Saturday, May 31, 2014

May 31, 1968 - Jaster Flirts With Perfection

Friday, May 31, 1968 - At Shea Stadium, a nice crowd of 41,075 amazin' fans was in the house for the first game of a four-game series, hoping to see their boy - Tom Seaver - deliver a rare win over the St Louis Cardinals.

Southpaw Larry Jaster - the notorious Dodger killer - got the start for St Louis, and was dominant from the outset, handling the Mets' lineup with such ease, longtime St Louis sportswriter Bob Broeg was overheard joking to a colleague, "Geez, I wonder if Jaster thinks these guys are the Dodgers?"  As a rookie, two seasons prior, Jaster started five games against the defending World Champions and shut them out five times.  In that same season against the rest of the league, he was 6-5 with an ERA of 4.66.  Go figure.

Granted, the Mets' lineup on this particular night wouldn't evoke memories of Murderer's Row, but they were still major league hitters, technically; and just one year away from winning an improbable World Series showdown with the Baltimore Orioles.  Proof that anything can happen in baseball.

Don Bosch CF
Cleon Jones LF
Ron Swoboda RF
Jerry Grote C
Ed Charles 3B
Greg Goosen 1B
Phil Linz 2B
Al Weis SS
Tom Seaver P

The Cardinals got to Seaver the second time through the batting order, in the third-inning, when Lou Brock led off with a slicing triple down the left field line, followed by Curt Flood's single to right, scoring Brock.  After Roger Maris and Orlando Cepeda were retired on fly balls to left field, Seaver uncorked a wild pitch with Tim McCarver batting, moving Flood up to second base.  With Mike Shannon on deck, Seaver elected to walk McCarver intentionally, but the strategy backfired when Shannon delivered a run-scoring single.

That was it for the Redbirds.  Seaver allowed nine hits and three walks in his nine innings of work - but just those two runs.  He also struck out eight.

In the meantime, Jaster struck out seven in his first five innings of work.  Most importantly, he hadn't allowed a base runner.  In the sixth-inning, he once again set the Mets down in order, but failed to record a whiff for the first time in the game.  He was tiring, but still keeping the Mets' hitters off balance; unable to make solid contact with any of his pitches.  Three up, three down in the seventh.  By now, the crowd was stirring with every out the St Louis pitcher was recording.  After retiring the first two batters in the eighth-inning - Grote on a ground out to short - Charles on a foul pop up to third baseman Shannon - part-time first baseman/catcher/pinch hitter Greg Goosen lined a single to left field, breaking up the perfecto.

Goosen would appear in just 38 games all season, but manager Gil Hodges decided to give the left-handed swinging Ed Kranepool the night off.  Ironically, Goosen, who hit a paltry .208 in '68, was lost in the expansion draft to the Seattle Pilots prior to the '69 season, missing out on being a part of a World Series champion.  However, in 52 games with Seattle, Goosen (.309/.385/.597) displayed a keen batting eye with nice power, hitting ten home runs.  Go figure.

Phil Linz ended the eighth-inning threat by flying out to Curt Flood in center.

The perfect game was over, but Sadecki still had a rare (one-hit) shutout going against a team not called "the Dodgers".  The first batter in the bottom of the ninth, Al Weiss, was retired on a fly ball to center.  Pinch hitting for Seaver (2-5 after this loss) - Jerry Buchek flew out to Brock in left.  Then, Don Bosch, another part-time player getting a rare start for the Mets, lined a single to left, for the second hit of the game.  Moments later, Bosch was forced out at second, on a Cleon Jones' grounder to Dal Maxvill to end it.

Jaster (3-2) had lowered his ERA to 0.95 after this performance, but his career had already reached its peak.  He would finish with a disappointing 9-13 record with a high (for the times) 3.51 ERA.  He would then be claimed by the Montreal Expos in the expansion draft, posting a 1-6  record to go with a 5.49 ERA.  Then off to Atlanta for part-time duty for a couple of seasons, before finally ending his major league career at the tender age of 28.

The third-place Cardinals (24-21) would go on to sweep the Mets in the four-game series, then roll into Houston to sweep the Astros in four straight to claim sole possession of first place - a lead they would never relinquish.    

Friday, May 30, 2014

May 30, 1982 - A Wild Come From Behind (Twice) Extra-Inning Winner

Sunday, May 30, 1982 - This was the rubber game of a three-game series with the San Diego Padres at Busch Stadium II.  The Cardinals worked some magic in the first game on Friday night - a 5-2 win - scoring those five runs on just five hits.  The Padres got some measure of revenge on Saturday, when they broke a 2-2 tie with two runs in the ninth - good for a 4-2 win.  The way some of the Padres sauntered off the field after Saturday's win rankled more than a few of the Cardinals, who vowed to turn the tables on Sunday.  What would happen at the end of this game was almost beyond belief.  For those among the crowd of 32,410 who stuck around until the end; it was a game they'd never forget.

Dave LaPoint got the start for St Louis, and pitched well through eight innings; holding San Diego to just two runs on six hits.  Unfortunately, the Cardinal offense could do nothing with Padres starter Tim Lollar, who blanked the Redbirds on just two hits through the first six innings.  Then, in the seventh-innng, after retiring both George Hendrick and Lonnie Smith on routine ground outs, light-hitting Mike Ramsey doubled down the left field line - only the third hit Lollar had allowed up to this point in the game.

Apparently, Padres manager Dick Williams had seen enough.  He brought in Gary Lucas to pitch to Julio Gonzalez, who struck out to end the threat.  Lucas would then be asked to pitch the eighth and ninth innings for San Diego; normally, a routine assignment.

After St Louis failed to score in the seventh, the Padres put runners on second and third with nobody out in the top of the eighth-inning.  Herzog elected to keep LaPoint in the game, and his starter rewarded him by retiring the next three batters - stranding the runners.  It seemed inconsequential at the time; especially after Lucas retired the Cardinals on just one hit and no runs in the bottom-half of the eighth.

It really seemed inconsequential when the Padres came right back to tack on an insurance run in the ninth inning, off reliever Doug Bair.  With two out and nobody on, Luis Salazar singled, stole second, then came around to score on Jerry Manuel's triple.  Ironically, after an intentional walk put runners on first and third, Gary Lucas was allowed to hit for himself - striking out to end the inning; but the Padres now led 3-0, as Lucas headed back to the mound, anxious to close this one out.

The Cardinals had other ideas.  Keith Hernandez began the ninth-inning rally with a single.  George Hendrick also singled, as Hernandez stopped at second.  The next hitter, Lonnie Smith ripped a double down the left field line, scoring Hernandez, as Hendrick stopped at third.  One run in, still nobody out.  Lucas finally retired a batter - Mike Ramsey - on a ground out to third, as the runners remained at second and third.  The next batter, Julio Gonzalez hit another ground ball to third, but this time, Luis Salazar made an errant throw to first, allowing Hendrick to score, as Smith held up at third; but Gonzalez hustled all the way to second on the error.  After David Green was intentionally walked to load the bases, Tommy Herr pinch hit for Bair - and got the third and final run of the inning home with a sacrifice fly to left.  Ozzie Smith, who had a tough day at the plate, going 0 for 5, grounded out to end the inning.

The Cardinals had tied it, 3-3.  On to one of the wildest tenth innings in Cardinal history.

The Cardinals' relief ace, Bruce Sutter was now pitching.  The first two batters he faced -Wiggins and Richards - both singled - putting runners on first and third.  The next batter, Lefebvre, doubled - scoring Wiggins, as Richards stopped at third.  After Jones was intentionally walked to load the bases (still nobody out), Lezcano hit a ground ball to Ozzie who made a strong throw home to force Richards.  One out.  Salazar hit another ground ball to Ozzie.  His only play was a force out at second.  Two out, but another run in as Lefebvre scored.  Salazar stole second, but the inning ended when Manuel grounded one to Ozzie, who threw to first for the third out.  The Padres were back on top, 5-3, with Gary Lucas heading back to the mound once again, trying to close it out.

Lucas retired the first two hitters - Sanchez on a ground out to second and Hernandez on a line out to center - but trouble lurked ahead.  George Hendrick poked a single to left field and scored when Lonnie Smith smoked a double down the left field line.  Mike Ramsey then delivered the game-tying hit - a single to left as Lonnie crossed home, sending 32,410 - minus a few who left early - into pandemonium.  Lucas, obviously rattled, hit the next batter, Gonzalez, with a pitch - and that signaled the end of his day.  He was still responsible for the base runners - the important one being Ramsey at second, representing the winning run.

Floyd Chiffer was the third and final pitcher for the Padres.  He would face only one batter - Dane Iorg - who wasted no time in lining a single to center field, scoring Ramsey with the improbable game winner.

The winning pitcher - Bruce Sutter (3-1) - was smiling a sheepish grin in the Cardinal clubhouse, as his teammates were needling him about his performance.  His pitching line:  1 IP - 3 H - 2 R - 1 BB - 0 SO

Gary Lucas (0-4) wasn't so happy in the visitor's clubhouse.  He worked three innings, but probably came into the game too early - and he probably stayed in the game too long.  The Cardinals roughed him up for seven hits and six runs, including one very costly unearned run.

