Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Biggest Win of the Season for Redbirds

Without being overly dramatic, it's time the Cardinals step up and start winning some games; especially games against teams like the Dodgers...and pitchers like Clayton Kershaw.  They did, on Tuesday night.

It didn't look good when the Redbirds were in a 2-0 hole against the team that has owned St Louis for a frustrating eight consecutive games, with last year's Cy Young Award winner appearing to be in complete control.  All the weight of that miserable streak seemed to be lifted off the collective shoulders of the Cards when Adam Wainwright ripped one in the gap to cut the deficit to a single run in the fifth inning.  The real fun began in a six-run sixth; featuring a bases loaded walk to Waino, when the score was only 3-2 in favor of the Redbirds.  Open the flood gates; exit Clayton Kershaw, who gave up a career high eight runs to the team that has been the highest scoring squad in the NL all season long, but had scored a measly 21 runs in the previous eight games to LA - all losses.

With Cincinnati winning again, St Louis remains six games out, which sounds a whole lot better than seven games out.  Of course, timing is everything, and the Reds happen to be playing the Houston Astros at a time the Astros haven't won much of anything for the past month.  Still, the Reds are definitely winning when they have to - for the time being.  Much can happen over the final two months of the season.  Actually, much can happen over the final month of season (Anybody remember 2011?).

This season has so many similarities to last season, it's almost scary.  Last year, it was Chris Carpenter rising to the occasion in the second half to pitch the Cardinals to a playoff berth, with Waino on the sidelines.  This year, it seems like Waino is taking on that role as his buddy recuperates.  It would be nice to have both aces dealing in 2013; wouldn't it?

In the meantime, St Louis has a playoff berth to capture this year, and for the first time since early May, they appear to be heading in the right direction.  Tuesday night's outcome could be the catalyst that gets them rolling, once and for all.  We'll see.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

'85 Cards' Game 7 Comeback World Series Miracle

Saturday's 12-run 7th-inning outburst against the hapless Chicago Cubs tied a St Louis Cardinals' franchise record for most runs scored in a single inning.  As everyone remembers, they also turned the trick on September 15, 1926 against the hapless Philadelphia Phillies.  As it turned out, the Redbirds were just getting warmed up for their first ever World Series appearance, which ended in a classic seven game triumph over the heavily favored not-so-hapless New York Yankees.

Of course, Cardinals fans are hoping for history to repeat itself in 2012; twelve runs in a single inning during a regular season game surely means another World Series title for St Louis; doesn't it?  This would be their 12th championship in franchise history - and first back-to-back World Series winner, to boot.  I wonder if the invincible Texas Rangers from the vastly superior American League will be the patsies again this time around?  No, let's make it the LA Angels of Anaheim with What's His Name going up against his old team this time around.  Maybe he can strike out to end it in the ninth-inning with the bases loaded in Game Seven with the Halos trailing by three runs in front of his former legion of fans at Busch Stadium, just to make it more dramatic; especially, since the world is coming to an end on December 21, 2012, as the Mayans predicted a few thousand years ago.  As we all know, the Mayans were always right.

As much as I enjoyed that big inning against the Cubbies on July 21, 2012, I couldn't help but fantasize what it would have been like to experience that type of production in Game Seven of the 1985 World Series, with the Cardinals entering the seventh-inning trailing the Kansas City Royals by the score of 11-0.    To every Cardinals fan who remembers that ill-fated Fall Classic, Game Seven was the culmination of the most disastrous collapse in World Series history.  It may have been the single worst 24-hour span in St Louis Cardinals postseason history.

But now, thanks to a very well-written script authored by the current Redbird edition, here's a condensed play-by-play description of the miracle seventh-inning comeback by the '85 Cardinals to shock the Royals in the new and improved Game Seven, as seen on ABC.  Al Michaels, Jim Palmer, and Tim McCarver (the last minute replacement for Howard Cosell) are in the booth, describing the incredible on-field events.  It might have gone something like this:

AL MICHAELS:  Jack Clark is leading things off for the Cardinals, trying to get something started, down eleven runs to the Royals.

