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Cards stun Rays with Pham-tastic finish

MLB.com

ST. LOUIS -- Waiting on deck while Matt Carpenter worked a six-pitch single to open the ninth, two things crossed Tommy Pham's mind. He wanted to end this game in time to catch the Mayweather-McGregor fight. And he wanted to do so with his first career walk-off hit.

Moments later, Pham golfed a two-run homer into the center-field seats to help the Cardinals complete a 6-4 comeback against a stunned Rays club that surrendered four runs over the final two frames. Saturday's win at Busch Stadium pulled the Cardinals back above .500 (65-64) and kept them from losing ground in the National League Central, where they trail the Cubs by 4 1/2 games.

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ST. LOUIS -- Waiting on deck while Matt Carpenter worked a six-pitch single to open the ninth, two things crossed Tommy Pham's mind. He wanted to end this game in time to catch the Mayweather-McGregor fight. And he wanted to do so with his first career walk-off hit.

Moments later, Pham golfed a two-run homer into the center-field seats to help the Cardinals complete a 6-4 comeback against a stunned Rays club that surrendered four runs over the final two frames. Saturday's win at Busch Stadium pulled the Cardinals back above .500 (65-64) and kept them from losing ground in the National League Central, where they trail the Cubs by 4 1/2 games.

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"I wanted to have a walk-off moment, and coincidentally, it happened," said Pham, whose big hit came while he was wearing cleats designed by two local children currently undergoing cancer treatments. "It's kind of cool."

Video: TB@STL: Pham talks the walk-off win vs. the Rays

The home run, "T. Pham's" 17th of the season, ended a forgettable night for Rays reliever Brad Boxberger, who also surrendered a game-tying single to Kolten Wong in the eighth.

"He's had a fantastic season, being able to do just what we saw right there," Cardinals manager Mike Matheny said of Pham. "He's got that kind of power at any point. You talk about dangerous, he's just continuing to have that kind of season where every time he walks up there, you're expecting him to do something special. And he certainly didn't disappoint."

The loss cost the Rays an opportunity to inch closer to the second American League Wild Card spot, currently held by the Twins. They'll enter Sunday sitting three games behind Minnesota.

Video: TB@STL: Pham wins it with walk-off two-run home run

"Tough loss. That stunk there at the end," Rays manager Kevin Cash said. "I'm sure we're all sitting here right now saying this is a game we had, we should have won, [but] we didn't."

'Zilla' powers through to give ailing 'pen a rest

With a seven-inning start complicated only by Corey Dickerson's adventurous night in left field, Rays lefty Blake Snell (nicknamed "Zilla" for Players Weekend) left the bullpen with a two-run lead. It evaporated quickly.

A day after retiring all four batters he faced, Tommy Hunter allowed a two-out single to Yadier Molina that pulled the Cardinals to within one. Two more singles loaded the bases for St. Louis, and Boxberger couldn't stop St. Louis' momentum.

The Rays had built a lead with the long ball, as struggling Cardinals starter Mike Leake ("Sparky") served up three home runs in a game for the sixth time in his career and second time this season. Lucas Duda took him deep with a two-run shot in the first. Dickerson and Adeiny Hechavarria later added solo shots.

'Sparky' regroups to work 7 efficient innings

MOMENTS THAT MATTERED
Lopsided matchup: Duda entered the night 7-for-9 with two home runs in his career against Leake, and he wasted no time enhancing those stats. After Evan Longoria's two-out single extended the first inning, "Dude" clobbered a 1-1 fastball into the center-field seats to give the Rays an early advantage. The homer, Duda's 24th of the season, traveled 423 feet, as projected by Statcast™, after coming off his bat at 106.2 mph.

Video: TB@STL: Duda hammers a two-run HR to open the scoring

"The home runs, we got off to a nice start off Leake," Cash said. "I know Duda's had success against him in the past and it's nice to see him in there and it pay off quick to get a two-run lead."

Video: TB@STL: Dickerson clubs a solo jack to right

Lost in left: Dickerson had a rough night in left field, where he twice struggled to properly play a carom off the wall and then turned what should have been a routine inning-ending out into an RBI double. Snell worked around Dickerson's fielding error in the fifth, but two sixth-inning misplays resulted in two runs. Cards shortstop Paul DeJong took advantage when his ball rolled around in the corner, and he ended up at third with an RBI triple.

Video: TB@STL: DeJong smacks an RBI triple to left field

Dickerson then lost Molina's popup in the lights, which allowed DeJong to score with two out. The play had a 99-percent catch probability, according to Statcast™.

"As soon as it went up, [I] didn't see it so I threw my hands up like I couldn't see it, and it's unfortunate," Dickerson said. "There's nothing you can do about it. It's not like you got some special glasses to find the ball or new eyes to try to see it. You're trying to find it, you know how hard it's hit off the bat, so you know the general area, but if you don't see it, you can't react the right way."

Video: TB@STL: Molina knocks in DeJong with a double to left

QUOTABLE
"Gone." -- Pham's succinct answer when asked his first thought after connecting on Boxberger's 2-2 pitch in the ninth

SOUND SMART WITH YOUR FRIENDS
All three of the Cardinals' wins against the Rays at Busch Stadium III have come via a walk-off hit. Ryan Ludwick connected for a walk-off homer on May 17, 2008, and Skip Schumaker delivered a walk-off double a day later.

INJURY REPORT
The Cardinals did incur one loss on Saturday, as third baseman Jedd Gyorko exited the game with a right hamstring injury in the eighth. Gyorko will be evaluated further on Sunday, but Matheny said the early reports "didn't look good." More >>

WHAT'S NEXT
Rays: Chris Archer (9-7, 3.76 ERA) will make his first career appearance against the Cardinals, one of five teams he has yet to face, when he takes the mound for the series finale on Sunday at 2:15 pm ET. "Flaco Fuerte" has struck out double-digit batters in nine games this season, tying the club record.

Cardinals: St. Louis will close out a homestand Sunday with a 1:15 p.m. CT game against the Rays. Lance Lynn, who is nine strikeouts shy of moving into 10th place on the all-time franchise list, will start for the Cardinals. He is winless in two previous appearances against Tampa Bay. Preview >>

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Jenifer Langosch has covered the Cardinals for MLB.com since 2012, and previously covered the Pirates from 2007-11. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.

Alaina Getzenberg is a reporter for MLB.com based in St. Louis and covered the Rays on Saturday.

Paul DeJong, Corey Dickerson, Lucas Duda, Adeiny Hechavarria, Mike Leake, Yadier Molina, Tommy Pham, Blake Snell, Kolten Wong