ST. LOUIS -- There will be at least one more happy flight. Anything less just wouldn't do justice to the 2011 Cardinals.
The Cards spotted longtime nemesis Roy Oswalt a first-inning lead, but it didn't matter as the irrepressible Redbirds pulled out yet another comeback win, 5-3, over the Phillies on Wednesday night. The same Oswalt who had never lost a postseason game, the same Oswalt who closed out the previous Busch Stadium, was merely another obstacle for the Cardinals to overcome.
This time, it was hometown hero David Freese leading the charge with four RBIs. The Cards evened their National League Division Series with the Phils at two games apiece, with a deciding fifth game in Philadelphia on Friday.
What fun, after all, would it be to do things the easy way?
"This is kind of how it's been for us all year," said Matt Holliday, who singled and scored two runs in his first start of the series.
Freese had struggled through the first three games of the series, going 2-for-12 with six strikeouts -- and adding another K in his first at-bat on Wednesday. But given a chance to redeem himself, he did it in a big way.
The St. Louis native drilled a two-run double to put the Redbirds ahead in the fourth inning, and added a massive two-run homer in the sixth for some welcome and necessary insurance.
"I think I had, what, 20 strikeouts so far this series?" Freese quipped. "I mean, you go up against pitchers like this, you might have bad nights, but that's the beauty of this game."
Once Freese gave the Cardinals the lead, Edwin Jackson and St. Louis' bullpen made it stand up, combining to keep the Phillies relatively quiet after the shaky first.
As a result, the Cards made it a remarkable 13th straight getaway-day win, and thus a 13th straight chance to yell "Happy flight." They last time they boarded a plane having lost a game was way back on Aug. 3, following an ugly defeat to the Brewers. Since then, every time they have flown, they've been able to chant that clubhouse mantra with gusto.
Jackson was in trouble early, and the game could well have spiraled out of his control. Jimmy Rollins led off with a double that Jon Jay appeared to lose in the sun, and Chase Utley's triple made it 1-0 before there was an out on the board. Hunter Pence singled Utley home, but that was all the Phils would get against Jackson.
Pence was thrown out trying to steal as Ryan Howard struck out, changing the inning and giving Jackson the life preserver he needed. The right-hander didn't allow another batter to reach second base until the fifth inning, and he left after six with a fine showing in his first playoff start.
"They got off to a hot start," Jackson said. "They came out first pitch of the game swinging a double, and then everybody else keeps swinging. But we had a chance to strike them out, throw them out and get out of the inning. And from then on, I told myself, 'Keep it close, keep within striking distance; let these guys do what they did tonight, come back and score runs.'"
By keeping the Phils at bay, Jackson allowed his teammates to turn the game around. Lance Berkman's RBI double made it 2-1, and the Cards took the lead in the fourth after Oswalt gave them two free baserunners.
Oswalt, undefeated in 10 previous postseason starts, walked Berkman to open the fourth and then hit Matt Holliday. With one out, Freese nailed a double that gave St. Louis the lead, not to mention new life. When he added a two-run homer two innings later -- an enormous blast, 424 feet to straightaway center -- Busch Stadium erupted.
"Ever since I got traded over from San Diego, I always just thought about the postseason, the playoffs and being a Cardinal in the postseason," Freese said. "That's what this is all about. This is what you worked for, and just to do this in front of the fans of St. Louis and a bunch of friends and family, it's amazing."
The Cards also played some slick defense en route to the win, highlighted by a heads-up play from Albert Pujols in the sixth. With Chase Utley on first and no outs, Pence hit a grounder to shortstop. As the play developed, Pujols saw Utley round second and dig for third. He stepped off the bag, took Rafael Furcal's throw and gunned immediately to Freese, who tagged Utley out. Howard hit the next ball to center field for what might well have been a game-tying sacrifice fly if not for Pujols' heady aggression.
"I was stealing," Utley said. "The ball was hit in the hole and I thought I had a chance get to third, and Albert made a pretty good play to get me out."
It was that kind of night for the home team, the kind of night where nearly everything after the top of the first went its way. It's simply not time for this season to be over just yet. The comeback Cards will fly happy one more time.
"Our attitude has been [that] we have a good team, we're going to go out there and play and see what happens, as hard as we can, and if it's good enough, great," Berkman said. "And if not, we've got nothing to hang our heads about. I'm proud of this team. I'm proud of the way we've fought. No matter what happens on Friday night, we've got nothing to be ashamed of."
Matthew Leach is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Obviously, You're Not a Golfer and follow him on Twitter at @MatthewHLeach. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.