ST. LOUIS ó Big swings by a slumping hitter, clutch innings by a journeyman pitcher. Suddenly, the St. Louis Cardinals are looking very dangerous.
As for the Philadelphia Phillies? Things have turned downright squirrelly.
David Freese, shut down by Phillies aces the first three games, became a hometown star Wednesday night. He homered, doubled and drove in four runs as the Cardinals defeated nemesis Roy Oswalt and forced a deciding fifth game in their NL playoff series by beating the favored Phillies 5-3.
ěThis is what you worked for,î said Freese, a local prep star who came to the Cardinals in a trade for Jim Edmonds after the 2007 season. ěJust to do this in front of the fans of St. Louis and a bunch of friends and family, itís amazing.î
Center fielder Jon Jay made a sliding catch on Placido Polancoís soft fly for the final out, and was already pointing his index finger before he got to his feet.
ěWeíre not looking at this like weíre just happy to be here and itís David and Goliath,î Cardinals slugger Lance Berkman said.
Now itís back to Philadelphia for Game 5 on Friday night. Roy Halladay, who won the opener for the Phillies, will face St. Louis ace Chris Carpenter ó they played together in Toronto for five years.
ěTheyíre good friends and old teammates, and Carp was really chomping at the bit for this opportunity to pitch against Roy on full rest in a huge Game 5,î Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday said. ěIt should be quite a battle and then itíll be fun to watch two great competitors go head to head and two great teams get after it.î
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel agreed.
ěMight be fitting that it goes down to the fifth game,î he said. ěItís up to us to go get it. Itís sitting right there for us. Weíve got our ace going, and weíre at home, and so everything is sitting right there.î
The 102-win Phillies were picked by many to win it all. But first they must dispose of the wild-card Cardinals, who clinched a playoff spot on the last day of the season and have gotten the best of two members of the Philsí star-studded rotation.
An omen, maybe: Right after Oswalt threw a pitch in the fifth, a squirrel darted across the plate.
Oswalt argued, unsuccessfully, that the creatureís dash had distracted him on a pitch called a ball.
ěI didnít want to stop in the middle of my motion, so I threw it,î Oswalt said. ěI was wondering what size of animal it needed to be for it not to be a pitch.î
Manuel argued, to no avail.
ěOf course, being from the South and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have did something,î Manuel said. ěIím a pretty good shot.î
Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats in what could have been his final home game with the Cardinals. He received thunderous cheers every trip to the plate from a standing room crowd of 47,071, second-largest at 6-year-old Busch Stadium.
Pujols made his presence known on defense, catching Chase Utley going for an extra base in the sixth. Utley drew a leadoff walk and kept running on Hunter Penceís grounder to short, but Pujols alertly jumped off first base to catch the throw and made a sharp relay to third for the out.
ěThis is obviously the playoffs, but thatís a play I can make in the regular season, too,î Pujols said. ěIf I would have stayed on the bag, it was going to be tough to get the runner at third. Obviously, that killed the rally right there.î
Edwin Jackson recovered from a rocky beginning to win his first playoff start. He threw six solid innings.
Milwaukee vs. Arizona
Arizona led Milwaukee 10-4 in the seventh inning at presstime. Chris Young had hit two home runs.
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