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Lohse outpitches Halladay, Cardinals gain ground

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — The celebration in the St. Louis clubhouse showed just how excited the surging Cardinals are to be in the thick of the playoff chase.

Kyle Lohse outpitched Roy Halladay, and St. Louis held off the Philadelphia Phillies 4-3 on Monday night to gain ground on Atlanta in the NL wild-card race.

Lance Berkman homered and had an RBI single for the Cardinals, who moved within 21⁄2 games of the wild card-leading Braves.

Moments after Octavio Dotel closed out the Cardinals’ victory, Atlanta lost 6-5 at Florida on Omar Infante’s two-run homer off Craig Kimbrel with two outs in the bottom of the ninth inning. The Cardinals, who were watching the game on television, burst into loud cheers that reverberated around the clubhouse.

“To win our game we’re already pretty happy, and to see that, that was big,” Lohse said.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who was tuned to the Rams-Giants NFL game in his office, smiled when he heard the news.

“This is what the pennant race is all about,” La Russa said. “This is what you try to sell in spring training. This is the fun of it. It’s part of the fun of being in contention in September.”

St. Louis, which took three of four in the series, has won 10-of-12 overall.

Despite the loss, the NL East champion Phillies clinched home-field advantage throughout the postseason when Milwaukee lost to the Chicago Cubs 5-2.

Lohse (14-8) tossed 71⁄3 strong innings, allowing an unearned run and seven hits while striking out five and walking one.

“I thought Lohse was outstanding,” La Russa said. “You just can’t give him enough credit. We had our best defensive team out there and we kicked it around. He picked everybody up all day.”

The Cardinals, who made a pair of errors, have nine games remaining and return to St. Louis for a six-game homestand that begins Tuesday against the Mets.

Atlanta has eight games left, including the final three against the Phillies in Atlanta.

“We’ve had our backs up against the wall for a long time now,” Lohse said. “Every series has been tough. We knew coming in here was going to be really tough. To take three out of four was huge. We’ve just got to keep it going.”

The Phillies scored a pair of runs in the ninth off reliever Jason Motte. Carlos Ruiz doubled with one out and scored on Jimmy Rollins’ triple. Rollins scored on Shane Victorino’s groundout.

Arthur Rhodes relieved Motte and gave up a two-out single to Chase Utley. Dotel followed and retired Hunter Pence to earn his second save with the Cardinals. He also had one for Toronto this year.

The Phillies lost their second straight since clinching their fifth consecutive NL East title Saturday. Philadelphia played most of its regulars, with only Ryan Howard getting the day off after receiving an anti-inflammatory injection in his left ankle. Howard is expected to miss a couple of days.

The Phillies (98-54) remained four victories shy of setting a franchise record for wins in a season.

“We came out a little flat, but that’s not going to last,” manager Charlie Manuel said. “We’ll be ready.”

Phillies hitters have been in a bit of a lull lately. Philadelphia has scored three runs or fewer in 10 of its last 11 games, averaging 2.5 runs while going 5-6.

“I’m looking for our offense to pick up,” Manuel said. “We’ve got to start scoring some runs before we go into the playoffs.”

Halladay (18-6) had won seven straight September decisions and was 9-0 with a 1.97 ERA in his last 10 September starts dating to 2009. But he failed in his bid for his 19th victory and 40th over the last two seasons, which would’ve marked the first time a Philadelphia pitcher accomplished that since Steve Carlton won 42 games combined in 1979-80.

Halladay tossed eight innings and allowed four runs on six hits with six strikeouts and a season-high four walks (two intentional).

“Hopefully we’ll get things going and finish on the right foot,” Halladay said. “We’ve won all year and there’s no doubt we’ll continue that. There’s no cause for concern. Naturally there’s a little lull after you clinch.”

Berkman’s solo homer and Nick Punto’s RBI groundout in the first helped the Cardinals take a 2-0 lead. It was Berkman’s 31st homer, but first since Aug. 26.

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