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Cards storm back twice to best Mets in 13

MLB.com @JoeTrezz

ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler avoided the first water-cooler shower, juking his way through a mob of teammates giddy on the infield dirt. He could not avoid the second, the cold celebration that came minutes later, near his dugout.

"I thought I eluded them, but they got me!" Fowler said afterwards. "I'll be ready next time."

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ST. LOUIS -- Dexter Fowler avoided the first water-cooler shower, juking his way through a mob of teammates giddy on the infield dirt. He could not avoid the second, the cold celebration that came minutes later, near his dugout.

"I thought I eluded them, but they got me!" Fowler said afterwards. "I'll be ready next time."

View Full Game Coverage

Video: NYM@STL: Fowler discusses walk-off hit, win in extras

Fowler's bath came as a reward for his 13th-inning single off Paul Sewald, which helped the Cardinals cap a long Thursday at Busch Stadium with a 4-3 walk-off win over the Mets. Fowler's hit made a winner of John Gant, who threw three scoreless innings of long relief in his season debut, and brought a climactic end to an afternoon in which Carlos Martinez and Noah Syndergaard dueled.

"It felt like a playoff atmosphere," Fowler said. "We could see them again in the playoffs."

Such long-distance forecasting is uncommon in the Cardinals' clubhouse, where focusing on the present qualifies as standard doctrine. But Fowler wasn't the only one alluding to the postseason Thursday, or speaking of the win in excitable terms. Jose Martinez called it the best victory of the season. Manager Mike Matheny called it "special."

Video: NYM@STL: Fowler, Martinez, Pham, Matheny on 4-3 win

"It was one of the best games I ever played," Martinez said. "We never gave up."

Flummoxed by Syndergaard for much of the day, the Cardinals fought back from two deficits. Fowler and Marcell Ozuna, two slumping but important regulars, drove in key runs. Gant, who woke up as a member of Triple-A Memphis and could end up back in the Minors soon, picked up a bullpen asked to record 21 outs. The victory sent the Cardinals to Pittsburgh winners of 10 of 12.

Video: NYM@STL: Ozuna bloops an RBI single to right field

"This was the most special game today for us," Matheny said. "It took a little bit of everything. It took the entire roster."

Gant wasn't even on the roster until a few hours prior to first pitch, swung up from Memphis as insurance to cover innings John Brebbia could not, after Brebbia's three-inning save Wednesday. Gant entered after Martinez tied the game with a two-out double in the 10th, then breezed through a full turn of the Mets' lineup unscathed.

"So much fun to be involved," Gant said. "To compete is what I feel like I'm here for, and it's an amazing feeling."

Video: NYM@STL: Gant strikes out Cabrera in the 12th inning

Martinez's two-out hit scored Tommy Pham and saved the Cardinals a half-inning after Luke Gregerson walked in the go-ahead run with the bases loaded. Pham started St. Louis' first rally with a double in the seventh, and finished with four hits, just one day after suffering a bizarre head injury in the batting cage. Two of those hits came off Syndergaard, who lined up with Carlos Martinez in a rematch of Opening Day starters.

Video: NYM@STL: Pham has four-hit, two-run game vs. Mets

There were 37,762 fans at Busch Stadium expecting to see a high-octane duel, and that's what they got, though both starters were long gone by the end. Syndergaard's defense spoiled what was a dominant start through six; he finished with two runs (one earned) allowed over 7 1/3 innings. Martinez scattered four hits and a run over six frames, routinely wiggling out of jams brought upon by three hit batsmen.

"That's unique, going into a rubber game against a good team with a good starter," Matheny said. "Great series."

Video: NYM@STL: Martinez gives up one run over six frames

MOMENT THAT MATTERED
Down to their final out, Jose Martinez inside-outed a 96-mph Familia sinker off the wall in right-center field, just beyond the outstretched reach of Juan Lagares. Martinez clapped his hands at second base as Pham crossed the plate with the tying run.

Video: NYM@STL: Martinez hits game-tying RBI double in 10th

"We already had the confidence, but this game gave us the belief that we can actually stay in the game if we never give up," Martinez said. 

SOUND SMART
The one blemish in Carlos Martinez's six strong innings came in the first, when he hit leadoff man Brandon Nimmo, who then scored on a Yoenis Cespedes double. Martinez hit Nimmo again in the fifth, and Adrian Gonzalez as well. He became the first Cardinals starter to hit at least three batters in a game since Jake Westbrook in 2013. Martinez has now also hit at least one batter in seven straight games, tied for the fourth-longest streak in MLB history. 

HOLLAND IMPRESSES AGAIN
Matheny said he was "very comfortable" giving Greg Holland the ninth inning in a tie game, and even more so after Holland threw a spotless ninth frame. It was the righty's fourth consecutive scoreless appearance. He appears primed to regain closing opportunities in the near future, though Bud Norris also struck out two over a scoreless inning Thursday. Norris has five saves filling in for Holland.

Video: STL@NYM: Holland strikes out Nimmo in the 9th inning

"You're seeing the [bad] swings, and that was the indicator we were looking for," Matheny said of Holland. "What kind of at-bats are guys taking against him? Guys aren't seeing the spin, they aren't picking him up real well. That's what we're accustomed to seeing."

HE SAID IT
"I might have to give some credit to my therapeutic do-rag." -- Pham

UP NEXT
The Cardinals hit the road for their first of 19 games against the Pirates when they open a three-game set at PNC Park on Friday. Miles Mikolas (3-0, 3.46 ERA) looks to win for the third time in a row when he opposes lefty Steven Brault (2-1, 4.44 ERA) at 6:05 p.m. CT. St. Louis went 11-8 against Pittsburgh last season.

Joe Trezza is a reporter for MLB.com. Follow him on Twitter at @joetrezz.

St. Louis Cardinals