In the end, it was by far, the craziest game of the season for the Cardinals - and a very nice one to win.

Thursday, May 29, 2014

May 28, 1982 - 5 Hits = 5 Runs in Win Over Padres - May 29, 1987 - Cards Score Late, Score Often in Win Over Astros

Friday, May 28, 1982 - The San Diego Padres were in town for the first game of a three-game weekend series at Busch Stadium II.  Juan Eichelberger would pitch a complete game for San Diego, limiting the Cardinals to just five hits and a pair of walks.  Bob Forsch was on the mound for St Louis, allowed the Padres seven hits, including a home run, and also issued a pair of walks.  He failed to strike out a single batter and failed to go the distance.  Naturally, he won the game with a little relief help from Bruce Sutter.

The Cardinals parlayed the five hits, two walks, some shoddy Padres defense and their no-so-secret weapon - team speed - into a relatively easy 5-2 win.  It seemed Willie McGee was in scoring position continuously, but in reality, it was only three times - and the rookie scored each time, displaying the remarkable speed that would fit in so nicely with the Redbird offensive approach throughout the '80's.

In the first-inning, a one-out McGee triple plus a Lonnie Smith ground out to the shortstop put the first run on the board for St Louis.  Then after Willie singled to lead off the fourth-inning, he advanced all the way to third base on a ground ball by Lonnie Smith which was booted by the first baseman.  He then scored the unearned run on a Keith Hernandez sacrifice fly.  Finally, in the eighth-inning, McGee coaxed a one-out walk, immediately stole second, then scored for the third time on Lonnie Smith's single to left field.  Not a bad night.

The Cards scored their other two runs in the seventh-inning when McGee's turn in the batting order didn't come up.  This time it was Keith Hernandez getting into scoring position with a lead-off double; he then advanced to third on a fielder's choice and came home on a David Green base hit to center.  Later in the inning, Ken Oberkfell came home from third on one of Whitey Herzog's favorite weapons - the squeeze play.

Every hit, plus one of the walks the Cardinals had in this game either came around to score or drove in a run.  Talk about offensive efficiency!  It was on display tonight for those 31,733 fans to enjoy in just a little over two hours.

Forsch (6-1) went 7.2 innings, allowed seven hits (including a solo home run), walked two, didn't strike out anybody, but only gave up two runs - with a little help from Bruce Sutter - who finished up the remaining 1.1 innings in the game, allowing just one hit, no walks, and believe it or, no strikeouts.

Just another night at the old ballpark for a team that fooled everybody en route to a World Series title in 1982.

Friday, May 29, 1987 - The Houston Astros were paying a visit to St Louis for a three-game weekend series with the Cardinals, as their ace, Mike Scott was all set to go for game one.  Rookie Joe Magrane got the start for St Louis, as a huge crowd of 48,423 jammed into Busch Stadium II to see how their Redbirds would fare against the reigning NL Cy Young Award winner.

Houston got on the board first, with two second-inning runs, thanks to a Kevin Bass lead-off home run and an RBI ground out by pitcher Scott - scoring Ashby - to help his own cause.  That 2-0 lead remained intact until the Cardinals came to bat in the fifth-inning.  With one out, Ozzie Smith drew a base on balls, immediately stole second, and advanced to third when the shortstop forgot to catch the ball.  Tommy Herr then brought Ozzie home with a base hit to left.  Scott was able to escape any further scoring in the inning, but for some reason, didn't return to the mound for the next inning.  The new Astros pitcher would be the corpulent Aurelio Lopez.

In the meantime, Magrane was removed from the game after working just four innings, allowing just those two runs in the second-inning.  Lee Tunnell would work the next two hit-less and scoreless innings, while the Redbirds were going to work on Lopez in the sixth.  His job, of course, was to preserve that 2-1 lead for Mike Scott.  After two straight doubles by Clark and McGee, Ford singled in McGee, stole second with Lindeman batting, then advanced to third when Lindeman grounded out - for the first out Lopez was able to get in his disastrous 0.1 inning of work.

Out of the Astros bullpen came the zany Larry Anderson - a fun-loving practical joker - who managed to escape any further damage.  But the Cardinals now led, 3-2.  The beneficiary of this sudden lead change was reliever Tunnell, who stood to be the winning pitcher if the Redbirds could keep the lead.

Anderson, the practical joker who pitched brilliantly to minimize the damage in the sixth, got lit up for five runs in the seventh, which was no fun at all to him; but the Cardinals were having a blast.  The key hits for the Cardinals were McGee's two-run single, and pinch hitter Tony Pena's bases loaded triple, as St Louis put this game on ice.  Ricky Horton worked the final two hit-less and scoreless innings to preserve the 8-2 victory.

This was a tale of two bullpens - one did the job, the other was a joke - at least tonight.


Wednesday, May 28, 2014

May 24 - 25 - 26 - 27 - 2 Great Pitching Performances - The Pete Kozma LA Game - HR Derby at Busch

Tuesday, May 24, 2011 - With 19,426 well-tanned fans on hand at Petco Park in beautiful San Diego, the Cardinals and Padres were set to play the second game of a low-scoring three-game series.  St Louis had won the night before, by a 3-1 score.  They would lose by that same score in the series finale on Wednesday.  What was in store for tonight?  Hint:  Very few runs.

The starting pitchers for tonight's game:  Aaron Harang for the Padres - Kyle McClellan for the Cardinals.  Both pitched well; but neither figured in the decision.  The Cardinals scored an unearned run in the first-inning when Jon Jay scored from second on a combination Lance Berkman infield single/throwing error by the first baseman.

The Padres came back and scored two unearned runs of their own in the bottom of the first.  With two out, ex-Redbird Ryan Ludwick reached safely on shortstop Ryan Theriot's throwing error.  Instead of retiring the side, McClellan had to face Brad Hawpe, who showed no mercy, blasting a two-run home run deep to left field.  That would be all the scoring for San Diego in this game; but for now, they held a 2-1 lead over the Cardinals.  Until the seventh-inning.

Harang was still hanging in there as the seventh-inning began with Tony Cruz doubling to right field.  Daniel Descalso then laid down a perfect bunt, not only moving Cruz up to third, but reaching safely himself.  The next batter, Colby Rasmus, grounded one to the first baseman; Cruz first broke for home, but realizing he couldn't make it, tried to scamper back to third; but he was too far away from the bag - in no man's land.  The first baseman quickly fired the ball over to third, as Cruz headed in the direction of home.  The third baseman fired a strike to the catcher, as Cruz abruptly stopped and started back towards third; by this time, the catcher was halfway to third trying to catch the elusive runner, but gave up and thew it back to the third baseman.  Now home plate was exposed, so the pitcher had to get involved, catching the throw from the third baseman as Cruz tried to score.  He didn't make it, but stayed in the rundown long enough to get Descalso all the way over to third, as Rasmus hustled into second.  Ryan Theriot, whose first-inning throwing error led to two unearned runs, atoned for that with a ground ball to second, which scored Descalso with the tying run.

In the meantime, as this game progressed, McClellan settled down nicely after giving up the first-inning home run.  The only other hit he allowed in six innings of work was a two-out fourth-inning double by Chase Headley.  In fact, that was the only other hit for the Padres in the entire game, as the St Louis bullpen - Miller, Motte, Batista, and Sanchez - would no-hit the Padres for five innings (they walked three).

The San Diego bullpen, which took over in the eighth-inning, was almost as dominant; at least through the first ten innings (one hit).  But their luck ran out in the eleventh-inning, with a new pitcher - Ernesto Frieri.  Allen Craig led off with a walk, then stole second as Skip Schumaker struck out.  Cruz also struck out.  But Descalso bounced an infield hit the shortstop couldn't corral.  Craig - acting like Enos Slaughter - never stopped running as the ball trickled out towards center field.  He scored what proved to be the winning run, giving aging reliever Miguel Batista (3-1) the win, as Frieri (1-2) got the loss.

Eduardo Sanchez pitched a perfect eleventh-inning for his fifth - and final - save of the season.  Sanchez was one of many unsung heroes for the Cardinals in 2011.  In 30 IP he had an ERA of 1.80, striking out 35 batters, while compiling a 3-1 record.  A nice contribution, indeed.

In fact, several of the unsung heroes starred in this game; manufacturing  the runs needed to get this one in the win column.  For the time being, the Cardinals (30-20) occupied first-place in the NL Central.  Although they cooled off while Milwaukee got hot, the Cards still grabbed the wild card; and when the postseason began, they were hotter than ever.

Thursday, May 25, 1967 - He looked more like a high school chemistry teacher than a major league pitcher.  But Dick Hughes, as a 29-year old crew-cut rookie with the St Louis Cardinals, started the season in the bullpen, got his first starting assignment on May 5, and went on to compile some very impressive numbers:  16-6 - 2.67 ERA - 27 games started - 222.1 IP - a NL-best 0.954 WHIP.  He even saved three games.  Unfortunately, his career would be cut short the very next season after just 60+ innings of work.  Tommy John Surgery hadn't been invented yet.

Hughes got the starting assignment in Atlanta's Fulton County Stadium on this particular night, with 18,375 in attendance to watch a truly masterful performance.  In this start, Hughes would record his first complete game, his first win as a starting pitcher, as well as his first shutout (he had three in '67 - and in his short-lived career).  Final score:  St Louis 5 - Atlanta 0.  Another Dick (Kelly) took the loss for Atlanta.

