Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22, 1974 - Simmons Slugs Cubs with Fists & His Bat in Wild Walk-Off Win

Sunday, September 22, 1974 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Steve Stone - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  43,267

Ted Simmons - who had four RBI on the day - delivered a two-out ninth-inning single, scoring Lou Brock from second base, to give the Cardinals a wild, brawl-enlivened 6-5 walk-off win over the Cubs.

It was a fitting ending for Simmons, who had been right in the middle of a benches-clearing brawl that began in the top of the ninth when Cubs batter Bill Madlock became irritated with the antics of Cards' closer - Al Hrabosky - who would step off the mound with his back to home plate, to psyche himself up prior to working to the batters.  No sooner had The Mad Hungarian positioned himself to begin his work, Madlock stepped out of the batter's box and began wandering towards the on-deck circle.  After this little cat and mouse game went on for a couple of minutes, home plate umpire Shag Crawford tried to get Madlock back in the batter's box - and when he was still wandering around, Crawford motioned to Hrabosky to begin pitching.  Al's first hurried throw in the direction of home plate was immediately called a strike.

At this point, Cubs manager Jim Marshall and the on deck hitter, Jose Cardenal got involved in the brewing melee - which eventually reached total pandemonium when Madlock and Simmons exchanged a few choice words - quickly followed by a strong right hook by Simba into the jaw of the previously jawing Cub third baseman.  By this time, both benches were in the donnybrook, and by the time order was restored, only one participant was ejected - Cubs manager Marshall.

Madlock finally stepped into the box and struck out - and then Simmons ended it with another knockout punch - but this one came with a bat in his hands.

This wild, wild win, coupled with Pittsburgh's 4-0 loss to the Mets, increased the first-place Cardinals' lead over the Pirates to 1.5 games, heading into a most bizarre final week of the season.

Back to the actual game.

Bob Gibson, nearing the end of a legendary career, had a bit of a rough start in this one, as former teammate Jose Cardenal greeted him with a first-inning RBI single - to stake Cub starter Steve Stone to a 1-0 lead.

The Cardinals struck back in the bottom half of the first, with some two-out thunder.  Reggie Smith doubled - giving cleanup hitter Ted Simmons a chance to bat with a runner in scoring position - and he cashed in, with a home run deep to right field, as the Cards grabbed a 2-1 lead.

St Louis padded that lead with a pair of third inning runs.  Brock, on his way to a major league record 118 stolen bases (since broken) - started the rally with a lead-off walk, stole second, then advanced to third when Ted Sizemore laid down a sacrifice bunt.

Next up - Reggie Smith - tripled deep to right field, scoring Brock - then came in to score when Simmons got his third RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly deep to right field.

Trailing 4-1, the Cubs scored four sixth-inning runs off a tiring Gibson, who had long since intimidated manager Red Schoendienst with a menacing glare that precluded any pitching changes - at least while Gibby was still on the mound.  Consequently, Gibson bore the full brunt of the three hits, two walks, an error, three stolen bases and a sacrifice fly that gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

The Redbirds tied it off Cubs reliever Oscar Zamora in their half of the sixth, when Ken Reitz - batting with runners on first and third and nobody out - grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.  The rally was squashed, Reitz was not credited with an RBI - but at least a run was in.

With the scored knotted at five runs apiece, Gibson had apparently convinced his manager to keep him in the game for just one more inning - and he pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to maintain that tie, to put himself in position for the "win" if his teammates could rally in the bottom of the seventh.

However, pinch hitter Jim Dwyer - batting for Gibson - failed to reach base.  With one out, Brock singled, stole second, but was eventually forced out at third when Simmons - after a walk to Reggie Smith - grounded one right at third baseman Bill Madlock, who stepped on the bag to end the threat.

Al Hrabosky - the eccentric southpaw whose pre-pitch ritual got on the nerves of Madlock aka Mad Dog - took over the pitching chores in the eighth-inning, and continued in the ninth - retiring all six batters he faced - two on strikes - including Mad Dog himself.  Imagine that.  The Mad Hungarian striking out the Mad Dog.  Such madness.

Reliever Dave LaRoche - who stayed out of harm's way when all the punches were being throw in the top half of the ninth - was on the mound when the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the bottom half.  Leading-off was the irrepressible Hrabosky - who was going to be in this one for the long haul, if necessary - and he flew out to right.

