ST. LOUIS -- St. Louis infielder Skip Schumaker has this running argument with manager Tony La Russa and other baseball purists.
Schumaker swears that he can get to first base faster by diving for the bag at the conclusion of his sprint down the line.
"Nobody agrees with me," he said. "But I still believe it's faster -- that's why I do it."
Schumaker's headlong dive to first Tuesday culminated a thrilling comeback that propelled the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the defending World Series champion San Francisco Giants at Busch Stadium.
St. Louis, which won for the second time in its last three games, charged back from a 3-1 deficit to record one of the most exciting home victories of the campaign.
"Good win, great win," said La Russa. "Our asset, more than anything else, we've got good heart."
Schumaker broke out of an 0-for-9 skid with the game-winning hit off reliever Javier Lopez with two outs in the eighth. St. Louis had tied the game on doubles by Jon Jay, Albert Pujols and Allen Craig before Schumaker came to the plate with runners on first and third. He slapped a pitch into the gap between first and second base. Giants second baseman Freddy Sanchez dove and came up with the ball, but Schumaker's speed forced him to hurry the throw to Lopez and first baseman Brandon Belt, who were both hovering near the bag. The ball sailed well wide and Schumaker dove toward first amidst a cloud of dust. Schumaker likely would have been safe even had the throw been on target.
"I needed a hit for myself and obviously for the team," Schumaker. "I thought it was [through], to be honest with you. Sanchez made a heck of a play to get there. When he got it, I thought, 'Oh my gosh.'
"I was doing whatever I could to get there. I knew I was going to dive; I had my mind made up already."
Explained Sanchez, "I just threw it hoping to get it close to the bag and threw it away."
Schumaker returned to the roster eight days ago after missing 34 contests with a triceps strain. He says it feels good to contribute after the lengthy absence.
"It's a good win, a comeback win against a very good bullpen," he said. "It's very meaningful."
The Cardinals' slumbering offense finally woke up in the eighth to steal the victory. Giants starter Ryan Vogelsong and reliever Jeremy Affeldt combined to retire seven consecutive batters heading into the eighth. The hot-hitting Jay began the rally with a double to right. Pujols followed with another two-bagger to cut the deficit to 3-2. One out later, Craig hit a double to tie the game.
Colby Rasmus then grounded out before Schumaker came through with his biggest hit of the season.
The infield single made a winner out of former closer Ryan Franklin, who faced three batters and struck out the side in the eighth inning on 14 pitches. Closer Fernando Salas came on in the ninth to record his 10th save in as many chances. He gave up a two-out double to Nate Schierholtz but got pinch-hitter Emmanuel Burriss on strikes to end the game.
"It's all about going out there and throwing scoreless innings," said Franklin, who improved to 1-3. "And throwing one pitch at a time."
The Giants broke a 1-1 tie on a fifth-inning single by Sanchez. St. Louis tied the game, 1-1, in the third on an RBI single by Jay, who finished a sizzling May with a .397 average (31-for-78), tops in the National League for the month.
St. Louis infielder Ryan Theriot extended his career-best hitting streak to 14 games with a single in the fifth inning. The streak is the longest current run in the NL.
Redbirds starter Chris Carpenter allowed just two runs over five innings but left trailing, 2-1.
"I did the best I could -- I tried to give [us] a chance," Carpenter said.
Added La Russa, "Carp was a workhorse, he worked hard."
Pujols, who went 2-for-3, more than held his own in his second start of the season at third base. He made a nice play to throw out Miguel Tejada leading off the third. The two-time Gold Glove first baseman now has two putouts and five assists at third this season.
Pujols' willingness to move to the hot corner enabled La Russa to get Jay back into the lineup. With Pujols at third, Lance Berkman moved from right to first, allowing Jay to start in right.
The move proved immediate dividends as Jay singled in the third to begin a 2-for-4 performance.
Steve Overbey is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.