JIM PALMER:  Al, Bret Saberhagen is in complete control; St Louis has no chance against the ace of the Royals staff.  What do you think, Tim?

TIM MCCARVER:  There's plenty of time for St Louis to get back into this game.  They're due to break out of their World Series slump.  They're hitting under .200 as a team; that's simply impossible!

AL:  As if on cue, Clark hits a slow roller down the third base line; George Brett charges, makes a nice bare-handed grab, and fires a strike to first base, but Clark beats it out on a bang-bang play at first base! The first base umpire is Bill Williams, perhaps giving the Cardinals a break this time around.

TIM:  No, it looks like the replay shows Williams made the correct call; Jack Clark is no speed demon, but he flew down the line on that one; of course, Brett was playing deep which gave Jack that extra step to just barely beat the throw!

JIM:  I wouldn't get too excited, Tim.  That was more luck than anything else; he barely got his bat on that pitch.

AL:  That brings up Andy Van Slyke, who tries to bunt his way on base, but pops it up down the third base line; Brett makes a nice diving catch, while Clark scrambles safely back to first.

TIM:  George Brett made a nice play, but failed to double Clark off first base!  Had Brett immediately fired the ball over to first base, he would've had Clark dead to rights!

JIM:  Yeah, look at Saberhagen; giving his buddy a good-natured ribbing about not making the double play; those guys are really something, aren't they?  They're really having some fun out there tonight.

AL:  That brings up Terry Pendleton - the hero of Game Two...and just as he did in Game Two, Pendleton slaps one down the left-field line for a two-base hit, with Clark motoring to third; of course, being held up there, with St Louis still trailing by a bunch.

JIM:  Uh-oh; Saberhagen's in danger of losing his shut-out; time for the Royals to panic!  Ha!

AL:  That brings Tito Landrum to the plate...and he promptly grounds one through the hole into left-field, scoring Clark, with Van Slyke holding at third.  Now it's 11 to 1, in favor of Kansas City.  The shutout is gone, but Saberhagen is still very much in control.

TIM:  Better tell Reggie Jackson to get ready and move the champagne over to the Cardinals' clubhouse; this could be a big rally for St Louis!  Ha!

AL:  Coming up to bat for St Louis is 1982 World Series hero Darrell Porter...who promptly launches one to right-center field, in the gap!  This will score both Van Slyke and Porter makes it all the way to third base for a rare triple for the Cardinals catcher.  Now it's 11 to 3.

TIM:  With one out, that was a good decision for Porter to go for the extra base, where he can score on a sacrifice fly; had there been none out or two outs, he probably would have stayed at second base; good base-running by Porter!

JIM:  You just like him because he's a catcher and he's wearing your number "15".  Ha ha ha!

AL:  That'll bring up a pinch-hitter for pitcher Bob Forsch; that's Steve Braun grabbing a bat for the Cardinals; trying to keep the inning alive...and Braun draws a base on balls!  That gets the Kansas City bullpen stirring.

JIM:  Saberhagen may be getting a bit tired now; you know, his wife just had a baby, so maybe he's losing his concentration; thinking about his new-born son and his lovely wife; what a cute couple.  He's still smiling, though; I think he wants to pitch his way out of this jam and stay on television.  What a ham!  Ha ha ha ha ha!

AL:  Back to the top of the order now, is NLCS hero Ozzie Smith, whose home run in Game Five gave the Cards a thrilling 3-2 win over the Dodgers; his first-ever home run as a left-handed batter...and Smith corks another one down the line in right!  It may go!  No; it bounces into the stands on one hop for a ground-rule double, scoring Porter, but Braun has to stay at third base; I don't think he would've scored anyway.  Now, it's 11 to 4, and the natives are getting a bit restless here in Kansas City; and perhaps some of the St Louis fans are going a bit crazy right now!