The Braves could only muster two hits off Hughes (2-1) all night long.  No walks.  Nine strikeouts.  The game was over in 2:06.  It lasted that long because the Cardinals were spending so much time on offense.

The Redbirds scored the only run Hughes would need in the second-inning.  With Alex Johnson on first and Ed Spezio on third with one out, the pair executed a perfect double steal, as Spezio slid in ahead of the relay throw from a befuddled second baseman.  (Hard for me to believe Lou Brock never stole home in his entire career.  Mike Shannon has done it.  So has Tim McCarver.  Glenn Brummer in '82.  Just to name a few.)

Hughes also got some home run support from the top of the order.  Lou Brock connected with one out in the third (no runners on base).  Then Curt Flood put the icing on the cake with a two-out three-run blast in the fifth-inning.  That was it.

By the way, Hughes finished second in the National League Rookie of the Year voting.  Tom Seaver - who had already become a celebrity by the All Star break, pitching for the New York Mets - edged him out.

Sunday, May 26, 2013 - This was the rubber game of a three-game series between the St Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers at beautiful Dodger Stadium in Chavez Ravine.  The Dodgers had their ace, Clayton Kershaw on the mound; the Cardinals countered with rookie Shelby Miller.

In the end, the final score:  Pete Kozma 5 - Adrian Gonzalez 3.

Kozma  was 4 for 4 (3 doubles) - 2 runs scored - 3 runs batted in - His first double in the second-inning came with the bases loaded and turned a 2-0 deficit into a 3-2 Cardinal lead.  He doubled again in the seventh and scored on a Matt Carpenter base hit, which put the Cardinals in the lead again, 4-3.  Then he capped off his day with his third double in the ninth-inning, and came in to score the final run of the game on a Matt Adams base hit.

Miller, who was victimized by Gonzalez with a two-run first-inning home run and a fifth-inning run-scoring single, left the game after getting one out in the sixth-inning, with the game tied, Kozma 3 - Gonzalez 3.

Kershaw pitched seven full innings; just long enough for Kozma to score the go-ahead run, which meant he stayed in the game long enough to take the loss.  A well-timed relief appearance by Seth Maness (4-1) got him the win.  Seth's pitching line:  1 IP - 2 H - 0 R - 2 BB - 0 SO - In other words, after bailing Miller out in the sixth-inning, he had to be bailed out in the seventh, with runners on first and third - one out.

Enter Trevor Rosenthal from the St Louis bullpen.  After plunking Andre Ethier to load the bases, Rosenthal blew some 98 mph gas past Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker to end the Dodger threat.  He also worked a scoreless eighth-inning, before turning the ball over to closer Edward Mujica who got his 14th save of the season.

By season's end, Rosenthal had taken over the closer's role in the St Louis bullpen, and Pete Kozma had stopped hitting.  But on this late May Sunday afternoon in LA, 43,244 Dodger fans had to be impressed with the Cardinal shortstop's uncanny hitting prowess.  Against Clayton Kershaw, no less.

Sunday, May 27, 2012 - It was a sunny, hot and muggy Sunday afternoon in St Louis.  Perfect weather for launching a few home runs at Busch Stadium III.  Attempting to prevent such activity was Roy Halladay for the Philadelphia Phillies and Adam Wainwright for the home team.

Halladay immediately put himself into a bases loaded, two-out jam in the first-inning, with Yadier Molina stepping into the batter's box - and then stepping into a belt-high fastball that sailed over the wall for a grand slam home run.  Halladay's day was going to be a short one - 2 IP - 4 H - 4 R - 1 BB - 0 SO - 1 HR

Wainwright fared a bit better.  After missing the entire 2011 season from Tommy John Surgery, Waino struggled through 2012, trying to regain his arm strength and stamina.  Staked to that nice 4-0 lead, he was able to make it through six innings with minimal damage - just one run on seven hits.

In the meantime, the Cardinals were still playing long ball.  In the fifth-inning, Carlos Beltran hit one out deep to right center field with two runners on, then Matt Adams led off the sixth with a moon shot out to right field.  That would be all the scoring for St Louis - 8 runs - all coming via the home run.

The Phillies scored a couple of meaningless runs late in the game, but this one had essentially ended with Molina's first-inning grand salami.  Final score:  St Louis 8 - Philadelphia 3

Halladay (4-5) took the loss, as his career was rapidly winding down.  Wainwright (4-5) got the win, but he knew he still had his work cut out for him to get back to where he needed to be.  It's safe to say he was heading in the right direction.

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

May 22, 2009 - Greene & Greene Star in Win Over KC - May 23, 2010 - Extra-Inning Walk-Off Win Over Halos

Friday, May 22, 2009 - With a nice crowd of 43,429 predominantly Cardinals fans at Busch Stadium III, the Redbirds' cross-state rivals - the Kansas City Royals - dutifully played sacrificial lamb in the first game of a three-game series - The final score:  Cards 5 - Royals 0.

Todd Wellemeyer, who spent some time with Kansas City in '07, started the game for St Louis.  The Royals' lineup had to be licking their chops at the prospect of facing a former teammate who posted a 10.34 ERA in 15.2 IP as a Royal - featuring four home runs allowed.  Was that just a ploy to lull them to sleep two years later?  If so, it worked beautifully.  Wellemeyer pitched quite well tonight - 6 IP - 4 H - 0 R - 3 BB - 3 SO - but ran into trouble in the seventh -  a lead-off walk and a single had runners on first and second, with nobody out.  At this point in the game, St Louis only held a slight 2-0 advantage.

Out of the Cardinal bullpen came Trevor Miller to pitch to one batter who intended to bunt the runners up to second and third.  He did, ending Miller's work day.  The next guy out of the Cardinal bullpen was Jason Motte, with the game on the line.  He preserved the lead by striking out Bloomquist and Butler, then pitched a scoreless eighth-inning before turning the ball over to McClellan.

For the Royals, Kyle Davies started this game and took the loss, thanks to a two-run first-inning single by Nick Stavinoha, which scored Braden and Pujols.  Those were the only runs Davies allowed in six innings of work.  His replacement, Horacio Ramirez, couldn't get anybody named "Greene" out.  Unfortunately for Horacio, there were two guys named "Greene" in the St Louis lineup.

The first "Greene" - Tyler - hit a two-out solo home run in the bottom of the seventh-inning to pad the Cardinal lead to 3-0.  The second "Greene" - Khalil - entered the game as a pinch hitter in the eighth-inning with the bases loaded and one out.  His single scored the final two runs of the game, making "Greene" a household name in Cardinal Nation for a day or so.  Of course, both Tyler and Khalil are long gone; and so is Stavinoha and Wellemeyer, for that matter.  Farewell, stars of this game.  We hardly knew ye.

Sunday, May 23, 2010 - This was the rubber game of a three-game series between the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim and the St Louis Cardinals of Downtown St Louis.  Today's pitching match-up featured a couple of Cy Young Award-caliber hurlers - Jered Weaver for the visiting Halos and Chris Carpenter for the Redbirds.  A typical Sunday afternoon Busch Stadium III crowd of 42,417 for the most part, probably expected a low-scoring pitcher's duel.  Not quite.  What they got instead was a nice, come-from-behind walk-off winner for the Cardinals to send most of the folks home happy.

LA A of A drew first blood off Carpenter in the second-inning when Kendrys Morales led off with an opposite-field home run to right.  They drew second blood in the fourth-inning when Mike Napoli also homered, but with two runners on base, extending the Halos lead to 4-0.  Seemingly a comfortable lead with Weaver on the mound.  Not quite.

The Cardinals came right back in the home-half of the fourth with three runs of their own - Yadier Molina drove in two with a bases loaded single, then shortstop Eric Aybar booted Brendan Ryan's ground ball, allowing an unearned run to score.

The Halos scored an unearned run of their own in the fifth.  It all started with one out, when Aybar hit a ground ball in the direction of Albert Pujols, who booted it for an error - his first of the season.  With Aybar on first, the next hitter, Howie Kendrick hit another ground ball to Pujols, who fielded it cleanly, but made a bad throw to second trying to get the lead runner - his second error of the season.  Both runners were safe; then Aybar came in to score on Bobby Abreu's bloop single to left field.  Carpenter was able to pitch out of further trouble, but the Cardinals now trailed, 5-3; and it was getting late.  The good news for the Cardinals:  Weaver would be finished after six innings of work, and the Angels' bullpen wasn't very reliable in 2010 (it still isn't in 2014).  Carpenter would be finished after six innings of work as well, allowing five runs - four earned runs.  The Cardinal bullpen - Reyes, Motte, and Franklin - kept the Angels from scoring again in four innings of work.

One guy who was no doubt very happy to see Weaver depart was Cardinals' left fielder, Ryan Ludwick, who struck out all three times against him.  In the bottom of the eighth-inning, Ludwick led off against Fernando Rodney, a free-spirited dude notorious for wearing his baseball cap tilted in an absurdly cockeyed manner to irritate baseball purists like me.  Ludwick grounded out to third, ecstatic he didn't strike out this time.