Then Brock singled again, as the chants of "Lou, Lou" reverberated through the stadium.  With Sizemore batting, Lou took off for second - but the hit & run was on - unsuccessfully, as Sizemore flew out to right - as Brock scrambled back to first.

Next up - Reggie Smith - capped off his perfect day at the plate by drawing his second walk of the game - to go with two triples and a double in five plate appearances.  That allowed Simmons with yet another RBI opportunity - and Simba delivered another knock-out punch - the walk-off single to center field, scoring Brock for the 6-5 win.

It was another exciting, nearly insane victory for the over-achieving Cardinals, as they tried to win their first-ever NL East title.  But there were also behind the scenes distractions - that ultimately may have prevented the postseason party for St Louis.

This game?  It was nothing - just good clean fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2011 - Freese Burns Mets: 2-Run Triple, 3-Run HR in 6-5 Comeback Win

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Chris Schwinden - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,658

David Freese gave fans a postseason preview tonight - his two-out two-run first-inning triple to right field - which scored Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman - was eerily similar to what happened in Game Six - when the Cardinals were one strike away from World Series defeat.  Freese later won that game with, arguably, the most dramatic home run in franchise history.

In this particular game, with the Cardinals down 4-3 in the seventh-inning to the New York Mets - with two out and two on (Pujols and Berkman - naturally), Freese smacked an opposite-field home deep to right field off Mets reliever Danny Herrera - to provide just enough cushion for an eventual 6-5 win.

Meanwhile, down in Miami, the Marlins had already beaten the suddenly hapless Braves, 4-0 - whose lead over the Cardinals for the one and only wild card spot in the postseason had shrunk to 1.5 games.  They were doomed -  and they probably knew it.

The Cardinals were red hot - by far the best offensive team in the National League all season long - on the verge of taking it up another notch - just in time for the postseason.

Defensively, however, the Cardinals were well below average - and it was some bad glove work that nearly cost them this game.

After Freese had staked Jaime Garcia to that early 2-0 lead, Allen Craig added a second-inning run -scoring Yadier Molina from third with a single off Mets starter Chris Schwinden.

That 3-0 lead immediately evaporated as the Mets took their turn at bat in a nightmarish third-inning for Garcia - and especially for shortstop Rafael Furcal.  After retiring the first two batters on strikes, Garcia couldn't put his mound rival away.  Schwinden grounded one up the middle, just off second baseman Skip Schumaker's glove for an infield single - then all hell broke loose.

Jose Reyes doubled down the left field line - advancing Schwinden to third.  Next up - Angel Pagan - hit a routine grounder to Furcal at shortstop, which should have ended the inning.  Instead, the ball squirted under his glove and through his legs into shallow left center field - as two unearned runs crossed the plate.

Next up - David Wright advanced Pagan to second with a legitimate infield single off Furcal's glove.

Mets manager Terry Collins then sent Josh Satin in to pinch hit for Lucas Duda - and the strategy paid off, as Satin laced one down the left field line - scoring both runners - to give the Mets a 4-3 lead.

That's where the score remained until the Cardinals displayed their own brand of two-out-nobody-on magic.  After reliever Miguel Batista - who briefly toiled for St Louis earlier in this season - retired the first two batters in the seventh, Pujols kept the inning alive with a base hit to center.

Exit Batista - enter Danny Herrera - who immediately served up a Lance Berkman single to left field.

Up to this point in the season, Freese had been a good - but far from great - hitter.  He was most effective when he didn't try to pull every pitch - when he would drive the ball to dead center - or to the opposite field - as he did in this game.  His blast into the Cardinals' bullpen suddenly turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

The postseason dream, which seemed to be a complete fantasy at the beginning of the month, had come alive - as the crowd came alive - with one swing of the bat.

The Mets made things interesting in the ninth-inning - when the unofficial closer - Jason Motte - yielded a two-out solo home run to Willie Harris.  Motte then sent the crowd into a frenzy by striking out Josh Thole to earn his eighth save of the season - preserving the 6-5 win for Jaime Garcia (7.2 IP - 6 H - 4 R - 0 ER - 0 BB - 5 SO), who improved to 13-7 on the season.

