ST. LOUIS -- As tumultuous as the homestand may have seemed -- and yes, it certainly had fans panic-stricken at times -- the Cardinals used a three-run breakthrough in Wednesday's eighth inning to drastically alter how the nine-game stay will be remembered.
A homestand that opened with a pair of come-from-behind victories closed in similar fashion, with the Cardinals erasing Chicago's two-run lead and leaving with a 4-3 victory. It kept the Cubs from finishing off their first sweep at Busch Stadium since 2010 and prevented the Cards from dropping a fifth game in six days to one of the National League Central's two pursuing clubs.
So even after enduring a 1-5 stretch in which they were outscored 38-16, the Cardinals ended the nine-game stretch assured of being no worse off in the standings than they were when it started. A team that led the division by 4 1/2 games when it arrived home last week departed with that same 4 1/2-game lead.
And now they're 10 days closer to the finish line.
"I think as much adversity as we can face, it's going to be beneficial to us down the stretch," closer Trevor Rosenthal said. "Just having these tough games, having to grind them out, that's definitely what we're looking to achieve."
Wednesday's comeback win was stirred by a one-out walk from Mark Reynolds and pinch-hit single by Greg Garcia, now 8-for-14 off the bench. Matt Carpenter, who had struck out in his two previous at-bats, drove home one run before Stephen Piscotty provided the knockout punch with a two-run double to center.
In a rare showing of emotion from the typically stoic rookie, Piscotty offered a demonstrative fist pump as he rolled into second. It was a release echoed in a dugout where so many were waiting for something to go right again.
"I let it all out today," Piscotty said. "We've had some tough games. We've missed a little bit of that excitement. That was no time to hold it back. I just wanted to let it all out."
Remarkably, the Cardinals have now won 11 games this year when trailing after seven innings. That's the most in the Majors and already eight more than they had a year ago.
"I don't know why it surprises us," manager Mike Matheny said. "This is kind of what these guys have been able to do. … This will be a much happier flight than if things had gone otherwise."
The win not only closed the team's penultimate regular-season homestand, but it also brought to a close one of the toughest stretches of the year. On the heels of a 10-game West Coast trip, the Cardinals faced three postseason hopefuls during this homestand.
On the horizon now are 17 games against opponents below .500 along with one more series against the Cubs and Pirates.
"During the course of a season, you're bound to have some ups and some downs, and it's good to get them out of your system at this point, I think, and not in the playoffs," Piscotty said. "There is no panic here."