ST. LOUIS -- As the players packed their bags in the Philadelphia Phillies' clubhouse, the questions that followed about momentum, pressure and hitting woes were all too predictable. But that's what happens when preseason predictions, fan expectations and a franchise record for wins set the bar so high.
That's what happens when a wild-card team that looked, on paper, to be outmatched keeps finding ways to win. And Wednesday night was no exception for the Cardinals after they beat the Phillies 5-3 behind the offense of David Freese and a solid outing from Edwin Jackson. The outcome has forced a Game 5 on Friday night in Philadelphia, with former teammates Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter starting.
Clearly, the Phillies would have preferred to avoid this situation.
"You always want to get them while you can," reliever Brad Lidge said. "You don't want to let any extra games go by. If you've got an opportunity, you need to put your foot on it."
Now the Phillies are facing a rare situation: It will be the first time the organization has played a deciding game in the postseason since the 1981 National League division playoffs, in which the Montreal Expos took Game 5. Roy Oswalt, who took the loss Wednesday, dismissed any talk about pressure.
"They've got to beat us twice," he said, referring to Wednesday and Friday. "Should be a lot of fun. It will be a packed house [Friday]; the pressure is back on them."
Perhaps, but this Cardinals team has shown it can win just when it seems it shouldn't. The Cardinals had the best offense in the NL this season, and Lidge says that has extended into this NL Division Series, even if the Cardinals haven't scored more than six runs in any game.
"One thing I've seen about these guys is that they're putting a lot of good at-bats on us, they're seeing a lot of pitches and not missing mistakes," Lidge said. "You've got to tip your hat to these guys. Right now they're playing really good and they're giving us a really good battle."
Considering how the night began, it looked as if the Phillies would be celebrating a return trip to the NL Championship Series.
Jimmy Rollins led off the game with a double, and Chase Utley tripled him home. Hunter Pence followed with a single for a 2-0 lead. This was all on Jackson's first five pitches. But he got out of the inning, and after going 3-for-3, the Phillies went 4-for-29 the rest of the night.
The sixth inning began with potential when Utley drew a leadoff walk, but when he tried to go from first to third on Pence's ground ball to short, Albert Pujols made an incredible and unconventional play, throwing from first to third to nail Utley out instead of taking the out at first.
"I saw [third baseman Freese] getting ready to catch the ball and I realized, 'I'm going to be out,'" Utley said. Pujols "made a good play. If I had to do it over again, not knowing the outcome, I'd probably do the same thing."
The Phillies were down only 3-2, but then in the bottom of the sixth, Freese hit a two-run shot off Oswalt, giving the Cardinals all the runs they would need.
What remained were the questions after the game. Ryan Howard, in particular, faced plenty about his struggles after he went hitless in four at-bats with three strikeouts. Since his Game 1 breakout, in which he drove in four runs, he's gone 1-for-12 with six strikeouts.
"I think for me I just need to be a little more patient and sit back a little bit," Howard said. "It's a little bit easier said than done, but you got to find a way."
In spite of Howard's struggles, there have been a few bright spots. Rollins and Utley are a combined 15-for-29 with six doubles and 11 runs scored in this series. But manager Charlie Manuel clearly didn't like everything he saw Wednesday.
"We looked like some of our guys started swinging pretty hard," Manuel said. "So that's a sign of a little bit of overanxious[ness], trying to do too much."
Now both teams head east and prepare for a Game 5. The Phillies know it won't be easy, and they gave plenty of credit to the Cardinals. Lidge was asked what forcing a Game 5 meant about St. Louis.
"It shows signs of a veteran team, a scrappy team, but also a good team," he said. "They don't give up, and they're very talented. The pitching has done a great job, and every game they put some runs on us, and that's not an easy thing to do. It shows you they have the talent."
So do the Phillies. One game left to decide whose will win out.
Amy K. Nelson is a staff writer for ESPN.com. She can be reached at Amy.K.Nelson@espn.com.