With one out, Albert Pujols, trying to atone for committing two errors in the fifth-inning which led to an unearned run, drew a walk.  With Holliday now batting, and Rodney concerned about the angle of tilt on his cap, Albert catches everybody by surprise by stealing second.  An indignant Rodney then strikes out Holliday, bringing the flaky Colby Rasmus to the plate with two out.  Rasmus lays off a couple of nasty sliders out of the strike zone to coax a walk.  The next hitter is David Freese, who patiently took the first pitch for a strike as Pujols and Rasmus caught everybody by surprise by executing a  perfect double steal.

(Note:  It's the first time in his career that Pujols has stolen two bases in one game; which makes up for the first time in his career he's ever committed two errors on back-to-back plays.)

With first base open and two runners now in scoring position, Rodney elects to pitch to Freese, who grounds  a single to right field, scoring both runners to tie the game, 5-5.  That's where the score remained as the Cardinals came up to bat in the bottom of the tenth.

Scot Shields was now pitching for the Angels, and he had some control problems, first walking Matt Holliday to lead off the inning.  After Rasmus struck out, David Freese was hit by a pitch, then Yadier Molina drew another walk to load the bases.  Exit Shields; enter Trevor Bell to pitch to Felipe Lopez, who struck out back in the seventh-inning pinch hitting for Brendan Ryan; then took over at shortstop.

With the bases loaded and one out the outfield had to play extremely shallow.  Felipe took advantage of that -  got a pitch he could handle - and lofted a fly ball over center fielder Torii Hunter's head for a game winning single.  Ryan Franklin (2 IP - 0 H - 0 R - 3 SO) got the win (3-0).

At this point in the season, the Cardinals seemed to be in good shape, occupying first place in the NL Central.  Inexplicably, they faded in the second half, losing with alarming regularity to teams like the Cubs, Astros, and Brewers.  Go figure.

Monday, May 26, 2014

This Day in St Louis Cardinals History - May 20, 1985 - May 21, 1988 - The Best & Worst of Joaquin Andujar

Monday, May 20, 1985 - After winning the 1982 World Series, the St Louis Cardinals had fallen on hard times.  After fading miserably in September of '83, the Cardinals never regained consciousness in '84; then, after losing relief ace Bruce Sutter to free agency prior to the '85 season, it was a widely held notion that the comatose Cardinals were on life support - on their way to a dead-last finish in the NL East.  To this point in the season, St Louis had done little to dispel that notion, playing sub-.500 ball since Opening Day.

The journey up to .500 and above began in earnest on this night, with the Atlanta Braves - Sutter's new employer -  in town for the first time this season.  A paid crowd of 25,112 at Busch Stadium II had little time to ponder their reaction if the likable World Series hero from '82 happened to make an appearance in this game.  By the third-inning, the Braves were already down 5-0 with Cards' ace Joaquin Andujar in complete control.  A save situation wouldn't be happening tonight, for either side.

The Redbirds were anything but dead birds tonight, pounding out 16 hits in scoring a season-high 14 runs for the second time in the last five days.  Leading the assault on Braves pitching was Willie McGee with three hits - including a home run - five RBI and three runs scored; Terry Pendleton with three more RBI and two runs scored; and Andy Van Slyke who also had a home run and three RBI.  In fact, every position player had at least one hit tonight.  But this team's forte was the stolen base.  On this particular night, the Runnin' Redbirds stole five bags, including two by the rookie left fielder, Vince Coleman - on his way to 110.

In the meantime, Joaquin Andujar continued his superb pitching with a complete game six-hit shutout, improving to 7-1 on the young season.  The Braves used four pitchers in this debacle, starting with Zane Smith (2-3) who gave up those five quick runs to get an early exit.  His replacement actually fared even worse (Craig McMurtry), yielding a half dozen runs before being relieved of duty.

After this win, the Cardinals were still two games under .500 (17-19), but they'd complete a momentum-building three-game sweep of Atlanta to start them on the road to the top of the division; and beyond.

Saturday, May 21, 1988 -  In the world of major league baseball, three seasons can bring about dramatic change.  Just three years and one day after shutting out the Atlanta Braves, Joaquin Andujar was back with his original team - the Houston Astros - relegated to bullpen duty, with rapidly diminishing skills.  This would be his final big league season, as well as his final mound appearance in St Louis - the town that embraced his zany antics during his five-year stint with the Cardinals.  This farewell didn't go so well for the self-proclaimed "tough Dominican".

The defending National League champion St Louis Cardinals still drew large crowds, as 47,320 packed into Busch Stadium II to see the action between the Cards and Astros.  The pitching match-up - Randy O'Neal for St Louis and Danny Darwin for Houston - didn't exactly bring evoke memories of Gibson vs Seaver from twenty years ago (May 6, 1968, to be exact).  Except for some reason, this game drew 35,000 more fans out to the old ballpark.  Maybe it was Bob Horner Bobble Head Night?  Ouch.

Once again, Jack Clark's replacement at first base for the Cardinals did nothing to help his team win.  And the fans would soon be getting restless over the oft-injured Horner's continued lack of production; especially since the guy that walked away - Clark - was healthy and still hitting a lot of home runs for his new team - the New York Yankees.

This game itself had a vintage feel to it initially, with Vince Coleman scoring a run in his first two plate appearances to stake the Cards to a quick 2-0 lead.  The Astros cut the deficit in half on a fourth-inning Alan Ashby run-scoring double.  Houston would then take the lead in the top of the sixth-inning in a bizarre way.  So bizarre in fact, it may not have ever happened in major league history - before or since.

Here's the scenario:  Houston has runners on first and second with two out.  The batter - Allan Ashby - swings and misses on strike three.  But it's a wild pitch.  Everybody's safe, as the bases are now loaded.  The next batter - Jim Pankovits - scores all three runners with a double.  Astros now lead 4-2, as the 47,320 fans are wondering if anybody's ever hit a three-run double immediately following a wild pitch strikeout of the previous batter that loaded the bases to begin with.

Undaunted, with Ozzie Smith on base in the bottom of the sixth, Tom Brunansky hits one into the left field bleachers to tie the game, 4-4.  Darwin pitched one more inning for the Astros, giving up just the four runs on six hits.  O'Neal survived long enough to record one out in the eighth-inning before his exit.  He too, yielded just the four runs, but on eleven hits and that crazy wild pitch strikeout (one of just two strikeouts) that he wishes he had back.

This game was to be decided by the bullpens.  Ken Dayley relieved O'Neal with one out in the eighth, avoided trouble, then worked a scoreless ninth-inning.  Veteran mainstay Bob Forsch would take care of the Astros for the next two innings.

For Houston, three relievers - Agosto, Anderson, and Smith - allowed nary a hit for their three combined innings of work, setting the stage for Andujar's farewell appearance in the Gateway City.

McGee started his old teammate's demise by reaching safely when second baseman Jim Pankovits - previously a hero for Houston - booted his grounder.   Obviously distracted by this unfortunate situation, Andujar pays little attention to the speedy McGee at first, who immediately steals second.  Andujar then retires Brunansky on a come-backer to the mound, as Willie has to stay at second .  The next hitter - Curt Ford - is intentionally walked to set up a potential double play with Tony Pena coming up to the plate.  That strategy is quickly foiled when McGee and Ford execute a successful double steal.

Now, with runners on second and third and just one out, Andujar elects to pitch to Pena with first base open.  That didn't work out so well, either.  Pena blasts a three-run home run to left field, ending the game, just like that.  Cardinals 7 - Astros 4 (11 innings).

The pitchers of record, Bob Forsch (4-3) and Joaquin Andujar (0-1) - teammates on that World Championship Cardinal team of '82 - were both nearing the end of the road.  On August 31, 1988, Forsch would be dealt to these same Houston Astros, ending his 15-year tenure with St Louis - a one-time 20-game winner with two no-hitters to his credit.  He'd retire the following season.  For Andujar - a two-time 20-game winner with the Cardinals - 1988 would be his final season.

Saturday, May 24, 2014

May 14 - 15 -16 - 17 - 18 -19 - On This Day in St Louis Cardinals History

Friday, May 14, 1965 - The defending World Series champion St Louis Cardinals traveled to Pittsburgh to take on the Pirates at their aging edifice, Forbes Field, with 9,986 on hand to witness what would become a high-scoring, see-saw battle that the Redbirds ultimately pulled out of the fire.

St Louis jumped all over Pirates starting pitcher Joe Gibbon, who could only retire one batter in the first inning, while five others hit safely, good for four quick runs.  Knuckle ball-reliever Wilbur Wood, restored order for Pittsburgh, after finally retiring the side in the opening frame, then gave his team a chance to get back in the game by throwing 4.1 effective innings, yielding just one run.  Wood was still several years away from his heyday as a rubber-armed starting pitcher for the Chicago White Sox - who for five straight seasons ('71 - '75) started anywhere from 42 to 49 games; he won over 20 games four straight years, and never, ever worried about his pitch counts.

Meanwhile, the Pirates wasted no time in roughing up Cards' starter Ray Sadecki - a 20-game winner the previous year, but in the midst of a horrible season, which would wind up with a ghastly 5.21 ERA and a won-loss record of 6-15.  His plight in '65 basically reduced the Cardinals to a team that would languish around .500 all season.  After being staked to that nice four-run lead, Ray coughed up three first-inning runs of his own; making this quite an interesting game; and one he had no chance of winning.

