Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30, 1968 - Gibson Maintains Sub-One ERA in Win Over Mets

Tuesday, July 30, 1968 - At Shea Stadium (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Dick Selma - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  34,835

Bob Gibson was certainly the most dominant pitcher in major league baseball in 1968 (aka The Year of the Pitcher).  His season-ending 1.12 ERA was a post-Dead Ball Era record for any starting pitcher - ever.  After a July 25, 1968 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gibson's ERA had actually dipped below 1.00 for the first time all season (the pitcher's equivalent to hitting .400?) - 0.96 - to be precise.

This statistical anomaly was of no concern to Gibson, whatsoever.  He never bothered to keep track of such nonsense.  As far as he was concerned, his job was simple:  Prevent the other team from scoring.  Period.  Then, with any luck at all, his team could score a run somewhere along the line, and his job would be done.

In this game, the Cardinals provided Gibson with an early 1-0 cushion - when Dal Maxvill shocked everyone with a third-inning lead-off triple to right field.  After Gibson struck out, Brock grounded one sharply, right up the middle, which Mets starting pitcher Dick Selma got a glove on, but couldn't make a play; however,  Maxvill had to stay at third on what was ruled a single.  Curt Flood then hit a ground ball to the right of third baseman Ed Charles - whose only play was a force-out at second base - but this time, Maxvill was able to score.

"There's your run, Gibby!"  There was more truth to that joking remark than not - at least in 1968.

They say scoring runs is contagious.  That usually wasn't the case in '68 - except in this game - although the Mets helped out with some strange defensive maneuvers - very strange, in fact.

In the top of the fourth-inning, Orlando Cepeda led-off with a single to left field.  Then Tim McCarver walked.  Next up - Mike Shannon - grounded one to Charles at third - but in his haste to turn two, couldn't field it cleanly, for a costly error - which loaded the bases.

Next up - Julian Javier - drove in Cepeda and McCarver with a single to right field.  By this time, Selma was unraveling - a wild pitch, another base hit and a sacrifice fly scored two more runs.  But the Cardinals weren't quite through.

Perhaps the most bizarre play of 1968 happened with Brock batting - once again, with Maxvill on third base.  Lou, who was deprived of an RBI an inning prior - when his infield single didn't score Maxvill from third, got a cheap one this time around.  After grounding one right back to Selma, the befuddled Mets hurler apparently thought there was a runner on first (there wasn't).  After fielding the ball, Selma quickly threw a strike to second baseman Jerry Buchek - who in turn, relayed the ball to first base for the out, as a grinning Maxvill dashed home with the fifth run of the inning - on what can best be described as a phantom double play.

It's quite possible that Gibson had a rare lapse of concentration when he returned to the mound for the bottom of the fourth.  Who could blame him?  At any rate, after getting the first two batters, Ed Charles drew a base on balls - the only one Gibson would allow in the game.  Then, Ed Kranepool doubled to right field to score Charles all the way from first.

That ended the scoring for the Mets - who at least attained a moral victory by spoiling another shutout for the Cards' ace.  The ERA stayed virtually the same for Gibson, however.  Still 0.96.

Meanwhile, Cepeda added another needless run for the Redbirds in the seventh - scoring Flood (who doubled with two out) from second base.  That was it - a 7-1 Cardinal winner.  Those seven runs were the most the Cardinals scored in any of Gibson's road starts in '68.  Twice, they scored eight runs for him at home - in games won by the Redbirds - 8-1 and 8-0.

It's a pity all that run support couldn't have been spread out over some of his other starts - when he really could have used an extra run or two...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29, 2011 - Pujols Joins 2000 Hit Club in 9-2 Clubbing of Cubs

Friday, July 29, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Edwin Jackson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Garza - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,042

Recently acquired pitcher Edwin Jackson (8-7) was making his St Louis Cardinals debut - and it was a good one - allowing just one run in seven innings, as the Cardinals cruised to a convincing 9-2 win over the Cubs.

