August 23, 1982: In the first game of a three-game series between the host St Louis Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers, the Redbirds used timely hitting and capitalized on four Dodgers errors to cruise to an easy 11-3 victory. Every St Louis position player had at least one hit in the game, and with the exception of Tommy Herr and Ken Oberkfell, drove in at least one run. Reserve catcher Gene Tenace led the attack with four RBIs, while his battery mate, Bob Forsch (13-7) pitched 7.1 innings - was charged with three runs on seven hits; didn't walk any batters, and struck out two. In other words, a typical Bob Forsch game.
After the Cardinals jumped on Dodgers starter Jerry Reuss (12-10) for four runs in the third-inning, Forsch kept LA at bay through seven innings, holding a 5-1 lead entering the eighth. After yielding a run on two hits while retiring one batter, manager Whitey Herzog brought in relief specialist Bruce Sutter to nail the win down. Although an inherited runner scored on a two-base hit, making the score 5-3, Sutter was able to retire the next two batters to end the threat. The Cardinals made things easy for Bruce by plating six runs of their own in the bottom half of the eighth-inning, aided by more sloppy Dodgers defense.
Preserving an 11-3 win for the Cards may have been the easiest save (27) of Sutter's career. Still, by today's standards, a five-out save is considered almost heroic; perhaps even a bit desperate. Nowadays, most teams have specialists to nail down the final three innings. Herzog used Sutter in the highest leverage situations, and more often than not, the National League's premier closer and his remarkable split-fingered fastball delivered the save. In this particular outing, the future Hall of Fame relief ace struck out four batters in 1.2 innings of work. He allowed two hits (both doubles), walked none, and was charged with no runs. The Dodgers managed nine hits in the game, but with no free passes and no fielding miscues to capitalize on, they were unable to muster enough offense to threaten the future World Series champions.
The Redbirds dropped the final two games of the series at Busch Stadium to the Dodgers; the season series went LA's way as well in 1982, with the Cards winning five games, while losing seven. As it played out, the Atlanta Braves barely slipped past the Dodgers by a single game in the NL West that year, so it would be Atlanta - not LA - advancing to the NLCS to face the Cardinals. The Braves had to feel confident squaring off against the Redbirds, as they also held the edge in the season series - winning seven of the eleven games; however, the postseason is a different animal, and the Cards became beasts in sweeping Atlanta out of the postseason in three exciting NLCS games.
Whether or not the Cardinals would have whipped the Dodgers in a postseason showdown, as well, is anybody's guess. The showdown between the two iconic franchises would have to wait three years to become a reality. That one went decisively in favor of the Cards, four games to two. Many considered the 1985 edition of the Cardinals to be even better than the World Champions of 1982. Maybe Herzog's '82 squad got a bit lucky in the postseason; maybe not so lucky in '85.
Thanks to this shellacking administered by St Louis to Los Angeles on this date in 1982, the possibility of a Cardinals - Dodgers NLCS ultimately never materialized. That one may or may not have turned out so well for the Redbirds.
We'll never know, but it's always fun to consider the possibilities.