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Cards unafraid to test Ibanez on two key plays

Cards unafraid to test Ibanez on two key plays

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Cards unafraid to test Ibanez on two key plays
PHILADELPHIA -- With two outs in the fourth and a chance to score the game-tying run against Phillies left-hander Cliff Lee on Sunday night, the Cardinals' plan was to be aggressive -- even if it didn't quite work out the first time they tried it.

Two innings after Philadelphia left fielder Raul Ibanez threw out Jon Jay at the plate to cut down the tying run and end the fourth, St. Louis tested his arm again and watched Ryan Theriot slide underneath catcher Carlos Ruiz to tie the game.

The Cardinals rallied to push the go-ahead run across the plate in the seventh to stun the Phillies with a come-from-behind 5-4 win that was as much about their aggressive baserunning as it was their clutch hitting and airtight bullpen work.

"Both of those times, there's two outs, and we've got to do what we've got to do right now," Jay said. "He's an accurate thrower. He put both balls right here. But at that point in the game and with two outs, you've got to take your chance."

The Cardinals were mounting a surprising rally against Lee in the fourth, getting an RBI double by Theriot and an RBI single by Jay to cut the lead to 4-2. With two outs, Rafael Furcal shot a single to left field that scored Theriot from third.

Jay, who was on second, was sent home by third-base coach Jose Oquendo, forcing Ibanez to make an accurate throw to get the out. And he did. Ibanez threw a strike to Ruiz, who was bowled over by Jay and held onto the ball for the third out.

"I thought [the collision] was my only option," Jay said. "Ibanez put the throw on the money, and I knew it was going to be close, so that was my only option right there, and I went for it."

Ibanez, who possesses an average arm, gave credit to Ruiz.

"I knew it was pretty accurate, and Chooch, he's the best catcher I've ever played with as far as staying in there and blocking the plate, so it's not surprising that he stays in there, takes the hit and makes a great play," he said.

Phillies manager Charlie Manuel felt the play halted the Cardinals' momentum for the time being.

"I was hoping that throw to the plate would definitely shift momentum to our side, because once they started scoring some runs, the momentum of the game shifted," he said.

With the Cardinals trailing, 4-3, in the sixth, they tested Ibanez's arm again when Theriot doubled with two outs and raced home on Jay's single to left field. Ibanez charged and came up firing to the plate, but his throw was high, allowing Theriot to slide home safely under Ruiz's legs to tie the game.

"Oquendo was waving me around, and I think at that point, you're really trying to read [the catcher's] eyes and see where the ball is, look at the guy behind the plate telling you," Theriot said. "But I was kind of undecided on whether I was going to [slide or not] up until the last few steps when I saw him looking up and start to jump, so I tried to slide early and get under [him]."

Ibanez acknowledged how close he came to having a second outfield assist and perhaps changing the game.

"I threw it a little higher than I wanted to," Ibanez said. "I wanted to definitely throw that ball lower, and I think if I make a lower throw, we've got a chance. It was moist out there."

Brian McTaggart is reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Tag's Lines. Follow @brianmctaggart on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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