After David Freese's three-run fourth-inning home run off Matt Garza (4-8) erased an early 1-0 deficit, the focus of the fans' attention was definitely centered on Albert Pujols and his quest for career hit number 2000.  Pujols started the fourth-inning rally with hit number 1999 - a double - which was immediately followed by Matt Holliday's infield single, then the Freese blast to left center field.

The Cardinals tacked on three more runs in the sixth to build a comfortable 6-1 lead, as Jackson, who escaped from a second-inning bases-loaded-no-out jam with just one run allowed - settled down to blank the Cubs over his final five innings of work.  He turned the ball over to the guy he displaced in the starting rotation - Kyle McClellan - to start the eighth-inning.  Kyle then proceeded to demonstrate why he became the odd-man out, after giving up one run on a pair of hits and a walk, while getting just one batter out.

Jason Motte then came in from the bullpen to record the final two outs of the inning - minimizing the damage to just a single run.  In the process, he gave a nice demonstration of the type of quality pitching the Cardinals were looking for in the back-end of the bullpen, as he eventually became the unofficial closer for Tony LaRussa all the way through Game Seven of the World Series.

With Carlos Marmol now pitching for the Cubs in the eighth-inning, the Cardinals put another three spot on the board - but the scoring was incidental to the historical milestone that occurred.  With two runs already in and Ryan Theriot on second base with two out, Albert Pujols lined his second double of the game to score Theriot.  It was career hit number 2000 for Albert - a milestone that had previously been reached just three times in franchise history - by Hornsby, Musial and Brock.  For the 42,042 fans now giving their hero a standing ovation, the possibility that Pujols would actually be leaving them at the conclusion of this season - was unthinkable.

For the fans still bitter about that - get over it.  Think about the eleven Hall of Fame-caliber seasons Albert Pujols produced with the Cardinals.  The eight postseason appearances.  The three National League championships.  The two World Series championships.  Sure, he has a large ego and felt slighted when he didn't think the front office really wanted him to stay.  So he left for more money and more perceived recognition.  That was his decision.

But in reality, the front office didn't want him to stay.  Not at that price, anyway.  And that was a good business decision.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2002 - The Edgar Renteria Game: 10-9 Walk-Off Winner Over Cubs

In the past fifty years of Cardinal baseball, there have been some memorable games played on July 28.  Here's a sample:

1964 - At Wrigley Field - The Cards come-from-behind to send the game into extra innings - Score 5 runs in the 10th to beat the Cubs, 12-7.  White, McCarver & Shannon homer for St Louis.

2001 - At Wrigley Field - The Cards break a 4-4 tie with 3 runs in the 8th to beat the Cubs, 7-4.  Pujols, McGwire & Paquette homer for St Louis.

2004 - At Great American Ballpark - The Cards out-slug the Reds, 11-10.  Rolen hits 2 home runs - Womack & Edmonds add one apiece for St Louis.

2007 - At Busch Stadium III - In an otherwise dismal season, the Cards sweep a double-header over the Brewers - Scoring three 9th-inning runs for a 7-6 walk-off win in the first game.  St Louis wins the second game, 5-2 - as '06 World Series hero Anthony Reyes gets his first win of the season - to go with 10 losses.

2009 - At Busch Stadium III - The Cards score six runs in the 6th - then four runs in the 8th - in a decisive 10-0 win over the Dodgers.  Strangely enough, LA out hit St Louis - 9 to 8 in the game.

2010 - At Citi Field - The Cards score six runs in the first-inning - but the Mets score four runs in the eighth to send game into extra innings, tied 7-7.  The Redbirds finally win it in the 13th-inning - when Pujols singles in Schumaker with the game-wining run.  Final score:  St Louis 8 - New York 7.

All very exciting games - but the most memorable game happened exactly twelve years ago.  I like to call it The Edgar Renteria Game:

Sunday, July 28, 2002 - At Busch Stadium II (Matt Morris - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Clement - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  47,583

It was a hot and muggy evening in St Louis.  The game time temperature was 95 degrees, with a nine mph wind blowing from right to left, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan welcomed the ESPN viewing audience to another edition of Sunday Night Baseball.

