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Cardinals survive crazy finish for 4-3 win

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ST. LOUIS — Upon further review, San Diego shortstop Alexi Amarista was still out. Moments later, so was his manager. And minutes later, St. Louis gained a vital win.

Right fielder Shane Robinson gunned down Amarista, representing the tying run, for the second out of the top of the ninth inning Thursday night to help the Cardinals hang on for a 4-3 win at sold-out Busch Stadium.

St. Louis (64-56) stayed two games behind Milwaukee for first place in the National League Central while leapfrogging Pittsburgh for second place in the division as well as the first wild-card spot. The Padres (57-63) lost for just the fourth time in 15 games and saw their five-game winning streak end.

San Diego pinch-hitter Jake Goebbert started the dramatic sequence with a bases-loaded single, scoring catcher Yasmani Grandal. Amarista got to third when Robinson fielded the ball but was waved home by third base coach Glenn Hoffman.

Robinson unleashed a one-hop throw to catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who reached to his left and swiped at Amarista. Plate umpire Bob Davidson pointed at Amarista to indicate a tag but didn’t make the out signal until Amarista had dived back in to touch the plate ahead of Pierzynski.

Padres manager Bud Black came out to ask for a review. After four minutes and nine seconds, umpires in New York City upheld Davidson’s call and Black was promptly tossed by second base umpire Bill Welke.

“You saw their catcher go back and try to tag our runner because he knew he missed him,” Black said. “So you saw two experienced major league players react to a play that they both knew there wasn’t a tag.”

Pierzynski offered an opposing viewpoint.

“I couldn’t hear Bob because it was so loud,” he said, “so when I saw him dive back for the plate, I tried to tag him. You don’t want to become an umpire at that point. I saw the replay (on the scoreboard) and I thought I tagged him on the arm.”

Still, San Diego had an out left and runners at first and second. Center fielder Will Venable took a four-pitch walk to refill the bases, but closer Trevor Rosenthal fanned first baseman Tommy Medica with a 99 mph fastball for his 36th save, tying him for the MLB lead with Kansas City’s Greg Holland and Milwaukee’s Francisco Rodriguez.

Almost forgotten in the wild ending was the Cardinals’ winning rally, which also included a hint of controversy.

With the bases loaded and none out in the eighth inning, pinch-hitter Jon Jay lashed a two-run double off the center field wall on Nick Vincent’s first pitch to snap a 2-2 tie, plating pinch-runner Kolten Wong and pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso.

Wong replaced catcher Tony Cruz, who started the outburst with a single. That came one pitch after Cruz appeared to swing through a 3-2 pitch from reliever Alex Torres (1-1). But first base umpire John Tumpane overruled Davidson’s foul-tip call, saying the ball hit the dirt before Grandal caught it.

“I heard the ball hit the dirt,” Cruz said.

“I didn’t feel the ball bounce,” Grandal said.

Reliever Seth Maness (4-2) worked a clean eighth inning to pick up the win for St. Louis, which took a 2-0 lead in the second inning when shortstop Jhonny Peralta cracked a two-run homer, his 16th home run of the year.

The Padres tied it in the sixth inning with two runs. A fielder’s choice grounder by second baseman Jedd Gyorko made it 2-1 and a two-out infield hit by rookie right fielder Rymer Liriano evened the score.

Both starters were no-decisioned after pitching seven strong innings. San Diego’s Eric Stults allowed just four hits and two runs, walking one and striking out one. St. Louis’ John Lackey permitted five hits and two runs with three walks and five strikeouts.

With music playing in the winning locker room, Robinson reflected on the crazy finish.

“I watched the replay and it looked like (Pierzynski) clipped (Amarista) on the arm,” Robinson said. “But you just don’t know. They slow it down so much and have better angles. You never know what the outcome will be.”

NOTES: San Diego placed 1B Yonder Alonso (strained right forearm) on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to Aug. 13, and recalled INF Jace Peterson from Triple-A El Paso. Alonso, who had raised his average to .240, could be lost for the remainder of the season. … St. Louis LF Matt Holliday (knee) was back in the lineup and batting third, one night after leaving early at Miami. … Cardinals C Yadier Molina (torn thumb ligament) played catch in the outfield and caught a bullpen session before the game. Molina, who was injured July 9, has made good progress after surgery last month and could return by early to mid-September.

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