"It was a huge win for our team," left fielder Brett Gardner said. "A lot of guys stepped up, the bullpen did a great job and guys came through with some big hits. That was a really good job getting us going there in the last inning."
After struggling to get anything going after the Yankees had scored two runs in the fifth, center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury walked to lead off the 12th and stole second on Cardinals catcher Yadier Molina.
"It's not easy to steal off Yadi in that combination," manager Joe Girardi said. "It just kind of changed the complexion of the inning and allowed us to put some pressure on them."
A Randy Choate slider hit Brian McCann, and Yangervis Solarte placed a bunt down the first-base line to advance the runners. The Cardinals intentionally walked Ichiro Suzuki to load the bases with one out.
That brought Roberts to the plate and, with the infield drawn in, the veteran hit a sharp grounder through the hole to give New York a lead.
"At that point you're just trying to get the guy in," Roberts said. "Anything but a strikeout or a ground ball to the infielders. That's really all you're trying to do at that point."
"I was trying to throw a two-seamer away, and I missed, inner half [of the plate]," Choate said. "It got the barrel of the bat. A lot of righties, when they do get that hit off me in the hole, they've hit it pretty good."
The win was set up thanks to the bullpen, which held the Cardinals scoreless for five of the final six innings. There were also key defensive plays after the Cardinals led off both the 10th and 11th by putting men on base.
With one on and one out in the 10th, Cardinals second baseman Kolten Wong hit a hard liner down the first-base line. Perfectly placed was late-game replacement Brendan Ryan, who started a double play to end the threat.
It was Gardner's turn an inning later. With one on and one out yet again, Molina hit a deep fly ball to left. Gardner leaped at the wall, and the ball dropped into his glove.
"I thought it probably saved the game," Roberts said. "I don't know if it's a home run or not, but even if it's not, there's a decent chance it could be game over."
New York had taken a two-run lead in the fifth with a string of production from the bottom of the lineup. Suzuki led off with a walk, and Roberts singled. That brought up Kelly Johnson, who was a late addition to the lineup after Mark Teixeira was scratched with a stiff right wrist.
Johnson hit a first-pitch fastball back through the middle for a one-run lead. New York extended that lead on Gardner's sacrifice fly to left.
The lead wouldn't hold for long, though, as the Cardinals battled back an inning later.
Rookie starter Chase Whitley cruised through his first five innings, allowing one run while scattering six hits, and he entered the sixth having thrown 80 pitches. His pregame ceiling had been set between 80 and 85, and it proved to be on the mark.
Whitley allowed a double and a single to start the inning. With two strikes to Molina, a changeup sailed inside, hitting the catcher and loading the bases with no outs to end Whitley's day.
"I felt good," Whitley said. "I left a pitch up and [Matt Holliday] hit it, and he's a good hitter. [Matt] Adams made a good swing on a good changeup down -- a good hitter. I made a terrible pitch to Molina and hit him. I've got to execute that pitch."
Whitley was lifted from his third Major League start after 91 pitches, his highest total of the season across Triple-A and the Majors.
"I thought he did a really nice job," Girardi said. "We extended him a little bit more knowing we didn't have some guys down there. Unfortunately, he got into a little trouble in the sixth inning, and we weren't able to get him a win today."
After Preston Claiborne relieved Whitley, the Cardinals knotted the score at 3 on a forceout at second on a double-play attempt and a sacrifice fly to right.
The bullpen shut down the Cardinals' offense from there, allowing four baserunners.
"I think it speaks to our bullpen and how well they've pitched," Roberts said of the extra-innings win. "[You have to] hold the home team in order to let us score a run. That's tough to do, and our bullpen's been great."
The win gave the Yankees their third extra-innings victory in their last seven games.
"They keep playing, and they never give at-bats away, and they keep making pitches and defensive plays," Girardi said. "It's a team that expects to win when they go out there every day, and we just keep playing."