Things didn't start out so well for the home team.  Matt Morris struck out the first two batters he faced, but had trouble getting that third out.  A walk to Sammy Sosa, then a single by Fred McGriff preceded a two-run double off the bat of Moises Alou.

The 2-0 Chicago lead quickly became 6-0 in the third-inning.  Once again, Sosa drew a two-out walk, followed by a McGriff single.  Alou drove in the first run with a single, then Corey Patterson shocked everybody with a three-run bomb.

The score remained 6-0 until the Cardinals finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth-inning - aided by a defensive miscue, along with a questionable managerial decision.

Jim Edmonds began the inning with a single to right field.  Albert Pujols then grounded one to shortstop Mark Bellhorn, whose only play was at first base - however, he threw wildly - very wildly - allowing Edmonds to score and Pujols to ramble into third.  At this point in the game, Cubs starter Matt Clement had been in total control - but manager Bruce Kimm decided to yank him - hoping the bullpen could navigate through the final four innings and protect what was currently a five-run lead.  In other words, Kimm panicked.

Jeff Fassero was the first of four Cub relievers to enter the game.  The first batter he faced - JD Drew - doubled, scoring Pujols.  After Drew advanced to third on a Tino Martinez infield ground out, Edgar Renteria picked up his first RBI of the game with a single to center field.  The next batter - Mike Difelice - doubled to left, advancing Renteria to third.

Kyle Farnsworth was then summoned in from the Cubs bullpen to face pinch hitter Kerry Robinson - who walked, to load the bases.  Then, lead-off hitter Fernando Vina singled to right field, scoring Renteria, as Difelice had to stop at third.  The rally came to an abrupt halt when Eduardo Perez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play - but at least the Cardinals were back in the game - trailing 6-4.

The Cubs were relentless, however.  With Steve Kline now pitching for the Cardinals, Corey Patterson's one-out seventh-inning double was followed by a Delino DeShields walk, a Todd Hundley RBI single and a Kyle Farnsworth sacrifice fly - to give Chicago a secure 8-4 lead - which became an even more secure 9-4 lead after Bill Mueller's solo eighth-inning home run off Dave Veres.

Farnsworth completed his 2.2 scoreless inning stint in the bottom of the eighth-inning, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were chatting about Jon's poor taste in neck ties, how the NL Central race was still up for grabs, and a reminder to stay tuned - Sports Center is coming up next.

Statistically speaking, the Cardinals had a one percent chance of winning this game - entering the home half of the ninth-inning, trailing 9-4.  Tom Gordon was the new Cubs pitcher - and much to Bruce Kimm's chagrin - three straight Cardinal batters reached base:  Vina singled, pinch hitter Miguel Cairo doubled him in, then Edmonds singled Cairo in.  It was now a 9-6 ballgame - and St Louis now had an eight percent chance of winning this game.

Time to bring in the closer - Atonio Alfonseca - to close this one out.  In a sense, that's exactly what happened.  The first batter - Albert Pujols - patiently worked the count full, then walked on the seventh pitch of the at bat - bringing the tying run to the plate, in the person of JD Drew - who struck out on a called third strike.  But then Tino Martinez - less than a year removed from his World Series heroics with the Yankees - stroked a single to right field - scoring Edmonds to make it a 9-7 game.

This brought the winning run to the plate - in the person of Edgar Renteria.  After Alfonseca missed with the first pitch, Edgar was anticipating a fastball - in the strike zone - and he got it.  And he got all of it - sending the ball on its merry way over the left field wall, for a dramatic three-run walk-off home run.

It was a classic moment that many Cardinal fans no doubt had the foresight to record on their now-antiquated VCR's - to play back from time to time, for posterity's sake.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2012 - Homer-Happy Cards Make History in Win Over Cubs

Friday, July 27, 2012 - At Wrigley Field (Lance Lynn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Travis Wood - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,778

Just six days after scoring twelve runs in a single inning - equaling a franchise record - the Cardinals were at it again - making history against Chicago Cubs pitching.  This time, it was an obscure home run record that was established - in a see-saw battle that was eventually won by the Cardinals - 9-6.