JIM:  I'm a little surprised they're leaving Saberhagen in there; if he loses the next batter, I'm pretty sure he's gone.

TIM:  Absolutely!  Look at that Cardinals' dugout!  They're coming alive now!

AL:  Still down by seven runs, however; that brings up NL batting champion Willie McGee with first base open; runners on second and third...This is odd; they're walking McGee intentionally; I suppose to set up the double play; but it seems strange to put another runner on base.

TIM:  Absolutely!  You've got to pitch to McGee in this situation!  The Royals just need to get outs; they don't need to give St Louis any breaks by putting another runner on base here!  Makes no sense!

AL:  That brings up the Cardinals' leading RBI guy during the regular season - Tommy Herr - to the plate, with the bases loaded with Redbirds and just one out...and Herr pops it up!  The infield fly rule is in effect as second baseman Frank White squeezes the second out of the inning.  Oh, that's a big out for Saberhagen, as Cardinal fans are letting out a collective groan.  Herr is beside himself; he had a pitch to hit, but got under it; that's not like him; he's a notorious line-drive hitter.

JIM:  You have to credit Saberhagen for making a big pitch when he had to, Al.  Look at him; he's still smiling.  Ha ha ha!

AL:  Well, the guy who started all this noise for St Louis - Jack Clark - is coming to bat with the bases still loaded.  Any kind of hit here could have the Cardinals right back in this thing; Clark is of course, their only legitimate power hitter.  He had 22 homers during the regular season, and his ninth-inning bomb in Game Six of the NLCS gave the Cardinals an impressive 7-5 come-from-behind win over the Dodgers at Dodger Stadium.

TIM:  Absolutely!  If you'll recall, first base was open in that situation, and Tommy Lasorda elected to pitch to Clark with Andy Van Slyke on deck for St Louis; a huge mistake, in my opinion.  You never pitch to the one guy in that Cardinals lineup who can beat you; and that's Jack Clark.

AL:  Of course, no place to put Clark here; the bases are loaded, although there are two out.  This could get very interesting...and Clark rips one to right field!  Braun and Smith both score; it's 11 to 6 now, as Clark rumbles into second base with McGee stopping at third!

TIM:  And that's exactly why you don't walk McGee.  He represents the seventh run of the inning - and the game - for the Cardinals!  You've got to get Saberhagen out of there now.  No way a right hander pitches to the left-handed swinging Van Slyke in this situation.  They've got to bring in a left-hander out of the bullpen.

JIM:  That's a shame; Saberhagen pitched just great tonight - and the whole Series for that matter - but he must be out of gas; but look at him; he's still smiling!  Ha ha ha ha ha!

AL:  And as Saberhagen leaves the mound to a standing ovation, the new pitcher for Kansas City is Charlie Liebrandt - who pitched so brilliantly in Game Two, before losing the game on a miracle ninth-inning rally, just one week ago, tonight.  The southpaw will try to quell the Cardinal uprising here in Game Seven, and send Kansas City to its first-ever World Series championship.

TIM:  Even though first base is open, there's no way they're going to walk Van Slyke.  They've got to go after him, especially since switch-hitter Terry Pendleton is due up next; and we all know what happened the last time he faced Liebrandt.  His double scored the winning runs in that remarkable ninth-inning comeback win.

AL:  And Van Slyke slices a line drive to left field!  Two more runs are in, making the score 11 to 8 now, as Andy pulls into second base with another St Louis double!  Do you believe in miracles?  Seriously!

JIM:  Ha ha ha ha ha!  You've already used that line, Al!  But you're right; this is getting out of hand if you're a Royals fan!

TIM:  I told you; this team is too good to keep down for an entire seven-game series!  Here's proof!

