After nearly wasting Jeff Suppan’s first effective outing of the year, the St. Louis Cardinals needed a late rally and an admirable performance from rookie Allen Craig on his 26th birthday to move back into first place in the National League’s Central division.

After leaving seven men on through the first seven frames and trailing by four, the Cardinals finally struck in the eighth, when Craig, who was filling in for star first baseman Albert Pujols, doubled home both Brendan Ryan and Jon Jay. Two batters later, Randy Winn’s two-out single brought home Craig to make the score 4-3.

With two out and one on in the ninth, Albert Pujols stepped up as a pinch-hitter. After running the count full, Dodgers closer Jonathan Broxton got the three-time MVP to ground out to short.

After Cardinals’ fireman Ryan Franklin locked down Los Angeles in the top of the ninth, the Cardinals rallied for the win in the bottom of the inning.

It started with Yadier Molina’s pinch-hit single, which came on a sixth-pitch slider out of the zone from Broxton. Then shortstop Brendan Ryan, not known for his offense, sacrificed Molina over to second. Felipe Lopez, who got the start at third base, flew out to right, bringing the Cardinals down to their final out.

Jon Jay, who has impressed St. Louis with his hitting abilities, showed good plate discipline by running the count full and then coaxing out a free pass.

Allen Craig then singled to center, tying the game at 4-4 and bringing sweet swinging left fielder Matt Holliday to the plate. At this point, Holliday had left four men on base. It was his single to deep right that scored Molina from second and won the game for the Cardinals, giving them their first four-game sweep of Los Angeles since taking consecutive doubleheaders July 7-8, 1987.

Ryan Franklin received the win, and combined with Cincinnati’s loss at the hands of Colorado, the Cardinals moved back into the top spot in the NL Central standings. Broxton threw 44 pitches in his first loss of the season.

Suppan pitches six innings of one-run ball, allowing five hits and walking one to receive his first quality start of the year, but not did not factor in the decision.

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