After St Louis tacked on one more run in the fifth-inning, Pittsburgh knocked Sadecki out of the game with a four-run sixth, which gave them a 7-5 lead.  Luckily for the flighty southpaw, the Redbirds weren't through; after plating a single run in the seventh, they came to bat in the ninth-inning down by just one run, as the St Louis bullpen - Taylor, Schultz and Purkey - kept the Buccos from scoring the rest of the way in; although things got a little dicey in the bottom of the ninth.

In the top of the ninth, the Cardinals struck early, as Ken Boyer reached on a base on balls, then came around to score on Dick Groat's triple (Groat had three RBI in this game to pace the Redbird attack).  The next batter, Bill White drove in the game winner with a single - his only RBI, but he was 3 for 3 on the day.  Curt Flood added a couple more RBI to the mix, and Tito Francona and Mike Shannon each drove in one run apiece.

The eight runs were just enough to win this one, as Barney Schultz picked up his first win of the season in one inning of precarious work.  He faced two batters in the ninth, and both reached base - one on first and one on third - with nobody out.  Bob Purkey entered the game, and was able to get Clemente and Lynch on popups to the infield, then the dangerous Donn Clendenon on a line drive to Lou Brock in left field to finally end it; as Purkey picked up his first save of the season.  He'd somehow manage to get one more save in '65, plus go 10-9 despite an atrocious ERA of 5.79.  Apparently, the Pittsburgh front office was so enamored with Purkey's stellar effort in this game, they traded for him; but his career would be over in '66 after less than 20 innings of work.

Wednesday, May 15, 1968 - Let's go back to Forbes Field again, as the Cardinals take on the Pirates with 9,461 on hand, expecting a low-scoring game this time around.  After all, this was the Year of the Pitcher.  In this particular game, a future Hall of Fame lefty, Steve Carlton of the Cardinals, was opposed by the Pirates' ace, Steve Blass, who would finish the season with an 18-6 record (.750), which just happened to be the highest winning percentage in the National League in '68.  Unfortunately for Blass, he got one of his six losses in this game; but he still pitched fairly well.  However, Carlton was just a little better.

Carlton shut out the Pirates on four hits (9 IP - 1 BB - 6 SO), improving to 4-1 on the young season, while Blass (1-1) allowed just one run in six innings of work; that run provided by a Julian Javier fourth-inning lead-off home run.  With this win, the first-place Cardinals improved to 20-10 en route to their second straight National League pennant.

Wednesday, May 16, 1979 - With a modest crowd of 11,547 on hand at Busch Stadium II, Bob Forsch and the Cardinals played host to a very good Montreal Expos team, with the zany Bill "Spaceman" Lee on the mound for the Expos.  The only scoring in the game came in the home-half of the sixth-inning, when Ted Simmons ripped a two-out-two-run double, scoring Lou Brock from second base and Keith Hernandez, who had just walked, from first.

Forsch almost went the distance, but was removed after Warren Cromarte singled to open the ninth-inning for Montreal.  Forsch allowed six hits and no runs in eight-plus innings; he didn't walk anybody, and struck out two.  He got his first win of the season (1-3), as Mark Littell retired all three batters he faced in the ninth - Perez, Carter, and Valentine (who struck out to end it).

Friday, May 17, 1985 - The Cardinals opened the first of a three-game series against the Houston Astros in the Astrodome, with a dramatic come-from-behind victory in front of 14,501 paying fans.  If they were rooting for the Cardinals, they got their money's worth.

St Louis opened the scoring in the first-inning, off Astros southpaw Bob Knepper, on a Jack Clark sacrifice fly, scoring Vince Coleman from third.  However, that lead was short-lived; Cards pitcher Danny Cox got smacked around for six runs in two-plus innings, including first-inning home runs by Terry Puhl and Phil Garner (2-run), then another two-run blast in the third-inning by former Cardinal Jerry Mumphrey.  Houston led, 6-1 after just three-innings, as Cox hit the showers.

Jack Clark led off the fourth-inning with a home run; then, after a Brian Harper single and a Terry Pendleton double put runners on second and third, catcher Tom Nieto doubled both runners in; then, after advancing to third on a ground out, scored on another ground out by Vince Coleman.  The Redbirds were back in business; down by just a run in a 6-5 ballgame.  Meanwhile, the St Louis bullpen - Forsch, Horton, Campbell, and Dayley - did its job, holding Houston scoreless after Cox was knocked out of the game.

The score remained 6-5 in favor of Houston, as St Louis took their last swings in the ninth-inning.  Two quick outs made any sort of comeback by the Redbirds unlikely, but this was a season filled with crazy endings.

Down to their last out, Willie McGee started the rally with a base hit; another by Tom Herr put runners on first and third for Jack Clark, who promptly drove in McGee with another single, as Herr stopped at second.  Andy Van Slyke drove in Herr with the fourth straight single in the inning, giving St Louis its first lead since scoring once in the top of the first.  Clark moved to third on the play, and scored easily as Terry Pendleton delivered the fifth straight hit after two were out.

The Cardinals now led the shocked Astros, 8-6.  The beneficiary of this explosion of offense was reliever Bill Campbell, who only faced one batter (0.1 IP - 0 H - 0 R - 0 BB - 0 SO) to get the last out in the bottom of the eighth; taking over for Ricky Horton, who labored through the previous 4.2 scoreless innings.  Ken Dayley yielded a harmless ninth-inning single, but also recorded a pair of strikeouts to slam the door on this one.
Even after this dramatic victory, the Cardinals were still under .500 (16-17), and they would go on to lose the final two games of this series in the Astrodome.  So this was kind of a big win for Whitey's Runnin' Redbirds.

Thursday, May 18, 2000 - With 17,137 fanatical fans in attendance at Veteran's Stadium in Philadelphia, the Cardinals' Garrett Stephenson - looking for his sixth win without a loss for the season - was facing the ace of the Phillies' staff - Curt Schilling, who simply didn't have it tonight.  He gave up nine hits and five walks in six innings, while striking out five batters.

Unfortunately for Schilling, two of the hits he gave up were to Mark McGwire- and they didn't come back.  A three-run home run in the first inning and a two-run blast in the second-inning quickly gave St Louis a 5-0 lead; then, after the Phillies scored single runs in the second and sixth, McGwire hit his third home run of the night - another two-run blast - off reliever Wayne Gomes in the eighth-inning - giving the Redbirds a five run advantage (and giving McGwire all 7 RBI in the game).  This was more than enough to make a winner out of Stephenson again, as he worked 5.2 innings, allowing just two runs despite being tagged for nine hits.  He managed to avoid those dreaded walks, which certainly helped him avoid serious trouble in this one.

Four Redbird relievers - James, Rodriguez, Thompson, and Veres - prevented any further scoring from the Phillies, who were already 13 games behind Atlanta in the NL East, and going nowhere fast.

When Schilling grew weary of the Phillies' futility, he asked management for a trade to a contending club.  By mid-season, his wish was granted, and off to the Arizona Diamondbacks he went; and the following season, he would team up with Randy Johnson to form one of the best one-two combos, ever, in starting pitching.  That tandem worked well enough to win a classic World Series against the New York Yankees in '01.  Of course, that was only the beginning of Schilling's World Series legacy, which would culminate with two more titles with the un-cursed Boston Red Sox in '04 and '07.

As for McGwire, bad knees would limit him to just 89 games played in 2000, but he was still quite productive whenever he was in the lineup (.305/.483/.746), blasting 32 home runs in little more than one-half of a season.  The following year would be the end of the line for Big Mac, who despite the PED controversy certainly posted Hall of Fame numbers, in any era.

Monday, May 19, 2003 - With 46,734 bi-partisan fans packing Busch Stadium II, the Cardinals played host to the Chicago Cubs - a team normally comprised of lovable losers, but this year, there seemed to be something different about them.  Like, they were actually good.

A talented but volatile pitcher - Carlos Zambrano - made the start for Chicago, and pitched quite well, with a minimal number of temper tantrums.  For St Louis, laid-back Matt Morris got the starting assignment, and had one of the best outings of his career.  But it was with a bat in his hands that ultimately caused the demise of Zambrano - and Carlos had no one to blame but himself.

After Mike Matheny led off the third-inning with a base hit to center, Morris was called on to sacrifice his battery mate to second base.  His bunt was a good one, fielded by Zambrano, who then threw wildly past second in his haste to force the runner.  This allowed Matheny to advance to third, as Morris was now safely on first, with nobody out.  Fernando Vina then grounded into a 4-6-3 double play, as Matheny jogged home with an unearned run.  That was the only run the Cardinals could muster off Zambrano in his seven innings of work.  In the eighth-inning, reliever Kyle Farnsworth was brought in to serve up a lead-off home run to Albert Pujols (his eleventh), as Zambrano showered in the peace and serenity of the visitor's locker room.