David Freese - in what had been his finest performance in any game during his brief career - was just getting started.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 20, 2013 - A 7-6 10-Inning Winner at Miller Park

Friday, September 20, 2013 - At Miller Park (Shelby Miller - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Brewers (Johnny Hellweg - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  37, 148

Carlos Beltran's tenth-inning sacrifice fly scored Kolten Wong from third base - lifting the tenacious Cardinals to a come-from-behind 7-6 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.  This win, coupled with Pittsburgh's loss to Cincinnati, gave the Redbirds a two-game lead over the second-place Pirates in the tight NL Central race.

The three Matts - Carpenter, Holliday and Adams - had three hits apiece to wreak havoc throughout this game, while Aramis Ramirez was wreaking havoc on his own - starting with a first-inning three-run home run off Cards starter Shelby Miller - to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead.

Holliday had driven in Carpenter in the top of the first to give the Redbirds a brief 1-0 advantage.

After that shaky start, Miller settled down - allowing just one more run over the course of his six-inning stint - as the Cardinals were trying to claw their way back into this game.

Perhaps Shelby's biggest contribution to his team came when he was taking his turn at bat - leading off the fifth-inning, still trailing 3-1 - when Milwaukee starter Johnny Hellweg inexplicably hit him with a pitch.  As far as the Brewers were concerned, giving a weak-hitting opposing pitcher a free pass to open an inning was a Cardinal sin.  Sure enough, it came back to haunt them, as Holliday singled Miller home from second, to cut the Brewers' lead to 3-2.

Milwaukee got that run back in their half of the fifth - when Ramirez got his fourth RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly - scoring Norichika Aoki from third.

Still trailing 4-2 to start the seventh-inning, the Cardinals rallied off Brewers reliever Mike Gonzalez.  Back-to-back doubles from Carpenter and Beltran suddenly made it a 4-3 game.

After another pitching change - Brandon Kintzler now on the mound for Milwaukee - Matt Adams tied the game for the first time since it was nothing to nothing with a base hit to right - scoring Beltran.

It was still tied at four runs apiece when the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the top of the ninth - facing reliever Jim Henderson.  The first batter - Holliday - walked.  The second batter - Adams - hit one far over the right field wall - into the second deck - to put St Louis on top for the first time since the first-inning - 6-4.

A shell-shocked Henderson handed the ball over to reliever Donovan Hand - who did the job - retiring the side with no further trauma.

All Star closer Edward Mujica - trying to protect a two-run lead - was greeted with a lead-off Jeff  Bianchi double to start the bottom of the ninth.  After retiring Yuniesky Bentancourt on a ground ball to the shortstop, Aoki singled - putting runners on the corners for pinch hitter Logan Schafer - who singled home Bianchi - as Aoki stopped at second.  The last batter Mujica would face as a member of the Cardinals in a save situation - Jonathan Lucroy - walked - to load the bases.

With the game on the verge of slipping away, Cardinal manager Mike Matheny brought in newly acquired reliever John Axford - trying to protect a slim one-run lead with the bases loaded with former teammates - and just one out.  Making the situation even more difficult - Axford's first assignment was to somehow retire RBI-machine Ramirez.  As luck would have it, Axford induced a weak ground ball that dribbled down the third base line - which third baseman Daniel Descalso, trying to make a bare-handed play, couldn't find the handle.

The game was now tied - the bases were still loaded - with the dangerous Carlos Gomez trying to end it with one swing of the bat.  In a sense, that's what happened.  His ground ball to Descalso's left was fielded cleanly - then delivered instantly back to Molina for the force out at home - who then fired a strike to first to complete the stunning double play.  Both teams had scored two ninth-inning runs - but when the Brewers failed to finish it off, the Cardinals had regained the momentum - and they took advantage of it right away.

Michael Blazek - the seventh Milwaukee pitcher - began the tenth-inning by walking pinch hitter Kolten Wong - who promptly found himself standing on third after another one of Matt Carpenter's major league-leading fifty-five doubles.  That also happened to set a franchise record for most doubles in a single season by a left-hand batter - a record formerly owned by the late, great Stan Musial.

Carlos Beltran then brought Wong in from third with a sacrifice fly deep to right field - to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead.

