"It was one of the better 'almosts' I can remember in all the years I've managed," Cards manager Tony La Russa said. "That's what I'll remember. It's a great 'almost.' I like the way we went about it. It looked like we were going to have a really tough night. The guys that came in, started lighting it up. We had a real shot, a great shot to pull one out. It was very exciting."
The Cards started chipping away at the lead in the bottom of the sixth, when they scored three runs to make it 11-3. It still looked it was going to be long night for the Cards, who are now playing the role of spoilers rather than contenders.
The Phillies added a run in the seventh to make it 12-3, and many, if not most, of the 42,031 fans in attendance started heading for the exits.
Then, in the bottom of the seventh, the Cards rallied and officially made it a game.
The Cards loaded the bases with no outs before Aaron Miles came through with a two-run single to make it 12-5. The next hitter, Skip Schumaker, singled to load the bases again, this time for Albert Pujols.
Pujols then hammered a Jose Mesa pitch to left field for a double, scoring two. The Cards added two more in the inning, courtesy of an RBI groundout by Ryan Ludwick and a sacrifice fly by Rick Ankiel to make it 12-9.
"It doesn't matter what the score is, you have to keep pushing and keep playing," Schumaker said. "But, yeah, it gets a lot more fun when it becomes a game and you start to think you have a real chance at taking one away from them."
After the Cards put up their six spot in the seventh, lefty Mike Maroth came in and turned in a 1-2-3 inning -- his first since July 27 -- to keep the momentum rolling for the Cards.
"A comeback is great if you win ... but you have to win. It's just another loss and we can't afford losses, obviously."
-- Skip Schumaker
In the bottom half of the inning, the Cards' bats picked up right where they left off an inning before. Brian Barden connected on a one-out single and then moved over to second when Russell Branyan drew a walk. Miles then moved Barden over to third with a flyout to right.
Barden came home to score on a passed ball and Branyan moved over to second. Then, Schumaker knocked a base hit to left-center field to score Branyan and make it a one-run game. Pujols then drew a walk to put two on for Ludwick, who homered earlier in the game.
Ludwick got a hold off a Kane Davis fastball and drove it to right-center, where Phillies center fielder Aaron Rowand went back and caught it, falling down on the warning track.
"I knew it was going to be a little too short," Ludwick said. "I hit it too high. Then, I saw him slip on the grass and thought we had a chance for something to happen, but it didn't."
The Phillies added another run in the top of the ninth when Rowand took closer Jason Isringhausen deep for a solo homer, his second long ball of the game, to give the Phillies a two-run lead. St. Louis native Ryan Howard also homered twice for the Phillies, including a grand slam in the sixth inning.
In the ninth, the Cards didn't go quietly. After Ankiel struck out looking, So Taguchi walked and Miguel Cairo singled to put two runners on with one out. But the Redbirds couldn't complete the remarkable comeback. Barden popped out to first base and Branyan struck out looking to end the game.
"A comeback is great if you win ... but you have to win," Schumaker said. "It's just another loss and we can't afford losses, obviously. We're here to win, and that's all."
Lost in the comeback was the ineffective outing the Cards got from starter Brad Thompson. Thompson lasted just 3 1/3 innings and gave up four runs, three earned. After once being 10-3 with Thompson starting, the Cards have now lost his last two starts.
"It was one of those games where I went out there and threw a couple of innings, and it was over before it ever really started for me," Thompson said. "We have to win some ballgames. Tony has to make moves quick, and I understand that. It's just frustrating on my end."
In the end, the Cards' loss is representative of their season as a whole, climbing back and climbing back, but not able to get over the hump.
"It's just been a constant grind these past 11 days," Ludwick said. It's not like we're not trying. It just feels like the ball is constantly bouncing in their court. We went about it the right way and just kept battling. That's what good teams do. We've hit a little rough stretch, but that doesn't mean were not a good team. I think it shows a lot of character, how we've battled."