AL:  Now it's just a three-run game; but still, the Cards only have one runner on base with Pendleton coming to the plate.  Liebrandt's going to stay in there and make Pendleton bat right-handed...and Terry does it again!  A shot into right field scores Van Slyke from second base; Pendleton has the fifth double of the inning for the Cardinals, making the score 11 to 9!  There are a lot of Cardinals fans here tonight, and we're really starting to hear from them now!  The St Louis dugout has really come alive now!  Look at Vince Coleman; he's out of action of course, with a broken bone in his leg, but it looks like he's break-dancing down there!  There's starting pitcher John Tudor, with his left hand bandaged after punching a fan; even he's smiling!  And no, I'm not talking about a baseball fan; he punched a real fan that blows cool air; so please, don't call the network to complain, folks.  It's all good!

JIM:  This is a weird game, that's for sure!  Ha ha ha!

AL:  Okay, with Pendleton at second base, the batter will be Tito Landrum who singled his first time up this inning to drive in the first run for St Louis...and the pitch misses for ball four!  The tying runs are on base now for St Louis!  Here comes Darrell Porter again; Porter tripled in a couple of runs earlier in this wild and crazy inning...and Porter lines one into left field this time!  Pendleton will easily score as Landrum races around to third base!  Porter makes it into second base, representing the go-ahead run for St Louis!  Landrum represents the tying run, just 90 feet away!  It's just a one-run game now; 11 to 10!

TIM:  That's the sixth double of the inning for the Cardinals!  Never before has a team had so many doubles in a single inning in World Series history!  Never!  This is unbelievable!

JIM:  Where did Saberhagen go?  He's not in the Kansas City dugout, grinning for the cameras any more.  He must have retreated to the clubhouse.  I wonder if Reggie Jackson is still in the Kansas City clubhouse with all that champagne?  Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha!

AL:  That brings Steve Braun up again.  Braun pinch hit for pitcher Bob Forsch earlier in this inning, and with the game on the line, could drive in the runs to make Forsch the pitcher of record for St Louis.  Forsch only worked 1.1 innings, but allowed no runs; keeping the Royals at 11 runs.  At the time, it seemed inconsequential; but now, it could make him the winner of Game Seven!

JIM:  I'm surprised they're leaving Liebrandt in there; he clearly doesn't have anything tonight!

AL:   And Braun rips one to right field!  Landrum will score, and they're waving Porter around from second base; he'll easily score the go-ahead run as Braun motors into second base with the seventh double in the seventh-inning of Game Seven for the running Redbirds!  St Louis has grabbed the lead for the first time; 12 to 11!  And this ballpark, which was fantasy-land just a few minutes ago has turned into a Cardinals' private party with several thousand St Louis fans going crazy right now!  You're looking at one for the ages!  I don't believe what I just saw!  I don't believe what I just saw!  This is absolute pandemonium!

Time restraints ends the play-by-play coverage of this inning, which finally ends with Willie McGee striking out to end the seventh inning with no further damage.  Heading into the bottom of the seventh-inning, St Louis is leading 12 to 11.  The Royals are shell shocked, but they still have three chances to take the lead and still win the game and the World Series.

Not this time.  The St Louis bullpen retires the Royals in order; nine up and nine down to close out the most improbable World Series comeback in history.  Terry Pendleton is voted the World Series MVP, and Don Denkinger is spared decades of abuse from disgruntled Cardinals' fans for blowing that call at first base in Game Six.

All it took was a twelve-run rally in Game Seven to make Cardinal Nation forget what happened in Game Six.  Just a simple little twelve-run rally, featuring seven doubles.  And nice commentary from Al Michaels, who was forced to use some classic play-by-play calls a bit earlier than history otherwise dictated.  Big deal; at least Tim McCarver got to provide his expert color commentary for the first time in postseason history, as the last minute replacement for Howard Cosell, who fell out of favor with the ABC executives for writing his scathing book, "I Never Played the Game".  McCarver has done just about every postseason series ever since, and I've always appreciated his words of wisdom.  He's finally getting some recognition from Cooperstown, as the recipient of the Ford C Frick Award, which may have happened a bit sooner had the Cards actually pulled off that miracle in '85!