Originally posted on Fox Sports Midwest  |  Last updated 10/14/11
ST. LOUIS In six innings Thursday night, St. Louis Cardinals manager Tony La Russa saw order restored to an even National League Central rivalry. The Cardinals' two-run lead after three innings? Gone by the end of the fourth. Any thoughts that this best-of-seven National League Championship Series will end without a return trip to Miller Park? Gone once Milwaukee Brewers players slapped hands on the infield as Busch Stadium emptied without celebration. One more NLCS game will be played in St. Louis on Friday, but the Brewers' 4-2 victory in Game 4 guaranteed two teams that mirror each other in so many ways will continue their dance into the weekend. After Thursday, the Brewers and Cardinals are tied at two games apiece in the NLCS with each team winning 11 against the other this season. To La Russa, the current scenario in which nothing has been decided is appropriate. "I think it's classic, because playing each other so many times, we're dead even," he said. "I think there's going to be a lot of similarities, and it comes down to that day." Because someone had to have an NLCS lead after three games, the Brewers and Cardinals entered Game 4 playing opposite roles. The NL Central champions were sudden underdogs after St. Louis' bullpen held them hitless through the last four innings Wednesday night. Meanwhile, the resurgent Cardinals awoke Thursday morning holding a lead of any kind outside a wild-card or National League Division Series-clinching scenario for the first time since July 26. As Busch Stadium began to fill Thursday evening, there was a feeling among some that the Cardinals were on the verge of earning control. A victory would have created the possibility of a dogpile somewhere on the infield Friday, met with fireworks and applause, to mark the franchise's first World Series appearance since winning its 11th title in 2006. A victory also would have created the possibility of delaying the start of an uncertain offseason, when La Russa and Albert Pujols will choose either to stay or go elsewhere. Early, it appeared possibility would become reality. There were questions about how a group that prided itself on rallying from behind would carry itself with a series lead. The Cardinals managed their new-found role well early, jumping to a 2-0 lead after home runs from left fielder Matt Holliday in the second inning and right fielder Allen Craig in the third. The crowd cheered. White towels waved. The sight was similar to so many other memorable victories at Busch Stadium over the past month. "It's the same challenges we talked about at the beginning," Milwaukee manager Ron Roenicke said. "This is a really good team. We think we have a really good team." As a result, the Brewers' talent allowed them to overcome the early deficit and draw even with the Cardinals again. Milwaukee scored two runs in the fourth inning and one run each in the fifth and sixth. The Cardinals couldn't produce any more against starter Randy Wolf and relievers Francisco Rodriguez and John Axford. Suddenly, a best-of-seven series had become a best-of-three. "It's two evenly matched teams," said Craig, who finished 1-for-4 Thursday. "It's who's going to make the least mistakes and who's going to get the big hits and pitch well. It comes down to who plays better. Right now, it's 2-2. It's even. We have some games left. We're just going to see how we will finish it out." The NLCS' finish will require a change of venue. And perhaps that's appropriate. One team that has made comebacks a habit failed to produce one Thursday. The other made certain they will play at least once more at home this postseason. Through four games, the Brewers and Cardinals are back to where they were before the NLCS' start even in the season series. No team has an edge. "It's that close a contest," La Russa said. Such is the personality of the Brewers-Cardinals rivalry.
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