PITTSBURGH -- The word most often plucked by manager Mike Matheny to describe the Cardinals' season -- resiliency -- was perhaps never more appropriate to assign to a game than it was in the Cardinals' 3-0 victory over the Pirates on Monday night.
None of those injuries, however, sent the same emotional sting as did the one on Monday, when the club watched rookie outfielder Stephen Piscotty carted off the field following a traumatic collision with Peter Bourjos. He was later diagnosed with a head contusion.
But once the 16-minute delay passed, the club had to return its attention to a scoreless game that carried significant division race implications. How players responded left their manager proud once again.
"We had our backs against the wall every single inning," Matheny said after providing a positive report on Piscotty's status. "I can't even begin to unpack the whole thing, there was so much that happened. Just an unbelievable win."
With three ninth-inning runs off Mark Melancon, who has a Major League-most 51 saves, the Cardinals stole a series-opening victory from a team that left 16 runners on base and went 0-for-12 with runners in scoring position. The Pirates, who loaded the bases in four different innings, were left to watch their division deficit swell to four with just five games left to play.
That leaves the Cardinals one victory away from their third straight National League Central crown. With a win in either of their final two games against the Pirates, they can celebrate in front of the team that has been the toughest to fend off.
"We would have faulted ourselves if we didn't stay in that game," said Jason Heyward, who provided a key assist by throwing out Starling Marte at the plate in the second. "Right there, you want to do it for each other, obviously. And then when somebody goes down, you want to do it for them, especially when they leave it on the line like that. You have to keep your composure."
Kevin Siegrist, who was on the mound at the time of the collision, weathered the delay and worked out of a bases-loaded mess to preserve a tie game. Then in the ninth, the Cardinals took advantage of some fumbling by the Pirates' outfielders to score the game's first run. Mark Reynolds' two-run blast then put an exclamation point on an emotionally exhausting night.
"With all that going on, you have to find a way to forget about it," Matt Carpenter said. "Then you have to find a way to win a game. It seems so meaningless. But it's a testament to these guys that we fought our way back and found a way to win."
"That's kind of been our group all year," added Lance Lynn, who worked around four hits and four walks to pitch five scoreless innings. "That kind of sums it all up. We stay in it and win it when we can. We were able to do that tonight."