It all started with two outs in the top of the first - when Matt Holliday homered deep to left center field (his 18th) off Cubs starter Travis Wood - to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Cardinal starter Lance Lynn is used to getting a lot of run support in his outings - and after giving up a lead-off triple to David DeJesus, a run-scoring single to Starlin Castro, and then a two-run home run to Anthony Rizzo - it was apparent the Redbirds would have to step up the offensive production if they expected to win this one.

With the Cardinals now trailing 3-1, Lance Berkman led-off the second-inning with a single, which was immediately followed by a game-tying Yadier Molina home run (his 16th) - which landed on Waveland Avenue.  The Redbirds weren't through.  Matt Carpenter drew a base on balls, then scored on Daniel Descalso's triple.  Next up - Lance Lynn - knew a 4-3 lead was not going to hold up today - so he helped himself out with a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a precarious 5-3 lead.

After the Cubs failed to score in the bottom of the second, Berkman got into the act with a two-out home run (his 2nd) in the third-inning, to build the lead to 6-3.  For Lance, in an injury-plagued final season as a member of the Cardinals - this would prove to be his last home run wearing a St Louis uniform.  The previous year, a healthy Berkman hit 31 home runs - and became an immediate fan-favorite in Cardinal Nation.

Meanwhile, the Cubs quickly tied the game in the bottom of the third - after a lead-off triple by Castro, an RBI single by Rizzo, an RBI double by Alfonso Soriano and an RBI single by Geovany Soto.

Matt Carpenter untied it, leading off the fourth-inning with another St Louis home run (his 4th - and the fourth in as many innings for the Cardinals).  This one almost - but not quite - made it onto Sheffield Avenue - landing high off the back wall in right field.

After Lynn kept the Cubs scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, Allen Craig made St Louis Cardinals history by hitting the fifth home run in as many innings - another solo shot, which landed in the fourth row of the left field bleachers - to give the Cardinals an 8-6 lead.  It was the first time in franchise history the team had ever homered in five consecutive innings.  Now, the all-time franchise record for home runs in a single game (7) seemed feasible (last accomplished on July 12, 1996 - against the Cubs - who else?).

Alas, the Redbirds had no more home runs in their bag of tricks today.  However, center fielder Jon Jay had a circus catch in his bag of tricks today - robbing Rizzo of extra bases with an absolutely ridiculous leaping grab of his fifth-inning smash to center field - to protect that slim two-run lead.

After getting through the fifth, unscathed, manager Mike Matheny gave his starter the rest of the day off.  Five St Louis relievers - Fuentes, Browning, Salas, Rzepczynski and Motte (who got his 23rd save) - kept Chicago off the board over the final four innings - giving Lynn his rather fortuitous 13th win - with only 4 losses.

The Redbirds scored a final insurance run in the seventh - when Jay was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher, then scored on Holliday's single to center.

Coincidentally, the Cardinals won yesterday's game (from 2004) by that same 9-6 score - although it took 11 innings to score that many runs, and they only hit three home runs.  Weaklings.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26, 2004 - Cards' Power-Hitting Trio Keys Extra-Inning Win Over Reds

Monday, July 26, 2004 - At Great American Ballpark (Woody Williams - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Paul Wilson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  23,155

The Tremendous Trio - Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds - each homered and scored two runs, as the Cardinals won an eleven-inning war of attrition over the Cincinnati Reds, by a final score of 9-6.  The three Redbird home runs were required to send the game to extra innings - deadlocked at five runs apiece.

Cincinnati also went yard three times; however, it would be a dropped fly ball by Reds' right fielder, Wily Mo Pena, which opened the floodgates in the eleventh-inning - allowing the opportunistic Cardinals to score four unearned runs to ensure victory.

St Louis starter - Woody Williams - had better games.  He got off to a shaky start when a Sean Casey RBI double and a two-run home run off the bat of D'Angelo Jiminez gave the Reds a quick 3-0 lead after one inning.

