They walked home two runs to blow the remnants of a four-run lead.
They endured yet another run of more than five innings on a well-worn bullpen and were only four for 26 at the plate after the third inning.
Along with a silenced Busch Stadium crowd of 45,391, they witnessed catcher Yadier Molina get steamrolled on a ninth-inning tag play that quashed a potential game-losing rally.
Once more for the Cardinals on Sunday, reason had less to do with an outcome than persistence and an unwillingness to bend. Moments after watching Molina carted from the field, they built a game-winning rally upon a pair of two-out errors sandwiched around a single to take a 7-6 decision over the Philadelphia Phillies.
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Rick Ankiel scored the winning run when reliever Tom Gordon, covering first base, whiffed
on second baseman Chase Utley's throw. Two batters earlier Ankiel had reached on a nearly identical play, this one a throwing error charged to Utley.
"Somebody might look at these games we're winning and wonder how. But we're doing small things that add up to a lot. Hopefully, we can continue to do it," said infielder Aaron Miles.
The Cardinals improved to 8-0-1 in nine series since May 15. They took down the big-swinging Phillies while being outscored 28-12.
On Sunday they used a barrage of extra-base hits to take a 5-1, third-inning lead against Phillies righthander Brett Myers before the visitors rallied against scatter-armed relief.
Said manager Tony LaRussa: "If you get to October and you've made the playoffs, you look back and say, 'Man, that's how we got there.' But we can't celebrate now. We've got to keep going."
Collision at plate weighs on Bruntlett
Notebook: Rotation situation
Photos: Cards 7, Phillies 6
The Phillies left 15 runners on base and had 16 at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Cardinals stranded six and took only nine at-bats with runners in scoring position. The Phillies committed three errors, the Cardinals none.
"We didn't do some things very good today," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "That game was sitting there for us and we didn't get it."
A 42-29 club has lost pitcher Adam Wainwright, first baseman Albert Pujols and possibly Molina during the last 10 days.
"The last couple weeks our big guys have been dropping like flies," noted left fielder Skip Schumaker, who contributed a double and a home run to the team's first two rallies. "We're still winning games. But if we're going to do anything later on this year we're going to need those guys back. That's no secret. But the fact we're winning games like this without our big guys says a lot about what we have going on here."
Molina was carted from the field after being strapped to a backboard and was taken to Missouri Baptist Hospital, where he remained overnight with what the team said is a mild concussion.
"He's one of our key guys we need out there every single day," backup catcher Jason LaRue said. "As far as pitching, he's probably the most important guy on this team. … You cringe anytime you see a play like that."
With the bases loaded and one out in the fifth inning, Phillies first baseman Ryan Howard chased rookie starter Mitchell Boggs with a two-run single. Kyle McClellan limited the Phillies' rally to one more run before pitching a scoreless sixth. Ankiel's leadoff triple to right field led to a run on first baseman Chris Duncan's RBI grounder.
Chris Perez, who entered in the seventh inning, was within one pitch of closing the eighth when shortstop Jimmy Rollins tripled. Perez left after walking the potential tying run and a near-calamity ensued.
Consecutive walks by Randy Flores forced home one run and left the bases loaded for Russ Springer. Springer walked left fielder Pat Burrell to force home Jayson Werth for a 6-6 game.
The Phillies placed runners on first and third with one out against Franklin in the ninth inning when Rollins grounded to Duncan, whose throw short-hopped the plate to the home dugout side. His back to the runner, Molina picked the throw and continued to turn as Bruntlett collided with him. Molina held on to the ball despite staying motionless for several minutes. The threat ended when Franklin got the dangerous Utley to fly out.
Anthony Reyes (2-1) inherited a tie game barely 24 hours after being promoted as the team's 13th pitcher and recorded the only 1-2-3 inning by a Cardinals reliever.