Carlos Martinez - the seventh St Louis pitcher - retired the Brewers in order in the bottom of the tenth, to earn his first career major league save.  John Axford (7-7) picked up the win for the team he frequently mocked on Twitter ("St Louis sucks" - type stuff) - but he seemed to have no problem fitting in with his new teammates as the season wound down - successfully, for the Cardinals - not so well for his old team.

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 19, 1996 - Cards Walk-Off Cubs in 13-Innings, 5-4

Thursday, September 19, 1996 - At Busch Stadium II (Andy Benes - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Jaime Navarro - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  34,923

Tom Pagnozzi's one-out thirteenth-inning infield single scored pinch runner Miguel Mejia from third base - giving the NL Central division-leading Cardinals a 5-4 walk-off win over the Cubs.  Cory Bailey (4-2) - the seventh St Louis pitcher employed by manager Tony LaRussa in this game - worked the final two scoreless innings of relief for the win.

Basking in the glory of this extra-inning victory made it easier to forget the blown save the Cardinal bullpen was responsible for - when Chicago pushed across a run in the top of the ninth, to forge a 4-4 tie - and send the game into a few extra innings of free entertainment for the fans.

This one began with a bang, when the first hitter of the game - Chicago's Brian McRae hit the second pitch Andy Benes delivered over the left field wall, to give the Cubs a quick 1-0 lead.

Cubs starter Jaime Navarro had some first-inning trouble of his own, however.  Ozzie Smith - nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career - led-off with a double into the left-center field gap.  Next up - Ray Lankford walked on four straight pitches - as "ball four" was a wild one - allowing Ozzie to move up to third.

Ron Gant also walked (the first of four free passes he would receive in this game) - loading the bases for fan-favorite Willie McGee - who struck out swinging - eliciting the usual words of encouragement from sympathetic fans knew how badly he felt whenever he failed to deliver in situations like this.

Future hitting coach John No Gloves Mabry made contact with a Navarro pitch, but it produced no positive results, either.  His little dribbler to the left of the pitcher's mound was pounced on by the agile Cubs hurler - who got the force out at home for out number two.

The inning, which had begun so full of promise, was on the verge of despair.  Next up - former Minnesota Twin-World Series champion and Cardinal nemesis - Gary Gaetti - delivered a bases-clearing double to suddenly give the Redbirds a 3-1 lead.

The Cubs cut the lead down to 3-2 in the third-inning.  Luis Gonzalez scored McRae from second with a base hit to center.

St Louis again loaded the bases with nobody out in their half of the third.  A walk to Lankford, a stolen base, another walk to Gant, and a hit batsman - McGee - once again brought Mabry to the plate in an ideal RBI situation.  Instead, Mabry grounded one to third baseman Dave Magadan - who fielded the ball, stepped on third and fired a strike to first for the double play.  A run scored on the play - but of course, Mabry was not credited with an RBI - and the Cards had to settle for just that one run.

Mabry's frustration intensified when the Cubs took their turn at bat in the seventh.  Ryne Sandberg opened with a single to center.  After he was forced out at second on Tyler Houston's infield grounder, Rey Sanchez grounded one to Gaetti at third, whose only play was to get the runner at first. But when Mabry tried to catch Sanchez rounding the second base bag a bit too far - his throw went into left field - allowing Sanchez to score.  The score was now 4-3, in favor of St Louis - and that lead seemed awfully precarious.

Meanwhile, after Navarro exited the game after six innings - allowing four earned runs - his immediate replacements prevented any further Cardinal scoring for another six innings.

Benes was removed after seven innings with a 4-3 lead.  Marc Petkovsek - the first of six Cardinal relievers - got the first two outs in the eighth - then LaRussa brought in southpaw Tony Fossas to get the final out - before sending him back to the mound to start the ninth.

Dave Magadan - a good left-handed hitter - started  the inning with a single to center.

Exit Fossas - enter T.J. Mathews to face Sandberg - who forced the runner at second on an infield grounder.  But then, trouble ensued.  Tyler Houston ripped a double down the left field line - advancing Sandberg to third.  After pinch hitter Brent Brown was intentionally walked to load the bases - pinch hitter Brooks Kieschnick hit a slow roller to Ozzie - whose only play was to get the runner at first, as Sandberg scored the tying run.

