The Cards kept their elimination number at one on Monday, beating the Pirates, 6-4, at Busch Stadium. The win was the Redbirds' 81st of the season, ensuring them of at least a .500 season, as well as at least a second-place finish in the National League Central division. The best that the third-place Astros can do is finish 80-82.
Atlanta's win over Washington on Monday night eliminated the Cardinals from the race for the NL Wild Card, but that was a virtual impossibility anyway, due to the number of teams that St. Louis needed to catch. For a good while now, the only real chance has been in the division. Now, the only chance at all is in the division.
"That's what we're here for," said Kyle McClellan, who recorded the save. "We're here to try to play late in October. Is it doable or not? I don't know. But it's our job. We get paid to come out and play to the best of our abilities. It's not like we're just going to give in and cash it in for the last month."
With the Reds having an off-day on Monday, the Cards' deficit in the Central was snipped to six games with six to play in the regular season. St. Louis would have to go undefeated over the season's final week while the Reds went winless -- and even that would only force a one-game playoff at Busch Stadium. But as Lloyd Christmas exulted in "Dumb and Dumber," a one-in-a-million chance is still a chance.
"If we win the rest of them and they lose the rest of them..." Matt Holliday mused.
"Keep playing, trying to win every game. I don't know if that's necessarily in the front of our minds, but we're trying to play well and finish strong."
It was a hard-earned win, to boot. St. Louis rallied from two deficits, including a 4-2 hole in the sixth inning, en route to its fourth win in the last five home games.
Holliday had the biggest role in the rallies. Albert Pujols and Holliday each singled in a run to put the Cardinals ahead briefly in the third inning, 2-1. That capped a run of four straight two-out singles to turn a 1-0 deficit into an early lead. Two innings earlier, Pujols had popped up and Holliday hit into a double play after a pair of singles opened the game. In the third, though, they delivered.
The pair struck in the sixth, too. That's when, following a Pujols single, Holliday jumped the first pitch from Charlie Morton and drilled it into the seats for a game-tying two-run homer.
"I wanted it to go a little more inside," said Morton. "I wanted him to pull it foul. I wanted him to swing at it. It just didn't do anything. It stayed there for him, and he did what he does."
In the seventh, the Cards took the lead once again, as Matt Pagnozzi scored from second on shortstop Ronny Cedeno's throwing error. Allen Craig hit a grounder to Cedeno with two out, and Cedeno's throw soared over the head of Garrett Jones at first. That allowed Pagnozzi to score, giving the Cardinals their second lead.
Starter Kyle Lohse wasn't especially sharp, but did manage to survive six innings -- and frequently worked his way out of trouble. Lohse was touched for four runs on 10 hits in his longest start since May 17, before he underwent forearm surgery.
"I had some velocity back," Lohse said. "My fastball for the most part was down in the zone, where before I'd be up and kind of lose my mechanics or my release point. The fastball felt good. It's just a matter of getting sharp with all the other stuff. I've been working on it, and eventually it will come. But I've got one more here, and I've just got to go out there and get some more positives. We won tonight. I made some good pitches. But everything that I left up, they hit."
Dennys Reyes and Jason Motte each benefited from a double play in relief, and McClellan closed it out for his second save of the season and sixth of his career.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.