The extra run wasn't needed on this night, as Matt Morris polished off the Cubs in the ninth to preserve a 2-0 shutout.  He allowed just four hits, walked none, and struck out eight; improving his record to 5-3, as St Louis moved two games over .500 (22-20), trying to make a move in the NL Central.  Close, but no cigar; the Cardinals had a disappointing third-place finish (85-77), failing to reach the postseason for the first time in the millennium.  However, the next three seasons would be a different story.

Thursday, May 22, 2014

Bob Gibson's Amazing '68 Season

In 1968, Bob Gibson started 34 games for the St Louis Cardinals, completing 28.  Of the six games he didn't complete, his shortest outings came in his first two starts - both against the Atlanta Braves - when he "only" pitched seven innings.  Three times he was removed after pitching eight innings - because as luck would have it, his turn in the batting order came up each time in the bottom of the eighth, with the Cardinals trailing.  Tim McCarver pinch hit for him twice (unsuccessfully) and Johnny Edwards once (successfully); however, the Cardinals lost all three of those games.  His only other "non-complete" game came when he worked the first eleven innings of a game that lasted thirteen innings.

Of the 34 games Gibson started, he won (and completed) 22 of them - 13 of those were shutouts (the most in the National League).  One of those complete game shutouts lasted ten innings.  He pitched all twelve innings of a 3-1 win over Houston at the Astrodome.  The only run he allowed was unearned.  In his very next start at home against the Mets, he went eleven innings in beating Tom Seaver, 2-1.

Of the 34 games Gibson started, he lost nine times and had three no-decisions.  Two of those no-decisions came in those first two seven inning starts - games the Cardinals eventually won - but when Gibson was removed, he was actually on the hook for a loss.  In the first game, he was down 1-0 (the run he allowed was unearned), but the Cards rallied to win, 2-1.  In the second game, he was down 3-1, but the Cards rallied to win 4-3.  His only other "no decision" came in that eleven inning game that lasted thirteen innings.  When he was removed from the game, he was trailing 5-4, but the Cards rallied to tie the game, only to lose it, 6-5.

Of the nine games Gibson lost in '68, he allowed just one run three times - losing in ten innings once, and losing to the Giants' Gaylord Perry on a day he happened to be pitching a no-hitter.  The only run Gibby allowed in that game came in the very first inning, when Ron Hunt, of all people, hit one of the two home runs he'd hit all year.  In the other game, Gibson allowed one run on just one hit through eight innings.  His replacement gave up a run in the ninth in a game the Cards lost, 2-0.

Of the remaining six games Gibson lost in '68, three were by scores of 3-2.  In all three of those games, he only allowed two earned runs; so he was done-in by an unearned run each time.

He lost another game to the Giants that was shortened to eight innings due to rain, by a score of 3-1.  In that game, Willie Mays hit a 2-run home run in the seventh inning to seal Gibby's fate.

He lost another one by a 5-1 score, although only three of the runs were earned runs.  Perhaps his most frustrating loss of the season came in a 6-4 loss to the Pirates; a game in which he was staked to an early 4-0 lead; a game in which only three of the six runs he allowed were earned runs; and a game in which he struck out a season high 15 batters.

Gibson got off to somewhat of a slow start in '68.  Through his first eleven starts, his record was just 4-5, with an ERA of 1.66; and he didn't have a single shutout to his credit.  In his twelfth start, he pitched his first shutout, then reeled off four more shutouts in a row.  The scoreless streak was finally snapped in a July 1 start in LA when the Dodgers scored a first-inning run on a wild pitch.  That ended the scoring for LA; he won that game, 5-1, beating Don Drysdale.  Curiously enough, the Dodgers were the only team Gibson failed to shutout at least once in '68.

Gibson finished the season with eight more shutouts in his final seventeen starts, going 12-4 over that span.  But his September was fairly lackluster, by his standards.  He was so irritated with his 2-3 September W-L record (including an ugly win against the Dodgers) heading into his final start of the season; that he took it out on the Astros - blanking them 1-0, as he lowered his ERA to a National League best 1.12.  He struck out eleven batters in that game, marking the eleventh time that season he reached double digits in strikeouts.  His season total of 268 strikeouts also led the National League.

Not surprisingly, Gibson's ERA in the 22 games he won in '68 was significantly lower than 1.12; try 0.57.  Gibson gave up a total of eleven home runs all season; only two were hit in games that he won - in a June 2 win over the Mets, then not until a September 11 start against the Dodgers.  So Gibson went most of June, all of July, all of August, and nearly half of September without allowing a single home run when he was the winning pitcher in the game.

In the 22 games Gibson won, he pitched a total of 204 innings - an average of nearly 9.1 IP per start.

Whenever the Cardinals scored at least five runs for him, Gibson won every one of those starts; but it only happened eight times all season.  In other words, in the other fourteen games Gibson won that year, he had very little margin for error.

Gibson certainly pitched well enough to win 30 games in 1968.  Between the three "no decisions" and nine losses, there were eight games in which he allowed two or fewer earned runs; but the St Louis offensive attack didn't provide much support when he really needed it; nor make some routine defensive plays behind him, to keep those nasty unearned runs off the board.

So yes, 22-9 very easily could have been 30-3; with any luck at all.

See for yourself.  Here's Gibson's pitching summary for all 34 starts:

Apr 10 (ATL) 7 IP - 3 H - 1 R - 0 ER - 1 BB - 0 SO (ND) Final:  STL 2 - ATL 1
Apr 15 (@ATL) 7 IP - 5 H - 3 R - 3 ER - 3 BB - 5 SO - 1 HR (ND) Final:  STL 4 - ATL 3
Apr 20 (CHC) 9 IP - 10 H - 5 R - 3 ER - 1 BB - 8 SO - 1 HR (L 0-1) Final:  CHC 5 - STL 1
Apr 26 (PIT) 9 IP - 7 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 1 BB - 5 SO (W 1-1) Final:  STL 2 - PIT 1

May 1 (@HOU) 12 IP - 7 H - 1 R - 0 ER - 5 BB - 7 SO (W 2-1) Final:  STL 3 - HOU 1
May 6 (NYM) 11 IP - 3 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 1 BB - 11 SO (W 3-1) Final:  STL 2 - NYM 1
May 12 (HOU) 8 IP - 11 H - 3 R - 2 ER - 2 BB - 10 SO (L 3-2) Final:  HOU 3 - STL 2
May 17 (@PHI) 9.2 IP - 7 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 4 BB - 5 SO (L 3-3) Final:  PHI 1 - STL 0
May 22 (LAD) 8 IP - 1 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 2 BB - 6 SO (L 3-4) Final:  LAD 2 - STL 0
May 28 (SFG) 8 IP - 4 H - 3 R - 3 ER - 1 BB - 5 SO - 2 HR (L 3-5) Final SFG 3 - STL 1

Jun 2 (@NYM) 9 IP - 7 H - 3 R - 3 ER - 3 BB - 8 SO - 1 HR (W 4-5) Final:  STL 6 - NYM 3
Jun 6 (@HOU) 9 IP - 3 H - 0 R - 2 BB - 5 SO (W 5-5) Final:  STL 4 - HOU 0
Jun11 (@ATL) 9 IP - 5 H - 0 R - 2 BB - 4 SO  (W 6-5) Final:  STL 6 - ATL 0
Jun 15 (CIN) 9 IP - 4 H - 0 R - 0 BB - 13 SO (W 7-5) Final:  STL 2 - CIN 0
Jun 20 (CHC) 9 IP - 5 H - 0 R - 1 BB - 6 SO (W 8-5) Final :  STL 1 - CHC 0
Jun 26 (PIT) 9 IP - 4 H - 0 R - 0 BB - 7 SO (W 9-5) Final:  STL 3 - PIT 0

Jul 1 (@LAD) 9 IP - 9 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 2 BB - 4 SO (W 10-5) Final:  STL 5 - LAD 1
Jul 6 (@SFG) 9 IP - 6 H - 0 R - 4 BB - 9 SO (W 11-5) Final:  STL 3 - SFG 0
Jul 12 (HOU) 9 IP - 3 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 0 BB - 8 SO (W 12-5) Final:  STL 8 - HOU 1
Jul 21 (NYM) 9 IP - 7 H - 0 R - 0 BB - 13 SO (W 13 - 5) Final:  STL 2 - NYM 0
Jul 25 (PHI) 9 IP - 5 H - 0 R - 1 BB - 6 SO (W 14-5) Final:  STL 5 - PHI 0
Jul 30 (@NYM) 9 IP - 5 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 1 BB - 8 SO (W 15-5) Final:  STL 7 - NYM 1

Aug 4 (CHC) 11 IP - 12 H - 5 R - 4 ER - 3 BB - 10 SO - 2 HR (ND 15-5) Final:  CHC 6 - STL 5
Aug 9 (@ATL) 9 IP - 4 H - 0 R - 0 BB - 5 SO (W 16-5) Final:  STL 1 - ATL 0
Aug 14 (@CHC) 9 IP - 8 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 3 BB - 7 SO (W 17-5) Final:  STL 3 - CHC 1
Aug 19 (@PHI) 9 IP - 2 H - 0 R - 2 BB - 11 SO (W 18-5) Final:  STL 2 - PHI 0
Aug 24 (PIT) 9 IP - 6 H - 6 R - 3 ER - 2 BB - 15 SO - 1 HR (L 18-6) Final:  PIT 6 - STL 4
Aug 28 (@PIT) 9 IP - 4 H - 0 R - 3 BB - 14 SO (W 19-6) Final:  STL 8 - PIT 0

