ST. LOUIS -- The Cardinals won a Major League game in Little League style on Monday, capitalizing on two fielding errors in the ninth inning to score three runs in a 6-5 walk-off victory over the D-backs. And that was only the finale of the bizarre play montage the crowd of 41,578 was treated to at Busch Stadium. The plethora of unusual plays started in the top of the seventh inning, when Cardinals starter Chris Carpenter gave up a go-ahead home run ... to opposing pitcher Dan Haren. It was Haren's first home run of the season and the second long fly of his career. It was only the second home run Carpenter has given up to a pitcher in his career.
The game took an even weirder turn when Cardinals right fielder Randy Winn -- starting in place of the injured Ryan Ludwick -- tried to make a play on a deep fly ball from Mark Reynolds, but the ball bounced out of his glove and over the fence, giving the D-backs a three-run lead in the eighth. Then the ninth inning that could have been scripted straight out of "Bad News Bears" finished the bizarre game off. The final frame started with Cardinals skipper Tony La Russa being tossed for arguing balls and strikes. Haren didn't hesitate in postgame interviews to call La Russa out for a little gamesmanship. "Tony is good at that. He's good at delaying like that. I've seen it before. I knew exactly what he was doing," Haren said. "I could almost tell you before the inning that something like that would happen. He's a great manager, and that's one of the things that he does, and I guess he'll probably do it again because it looked like it worked and that's that." "I think Tony knew it was a strike, too." Whether it was done for effect -- La Russa denied he was just trying to fire his team up -- or out of sheer frustration, the next three plays went the Cardinals' way. After singles from Yadier Molina and Brendan Ryan, Sunday's starting pitcher Jaime Garcia was pinch-running on second base while Tuesday's starting hurler Adam Wainwright was at the plate for a sacrifice bunt. Error No. 1: Wainwright got the bunt down, but Arizona pitcher Aaron Heilman was unable to make the risky play at third, skipping the ball toward the stands and plating Garcia. "He probably made the right play," Wainwright said of Heilman. "He made an unbelievable barehanded play. I mean, really, it was an amazing play. A lot of people don't even get to that ball. I thought it was going to the shortstop. I hit it hard enough. He made a great play to begin with, but that throw -- unfortunate for him, fortunate for us." Error No. 2: Skip Schumaker hit a soft grounder to LaRoche at first base, bringing Ryan home for a play at the plate. Capping off the madcap finish, the ball bounced too low for catcher Miguel Montero to handle, giving Wainwright enough time to comfortably score from third. Wainwright said it was the first time he has ever scored a walk-off run at any level of baseball. "It ranks up there," Winn said of come-from-behind wins in his career. "That kind of had the range of emotions that you do not get every day." The final rally was even more impressive in light of the failed comeback attempt one-inning prior. Starting the bottom the eighth with three straight singles, scoring one run, and bringing up Albert Pujols, Matt Holliday and Colby Rasmus with two men on and no outs, the Cardinals seemed sure to tie the game at the very least. Haren worked out the jam, however, punching out Pujols and Holliday before inducing a fly to center from Rasmus. "That is one of the toughest pitches out there and a guy pitching well out of the bullpen," Wainwright said. "We will take it." Carpenter struggled with his command for most of the game and was struck on the arm with a line drive from the first batter of the game, but he was able to finish seven innings, allowing three runs. Unable to consistently throw his breaking ball for strikes, Carpenter walked four and gave up six hits, but induced two double plays and stranded six runners for the game. He said the arm was fine during the game, and the trainers would check it out on Tuesday. With the win, the Cardinals trail the Reds by a half-game in the National League Central race.
Michael Bleach is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.