After the Cardinals failed to score in their half of the ninth, Dennis Eckersley - the fifth pitcher to appear in the game for the Redbirds - got into an immediate jam, when Mark Grace opened the tenth-inning with a double.  Eck then struck out Doug Glanville - but the next batter - Jose Hernandez - singled to left, as Grace stopped at third.

Next up - Ryne Sandberg - who became a notorious Cardinal killer back in '84 - most notably, at Bruce Sutter's expense in one particular game - which literally, made Sandberg a household name.  But that was then - this is now.  Ryno lined one to Gant in left field - not particularly deep - just hit hard.  Grace gambled, trying to tag up from third - and lost.  Gant's throw to Pagnozzi nailed Gracie - for an inning-ending double play.  The Cardinals had dodged a bullet - but could they take advantage of this break?

They finally cashed in - in the thirteenth-inning.  Mike Campbell - beginning his third inning of work, was greeted by John Mabry's double down the right field line.  Redemption, at last.  Pinch runner Miguel Mejia was then moved up to third on Gaetti's sacrifice bunt.

Tom Pagnozzi finally ended it with a base hit deep in the hole at shortstop, which Jose Hernandez could do nothing with - as the speedy Mejia streaked in from third with the walk-off run.

The Cardinals (83-70) were now five games up, with just nine to play.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18, 1968 - Washburn Returns the No-Hit Favor to Giants

Wednesday, September 18, 1968 - At Candlestick Park (Ray Washburn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Francisco Giants (Bobby Bolin - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  4,703

One day after San Francisco Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry no-hit the newly-crowned and possibly-hung-over-National League champion St Louis Cardinals, by a final score of 1-0 - Ray Washburn made baseball history when he returned the no-hit favor.  Fortunately, his team was able to score a couple of runs late in this game, to win it by a score of 2-0.

It was the first (and only) time opposing pitchers had ever thrown back-to-back no-hitters - but it really came as no big surprise.  After all, this was The Year of The Pitcher.  Even the game's best pitcher in '68 - Bob Gibson - knew he'd have to throw at least a nine-inning shutout to stand a reasonably good chance of winning on any given day.  As fate would have it, Gibson happened to be the starter on the same day Perry utilized his petroleum jelly skills to maximum efficiency against a bleary-eyed St Louis lineup in Tuesday's series opener at the Stick.

The lone run Gibby allowed in that one - came via a first-inning home run off the bat of Ron Home Run Hunt - who managed to go yard twice that season.

This time, it was Giants starter Bobby Bolin who pitched a fine game (8 IP - 7 H - 2 R - 2 BB - 6 SO) but got no help from a lineup whose offensive production amounted to five scattered walks - then going 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

The game was still scoreless after six innings - which meant the Cardinals had been scoreless for fifteen consecutive innings in San Francisco - when Mike Shannon snapped the streak with a double that scored Orlando Cepeda from second base, to give Washburn the necessary run support to achieve personal victory.

Then for good measure, the Redbirds tacked on an insurance run in the eighth - when Curt Flood singled home Dick Schofield from third - who had doubled leading-off the inning.

As Washburn went back to the mound to begin his final inning of work, the partisan Giants gathering seemed to appreciate the historical implications of what was taking place.  The first batter - Ron Hunt - who won yesterday's game with a first-inning home run off Gibson - grounded out to second, as Gibson glared in his direction from the visitor's dugout - no doubt reflecting back to the absurdity of his accomplishment on Tuesday.

The next batter - Willie Mays - created a stir whenever he stepped into the batter's box.  But he too, was retired on a ground ball to an infielder - third baseman Mike Shannon - today's hitting hero - avoided becoming the goat by handling this chance cleanly for out number two.

With a two-run lead, the presence of the final hitter - Willie McCovey - was maybe a bit less nerve-wracking than usual, since nobody was on base.  However, with a two-team back-to-back no-hitter on the line, the nail-biting index was still at record levels.  When McCovey's lazy fly ball to Flood in center became the final out of the game - Washburn (13-7) had notched the only no-hitter the Cardinals' pitching staff compiled in 1968.

Of course, it was also one of a franchise-record thirty shutouts registered by the staff that season.  Certainly, Cardinal pitchers did their part in helping major league baseball decide to lower the mound for the '69 season.  Not surprisingly, no other team has blanked opponents as many as thirty times in a season since The Year of The Pitcher.