The Cardinals got one run back in the second, when Scott Rolen led-off with a double - but only advanced to third when Jim Edmonds hit a long fly ball to center which Rolen thought was going to be caught - but it landed safely - causing a red-faced Rolen to hear Edmonds chirping from second base about being deprived of an RBI.  Instead, Reggie Sanders had the honor - scoring Rolen with a sacrifice fly, to make it a 3-1 game.

In the fourth-inning, Rolen took matters into his own hands with a one-out solo home run - his 21st of the season - to trim the deficit to a 3-2 Cincinnati advantage.

Edmonds responded in the sixth-inning - jumping on the first pitch from Reds starter Paul Wilson for a two-out two-run home run - his 25th of the season - to give the Cardinals a brief 4-3 lead.

The Reds regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth, on a pair of solo home runs - the first from Adam Dunn, leading-off the inning - and one out later, a blast from Wily Mo Pena.

After Wilson retired the first two Cardinal batters in the eighth-inning, Pujols tied the game in dramatic fashion - by bashing his 29th home run of the season.  At that point, Reds manager Dave Miley went to the bullpen - first bringing in Todd Jones, then Danny Graves - to keep the Cardinals scoreless until the eleventh.

Likewise, Tony LaRussa went to the bullpen after Williams completed his six innings of work - using Calero, Kline, Tavarz, Eldred and King (4-1) to keep the Reds in check through ten-innings.

With Phil Norton (1-3) on the mound for the Reds to begin the eleventh-inning, Edmonds coaxed a lead-off walk.  That would be the only batter Norton would face, as John Riedling was summoned in from the bullpen to face Sanders - and he got his man on, a fly ball to right field.  However, John Mabry couldn't be contained - lining a single to left, as Edmonds stopped at second.

Then, Mike Matheny cleverly lined one to Wily Mo Pena in right field - who dropped the ball.  The clanging sound of ball meeting glove reverberated throughout the vast confines of Great American Ballpark - as the opportunistic Redbirds now had the bases loaded with just one out.

The Cardinal batters decided right field was the place to hit it - and they did just that to score four unearned runs.

Tony Womack drove in the first unearned run for the Cardinals, with a single to Wily Mo - scoring Edmonds.  Next up, pinch hitter So Taguchi (batting for winning pitcher Ray King) hit a long sacrifice fly to Wily Mo - not only scoring Mabry with the second unearned run of the inning - it also advanced the clever and speedy Matheny to third.  Womack then stole second with Edgar Renteria at bat.  With first base open, Riedling, not so cleverly decided to pitch to the Cardinals' shortstop - and Edgar rewarded him with a two-run single to Wily Mo - to conclude the scoring for St Louis:  Four unearned runs, to take a 9-5 lead, heading into the bottom of the eleventh.

Jason Isringhausen - in a non-save situation - closed the game out - although he allowed an unearned run of his own - but that was it.  John Mabry - a good hitter but not a great left fielder - dropped Adam Dunn's line drive to open the bottom of the eleventh.  The clanging sound reverberated nicely from the acoustical splendor of left field.  Then one out later, with Dunn on second base, Wily Mo tried to atone for his earlier gaffe - lining a ground rule double to score the final run of the game for Cincinnati.

In the end, the game that began as a six-home run slug-fest in regulation, became an extra-inning comedy of errors.  The Cardinals had the last laugh - improving to 63-36 - first place in the NL Central - now 10 games ahead of the second-place Cubs.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, 1964 - Cards Survive 7-Run Phillies' 9th - Win 10-9

Saturday, July 25, 1964 - At Connie Mack Stadium (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Dennis Bennett - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  10,948

The Cardinals almost blew this one.  Usually, an eight-run lead is a safe lead - especially when the other team only has three more outs to work with.  In this case, as the Cardinals tried to close out the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth - leading by a score of 10-2 - eight straight Philadelphia batters reached base before a single out could be recorded - but luckily for the Cardinals, only seven scored.  Had 'em all the way.

At the time, this harrowing victory over the first-place Phillies seemed a bit inconsequential.  All it did was put the Cardinals back to .500 (48-48) for the fourteenth time in a season that seemed destined for the second division.  After all, the Cardinals were still mired in 6th-place - nine games behind the first-place Phillies - and only a half game ahead of the seventh-place Cubs.

