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STL@PHI: Berkman hammers a solo home run in the first

PHILADELPHIA -- They were screaming from across the hallway, as more brown glass bottles of Coors Light were needed to hiss open and tilt back.

"Infante! Infante!" they barked from the clubhouse.

"No ..." Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said in disbelief as his postgame chat with reporters following Monday night's 4-3 victory against the Phillies was interrupted one minute and 41 seconds after it started by the roars of his players.

With the Braves' 6-5 loss to the Marlins on Monday night thanks to Omar Infante's two-run walk-off homer against his former club, St. Louis is just 2 1/2 games back of Atlanta in the National League Wild Card race.

Realistically, the Cards' best shot at the postseason is via the Wild Card, and should they sprint through the tape and make the postseason, the Redbirds -- who are 5 1/2 back in the NL Central after the Brewers lost -- would face the Phillies in the NL Division Series, the team they just took three of four against.

And, it'd be a slam dunk they'd face Roy Halladay in a Game 1 scenario. That doesn't sound encouraging, but the Cards are playing well enough to beat anyone in the NL, including the Phils and their NL Cy Young Award candidate, winning 10 of their last 12 and becoming the first visiting team to win a series at Citizens Bank Park since the Giants took two of three July 26-28.

The Phillies didn't sound concerned about what the future might bring.

"I can tell you we'd feel confident," Halladay said. "In baseball, there's really no such thing as a litmus test. Three or four games here doesn't necessarily guarantee anything down the road. We feel like we have a very good team. A four-game series a couple weeks before the playoffs isn't something we're going to be thinking about."

There will plenty on Halladay's mind after this one, though. The Cards jumped on him for two runs in the first inning, including a double from Rafael Furcal on the game's first pitch and a solo shot from Lance Berkman, who later singled home pitcher Kyle Lohse before being intentionally walked his last two at-bats. It was just the 26th and 27th intentional walks of Halladay's career. The most intentional walks he has issued to the same batter in his career is two -- Rafael Palmeiro, Barry Bonds and Jorge Posada. Berkman, the Cardinals hottest hitter in September, is 23-for-58 (.397) with eight multi-hit games in 16 games this month.

"The good ones you gotta try to get early and Furcal jumped on that first pitch, which was nice," said Nick Punto, who plated Furcal from third on a groundout after he moved to third on a passed ball. "He's one of those guys who you gotta try to get early. He's that good."

Even Lohse got to Halladay early, leading off the third with a double to the deepest part of the yard in left-center.

Was he ever thinking three?

"For a second, but that would be really dumb to get thrown out at third with no outs," said Lohse, who was on point against a struggling Philadelphia offense that was without Ryan Howard, allowing one unearned run on seven hits over 7 1/3 innings against his former team.

Indeed, especially considering the Cardinals needed every run thanks to a nearly disastrous ninth. Jason Motte allowed a leadoff double to Carlos Ruiz, an RBI triple by Jimmy Rollins and a run-scoring groundout by Shane Victorino.

Exit Motte, enter lefty Arthur Rhodes to face the left-handed Chase Utley.

"Arthur did his job," La Russa said. "He got a ground ball, it just found a hole."

Octavio Dotel then came on and induced Hunter Pence to ground out to third and inch the Cards closer to October baseball.

They didn't have to wait long to get even closer, some running from the showers to see for themselves. Comments