In 2014, after Adam Wainwright's latest shutout, St Louis now has twenty-one of 'em - and this season may have a few more to add to that list.  Currently, Wainwright & Company have tied the 1943 Cards with those twenty-one shutouts - for the third highest total in franchise history.  The second highest total was compiled the very next season - 1944 - when they tossed twenty-six shutouts.  The 1985 Cardinals had twenty shutouts, for sole possession of fifth-place.  In sixth-place, with eighteen shutouts:  The '42 edition,

Those five previous teams had something in common:  They made a World Series appearance each time - winning the championship twice - in '42 and '44 - when they beat the Yankees and then the St Louis Browns.

Seventy years later, maybe a rematch of the '44 World Series is in order?  The St Louis Cardinals vs the Baltimore Orioles would be interesting.  Of course, Cards vs Angels would be even more interesting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17, 1985 - Andujar's Final St Louis Cardinals Win

Tuesday, September 17, 1985 - At Three Rivers Stadium (Joaquin Andujar - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Kipper - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  3,924

The Cardinals - a team that rarely relies on the long-ball to win games - hit three home runs tonight en route to a convincing 10-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The beneficiary of this offensive explosion - Joaquin Andujar (21-9) - went the distance in earning what would prove to be his final win (68) as a member of the Cardinals.  Unfortunately, he still had three more losses to add as a member of the Cardinals (51-52 & 53).

Back to this game:  After Sid Bream's first-inning RBI single staked Pirates starter Bob Kipper to an early 1-0 lead, the Redbirds struck back in their next turn at bat.  With one out in the second-inning, Tito Landrum and Terry Pendleton hit back-to-back singles.  Next up - Ozzie Smith - hammered a Kipper offering over the left field wall - giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead - just like that.

After the Cardinals and Pirates exchanged unearned runs in the third-inning to make it a 4-2 Cardinal lead, Cesar Cedeno blasted a two-out two run home run in the fifth - scoring Tommy Herr in front of him - to extend the St Louis lead to 6-2.  After Kipper finally retired the side, his night was over - giving up six runs - five earned runs - on five hits, a pair of walks, four strikeouts - and of course, two home runs.

The Cardinals broke the game wide open in the sixth-inning off the new Pirates pitcher - Larry McWilliams.  Smith and Tom Nieto both singled with one out - then Andujar advanced them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.  Next up - Vince Coleman singled to right, scoring Ozzie.  Also scoring on the play was Nieto - with an unearned run, resulting from a botched relay throw by first baseman Sid Bream.  Willie McGee then got into the act - with a two-run home run of his own - plating the ninth and tenth runs for the Cardinals.  McWilliams was yanked at that point, as two different relievers mopped up the final 3.1 innings - Krawczyk and Winn - without allowing another run to score.  No doubt a moral victory for the Buccos - who perhaps raised the Jolly Roger just for the hell of it after their latest defeat.

Andujar, who had pitched brilliantly for most of the season - gave up two more runs on three hits to the Pirates in the seventh - before regrouping in the eighth and ninth to close out the 10-4 win.  This would be his last hurrah.  He would go on to lose his final three starts to stumble in at 21-12 - then pitch ineffectively in the postseason before being traded to Oakland for catcher Mike Heath.  It was one of those trades that didn't work for either team.  Andujar continued his steady decline in Oakland, while Heath was unproductive and unhappy in St Louis - helping make the '86 season one worth forgetting - at least for Cardinal Nation.

However, Andujar's five-season experience in St Louis was certainly worth remembering.  Acquired from the Houston Astros about halfway through the strike-shortened '81 season - he and manager Whitey Herzog immediately developed a good rapport - and his colorful antics quickly made him a fan favorite, as well.  Plus, he was developing into a terrific starting pitcher.  The Cardinals had gambled that Andujar - who became a free agent after the '81 season - would want to return to a team that was on the rise - where he felt wanted.

The gamble paid off.  Andujar signed a new contract with St Louis, then pitched brilliantly for the Cardinals in their World Championship '82 season - especially down the stretch - when the stakes were highest.

After a dismal '83 campaign, Andujar rebounded to win 20 games for a fairly mediocre '84 team.  He was also the early-season anchor of the '85 staff - consistently winning as the rest of the starting rotation consistently struggled.  By the time John Tudor figured things out, the Cardinals had become an unstoppable force - en route to a 101 win season - edging out an excellent Mets team that would get even better in '86.