To say the Redbirds had been struggling prior to this game is an understatement.  They had suffered a three-game sweep to close out a home-stand at the hands of the Pirates (July 21-23), then dropped the first game of this four-game series with the Phillies, by a 9-1 score - and that was with their best pitcher - Bob Gibson - getting pummeled.  Psychologically, this was the lowest point of the season for the Cardinals, as they prepared to try again - with Curt Simmons on the mound for game two at Connie Mack Stadium.

Philadelphia not only scored last in this game - they also scored first - taking a 2-0 fourth-inning lead when Gus Triandos doubled home Dick Allen and Alex Johnson, after they both singled.  That would be the extent of the Phillies run production off the Cardinals' veteran lefty through eight innings.

In the meantime, the Cardinals began their scoring spree off Phillies starter Dennis Bennett in the fifth-inning.  With catcher Tim McCarver getting the night off, funnyman Bob Uecker filled in behind the plate and had a perfect night with the bat - two singles and three walks in five plate appearances.  He walked to start the fifth for the Cardinals.  After Curt Simmons struck out, Curt Flood singled, then Julian Javier drew another walk to load the bases for Dick Groat - who popped out to second.

With two out, Ken Boyer stepped into the batter's box and belted a high fastball down the left field line - and over the wall for a grand salami - giving St Louis a lead they would not relinquish.

Fortunately, they were relentless tonight - scoring at least one run in each of the remaining innings.  In the sixth, after Mike Shannon led-off with a triple, Carl Warwick - starting in left field tonight in place of Lou Brock - brought him in with a single - ending Dennis Bennett's night after allowing five runs in five innings.

St Louis added another run in the seventh, to build a 6-2 lead - when Boyer hit his second home run of the game - a solo shot off Ed Roebuck.

Uecker again ignited another rally, in the eighth, with a lead-off single off the third Philadelphia pitcher in the game - Dallas Green.  Strangely enough, without Green's assistance, the Cardinals would have lost this game, and worse yet - they never would have won the pennant, which means they never would have won the World Series.  So, thank you Dallas.

Returning to the action in the eighth-inning, after Uecker's shocking single, Simmons laid down a sacrifice bunt which Green booted - putting two very slow runners on first and second.  After Curt Flood forced Simmons at second base with a grounder to the shortstop, Uecker somehow managed to advance to third on the play, as Flood now became the runner at first.

Javier then singled Uecker in with an unearned run, as Flood raced to third.  Groat's sacrifice fly to center then scored Flood with the second unearned run of the inning - all thanks to Dallas Green.

Luckily for St Louis, Green remained in the game to pitch the ninth.  Bill White started things off with a single to right field - taking a wide turn at first base, which shortstop Bobby Wine thought was too wide, as he tried to pick him off - but the throw was off the mark, allowing White to cruise into second.  Shannon then singled to drive in White - then after Warwick was retired on a line drive to right field - our man Uecker got his second straight hit off his favorite pitcher - Dallas Green - putting runners on the corners with one out.

Curt Simmons was allowed to hit for himself - already leading 9-2.  He drove in what proved to be the deciding run - the tenth run - with a base hit to right.

With a 10-2 lead, Simmons was expected to simply go the distance, to give the bullpen a night off.  Nobody was warming up as the inning began.  Nobody expected Simmons would face five batters - and fail to record a single out.  But that's what happened.  Single, walk, walk, single, single - made it a 10-4 game - and the bases were still loaded.

Glen Hobbie hastily entered the game at this point, and couldn't throw a strike - walking in the fifth run of the game for Philadelphia - then after missing badly on the first two pitches to the biggest threat in the Phillies' lineup - rookie Dick Allen - manager Johnny Keane brought in Ron Taylor to complete the base on balls - forcing in another run to make it a 10-6 game.  Bases still loaded - still nobody out.

The next batter - Alex Johnson - knew he'd get a pitch to hit - and sure enough, Taylor grooved a fastball which Johnson ripped to right field for a single - scoring two more runs, as Allen moved up to third.  It was 10-8 and the circumstances were now dire for the Redbirds.  A loss in this game would be devastating - and they would for all intents and purposes, be finished for the season.

