ST. LOUIS (AP) — David Freese joked that he probably had accumulated 20 strikeouts against various Phillies aces.
Easy to poke fun at yourself after a breakout game that toppled Cardinals playoff nemesis Roy Oswalt and forced a deciding fifth game against Philadelphia.
Freese became a hometown hero on Wednesday night with a home run, double and four RBIs to lead St. Louis to a 5-3 victory over the Phillies.
"It's unbelievable where we've come from," said Freese, who was 2 for 12 with one RBI over the first three games of the series. "A lot of people didn't think we'd be in this position and maybe some of us in here didn't think that, either.
"We're going to come to the yard and give it a hard nine."
The Phillies were dispatched in order by Jason Motte in the ninth, with center fielder Jon Jay making a sliding catch on Placido Polanco's soft fly for the final out. Jay was already pointing his index finger before he got to his feet.
"I've been dreaming of a World Series, not the Division Series," Freese said. "We've got to keep winning."
Phillies cleanup hitter Ryan Howard, like Freese a St. Louis product, was 0 for 4 with three strikeouts. He's 0 for 8 in the last two games with five strikeouts and has hit only one ball out of the infield.
"I think I've been a little bit anxious trying to go up and trying to make things happen instead of letting things happen," Howard said. "Right now I'm just kind of jumping, so just try to recognize pitches better."
Game 5 on Friday night will feature two aces: 19-game winner Roy Halladay against Chris Carpenter, the 2005 NL Cy Young winner who won 10 of his last 12 decisions to finish 11-9 this season.
Matt Holliday had a hit and scored twice in his first playoff start and expects to be ready for Game 5.
"If I wasn't part of it, I sure would be watching it," Holliday said. "I think it's going to be great TV. To have a chance for a Game 5 and a chance to move on to the championship series with Carp on full rest, that's all we can ask."
Phillies manager Charlie Manuel didn't seem too surprised his team was getting tested early. The Cardinals took the season series 6-3.
"Might be fitting that it goes down to the fifth game," Manuel said. "It's up to us to go get it. It's sitting right there for us. We've got our ace going, and we're at home, and so everything is sitting right there."
An omen, perhaps, was the unusual sight of a squirrel dashing across the plate right after Oswalt threw a pitch for a ball in the fifth. Oswalt argued, unsuccessfully, that he had been distracted.
"I didn't want to stop in the middle of my motion, so I threw it," Oswalt said. "I was wondering what size of animal it needed to be for it not to be a pitch."
Oswalt had been 5-0 with a 3.25 ERA in 10 previous postseason starts, the biggest one closing out old Busch Stadium and the Cardinals in 2005 to get Houston to its first World Series. The right-hander also worked seven shutout innings against St. Louis in the Phillies' NL East division clincher in mid-September, and was staked to a 2-0 lead in the first.
He just couldn't get Freese out.
"I think I don't have to say too much about David Freese," Manuel said. "I think he kind of won the game."
Freese's two-run double down the third-base line in the fourth put St. Louis up 3-2. His two-run homer to straightaway center in the sixth whipped the crowd into a towel-waving frenzy.
Albert Pujols was hitless in four at-bats in what could have been his final home game with the Cardinals. He received thunderous cheers every trip to the plate from a standing-room crowd of 47,071, the second-largest at 6-year-old Busch Stadium.
Pujols made his presence known on defense, catching Chase Utley going for an extra base in the sixth. Utley drew a leadoff walk and kept running on Hunter Pence's grounder to short, but Pujols alertly jumped off first base to catch the throw and made a sharp relay to third for the out.
"This is obviously the playoffs, but that's a play I can make in the regular season, too," Pujols said. "If I would have stayed on the bag, it was going to be tough to get the runner at third. Obviously, that killed the rally right there."
Edwin Jackson recovered from a rocky beginning to win his first playoff start. After giving up two runs on his first five pitches, he wound up throwing six solid innings.
Five pitches into the game, the Phillies had a 2-0 lead with an assist from the late-afternoon playing conditions.
Jay, standing in bright sunshine while shadows enveloped most of the field, took one step in on leadoff man Jimmy Rollins' drive on the first pitch of the game and retreated too late for a ball just over his glove that bounced over the wall for a ground-rule double.
Utley tripled just inside the first-base line three pitches later and Pence lined an RBI single on the next pitch.
The Phillies' other run came on a wild pitch by Fernando Salas in the eighth.
"We jumped out and scored two runs, and that was about most of the hitting that we did," Manuel said. "Outside of that we couldn't really put nothing together."