PHILADELPHIA -- It was Adron Chambers' first Major League hit. It gave Tony La Russa his 1,400th win as Cardinals manager. And the story behind it was, as La Russa said with a chuckle, "one I'll never forget."
The Cardinals lost a one-run lead in the ninth inning against the Phillies on Friday, surrendering an unearned run just one out away from victory on an error by Corey Patterson, who entered as a defensive sub the inning before. Patterson was part of a flurry of late switching that had an outfield of Chambers, Patterson and Tyler Greene trying to win it in the end.
And win it, somehow, the Cardinals did, when Chambers drilled a single through a drawn-in infield to send the Cardinals to their eighth victory in their last nine games, 4-2. Coupled with the Braves' 12-2 loss to the Mets, the Redbirds moved to 3 1/2 games back in the Wild Card race.
"That's a great example of our club," La Russa said. "Even if we had lost this game, we'd have come out and played hard tomorrow. If you follow us all year long, you know. Sometimes we're not good enough, but the effort is always outstanding.
"There were a lot of guys shaking hands tonight. They all had a part of it."
With the score tied at 2 in the 11th, Rafael Furcal led off with a double to right, and Patterson sacrificed him to third. Albert Pujols was walked intentionally, bringing up Chambers -- who entered as a pinch-runner for Lance Berkman in the ninth. Chambers, in just his second career at-bat, singled to right to give the Cardinals the lead.
"The situation came up, and I was able to get the job done," Chambers said. "These guys in here have been doing it all year long. It was exciting; hopefully, another chance comes up, and I can do it again. I'm glad we got a win out of it, and now we'll go get them tomorrow."
Greene followed Chambers' hit with a double that Michael Martinez almost caught, leaping at the wall in left; the ball popped out of Martinez's glove and rolled along the top of the wall, landing back in fair territory. Pujols scored, but Chambers was thrown out at the plate.
With Berkman on the bench, the Cardinals needed his replacement to step up.
"Yeah, I know," La Russa said. "All our coaches were saying to me: Why did you pull him out?"
La Russa has managed 33 years in the Majors, 16 with the Cardinals. It's the longest active streak among major pro sports head coaches or managers. He's won eight division titles, two NL pennants and a World Series in St. Louis. His 1,400 wins are a franchise record, though La Russa said he didn't know it until someone congratulated him after the game.
"Numbers happen," La Russa said. "You do your job, and at the end, you add them up. There are some zeroes on that one, and after a game like this, I'll never forget it."
The Cardinals led, 2-1, in the ninth, but allowed the Phillies to tie it with two outs. With the equalizer on second, Carlos Ruiz hit a drive to right that Patterson tracked the whole way but dropped. Jason Motte began the inning by getting the first two outs, but Ryan Howard's pinch-hit double gave the Phillies life. That ball, too, caromed off Patterson's glove, and before the right fielder could corral it, Howard -- running on a gimpy ankle -- barely reached second with a headfirst slide. Patterson's error cost Motte the save and the Cardinals the lead, but Arthur Rhodes came on to end the frame without further damage.
Jaime Garcia took a tough no-decision after throwing seven strong innings, allowing just five hits and one run. He walked two and struck out four. He walked two and struck out four. Yadier Molina put Garcia in position to win in the eighth when he rang a home run off the pole in left field to break a 1-1 tie.
The Cardinals scored first with a bases-loaded walk in the second inning. David Freese led off with a walk, and after a flyout, Molina singled and Skip Schumaker walked. Garcia struck out, but Furcal's walk scored the game's first run.
John Mayberry, starting at first base in place of the injured Howard, doubled to left to score Placido Polanco in the bottom of the second to tie the game.
The Cardinals had a couple of chances to break the game open but misfired. Pujols singled to lead off the third inning, and with one out, Freese singled to left. Pujols tried to take an extra base but was thrown out at third by a sizable margin.
In the seventh, Furcal singled on a swinging bunt that launched a David Herndon pitch softly over Polanco's head. A wild pitch sent Furcal to second, and with one out, Pujols walked. Another wild pitch put runners on second and third, and Berkman was walked intentionally. But Freese grounded into an inning-ending 6-4-3 double play.
Pujols is looking to extend his own Major League record with an 11th consecutive season of a .300 batting average, 30 homers and 100 RBIs. He singled four times Friday, walking twice, to reach .301, and he is just seven RBIs shy of 100.
Kevin Roberts is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.