ST. LOUIS -- You know it's a big inning when. ...
When Mike Matheny -- Mike Matheny! -- beats out an infield hit.
All of those things happened in the Cardinals' 10-run eruption on Monday night. When the seventh inning started, St. Louis led Arizona 3-1. When it ended, the lead was 13-1. That was the final margin as the Redbirds won for the sixth time in the last seven games and 16th time in 19 tries.
St. Louis closed within two games of Arizona for the second-best record in the National League, and thus home-field advantage in the first round of the playoffs.
But this scarcely looked like a playoff game. More bounces and bloops went the Cardinals' way in one night than sometimes happens in a span of weeks.
"I don't believe I've ever seen one like that," said manager Tony La Russa, who has seen a lot in 24 years as a big league manager. "You catch a break or two, but we got more than our share that inning. But we did a lot of good things to score another two or three. To get seven like that, we caught a bunch of breaks."
Eli Marrero kicked it off by grounding out to shortstop. Taguchi, pinch-hitting for the achy Jim Edmonds, drew a walk and moved to second on a single by Albert Pujols. Martinez flied out to center and it seemed reliever Mike Koplove might get out of the jam.
No such luck.
Miguel Cairo, pinch-hitting for lefty Jeff Fassero, singled to left and it was 4-1. A wild pitch moved up Cairo and Pujols. Edgar Renteria grounded to second baseman Junior Spivey, whose bad throw allowed him to reach -- though it was ruled a base hit -- and Pujols scored.
It got uglier from there.
Matheny beat out a ball when Alex Cintron couldn't make a play, and another run scored. Cintron had replaced Chris Donnels, who suffered a concussion earlier in the night. Kerry Robinson beat out a clean infield hit to load the bases. Fernando Vina hit a ball that bounced off pitcher Greg Swindell and it was 7-1. This was not pretty stuff, but nobody wearing white really cared.
"You gotta take it," Cairo said. "Every time you get in a position like that, you've got to take everything they give you. So we're just trying to hit. We've just got to continue to play hard. That's what we're doing right now. We're being very selective at the plate. We're being real patient. We've done a good job doing that and everything is going our way."
And even then, the runs weren't done.
Marrero doubled to center, and the usually reliable Steve Finley misplayed it. Once again no error was called, but three runs scored. Taguchi blooped an RBI single to right. Pujols smoked a run-scoring double to left. Eduardo Perez, pinch-hitting for Martinez against the lefty Swindell, hit a laser beam of a single to score the 10th run of the inning.
"When you go out there, everyone's trying to do their job," Cairo said. "That's the way you do it. Because we're winning by a lot of runs, we're gonna stop? It won't happen. We're gonna continue getting good at-bats and not get complacent."
To a man, the Cardinals said they felt no sympathy for what befell the guys in gray. It's happened before to them, and it will again.
"I bet you if I pull my card out, you'll see a game like that where we were on the other side of the field," La Russa said. "So you gotta keep playing. I believe last year they beat us up, scored a lot of runs against us. They've got a lot of veterans and they've been on both sides of it."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. He can be reached at Matthew_H_Leach@yahoo.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.