The leadoff hitter's perfect 11th-inning bunt, his second game-winner this month, was the difference in a 2-1 victory over the Chicago Cubs on Friday night.
"I believe he's a great guy to execute whatever you want to execute," manager Tony La Russa said. "But they might pitch out, they know we're thinking about it. It's just a guessing game, that's the scary part about it."
Cubs manager Dusty Baker was looking for the squeeze, but not on a 1-1 count.
"We knew they were probably going to squeeze, we just didn't know when," Baker said. "I didn't think they were going to do it right then.
"Yeah, we knew they were going to try something like that."
Pinch-hitter John Mabry led off the 11th with a triple, the fifth of his career and first since Aug. 3, 2002, off Sergio Mitre (2-5). Mabry got the extra base after his drive off the left-field wall caromed away from Todd Hollandsworth.
"I saw the ball kick away from him and I knew it was going to be a tough throw off his back leg," Mabry said. "And I was hoping for a strong breeze from center to get me there."
With one out, Eckstein dropped a perfect bunt in front of the plate as pinch-runner Hector Luna scored without a play.
"I knew it was going to be on one of those pitches, I just didn't know which pitch," Eckstein said. "Our club just finds ways to win."
Eckstein also had a game-winning squeeze in the ninth inning July 6 at Arizona. This one came with a sellout crowd of 49,840 watching and helped the Cardinals improve to 6-2 since the All-Star break.
The Cardinals' Chris Carpenter and Carlos Zambrano of the Cubs dueled for nine innings, each allowing a run. Carpenter, who failed in an attempt to become the majors' first 15-game winner, allowed a run and eight hits with three strikeouts and two walks.
"It was a fun little battle," Carpenter said.
In his last seven starts, Carpenter is 6-0 and has allowed three runs in 59 2/3 innings for an 0.50 ERA.
Zambrano was more impressive, giving up only three hits and matching his career high with 12 strikeouts while walking none. He also retired his last 15 batters after a leadoff single by Mark Grudzielanek in the fifth and is 3-0 with a 1.38 ERA over his last five starts.
"I was feeling great today, plus I like the matchup when I face Carpenter or (Matt) Morris," Zambrano said. "It's good to have Carpenter on the other side. Every time I come here I want to throw my best game and throw like I did today."
Zambrano also struck out 12 Cardinals on May 2, 2004, in a 1-0, 10-inning loss in St. Louis.
Jerry Hairston tied his career high with four hits for the Cubs, including a triple with one out in the 10th, and lacked only a homer for the cycle. But he was stranded when Jason Isringhausen retired Aramis Ramirez on a bases-loaded grounder to end the inning.
Al Reyes (3-1) got the last out in the 11th.
Rookie John Rodriguez hit his second home run since being called up five days ago for the Cardinals, who are 2-1 against the Cubs at home this season and 33-8 the last six seasons at Busch Stadium.
The Cubs tied it in the third on a leadoff double by Hairston and a pair of groundouts by Todd Walker and Derrek Lee.
Cubs right fielder Jeromy Burnitz robbed Albert Pujols of a go-ahead homer in the sixth, leaping above the wall to bring back the opposite-field drive.
Tempers flared briefly after Hairston's wide slide into second on a double play to end the seventh. Shortstop Eckstein objected to Hairston's attempt to fluster him with a high leg and right arm.
- Lee has played in 93 games and gotten a hit in all but 18 games this season.
- Cardinals starters have allowed three or fewer runs in their last 15 starts.
- The Cardinals turned two double plays, giving them seven the last two games.
- St. Louis has scored 73 runs in the first, its biggest inning.
- Hairston has five career four-hit games, the last on July 5, 2004, against the Devil Rays. He was 3-for-4 against Carpenter after entering the game 1-for-18.
- Larry Walker has struck out five of his last eight at-bats.