Philadelphia could have clinched its fifth straight NL East title Friday night, but Adron Chambers drove in the go-ahead run with his first major league hit and Tyler Greene added an RBI double in the 11th inning to help St. Louis beat Philadelpha 4-2.
The Phillies (97-51), who have already clinched no worse than the wild card, saw their magic number cut to one when second-place Atlanta lost to the New York Mets 12-2.
"We didn't do enough hitting tonight to get there," Phillies manager Charlie Manuel said. "We're going to clinch. I like our position. Nobody's scared. We're going to do it."
The Phillies trailed 2-1 with two outs in the ninth inning when Carlos Ruiz drove in the tying run with a drive to right field. Corey Patterson, a defensive replacement, got to the ball in time but it went in and out of his glove just inside the line in deep right to allow pinch-runner Michael Martinez to score. The play was first ruled a hit before being changed to an error.
Martinez was running for Philadelphia slugger Ryan Howard, who was not in the starting lineup for the fourth time in nine days with a nagging ankle injury, but came on with two outs in the ninth and doubled to right, just beating Patterson's throw with a headfirst slide. It was the second straight big pinch-hit for Howard, who drove in the winning run in Thursday night's 2-1, 10-inning victory over Florida.
"We would've liked to have done it tonight but we look at the positives and move forward," Philadelphia center fielder Shane Victorino said. "We were able to come back and we didn't give up. We'll look at the positives and come back tomorrow."
Victorino said the Phillies, with a 12-game lead over the Braves, aren't tense.
"There's no added pressure," he said. "We control our own destiny and don't have to rely on anyone else. Hopefully we'll go out tomorrow and do it ourselves."
The Cardinals, meantime, continued their playoff push. Yadier Molina homered and Albert Pujols went 4-for-4 for the Cardinals, who have won eight of nine and closed within 3½ games of the Braves for the NL wild card lead. St. Louis remained 5½ back of Milwaukee in the NL Central.
"It was a great example of what we've been doing," Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa said. "The guys were outstanding. We hung in there and got a great win. It was a huge moment for Adron and Tyler Greene got a big hit."
Kyle McClellan (12-6) pitched a scoreless 10th, and Fernando Salas earned his 24th save in 29 chances with a scoreless 11th.
"We'll see if we can ride this," LaRussa said.
Chambers, batting for the second time in his career since his Sept. 6 callup, lined a single to right off Michael Schwimmer (1-1) to score Rafael Furcal and give St. Louis a 3-2 lead. Greene followed with a double off the top of the wall in left to plate Pujols and put the Cardinals up two runs. Chambers was tagged out at the plate trying to score from first.
"It was a real thrill," Chambers said. "I'm really happy about it. The situation came up for me. I was able to get the job done. Right now I'm just trying to play hard. These guys have been here all year so I'm just trying to help as much as I can.
"I hope another chance comes up so I can do it again."
St. Louis appeared on its way to victory when Molina broke a 1-1 tie with a solo homer in the eighth off the foul pole against Antonio Bastardo. The Cardinals catcher also gunned down John Mayberry Jr. at second with an impressive throw in the seventh.
"You've just got to see him every day," LaRussa said of Molina. "I've never seen anyone better."
Bastardo, who has been surprisingly dominant this season, has struggled of late. Beginning Sept. 3 when he took his first loss of the season at Florida, the Philadelphia left-hander has allowed five runs on four hits while walking three in his last five appearances.
Jaime Garcia pitched seven strong innings and kept the Phillies batters off-balance all game, allowing just one hit outside of the second inning when Philadelphia managed four hits, including two infield singles, and one run. The left-hander was in line for his 13th victory, which would have matched his career high for wins in a season. He finished with four strikeouts against two walks.
"I'm pleased with what I did and glad we got the win," Garcia said. "We've got something special going on and the main thing is to win for the team."
Phillies starter Vance Worley pitched six solid innings, allowing one run on six hits while striking out five and walking three. The NL Rookie of the Year candidate was coming off Sunday's 3-2 loss at Milwaukee that snapped a streak of 14 games in a row won by the Phillies in his starts. His record remained at 11-2 while his ERA dropped slightly to 2.85, from 2.92 entering the game.
The Cards took a 1-0 lead in the second when Worley walked in a run, but the right-hander escaped further trouble when he got Allen Craig to ground out with the bases loaded for the final out.
John Mayberry Jr., starting in place of Howard, hit an RBI double in the bottom of the frame to tie it at 1, but the Phillies also stranded the bases loaded when Jimmy Rollins popped out to second.
"We had some chances but we just didn't get it done," Manuel said.
Philadelphia remained five wins shy of setting a single-season franchise record for victories.
Notes: The Phillies have scored three runs or less in their last eight games, going 4-4 in those contests. ... LaRussa recorded his 1,400th career victory. ... Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday missed his second straight game with an inflamed tendon on his right middle finger. ... Pujols has now reached safely in 32 straight games. ... The Phillies' crowd of 45,572 was their 197th regular-season sellout and 210th in a row counting postseason. ... St. Louis' Jake Westbrook (12-8, 4.61) is scheduled to face Roy Oswalt (7-9, 3.88) in the second game of the four-game series at 7:05 Saturday night.