It wasn't the cleanest win St. Louis has had this year, but it was a huge win nonetheless. As the Cubs and Brewers claimed victories earlier in the day, the Cardinals defeated the Dodgers 6-4 in 11 innings on Tuesday night.
Ryan Ludwick provided the difference, hitting his 28th home run of the season to win the game.
Manager Tony LaRussa knew how important it was for the Redbirds to pull out a victory.
"We have had some heartbreaking losses," said La Russa. "If we had lost that one, that would have been up there as high, higher than any of them because of everything that was transpiring and the way that game went.
"You can just taste that win. Those are the toughest," he added. "We'll see the next few days how much it means to us, but it definitely gets us off the first game of the series."
The game in its entirety was one of transformation. A great beginning, a solid middle, and an ending that was one to remember.
Chris Carpenter made his first home start since going down with Tommy John surgery and he made the most of it.
Carpenter pitched five shutout innings and probably could have pitched more if not for a rain delay. Coupled with St. Louis management's concern for his reconstructed elbow, his night was done.
The home crowd provided Carpenter with the support that could have made him go the distance.
"It's always fun pitching here, and I was looking forward to getting back out on this mound," Carpenter said. "The fans gave me a nice welcome, even when I was walking out to the bullpen to start getting loose. That's always appreciated, and it makes this place special."
Now it was time for the bullpen to finally try and not waste the great effort that their ace provided. For the time being, they would not disappoint.
Brad Thompson and Kyle McClellan provided three shutout innings that nearly put the game in the bag. Combined with an Albert Pujols two-run blast in the seventh, it looked as if the Redbirds would finally get a decisive win for a change.
The win would come, but it would be a dogfight.
As the ninth inning approached, Ron Villone took the mound. He immediately allowed a pinch-hit solo home run to Andruw Jones. It was more of a moral victory for Jones, as that was only his third home run of the season.
For Jones, it was a mildly liberating offensive flash in the pan. For Villone, it was an atrocity. He allowed a home run to a slugger who was nearly completely out of the game.
The fun would continue with Jason Isringhausen taking the mound. After allowing back-to-back singles to Andre Either and Russell Martin, he would then walk Manny Ramirez to load the bases.
With a James Loney dribbler down the first baseline, Isringhausen found himself bumbling and stumbling all the way back to the bullpen. He could not make a play on the slowly hit grounder and would ultimately allow the Dodgers to get back within a run.
A sacrifice fly later, and the game was tied and would head to extra innings. Now, in bonus baseball, the Redbirds squandered several golden opportunities to win the game.
One included Troy Glaus swinging at a 3-0 pitch with the bases loaded with two out that could only be described as a bone-headed move.
Ryan Ludwick's at-bat would prove to be more effective, as he nailed the walk-off home run in his fourth straight game with a round-tripper. He doesn't seem to be slowing down after his All-Star selection.
Afterwards, Ludwick knew he had a chance to do something special.
"I'm just trying to get pitches to hit and drive them," he said. "Tonight, up until that at-bat, I didn't do a really good job. It was nice to see Carpenter do what he did tonight. He looked great out there. It's always a good sight, seeing him on the bump, doing what he's doing. I'm just glad I could contribute a little bit."
It was a hard-fought win for St. Louis, yet with the Cubs and Brewers adding one in the win column themselves, it was more of a moral victory.