CHICAGO (AP) — The St. Louis Cardinals were headed for another heartbreaking loss when Carlos Beltran turned it around with one big swing.
When Beltran got back to the dugout, starting pitcher Adam Wainwright showed his appreciation for the timely play.
"I kissed him right on the cheek. I'm not afraid to tell the whole world, either," Wainwright said. "I wanted to kiss him on the mouth. He saved me, he saved the team today."
Beltran hit a tying solo homer in the ninth and Jon Jay doubled in the winning run an inning later as the Cardinals bolstered their bid for another playoff appearance with a 5-4 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Saturday.
St. Louis increased its lead for the second NL wild card to 2½ games over Milwaukee, which lost 10-4 at Washington. The Los Angeles Dodgers are three back following a 6-0 loss at Cincinnati.
The defending World Series champion Cardinals have 10 games left in the regular season. They bounced back from an agonizing 11-inning loss at Wrigley Field the previous day.
After Matt Carpenter and Brian Anderson drew two-out walks from Jaye Chapman (0-1), Jay doubled down the right-field line.
"If we'd have lost that game, I don't think I'd sleep at all tonight," Wainwright said.
Mitchell Boggs (4-1) got the last out of the ninth. Jason Motte struck out the side in the 10th for his 39th save.
Beltran connected for his 30th homer, a one-out shot off Carlos Marmol that wrapped just inside the right-field foul pole. Marmol had been successful on 19 straight save chances dating to May 2.
"It's no secret you're going to get a fastball and you're gonna get a slider," Beltran said. "We were trying to put ourselves in a position to at least score a run. I was able to get a pitch to hit. In my mind, I'm just trying to put myself on the basepaths."
Before Beltran's drive, it appeared the Cardinals were going to blow another game against their arch rival in the most crucial time of the season.
St. Louis lost in dramatic fashion on Friday. Fernando Salas gave up a two-out, two-strike, two-run homer to Darwin Barney in the ninth to send the game to extra innings, and the Cubs won 5-4 in 11 on David DeJesus' RBI single.
Both Boggs and Motte were unavailable.
"It was tough yesterday not putting (Boggs and Motte) in there, but we're gonna have to do that," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "There are gonna be days where someone else has to step up."
On Matheny's 42nd birthday, St. Louis improved to 10-10 in September after going 18-8 in the final month last season, when the Cardinals squeezed into the playoffs on the final day of the season.