PHILADELPHIA -- It wasn't pretty, but all that mattered is, in the end, the Cardinals' effort on Saturday night was effective.
"At the end of the day, we won the game," Cardinals starter Shelby Miller said. "It's a big win for us."
The Cardinals beat the Phillies, 6-5, in a 12-inning marathon on a damp night at Citizens Bank Park. They exploited Phillies rookie reliever Ken Giles' ineffectiveness in his second inning of work to get the win as they moved within a half-game of the National League Central-leading Brewers, who lost, 10-2, to the Pirates earlier.
The Cardinals benefitted from a strong start by Miller, who allowed three runs in six innings of work as the first of six St. Louis pitchers. Miller, who in his previous five starts was 1-1 with a 4.25 ERA, added a sinker to his repertoire and for the most part was very effective.
"[Miller] was real good today," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said. "It was real nice to see. That's going to be overshadowed because it's almost like it didn't even happen tonight. But he did a great job."
"The biggest thing is continuing to get better," Miller said. "Especially down the stretch here, trying to come out on top and ultimately get to the World Series. You can see that we fight to the very last out like we did tonight. That's the key thing for me, too, and that's to fight to the end."
Giles entered the game in the 11th for Jake Diekman and then began a second inning, which is unusual for the young reliever. The Cardinals exploited this as pinch-hitter Daniel Descalso led off the 12th with a walk. After a sacrifice bunt by Jon Jay, Peter Bourjos hit a chopper over Giles' head for an infield single as Descalso moved to third. Descalso then scored on a sacrifice fly by Matt Carpenter to take the decisive 6-5 lead.
"It would have been a tough one to lose," Matheny said. "Felt the same way yesterday [in a 5-4 loss]. The guys fought hard and kept coming. They did a really nice job coming back after the game got tied."
The Cardinals held a 5-3 lead as Randy Choate began a rare second inning of work in the eighth. Jimmy Rollins led off with a single, Chase Utley also singled and Ryan Howard, who had pulled the Phillies within two with a solo home run in the sixth, was hit by a pitch and Choate's night was finished in favor of righty Pat Neshek.
Marlon Byrd fell behind 0-2 but hit a soft liner into right that scored both Utley and Rollins to tie the game at 5. Neshek did escape the inning without any more damage, which in hindsight saved the evening.
"He did a great job getting us out of some deep stuff right there, but that's what he's been doing all season," Matheny said.
Tied at 2, the Cardinals exploited some shoddy fielding and even worse concentration on the Phillies' part to take the lead in the sixth.
Mario Hollands entered the game for Phillies starter David Buchanan and promptly gave up a double to A.J. Pierzynski. Oscar Taveras followed with a soft liner into left that Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown probably could have caught, but he eased up as Pierzynski got caught in no-man's land between second and third.
Brown was unable to notice until Pierzynski took off for third and Brown made a bad situation worse as he threw the ball away. Pierzynski scored and Taveras raced all the way around to third.
After Jay walked, Miller attempted to bunt and put the ball down the third-base line. Taveras had home locked up, but the ball slid off the grass and looked to be headed for foul territory until Phillies third baseman Cody Asche picked it up and threw wildly to first, an error that allowed Jay to come in with the third run of the inning and a 5-2 lead for the Cardinals.
"We just want to keep pushing [Taveras] to be aggressive," Matheny said. "That makes a difference on the bases. He gets a big hit there and that aggressiveness puts pressure on the defense. When you do that, things happen, and today it created some runs."
Michael Radano is a contributor to MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.