ST. LOUIS -

Brett Gardner's leaping catch in the 11th inning gave the New York Yankees life. Patient at-bats and their first hit since the fifth inning put them over the top.

"I just tried to get back there as fast as I could," Gardner said of his catch at the top of the left field wall that denied Yadier Molina of at least extra bases and perhaps a game-ending two-run homer in the Yankees' 6-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals in 12 innings Monday. "It was an easy play, just go back and make sure I get the ball in the glove before my back hits the wall."

Brian Roberts' bases loaded single was the go-ahead hit in a three-run 12th fueled by two walks and a hit batter. The Yankees won for the fourth time in extra innings on the season, three of them in the last six games.

"It's a grind," Gardner said. "But we've been playing pretty well and we seem to really stay focused."

Pinch-hitter Alfonso Soriano and Brendan Ryan each added an RBI for the Yankees, who took the opener of a three-game interleague series for their third straight win. Alfredo Aceves (1-2) worked two scoreless innings and David Robertson earned his 11th save in 12 chances.

"At that point, you're just trying to get the guy in," Roberts said. "You need to be selective and find ways to win."

Jon Jay had an RBI double in the 12th for the Cardinals, who lost for the third time in 12 games.

"Just a really bad day," reliever Randy Choate said. "I felt fine coming in, just didn't have good stuff."

A standing-room crowd of 47,311, the third-largest at 9-year-old Busch Stadium, showed up to see an opponent making only its second appearance in St. Louis since losing to the Cardinals in the 1964 World Series.

The enthusiasm did not appear to be dampened by a 61-minute weather delay — for rain that did not materialize — before the first pitch.

Cardinals pitchers retired 20 of 21 batters before the 12th, when Choate (0-2) faced five batters and four reached safely.

Five Yankees relievers were stingy, too, permitting two hits in seven innings.

"It comes down to doing little things and getting big hits," St. Louis manager Mike Matheny said. "That's no secret. We had a couple of opportunities to get the big hit. You can't do it all the time."

Jacoby Ellsbury got the rally started when he walked to lead off the inning and stole second, a call upheld after Matheny challenged. After coming through, Roberts is 3 for 6 in extra innings.

"Another big hit for us," manager Joe Girardi said. "I thought the bottom of the lineup was extremely productive."

Molina slammed his helmet in frustration after Gardner came down with his drive at the top of the fence with a runner on and one out in the 11th.

Derek Jeter got a standing ovation before his first at-bat, and thousands stood again when he singled, although they also roared when he took a called third strike to end the eighth against Carlos Martinez after Molina's pinpoint throw on Gardner attempting to steal.

Michael Wacha dealt with a rain delay for the fourth time in his 11 starts — total idle time of 4 hours, 52 minutes. After nine pitches the Yankees had the lead, with a walk by Gardner and a single by Jeter setting up Ellsbury's RBI single.

The first three batters reached in a two-run fifth, too, with Kelly Johnson's RBI single and Gardner's sacrifice fly putting the Yankees up 3-1.

New York rookie starter Chase Whitley was vulnerable early, too. The Cardinals needed two at-bats to tie it in the first when Matt Carpenter tripled off the right-field wall and Kolten Wong doubled, but they missed a chance for more when Wong overslid third and was caught stealing for the first time in eight attempts this season.

Whitley qualified for a win for the first time in three career starts, but left with the bases loaded and none out in the sixth before the Cardinals tied it against Preston Claiborne. Allen Craig had an RBI groundout and Jhonny Peralta followed with a sacrifice fly.

Wacha bounced back after taking a foul liner off his elbow while sitting in the dugout his last time out, giving up three runs on four hits in seven innings. He had a season-low two strikeouts, the first against Ellsbury leading off the sixth.

NOTES: In a pregame ceremony, Jeter received Stan Musial cuff links and a $10,000 check for the captain's Turn 2 Foundation. ... The Cardinals also paid tribute to their 1964 team. ... Whitley is the first Yankees pitcher to make his first three career starts on the road since Ramiro Mendoza made four in a row in 1996. ... Cardinals RHP Lance Lynn (5-2, 3.60 ERA) opposes David Phelps (1-1, 3.18) on Tuesday night. Lynn is 1-3 with a 5.08 ERA in six career interleague starts. ... Wacha hasn't permitted more than three runs in any of his starts.