Thursday, April 24, 2014

4 Pitching Gems in St Louis Cardinals History (April 9 - 12)

April 9, 1983 - The defending World Series champion St Louis Cardinals opened the new season with a 5-0 win over the New York Mets at Shea Stadium, before a wary gathering of 11,511 New Yorkers.  Joaquin Andujar, who started and won Game 7 of the '82 World Series over the heavy hitting Milwaukee Brewers, had no trouble dispatching an anemic Mets lineup today, going the distance in holding New York to just four hits, walking none, while striking out nine.  The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie in the 7th-inning when the first six batters reached base, and four of them scored on a pair of bases loaded singles - by George Hendrick, then David Green, who was quickly picked off first base for the first out of the inning.  Mike Ramsey closed out the scoring with a sacrifice fly, which was more than enough run support for the ace right hander on this day.

This was not a good day for attempting anything daring on the bases.  In addition to Green's mishap, the Redbirds lost two other runners attempting to steal - Hendrick and Lonnie Smith.  The Mets' Mookie Wilson attempted to steal second base on two separate occasions and was nailed both times.

As hapless as the Mets were on this particular day, their fortunes would be greatly improved just prior to the June trading deadline after Cardinals first baseman Keith Hernandez was shipped to New York for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownby - neither of whom did much to help St Louis win.  Strangely enough, as the Mets' resurgence manifested itself in the mid to late '80s, so too did the Cardinals, almost in spite of this trade; and a fierce rivalry was born.

April 10, 1968 - The defending World Series champion St Louis Cardinals hosted the Atlanta Braves on Opening Night before a crowd of 34,740, fully anticipating Cards' ace Bob Gibson to pitch the home team to victory.  Instead, Gibson was removed from the game after working seven innings, trailing 1-0.  Naturally, the run the Braves scored came in the second-inning, and was unearned - the result of a Lou Brock dropped fly ball.  In a way, this game typified the season Gibson compiled, posting an amazing 1.12 ERA, but only winning 22 games.  Here was just another no decision for Gibby, who was taken out of the game when it was his turn at bat in the bottom of the seventh, with runners on first and second and two out.  Pinch hitter Bobby Tolan lined out to end the threat, while Gibson seethed in the Cardinals dugout (he had one hit in two ABs, previously).

Although Gibson allowed just three hits, plus one walk in the seven innings, he didn't strikeout a single batter; the deepest he's ever pitched in a game with no punch-outs.  His replacement, Ray Washburn kept Atlanta hitless for two innings, walking one, while striking out two.  St Louis finally broke through in the eighth-inning, as last season's NL MVP Orlando Cepeda delivered a clutch two-out double to score Curt Flood from first base to tie the game.  The Redbirds won it in the ninth when light-hitting Dal Maxvill doubled with one out, and pinch runner Dick Simpson sprinted home from second on pinch hitter Dave Ricketts' base hit to center, giving Washburn the win.

April 11, 1967 - Opening Night in St Louis, as the Cardinals hosted the San Francisco Giants in front of 38,117 Cards' fans expecting a pitchers' duel between the two of the best in the game - Bob Gibson and Juan Marichal.  On this night, it was no contest; Gibson threw a five-hit complete game shutout, walking none while striking out 13.  On the other hand, Marichal yielded six runs on fourteen hits in seven innings - the big blow coming in the second inning with Lou Brock at the plate with two runners on.  Harry Caray's call:  "He got the first hit; will he drive in the first run?  (crack of the bat)  There she goes!  It might be outta here, it could be, it is a home run!  Holy cow!"

Brock was one of five Cardinals players with two hits in the game - Curt Flood, newly acquired Roger Maris (playing with peace of mind now), Tim McCarver, and Julian Javier were the others.  Dal Maxvill, who would go on to hit a paltry .227 for the season, led the team with three hits on Opening Night; proving that on any given day (or night), anything can happen.

The final score of 6-0 was a fitting way to start what would prove to be a championship season for St Louis - as the Cardinals would go on to win their first six games in '67.

April 12, 2005 -  The Cardinals played host to the Cincinnati Reds in front of 33,617 fans, dressed mostly in Red, as one might suspect with these two red-clad NL Central rivals hooking up.  On this night, Cardinals starting pitcher Jason Marquis was sharp - 6 IP - 5 hits - 1 earned run - 2 BB - 6 SO - and helped his own cause with the bat, delivering a second-inning one-out bases loaded triple to erase an early 1-0 Cincinnati advantage, en route to a final 5-1 win.  Solo home runs in the sixth-inning by Jim Edmonds and Reggie Sanders accounted for the last pair of runs.  The bullpen shut down the Reds over the final three innings, as somebody named Carmen Cali pitched a perfect ninth for the Redbirds to end it.  All told, in parts of three seasons with St Louis and Minnesota, Cali appeared in 40 major league games, had won none and lost one, had no saves, and sported a 6.55 ERA.  Reminding us once again, how difficult it is to be a successful big league ballplayer for any length of time.

It's interesting to note, the losing pitcher for Cincinnati that night was the erstwhile Aaron Harang, who nine years later, pitching for the Atlanta Braves is the hottest hurler on the planet right now with an ERA at 0.85 as I type this.  Harang's career ERA is 4.22.

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