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HOUSTON (AP) — After St. Louis was swept by the Los Angeles Dodgers in late August, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa thought his team would fall short of the postseason once again.
Less than a month later, the Cardinals are tied with Atlanta for the NL wild-card lead.
Pinch-hitter Ryan Theriot delivered a tiebreaking two-run triple in the seventh inning, leading St. Louis to a 13-6 victory over the Houston Astros on Tuesday night.
The sliding Braves lost 7-1 to Philadelphia, sending the race for the NL’s final playoff spot to the last day of the regular season. If the teams are tied after Wednesday’s game, St. Louis will host a one-game playoff on Thursday night.
“Yeah, when we got swept by the Dodgers,” La Russa said when asked if he doubted his team could make such a run. “When I saw our schedule I said: ‘We could finish under .500 if we don’t start getting it back together.’ And we did.”
St. Louis has won 21 of 29 games since that sweep, moving to the brink of what not so long ago seemed like an improbable goal.
“It’s kind of fed us here the last few days, 120 years of baseball and this is one of those historic runs to tie,” La Russa said. “But there’s a different story between tying and finishing it off. So tomorrow we’ll see if we can go take another step.”
The Cardinals trailed 5-0 early and appeared to be headed for a second straight loss to the Astros. But St. Louis scored five times in the fourth and erased a 6-5 deficit with a four-run seventh.
Lance Berkman hit a two-out single and scored on Allen Craig’s tying double. Craig entered in the third inning when Matt Holliday departed with discomfort in his right hand.
Yadier Molina walked before Theriot hit his clutch triple to make it 8-6.
Nick Punto, who had four hits, doubled in Theriot in the seventh and had a solo homer in the ninth. Craig padded the lead with a three-run homer to the Crawford Boxes in left field in the eighth.
“You play all year for an opportunity to play in October,” Theriot said. “So it’s a good feeling to know that we put ourselves in a spot that we could possibly do that, to do what we’ve done this last month and keep playing.”
Eduardo Sanchez (3-1) struck out two in 1 1-3 innings for the win in a game that included seven Cardinals relievers following an early exit by Jake Westbrook. It was Sanchez’s first appearance since June 12.