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On This Date in Sports October 5, 2011: Rally Squirrel

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Then St. Louis Cardinals force a fifth game in the NLDS, beating the Philadelphia Phillies 5-3 in Game 4 at Busch Stadium. The Cardinals get some help from a squirrel who runs onto the field and throws off the rhythm of Roy Oswalt. It is the second straight day that a squirrel interrupted play in St. Louis. The squirrel would be adopted as an unofficial mascot for the Cardinals, nicknamed "Rally Squirrel," while the Phillies fumed. The Cardinals would win Game 5 in Philadelphia 1-0 and went on to win the World Series. 

The 2011 Philadelphia Phillies managed by Charlie Manuel were expected to win the World Series. With a loaded rotation, headlined by Roy Halladay, they added Cliff Lee and had four aces that seemed poise to bring the Phillies back to the Fall Classic. The Phillies won their fifth straight division title with a record of 102-60. The Phillies had won the World Series in 2008 and lost to the New York Yankees in 2009, before being upended by the San Francisco Giants in the 2010 NLCS. The Phillies were as good as advertised, posting a record of 102-60. 

The St. Louis Cardinals, managed by Tony LaRussa, won the Wild Card with a record of 90-72, edging the Atlanta Braves by one game. It was the last season before the introduction of the Wild Card Game. The Cardinals were able to beat the Braves by winning 16 of their last 21 games to reach 90 wins in what would be LaRussa's final season in St. Louis. Heading into the NLDS, the Cardinals were a considerable underdog as the Phillies were expected to sweep the series with their strong pitching staff. 

The Division Series started in Philadelphia's Citizens Bank Park. The Cardinals jumped out to a 3-0 lead on a home run by Lance Berkman. However, Roy Halladay settled down and did not allow another run, pitching eight innings. Meanwhile, the Phillies took a 6-3 lead with five runs in the sixth inning as Ryan Howard hit a three-run homer and Raul Ibanez hit a two-run shot. The Phillies added three runs in the seventh and two in the eighth and won the game 10-6 as St. Louis scored three runs in the ninth against the Philadelphia bullpen. 

In Game 2, the Phillies got the early lead with Cliff Lee on the mound, as Ryan Howard and Raul Ibanez again provided the critical hits in a three-run first. Hunter Pence added an RBI single in the second as Philadelphia led 4-0. The Cardinals would get brilliant relief as six pitchers combined allowed just one base runner over the final six innings. St. Louis scored three runs in the fourth and one in the sixth to tie the game. Albert Pujols had an RBI single in the seventh inning that proved to be the difference as the Cardinals won 5-4 to even the series. 

The series shifted to Busch Stadium for Game 3; a grey squirrel briefly ran onto the field and caused an interruption in the game but otherwise caused no issue. A fan, however, created a Twitter account that soon would become popular among fans in St. Louis. It was a pitchers' duel between Cole Hammels and Jaime Garcia as no runs were scored in the first six innings. Finally, Ben Francisco gave Philadelphia a three-run lead, pinch-hitting for Hamels with two runners on in the seventh. The Cardinals got a run back in the seventh and cut the lead to one in the ninth but fell short as Ryan Madison recorded the save in a 3-2 win. 

The Phillies were poised to reach the NLCS for a fourth straight year in 2011. They had two runs before recording an out, as Jimmy Rollins led off with a double against Edwin Jackson and scored on a triple by Chase Utley. Utley scored on a single by Hunter Pence. The Red Birds got one run back as Lance Berkman had an RBI double against Roy Oswalt. David Freese had a two-run double in the fourth inning. Down 3-2, Oswalt seemed to get flustered in the fifth inning when a squirrel ran across home plate. The squirrel did not affect the game but appeared to anger the Phillies as manager Charlie Manuel said: "He wished he had a gun to shoot it." Freese added a two-run home run in the sixth as the Cardinals won 5-3 to force a decisive Game 5 in Philadelphia. 

The account of Rally Squirrel exploded in St. Louis as the Cardinals sought an unlikely win in Philadelphia with Cris Carpenter, who was roughed up in Game 2 facing Roy Halladay. Carpenter flustered the Phillies all night, allowing three hits with three strikeouts. Rafael Furcal led the game off with a triple and scored on a double by Skip Schumacher. It was the only run that Halladay allowed. However, it was enough as Carpenter sawed off the Phillies bats effectively. The game came down to Ryan Howard as the final batter, with the Cardinals clinging to a 1-0 lead. Howard hit a ground out to end the game and the Phillies season. Making matters, Howard, the top slugger in the lineup, suffered a ruptured Achilles tendon. He would miss the first half of the 2012 season and never was the same again. The Phillies, meanwhile, did not have a winning season until 2021, when they finished 82-80.