Sep 2 (@CIN) 10 IP - 4 H - 0 R - 3 BB - 8 SO (W 20-6) Final:  STL 1 - CIN 0
Sep 6 (SFG) 8 IP - 9 H - 3 R - 2 ER - 0 BB - 7 SO (L 20-7) Final:  SFG 3 - STL 2
Sep 11 (LAD) 9 IP - 11 H - 4 R - 4 ER - 2 BB - 6 SO - 1 HR (W 21-7) Final:  STL 5 - LAD 4
Sep 17 (@SFG) 8 IP - 4 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 2 BB - 10 SO - 1 HR (L 21-8) Final:  SFG 1 - STL 0
Sep 22 (@LAD) 8 IP - 7 H - 3 R - 2 ER - 5 BB - 11 SO - 1 HR (L 21-9) Final:  LAD 3 - STL 2
Sep 27 (HOU) 9 IP - 6 H - 0 R - 0 BB - 11 SO (W 22-9) Final:  STL 1 - HOU 0

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

St Louis Cardinals History - May 12, 1987 - May 13, 1982 - 2 Games That Almost Got Away

May 12, 1987 - In a game featuring the two teams that would be slugging it out in the '87 NLCS, the San Francisco Giants played host to the St Louis Cardinals on a cold and windy evening at beautiful Candlestick Park; a venue that has had its fair share of weird moments.  Probably half of the original crowd of 14,318 had bailed out of this one before the ninth-inning rolled around.  Too bad; they missed all the fun.  Luckily for the Redbirds, they managed to hold on by the slimmest of margins; no doubt giving manager Whitey Herzog a few more white hairs as a souvenir.

Rookie southpaw Joe Magrane got the start for St Louis, and quickly ran into some trouble in the very first inning - a walk, a balk, and a single gave the Giants a very brief 1-0 lead.

In the second-inning, Willie McGee drew a lead-off walk off Giants starter, Mark Davis.  One out later, Steve Lake's double to right field moved McGee over to third; then both runners came home on Curt Ford's single off first baseman Will Clark's glove, which trickled into no man's land in short right field.

Meanwhile, Magrane settled down, keeping San Francisco scoreless over the next seven innings of work.  The Cardinals added two more runs in the third-inning, on a Willie McGee two-out two-run home run, giving the flaky Magrane a comfortable three run lead.  When the Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the ninth-inning on back-to-back one-out triples from Rod Booker (the only triple he'd hit all season) and Curt Ford, followed by a successful squeeze-play bunt by Magrane which plated Ford - the game seemed out of reach.  St Louis 6, San Francisco 1.

With a five-run lead and Joe pitching so well, Whitey thought this would be a good opportunity to give the bullpen a break, and give his young lefty a chance to finish this one off.  Not so fast.  After a Bob Melvin double and a Chris Speier infield hit suddenly had runners on the corners with nobody out, Herzog brought in the usually reliable Ricky Horton to take care of business.  Not so fast.  The first hitter Horton faced - Will Clark - immediately brought in a run with a base hit to right.  Now it's 6-2, with the tying run in the on-deck circle.  After Horton induced Matt Williams to fly out to McGee in center, that sigh of relief in the Cardinals dugout would soon turn into a gasp of astonishment.

Pinch hitter Bob Brenly whacked a Horton hanging slider over the left field fence for a three-run bomb, cutting the deficit to a single run.  Time to bring in Todd Worrell to close this one out; and close it out he did, striking out pinch hitter Harry Spilman on a high fastball, then getting the dangerous Chili Davis looking at a fastball on the outside corner for strike three, to finally restore order and put this one in the "win" column - Cards 6 - Giants 5.

Looking back on the top half of the ninth-inning, had Magrane failed to get that squeeze bunt down successfully, there's no telling how this game would've ended; or when it would've ended, for that matter.

May 13, 1982 - In a game featuring the two teams that would be playing in the '82 NLCS, the Atlanta Braves played host to the St Louis Cardinals on a warm and humid evening at Fulton County Stadium, with 16,244 on hand to witness a high-scoring affair, featuring yet another near-comeback by the home team in the ninth-inning.  What a coincidence.

This also happened to be Atlanta Braves' rookie Ken Dayley's major league debut.  Dayley would later be a mainstay in the Cardinals' bullpen in the mid '80's, but on this night he was a starter; although he only lasted 1.1 innings (5 H - 4 R - 1 BB - 0 SO - 1 HR); leaving the game with an ERA of 27.00.  He'd also be tagged with the loss, although his teammates nearly got him off the hook.  However, this was a game the Cardinals led from the first inning on, eventually scoring 10 runs; and they needed every one of those runs to win this one.

Starting for St Louis was old reliable Bob Forsch who didn't fare much better than the rookie (3.2 IP - 7 H - 5 R - 0 BB - 1 SO - 1 HR).  In fact, Preston Hanna, the Braves' second pitcher of the game didn't fare so well on the mound, either (3 IP - 6 H - 5 R - 2 BB - 1 SO), although did quite all right with a bat in his hands - two hits in two ABs with an RBI.

"Hitting" was definitely the theme for tonight's game.  After the Cardinals scored two runs in each of the first three innings, Atlanta countered with a two-run second, then scored a single run in the third, and two more in the fourth to close the gap to a 6-5 deficit; but they just couldn't quite catch the Redbirds, who tacked on three more runs in the fifth.  With the bases loaded and one out, Herzog mysteriously brought in rookie Willie McGee to pinch hit for Tito Landrum - who had already homered in the game and had driven in three.  On the mound for the Braves was former Cardinal madman Al Hrabosky.  McGee, who had gotten off to a terrible start, promptly lined a run-scoring single to center - the first RBI in his career!  Ozzie immediately got another hit, driving in two more runs.  St Louis 9 - Atlanta 5.

After the Braves started roughing up Redbird reliever Andy Rincon in the seventh-inning, Herzog brought in Bruce Sutter to restore order.  He got out of the jam with just one run scored (St Louis 9 - Atlanta 6), but he still had to get through the precarious eighth and ninth-innings.  When the Redbirds scored their tenth and final run in the ninth, Sutter, who had no trouble in handling the Braves in the eighth, now had a four-run cushion as he took the mound in the bottom of the ninth.  He needed all of that cushion.

Claudell Washington took Sutter deep to lead off the inning, making it a 10-7 game.  Then, with one on and one out, Dale Murphy hit his second home run of the game, while Herzog pretended to remain calm in the Cardinals' dugout.  Sutter, who had been stretched as far as he could realistically go (2.2 IP), hung on to record his eleventh save of the season.  It was pretty, but it worked.

As for the shy rookie, Willie McGee, who finally got the first run batted in of his career; all the weight of the world seemed to be lifted off his slouched shoulders.  His batting average, which had been hovering around .150 at this point in the season, would start climbing - all the way to .296 by season's end.  But it would be the postseason that would make him an instant celebrity, and endear him to Cardinal Nation for life.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

May 9, 2006 - Waino's First MLB Win - May 10, 2002 - Renteria's Game Winning HR - May 11, 1964 - Javier's Game Winning HR

May 9, 2006 - On a cloudy 73 degree evening in St Louis, the Cardinals played host to the Colorado Rockies in their beautiful new ballpark- Busch Stadium III - with a nice crowd of 40,375 anticipating another Redbird victory.  The pitching match-up seemed like a mismatch, as the Cards had their ace, Chris Carpenter on the mound facing Colorado's Josh Fogg, a 29-year old journeyman with a career ERA around 5.  No problem?

The Cardinals struck early.  After a lead-off single by David Eckstein was erased on a double play grounder by John Rodriguez, Albert Pujols laced a double down the left field line.  Batting cleanup was Jim Edmonds, who promptly put St Louis up 1-0 with a line drive single to right.  However, that single first-inning run would be all the scoring the Redbirds would muster off Fogg, who limited St Louis to just three hits over the next six innings of work.

To no one's surprise, Chris Carpenter also pitched well, although the Rockies managed to score an unearned run in the third-inning, thanks to an error by shortstop David Eckstein and another by second baseman Aaron Miles.

The game remained tied heading into the seventh-inning.  With two out and nobody on base in the seventh, Rockies left fielder Matt Holliday, demonstrating his ability to hit in venues other than Coors Field - untied it with a home run to left field, giving Colorado its first lead of the game, 2-1.  After Fogg held the Cardinals scoreless in their half of the seventh, his night was over.  He would be in line for the win if the Colorado bullpen could protect the lead.  No such luck.

Carpenter's night was also over after seven innings of work, on the hook for a possible loss with his team trailing by a run.  Rookie Adam Wainwright, who would appear in 61 games for St Louis in '06, appeared in this one; setting Colorado down in order in the eighth-inning to keep it close.

Replacing Josh Fogg on the mound for the Rockies in the bottom of the eighth-inning was the venerable Jose Mesa, who was nearing the end of a nineteen year major league career.  At one time, Mesa was an elite closer, logging 40 or more saves four times, including an American League-leading 46 saves in 1995 while pitching for the American League champion Cleveland Indians.  But that was a long, long time ago.  Mesa, who was now just thirteen days shy of his 40th birthday, was no longer a closer.  And tonight, his role as setup man didn't go so well.

