The four-game series with the Dodgers was the most important series of the year, as far as the Cardinals were concerned.
The Cardinals overcame a 4-2 deficit against the Los Angeles Dodgers this afternoon in St. Louis and came away with a 7-4 win, allowing the club to finish off a 6-1 home stand.
After scoring just 15 runs in six games on the road to begin the second half, the Cardinals came home to face the Cubs and Dodgers.
The Cards took out a season's worth of frustration upon the lowly Cubbies, outscoring them 23-1 in the three-game sweep. But the Dodgers, who have had the Cards' number recently, loomed as a more reasonable test.
With the Reds on a seven-game winning streak, the Cards were able to keep the NL Central leaders within arm's reach by holding serve at home.
More importantly, they were able to win in a number of scenarios that have perplexed them all year.
After dropping the opener 5-3, the Cards' faced reigning Cy Young award winner Clayton Kershaw. When the Dodgers staked him to a 2-0 lead, fans assumed the game was over.
But battling 103-degree heat, Adam Wainwright took matters into his own hands by doubling in a run in the bottom of the fifth off Kershaw and then scoring the tying run on a single by Rafael Furcal.
Then in the bottom of the sixth, Wainwright helped open the floodgates on Kershaw by drawing a bases-loaded walk to lead the Cards to an 8-2 victory.
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Last night's contest was another taut duel the Cards could have broken wide open as Matt Holliday came up with the bases loaded with one out in the bottom of the eighth inning.
Instead, Holliday lined into a double play, continuing the Cardinals' troubles hitting with runners in scoring position.
But the Cardinal bullpen, turning a season's worth of failure on its head, carried the game with scoreless relief until the bottom of the 12th, where Furcal's single plated pinch-runner Joe Kelly for the win.
This victory was welcome relief to a team that has struggled in extra innings, now giving them a record of 3-6 after the ninth.
It would have been understandable if the Cardinals had a day-game letdown after the late-night emotional win. Midway through, with Carlos Beltran, Yadier Molina and Lance Berkman getting rest from manager Mike Matheny, it looked like the Cards would only split the series.
Jake Westbrook pitched well but ran into trouble in the fifth, allowing a 2-0 lead to evaporate into a 4-2 deficit.
But lefties Daniel Descalso, Matt Carpenter and Skip Schumaker got the best of crafty lefty Chris Capuano, setting the table for big RBI from Tony Cruz and David Freese.
Matt Holiday put the exclamation point on the series with his 17th homer to left and the Cards may have forged a new identity to carry them into the stretch run.