May 2, 1967: Bob Gibson hates losing. In his previous start against Houston at the Astrodome, he was trying to protect a slim 2-0 seventh-inning lead. After two hits and a walk loaded the bases with nobody out in that fateful inning, Gibson's night was over. Unfortunately for Gibby and the Cardinals, the bullpen was unable to get out of this predicament, as the Redbirds went down to defeat. As if that weren't bad enough, that was the start of a four-game losing streak which knocked St Louis (9-7) out of first place.
The team that had taken over the top spot in the National League - the Cincinnati Reds (15-5) - just happened to be in town for a brief two-game series, with their ace, Jim Maloney matched-up against an extra-surly Bob Gibson. The Reds never had a chance.
The only run Gibson would need all night came across in the bottom of the second-inning when Tim McCarver led-off with a single to right field, moved up to second base on a Mike Shannon ground-out, stole third, then came home on one of three wild pitches Maloney would deliver in his 5.2 innings of futile work.
In the meantime, Gibson was mowing down the Reds as if they were little leaguers - striking out six in a row at one point, and not yielding a hit until Vada Pinson led off the top of the fifth with a double down the right field line. Pete Rose did his job by moving Pinson to third with a ground-out to second base. With the tying run 90 feet away, Gibson struck out Tony Perez for the second straight time, then retired Deron Johnson on an easy infield pop-up to end the threat.
The Redbirds blew the game open with two outs in the bottom of the fifth, when Maloney couldn't find the strike zone. Both Roger Maris and Orlando Cepeda walked. Maloney then uncorked the second of three wild pitches, before walking McCarver to load the bases. Mike Shannon then cleared them with a double down the left field line. Just for good measure, the Cardinals tacked on another run the next inning, when Roger Maris singled in Bob Gibson, who had walked.
The top of the sixth-inning was uneventful, with one oddity worth noting: Gordy Coleman pinch hit for Tony Perez - a future Hall of Famer who would be an RBI machine during the heyday of the Big Red Machine. Gordy Coleman was at the tail end of a nice career but he only had eight plate appearances all year, with one base on balls and no hits to his credit. Although he failed to get a hit off Gibson this night, at least he didn't strike out. Perez later admitted that whenever he came up to bat against Gibby over the years, his wife would always make a trip to the ladies room; she simply couldn't bear to watch it.
On this early-May evening in St Louis, Perez had lots of company - the entire Reds lineup could only muster four base runners all night off Gibson - two hits and two walks - and no runs. They struck out twelve times that night, while being shutout for the second time in the young season. It was Gibson's most dominant performance all year, and it came at a time when the team needed it the most.
The next evening, Cards pitcher Ray Washburn shut them out again, moving St Louis just two games behind Cincinnati - who were at least able to salvage three of the next five road games in Atlanta and New York, to limp home still hanging on to first place; at least for a while.