At the end of the day...

"Baseball is a game of inches." --Branch Rickey

It's the kind of game that a team playing in October wins.

It's unexplainable, the kind of game that keeps the antacid business thriving.

It's exactly the kind of game the Cardinals won today.

They scored in only one inning, and threatened to score in only one inning after that.

The winning hit came on a ball that was thisclose to being caught on what would have been a spectacular grab.

Meanwhile, Cardinals' bellweather, Adam Wainwright, gave up only two runs while generously allowing the Padres' leadoff man to reach in seven out of eight innings.

Yet, after continuously wiggling out of trouble, Waino had only thrown 103 pitches in manufacturing 24 outs.

And he wouldn't throw another.

"He was done," Cards manager Mike Matheny said after the game.

"I actually thought he was going to try and talk me into coming out after seven, so I appreciate him letting me get that eighth in there," Wainwright added.

It is the delicate balance that goes on with pitchers these days. Waino was making it look easy, pitching around all those baserunners. He even joked about it in the locker room.

"I've been wanting to work on my stretch game, and I felt like today was a good day to do that.

"Do you believe that? Don't believe that."

Meanwhile, Edward Mujica was on the mound to begin the ninth.
Mujica, he of the 27-for-29 save conversions, and the 35-to-2 strikeouts-to-walks ratio.

Another stat to note before we begin: he's allowing less than one combined walk and/or hit per inning.

Mujica and his go-to pitch, the one with the nasty break, induced a ground ball for the first out.

Alexi Amerista then singled on a ball back through the box, rushing past the flailing glove hand of Mujica.

The closer's first two pitches to Logan Forsythe were also his first two pitches to break ninety miles an hour. Then, on a 2-1 count, Forsythe drove one to the warning track in right. Shane Robinson flagged it down after a long run from where he was playing the righthanded batter straightaway.

Amarista retreated to first.

Pinch-hitter Jesus Guzman was next.

Forty-four thousand came to their feet.

Guzman, who has two pinch-hit homers, didn't hit Mujica's 0-1 pitch out of the park, though it did leave the field.

On the second hop, the ball jumped into the seats along the left-field line.

Ground rule double.

It was a fortunate bunch of inches if you like Cardinals victories and don't care for extra innings. Amarista was well on his way to rounding third and bringing home the tying run.

"Get a break, use it," said Cardinals TV analyst Rick Horton.

Back to third went Amarista, while Forsythe settled in at second. Back to the bench went Padres manager Bud Black, calling on another pinch-hitter, Jedd Gyorko.

Gyorko came to the plate batting .333 against Cardinals pitching.
One-for-two against Mujica.

On a 1-1 pitch, The 19th of the day from the "Chief", the game's outcome came to a head.

Fly ball to left.

Mujica spun around to watch the ball's flight.

So did Allen Craig, who had moved over from right to left field in the seventh inning.

"We do that quite a bit, try to get our defense right late in the game, in a close game," said Matheny.

Craig, as effortlessly as he delivers hits with runners in scoring position, turned his left shoulder to the plate, tracking the ball as his feet hit the warning track.

Without the benefit of many innings in left field, Craig drew praise from his manager. "I think he feels more comfortable there than anywhere right now. He doesn't have the repetitions but he works on it."

"Will it stay in the ballpark?", Dan McLaughlin wondered aloud. The wall was 375 feet from home plate, and so was Craig as he leaped to meet the ball.

Glove found ball. Body found wall.

"He's got it, and the Cardinals hold on!", exclaimed Danny Mac.

Mujica's primal scream spoke for every set of lungs rooting for the Redbirds.

Craig got all the way to the infield before his expressionless face broke into a smile.

Ho hum. Another day at work.

It was a collection of inches that formed that final inning; maybe only one or two separating winning from losing.

If the race tightens up, perhaps this game will prove to be the one that made the difference.

A game that was thisclose to going the other way.

Until next time....

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