Keane went to the bullpen again - bringing in Mike Cuellar - who at least had plenty of time to warm up before entering the game.  He got the first out of the inning when John Herrnstein hit a sacrifice fly to right fielder Mike Shannon - but an overly aggressive Alex Johnson inexplicably tried to tag up from first and take second base after the catch.  He was out by ten feet - and suddenly, with two out and nobody on base now, the Phillies finally fizzled - as Triandos, who singled to start the trouble, ended it by popping out to second.

In the end, this harrowing win gave the Cardinals some much-needed momentum, as they would take both games of the Sunday double-header from a shell-shocked Phillies team - to win three out of four in this crucial series - although, at the time it didn't seem that "crucial" to anybody.

Although the Cardinals were finally above .500 to stay - they would still be 11 games out in little less than a month - August 23, to be exact.  However, as the other teams in the National League began falling by the wayside over the final month of this amazing season - most notably, the Phillies - the Cardinals continued to surge.  It was quite a finish, to say the least.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24, 1982 - Opportunistic Redbirds (5 Runs/5 Hits) Stifle Astros (1 Run/11 Hits)

Saturday, July 24, 1982 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Bob Knepper - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  22,462

The Cardinals had to be opportunistic to win this game - and they were - getting just five hits and five walks of total offense, they managed to score five runs, in handing the Houston Astros a frustrating 5-1 loss.

Houston, on the other hand, squandered most of their scoring opportunities - unable to get the key hit off Cardinals starter Bob Forsch - who yielded ten hits in 7.1 innings pitched, but just one lone run.

Houston had at least one hit in every inning - except the second - and their frustration started early - in the very first-inning.  After a lead-off single, Astros second baseman Dickie Thon tried to steal second base - unsuccessfully - while Terry Puhl was batting.  With one down and nobody on base now, Puhl then tripled - but was stranded when Forsch reached back for a little extra on his fastball - striking out Ray Knight.  Bob only had two strikeouts all day.  Jose Cruz was then retired on a fly ball to left to end the threat.  It was going to be that type of game for Houston - plenty of chances and plenty of missed opportunities.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, had very few scoring chances, but when they arose, the Redbirds rose to the occasion - starting with a third-inning run they tallied on just one hit - a lead-off single from Ozzie Smith.  With Forsch batting, Ozzie immediately swiped second - allowing Forsch the chance to move him to third with a sacrifice bunt - and he did.  Tommy Herr's sacrifice fly to center gave the Cards a quick 1-0 lead.

St Louis then jumped on Houston starter Bob Knepper for four runs in the fourth.  With one out, George Hendrick singled, then advanced to third on a single by Gene Tenace.  The next batter - Tito Landrum - scored Hendrick with a double to left field, while Tenace stopped at third.  Light-hitting Mike Ramsey then got into the act - scoring both runners with a single to left - and when Astros third baseman Art Howe botched the relay from the outfield, Ramsey advanced all the way to third base.  Ozzie then plated the fourth run of the inning (an unearned run) with a sacrifice fly to center field.

That was the extent of the St Louis attack on this Saturday afternoon.  Knepper's day was over after being lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth-inning - then Mike Lacoss and Randy Moffitt each pitched two-innings of no-hit-no-run relief for Houston - but the Astros lineup could only muster one fifth-inning run - on a two-out Dickie Thon double and a Terry Puhl run-scoring single.

After Ray Knight's one-out single off Forsch in the eighth-inning, manager Whitey Herzog brought in Jim Kaat to pitch to Jose Cruz - and the veteran lefty induced Cruz to hit into a Taylor-made 6-4-3 double play.

Bruce Sutter then got the final two outs in the ninth-inning (both strikeouts) to preserve the victory (although not a save situation), as Forsch improved to 10-5 on the season.

This was the kind of game the Cardinals managed to win with remarkable consistency in '82 - when they were outhit, but not outscored.  Opportunistic would seem to be their M.O.