Albert Pujols had just delivered the 10-8 victory over the Mets with his first home run since July 4. Pujols' fifth hit of the 14-inning affair was a screaming line drive into the left-field seats, and it scored Skip Schumaker, who posted the first six-hit game by a Cardinal in 73 years.
After participating in postgame interviews on the field, Pujols and Schumaker were two of the last players to make it to the clubhouse. When they finally arrived, the Cardinals jabbed and celebrated their superstar all at once with a chant of "I-chi-ro! I-chi-ro!"
The reference, of course, was to the Mariners' slap-hitting sensation Ichiro Suzuki. Pitcher Joel Pineiro had begun giving Pujols a hard time by calling him Ichiro in recent days. So of course Pujols responded to the jokes, as well as to frequent media questions about the power brownout, in grand style.
"I'm a line-drive hitter with power," Pujols said. "I don't care about the home runs. Every time somebody in the media says something stupid and talks about home runs, I always come up the next day and hit some.
"I just let you guys [reporters] play with it and have fun with it. That's it. You guys can look at home runs. I look at how I'm producing for my ballclub: getting on base with base hits, driving in some runs whenever I can."
The home run was the second time Pujols drove in Schumaker, who went 6-for-7 and scored in each of the three innings in which the Cardinals tallied. The last Cardinal with six hits in a game was Terry Moore, who collected six against the Boston Braves on Sept. 5, 1935.
Pujols and Schumaker, meanwhile, were the first Cardinals teammates with five or more hits apiece in a game since Charley Gelbert and Taylor Douthit each had five against the Cubs on May 16, 1930.
Pujols' shot traveled an estimated 400 feet and made a winner of Brad Thompson, who pitched two scoreless innings of relief. Schumaker had led off the 14th with a single. Most importantly, the late surge secured a win that the Cardinals appeared to have in the bag twice earlier.
Fernando Tatis had forced extra innings with a solo shot in the ninth against Ryan Franklin, tying a game the Cardinals had led since the sixth. Franklin has allowed six homers in his past 12 outings and has been scored upon in six of his past nine. In each of his past three appearances, he has given up a homer and been charged with a loss, a blown save or both.
Yet Franklin rebounded with a scoreless 10th, and Kelvin Jimenez worked around five walks to keep the Mets off the board in the 11th and 12th. Thompson was perfect in the 13th and 14th.
"I was just trying to throw the sinker and get ground balls," Thompson said. "Just keep the ball down. I knew that I had a chance to be out there for a couple innings if the score stayed the same, so I just tried to go after guys."
Starter Joel Pineiro held a 4-0 advantage before he even threw a pitch, but by the time Pineiro was lifted, the Redbirds trailed New York, 5-4. Another rally, this one in the sixth, put the visitors back ahead by an 8-5 count, but the St. Louis bullpen couldn't hold on. Carlos Delgado went deep against Ron Villone in the sixth, and though Russ Springer and Kyle McClellan excelled in the seventh and eighth, Franklin faltered in the ninth.
The night ended happily for the visitors though, just another wild and woolly win in a season where little has come easy.
"That was a case of great guts, and we pulled out a win," manager Tony La Russa said.
Thanks to the Cubs' loss earlier in the day, the Cardinals gained a game on first place in the National League Central. They trail Chicago and Milwaukee by three games in the race for the division title and the NL Wild Card.
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less