And while some Phillies may have quit or at least begun playing with an eye toward the off-season, an indomitable talent named Juan Samuel continues to play every inning as hard as possible.
So, last night, Samuel overcame a 2-0 deficit with a two-out, two-run double in the bottom of the ninth that was his third hit of the game. And in the 11th, Samuel walked, stole his third base of the night and then scored the winning run on Mike Schmidt's single for a 3-2 Phils victory that ended their 5-game losing streak and was only their second win in the last 11 games.
The defeat, coupled with New York's victory over Chicago, meant that the Cardinals' lead in the NL East is down to a game and a half.
"At this point, we need to play well in these last 19 or so games to finish strong and get us coming back next year with a good start in mind," said Samuel, who had 3 hits, 3 steals and 2 RBIs for the night.
"I still think we have a good enough team to win this division. But we need a good start, and we need to avoid having batting slumps like the one we've been in."
Even in scoring their game-winning run last night, the Phils nearly bumbled into a resurrection of the famous Fred Merkle boner of yesteryear.
After Samuel's walk and steal, Cards reliever Ken Dayley walked both Von Hayes and Greg Jelks, to give St. Louis' pitching staff 10 walks for the night. That brought up Schmidt and brought in the Cards' outfield.
Schmidt lifted a deep fly to left that wasn't worth even pursuing by the Cardinals' outfielders, as it landed on the warning track.
Samuel scored, but rules require that the other baserunners advance to the next base to make it all official. However, both Hayes and Jelks peeled off the basepaths to congratulate Schmidt. When finally alerted, they returned to touch third and second, respectively. However, if the Cards had retrieved the ball, there could have been an appeal play that would have been an all-timer.
Fortunately, none of that happened. "It's not too tough to touch the next base, but guys forget to do it," Schmidt said. "That was a pretty easy situation to hit in unless you strike out. You just have to make contact, and I just hit a little fly ball. Sammy made it all possible."
Trailing 2-0 and limited to only five singles, the Phils seemed on their way to another ho-hum defeat when Cards reliever Todd Worrell easily retired Glenn Wilson and pinch-hitter Milt (4 for his last 51) Thompson to open the ninth.
But Greg Gross worked a pinch-hit walk. And rookie Keith Hughes drilled a two-strike single to keep the Phils alive. Next was Samuel, who drilled a gapper to left-center that cleared the bases with Samuel's 95th and 96th RBIs of the year. It also made him 5 for 10 lifetime off Worrell with six RBIs.
Chris (1 for 32) James ended the inning by grounding out and sending the game into extra innings.
The Cardinals managed only single runs in the first and sixth innings off Shane Rawley, who deserved a better fate than suffering a no-decision. And the pair of runs appeared enough for lefthander Joe Magrane and Worrell, who combined on a shutout for 8 2/3 innings.
They had also combined to escape what had the look of being a last-gasp Phils bid in the eighth inning. Pinch-hitter Ron Roenicke opened the inning with a single. Next was Samuel, who after fouling of seven straight Magrane pitches, delivered a single (his second of the night) to right that sent Roenicke to third.
But after Samuel stole his second base of the game, Magrane bore down to retire Hayes (4 for his last 42) on an infield pop. Magrane, left in to face the righthanded-hitting James, retired him on a shallow fly to center.
Cards manager Whitey Herzog, who had let the Magrane-James matchup stand instead of possibly having Gross pinch-hit against Worrell, then called on Worrell with Schmidt and Lance Parrish due up next. And after Worrell walked Schmidt on a 3-2 pitch, the ace Cards reliever fanned Parrish to end the inning.
Once the game wound up in extra innings, both clubs wasted chances. The Phils stranded runners on second and third in the 10th. And the Cards wasted a one-out triple by Willie McGee in the 11th.