Alas, Andujar, who was one of the league's perennial workhorses during his Cardinal years, simply ran out of gas shortly after the All Star break.  His inability to pitch effectively in the postseason ultimately cost the Cardinals a real shot at the World Series championship.  They could have used the 1982 version of Joaquin Andujar.  Not to mention instant replay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16, 2011 - 2-Run 11th-Inning Give Cards Crucial 4-2 Win Over Phillies

Friday, September 16, 2011 - At Citizens Bank Park (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Vance Worley - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  45,572

Cardinals' rookie Adron Chambers picked a good time to get his first major league hit.  Batting with two runners on in a 2-2 tie with the Phillies - Chambers - in only his second major league at bat - lined a single to right, scoring Rafael Furcal from second base with the go-ahead run.  The Cardinals added an insurance run when the much-maligned Tyler Greene scored Albert Pujols from second with a double high off the wall in left - which missed going in the seats for a three-run homer by a couple of feet.

Chambers almost scored as well, but was out on a close play at the plate.  It didn't matter, as a smiling Adron received a well-deserved hero's welcome in the Cardinals' dugout - while Fernando Salas was busy working an uneventful inning of relief for his 24th save of the season - giving Kyle McClellan (12-6) the win after pitching a perfect tenth-inning of relief.

The Cardinals had great pitching all throughout this game - and if not for a dropped fly ball by right fielder Corey Patterson - they would've walked away with a 2-1 win in regulation.  But that would've been too boring - something the '11 Redbirds definitely were not.

Phillies starter Vance Worley pitched quite well in his six-inning stint - allowing just one run on six hits and three walks.  But his control problems cost him in the second-inning, when he issued all three of those walks - the last one to Rafael Furcal with the bases loaded forced in the first run of the game - staking Jaime Garcia to an early 1-0 lead.

However, that lead was short-lived, as Garcia yielded back-to-back doubles to Polanco and Mayberry in the bottom half of the second to tie the game at one run apiece.  That would be the only run Philadelphia would score on Garcia in his seven innings of work.

In the eighth-inning, with reliever Bastardo pitching for the Phillies, Yadier Molina lined a one-out solo home run off the left field foul pole - staking Garcia to a 2-1 lead.

After Rzepczynski and Dotel collaborated on a scoreless eighth-inning, Jason Motte was called on to nail it down in the ninth - but Ryan Howard's two-out pinch hit double kept the inning alive for Carlos Ruiz.  Then Cardinals right fielder Corey Patterson kept the inning - and the game - alive for Philadelphia when he dropped Ruiz' fly ball for a very costly run-scoring error.

Had the Phillies gone on to win this game, they would have clinched the NL East title.  That explains why a grinning Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino was busy getting Ruiz' attention on second base - popping an imaginary bottle of champagne, then guzzling an imaginary glass of bubbly - while his chortling teammates joined in on the mock celebration.

It was quite a show, and it's unlikely the Cardinals on the field and in the dugout failed to miss their little vaudeville act.  "Not tonight" became the unofficial mantra for the Redbirds - who could ill-afford to lose this one in their hunt for that all-important wild card slot.

Arthur Rhodes then came out of the bullpen to relieve a distraught Motte - striking out his man to end the threat - and send the game into overtime.

After McClellan did his job in the tenth, Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer was summoned to face the Cardinals in the eleventh.  Furcal greeted him with a lead-off double down the right field line.  Patterson then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to third.  Predictably, Albert Pujols was intentionally walked - bringing Adron Chambers - who had entered the game a bit earlier after a series of pitching changes created lineup changes - such as the one which removed cleanup hitter Lance Berkman from the game.

As the Citizens Bank Park crowd watched in horror, Berkman's replacement - Chambers of all people - got the biggest hit of the year for St Louis - driving in the go-ahead run in a game the Cards could ill-afford to lose.

Fernando Salas officially put the Phillies' champagne celebration on hold when he struck out Marberry to preserve the 4-2 win.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets were doing their part in aiding and abetting the dreaded Redbirds by knocking off the Braves, 12-2.

St Louis (82-68) now trailed wild card-leader Atlanta (86-65) by 3.5 games.  Somehow, that lead didn't seem like such a big deal.