ST. LOUIS -- A short memory served David Freese well in Game 4 of the National League Division Series on Wednesday, making it easy for the Cardinals third baseman to laugh about his offensive shortcomings in the first three games of the series.
"I think I have, what, 20 strikeouts so far this series?" Freese said, smiling.
Not quite, though Freese had certainly struggled against the Phillies before delivering a pair of momentum-changing hits that accounted for four runs as St. Louis tied this best-of-five series with a 5-3 victory over Philadelphia at Busch Stadium.
After a second-inning strikeout against Phils starter Roy Oswalt, Freese was 2-for-13 in the series, with seven strikeouts. But his struggles didn't cross his mind in the least when he came to the plate in crucial situations in the fourth and sixth innings.
Trailing, 2-1, the Cards took the lead for good in the fourth, when Oswalt issued a walk to Lance Berkman to begin the inning and then hit Matt Holliday with a pitch to bring Freese to the dish.
Freese, wasting no time, jumped on a first-pitch curveball from Oswalt, lining it into the left-field corner to easily plate Berkman for the tying run. And Holliday, who is not the most fleet-of-foot player on the roster, also scored on the play to give the Redbirds a 3-2 lead.
But Freese, who went to high school in nearby Wildwood, Mo., wasn't finished.
Two innings later, with Holliday on first base after a single, Freese extended his arms on a fastball from Oswalt, sending it well over the fence in straightaway center and onto the grass berm.
The sellout crowd of 47,071 fans, whipped into a frenzy and sensing a decisive Game 5 on Friday in Philadelphia, cheered wildly as St. Louis took a 5-2 lead.
"I mean, you go up against pitchers like this ... you might have bad nights, but that's the beauty of this game. I'm the type of guy -- I'm going to come in the next day and not even remember what happened the night before," Freese said.
"I'm going to get my work in and keep battling."
That mantra sounded typical of the Cardinals' collective effort in a series that they have already trailed twice: just keep plugging away. And in a lineup filled with All-Stars -- Albert Pujols, Holliday, Berkman -- it was Freese who carried St. Louis.
"The thing about David that makes him such a big run producer now than in his whole career is he [hits the ball to] left-center, right-center, and he can take a ball inside and pull it," Cards manager Tony La Russa said.
"And he can hit the ball outside and hit it to right field. That's what all the really good hitters [do]. You might get him, but he's capable of making the adjustment."
Freese credited a slight change in his setup on Wednesday for success later in the game following his second-inning strikeout against Oswalt, as he worked on getting his front foot down earlier.
"My timing has been a little off. I just got some good pitches to hit," he said. "You go up against this staff, you're going to have to grind it out, and you're not always going to have the best night, but tonight worked out."
Bill Gayton certainly noticed.
Gayton, a first-year professional scout with St. Louis, traveled all day Wednesday to his home in San Diego after scouting the Rangers-Rays series in Florida.
It was Gayton who, as the scouting director for the Padres, drafted Freese in 2006, in the ninth round out of the University of South Alabama. Freese didn't stick with the Padres long, as he was shipped to the Cardinals in December 2007 for outfielder Jim Edmonds.
Gayton didn't have a chance to see Freese's two big swings, though he said that he caught the highlights. One could sense the pride in his voice, though.
"Whenever you go to a new club, you want to feel like you've contributed," Gayton said. "I wasn't with the Cardinals at the time of the trade, but this was something where while it didn't work out for the Padres, it did work out for the Cardinals."