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Phillies take 2-1 playoffs lead over Cardinals

(Reuters) - The Philadelphia Phillies, fueled by Ben Francisco's pinch-hit home run, pushed the St. Louis Cardinals to the brink with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday that gave them a 2-1 lead in their National League division series.

Francisco broke open a scoreless game with a three-run home run in the seventh inning off Cardinals starter Jaime Garcia to make a winner out of Philadelphia starter Cole Hamels, who yielded his turn at bat to Francisco.

The Cardinals fought back with a run in their half of the seventh on a run-scoring single by David Freese, and another in the ninth on an RBI-single by Yadier Molina.

Phillies reliever Ryan Madson, who registered the final five outs for the save, retired a red-hot Ryan Theriot, who had gone 4-for-4 in the game, on a grounder to second to end it.

"I was just trying to get a hit up the middle," Francisco told a TV interviewer on the field after the game. "But he left one up and it got out of here."

St. Louis out-hit Philadelphia 12 to seven, but stranded 14 men on base.

The series resumes Wednesday in St. Louis. A Phillies win would put them into the National League Championship Series for a fourth straight year while a Cardinals win sends the series back to Philadelphia for a decisive fifth game.

The winner of this series faces the survivor of the other NL division series, which the Milwaukee Brewers lead 2-0 over the Arizona Diamondbacks.

(Writing by Larry Fine in New York; Editing by Frank Pingue)

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