the off-season. Right now, I'm still a Cardinal and I'm going to do my best to help this organization to get to the next level. And that's my job.
"If I try to get distracted and think about what's going to happen this off-season or what's going to happen the next four games, I don't think I'm doing my job.
"That's something I've done pretty well this year, to make sure that I stay focused."
Asked what he would tell the fans anticipating his next move, Pujols countered, "What next move? I don't think about that and that's not my job to discuss what my next move is going to be.
"My next move is to jump on a plane and go to Houston and be ready to play tomorrow."
Pujols' streak of reaching base in consecutive games ended at 40, a high in the majors this season.
MOLINA ERASES CUBS' LEAD
The Chicago Cubs went ahead, 2-1, in the seventh inning today on Starlin Castro's two-out, run-scoring single off Cardinals righthander Edwin Jackson. But, in the home seventh, Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina retied the score at 2-2 with his 14th homer of the season, a drive to left off Bellevllle, Ill., native Randy Wells.
That hit took starter Edwin Jackson off the hook. Jackson was lifted for a pinch hitter after working off seven innings.
JACKSON HELPS HIMSELF
The Cardinals still haven't scored a run via a hit in three games with the Chicago Cubs this weekend. But they are tied, 1-1, in the fifth, as pitcher Edwin Jackson helped himself with a sacrifce fly with the bases loaded in the fifth.
David Freese walked with one out in the fifth and, running on the play, went to second on an infield hit by Yadier Molina. Cubs third baseman Blake DeWitt dived to his right to stop the ball but couldn't control the it.
Skip Schumaker walked on five pitches to fill the bases and Jackson hit a fly ball to medium right field. Freese, getting a good break from third, slid home safely and the other runners moved up. But Rafael Furcal flied out.
CUBS TAKE1-0 LEAD
The Chicago Cubs took a 1-0 lead in the fourth inning today at Busch Stadium but three excellent defensive plays by the Cardinals prevented the inning from breaking bigger.
After Carlos Pena walked, Cardinals center fielder Jon Jay made a diving catch to deprive Alfonso Soriano of a hit. Blake DeWitt singled to left, sending Pena to third and DeWitt went to second when Cardinals left fielder Matt Holliday unwisely threw to third.
The Cardinals intentionally walked Marlon Byrd to fill the bases and Geovany Soto sent a drive to deep center. Jay, reaching high, ran the ball down on the track just before he got to the wall. Pena scored but the other runners held.
Cubs pitcher Randy Wells lofted a looper to right but second baseman Skip Schumaker, dashing to his left, made the catch near the foul line.
CARDS TIE DP MARK
Yadier Molina's second-inning grounder to Chicago third baseman Blake DeWitt became a record-tying affair today. With two Cardinals runners on, DeWitt started an inning-ending double play. It was the 166th grounded into by the Cardinals, tying the club and National League record set in 1958.
The American League record is 174, held by the 1990 Boston Red Sox.
PUJOLS GETS 1ST STANDING OVATION
Cardinals first baseman Albert Pujols, in the first of several standing ovations he is likely to receive today in perhaps his final home game at Busch Stadium, doffed his cap to the crowd after a 30-second-plus standing ovation accorded him when he came to bat for the first time.
The first at-bat was brief. Pujols hit a soft liner to Chicago second baseman Darwin Barney, who doubled off Rafael Furcal, who was on the run toward third.
JACKSON IN FINAL START?
With the furor over whether or not this will be first baseman Albert Pujols' last game with the Cardinals, the fact that Edwin Jackson likely is making his last start for them has been overshadowed.
Jackson, who is 3-0 in seven starts with a 3.19 earned run average at Busch Stadium this year and has won 12 games overall between the Chicago White Sox and the Cardinals, probably will be a highly sought free agent at age 28. And not only can Jackson pitch, but he can hit.
He has eight hits since he came from the White Sox through Toronto on July 29. No pitcher has had more in that time.
The Cardinals' lineup for the last home game, against the Chicago Cubs, is the same as it was for the next-to-last home game.