Leading off the inning was lead-off hitter David Eckstein, who did what good lead-off hitters do - get on base:  Ground ball single to left field.  The next scheduled hitter - John Rodriguez - was lifted for a pinch hitter - Juan Encarnacion - who reached on an infield hit on the right side of the diamond, moving Eckstein to second base.  Neither batter got particularly good wood on the pitches, but they managed to elude the defenders, putting Mesa in a two-on-nobody-out predicament.  The situation was exasperated by the fact that the best hitter on the planet - Albert Pujols - was now stepping into the batter's box.  Ten seconds later, he'd be circling the bases after depositing a Mesa offering 457 feet out to left field.  The three-run blast - already his 17th of the season - put the Cards up, 4-2, and suddenly put Adam Wainwright - who faced just three batters - in a position to pick up his first major league win.  Sure enough, he got it, as closer Jason Isringhausen pitched a perfect ninth-inning, striking out the side.

Win Number One was officially in the books for Waino, and nobody was happier about it than his mentor and pal, Chris Carpenter, whose stellar seven innings of work in this game didn't go to waste.

May 10, 2002 - The Cardinals had gotten off to a slow start in 2002, falling four games under .500 (15-19) prior to this Friday night contest at Cinergy Field in Cincinnati.  Their opponents for this game - the Reds (20-13) - currently occupied the top spot in the NL Central; 5.5 games ahead of the Cardinals.  That would be the largest deficit St Louis would experience for the season.  The comeback to the top would begin tonight, with a crowd of 29,008 to witness the soon-to-be-surging Cardinals defeat the inevitably fading Reds, by a score of 4-2.

The Cardinals put a quick first-inning run on the board against Reds starter Jimmy Haynes, on an RBI single from Jim Edmonnds - scoring Fernando Vina.  That would be the extent of the Cardinals' offense until a sixth-inning double by Albert Pujols preceded a Tino Martinez run-scoring single.

In the meantime, the Cardinals' starting pitcher - Jason Simontacchi - made it through five innings with just one run allowed, but ran into trouble of his own in the sixth-inning.  After the first two batters reached base, the call was made to the bullpen; Mike Mathews took over on the mound, but not for long; he walked the only batter he faced, loading the bases with nobody out.  Enter Gene Stechschulte, who got out of the jam with just one run scored.  The game was now tied, 2-2.

Meanwhile, the third pitcher of the evening for Cincinnati - Gabe White - retired the side in order in the seventh before issuing an eighth-inning one-out walk to Tino Martinez.  For some reason, Danny Graves was summoned from the bullpen to face Edgar Renteria.  Instead of preserving a 2-2 tie ballgame, Danny served up a hanging slider which Edgar deposited in the left field stands for what turned out to be the game-winning two-run home run.  Graves managed to get through the inning with no further damage, despite being roughed up for a couple more hits.

The beneficiary of the Renteria home run - Gene Stechschulte - improved his record to 3-1, with a little help from Dave Veres and Jason Isringhausen, who prevented any further scoring.  Gabe White, whose only mistake of the night was that one lousy base on balls - was tagged with the loss - with a lot of help from Danny Graves, and of course, Edgar Renteria.

May 11, 1964 - The Cardinals traveled to Philadelphia for this important Monday night game with the first-place Phillies, who were already three games in front of St Louis, barely a month into the schedule.  The outcome of this game would quickly be forgotten, but in hindsight, its significance can't be overstated; especially since the Cardinals clinched the pennant on the very last day of the season.

With a friendly crowd of 11,200 in attendance at historic Connie Mack Stadium, the Cardinals sent winless Ray Sadecki (0-3) to the mound; hoping to tame the potent Phillies' lineup, featuring the slugging rookie, Richie (Call me Dick) Allen.  Ray Culp started this one for the Phillies, and pitched brilliantly until the seventh-inning, when he probably wishes he could have one pitch back.  Unfortunately for Culp, there are no Mulligans in baseball (along with "no crying").

Sadecki had a shaky start to this one, as the aforementioned Allen drove in a first-inning run for Philadelphia with a two-base hit, but was later stranded at third.  In the second-inning, the Phillies parlayed a single, a walk, a balk and a ground out into another run.  They now led the Cardinals 2-0, and that's where the score remained until the Redbirds suddenly came alive in the seventh-inning.

After Ken Boyer struck out, and Tim McCarver grounded out - first baseman to the pitcher covering the bag for the out - Culp (perhaps a bit winded) ran into trouble.  Johnny Lewis lined a two-out single to center field, then with Charlie James batting, moved to second on a passed ball.  James then reached on an infield single deep in the hole at shortstop.  Lewis wisely didn't try to advance on the play.  This brought Julian Javier to the plate with a chance to be a hero.  Two on, two out; Cards down by two runs late in the game.

Javier, who would hit all of 12 home runs in '64, picked a good time to hit one now.  The three-run blast put the Cardinals in front of the shocked Phillies by a score of 3-2.

Sadecki escaped a bit of trouble in the bottom of the seventh, then cruised through the eighth and ninth, to bag his first win of the season.  He'd go on to win twenty; and the Redbirds certainly needed every one of those twenty wins to punch their ticket to a (victorious) World Series showdown with the New York Yankees.

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

May 6, 1968 - May 7, 1965 - May 8, 1967 - 2 Classic Gibson Gems & A Wild Extra-Inning Nail Biter

May 6, 1968 - A Monday night game between the St Louis Cardinals and New York Mets drew a scant crowd of 12,741 at Busch Stadium II to witness a classic pitching match-up between the young phenom, Tom Seaver and the two-time World Series MVP, Bob Gibson.  This one would take 11 innings to settle, as both pitchers - naturally - went the distance.

Seaver was dominant from the outset, but a second-inning fielding miscue by first baseman Ed Kranepool ultimately cost Tom Terrific a chance to win this game in regulation.  The inning started with Tim McCarver stroking a single to right field.  Kranepool then booted Mike Shannon's potential double-play grounder which quickly had Seaver in a two-on-no-out jam.  McCarver then scored from second base on Julian Javier's single to right field, as Shannon moved up to third.  Still nobody out.

With the infield playing in, Dick Schofield hit a sharp grounder to third, forcing Shannon to stay put.  The throw to second base forced Javier, but the relay to first was too late to retire Schofield.  The next hitter, Bob Gibson was unable to catch up to Seaver's fastball and went down on strikes.  Gibson, who was 0 for 4 in the game struck out three times; however, he one-upped the youngster by taking care of Seaver (also 0 for 4) with four strikeouts of his own.  After Lou Brock was retired on a fly ball to center field, the damage was limited to one unearned run.

The Mets tied the game in the fourth-inning with three straight singles by Harrelson, Boswell and Shamsky - the only hits Gibson would allow in the entire game.  With Ron Swoboda at bat, McCarver couldn't handle a Gibson slider, allowing the runners to move up to second and third on the passed ball.  Still nobody out.

The key defensive play of the game occurred when Swoboda's fly to medium center field was flagged down by Curt Flood, who then turned it into a double play, as Boswell tagged up from third but couldn't beat the perfect throw to McCarver at the plate.  The next hitter, Ed Kranepool tried to atone for his second-inning error which allowed St Louis to score their lone run; but Cards' first baseman Orlando Cepeda was able to handle a tough hop, then flipped to Gibson, who was covering first, for the out.  The game was tied, but Gibson, like Seaver, had escaped a major threat to put more runs on the board.  Runs were certainly at a premium in this game - and the entire '68 season, for that matter.

Both pitchers kept putting zeros on the scoreboard, until Seaver finally faltered in the eleventh-inning, yielding a lead-off triple to Lou Brock - one of a league-leading 14 three-baggers Lou would hit that year.  With Brock now perched just 90 feet away from scoring the winning run, intentional passes to Flood and Maris loaded the bases with nobody out; hoping for a miracle pitcher-to-catcher-to first double play; or something along those lines.  Orlando Cepeda quickly foiled that strategy with a base hit to right field to give St Louis a 2-1 win.

The pitching lines tell the (complete game) story:

Seaver (L 1-2) 10 IP - 6 H - 2 R - 1 ER - 3 BB - 6 SO (His ERA for the season dropped to 1.56)

Gibson (W 3-1) 11 IP - 3 H - 1 R - 1 ER - 1 BB - 11 SO (His ERA for the season dropped to 1.31 - it would drop even further - down to 1.12 by season's end)

This was a game for the ages, masterfully performed by two future first-ballot Hall of Famers - who had a burning passion to not only win, but complete each game they started, no matter how long; no matter how many pitches they threw.  Pitch counts?  Bah!  In 1968, in only his second MLB season, Seaver completed 14 out of 35 games started - an unheard of feat nowadays, when starting pitchers are programmed to go seven or eight innings, max.

Gibson was even more dominant, completing 28 out of 34 starts, featuring a league-leading 13 shutouts, 268 strikeouts and the aforementioned 1.12 ERA.  By comparison, the Detroit Tigers' reigning AL Cy Young Award winner - Max Scherzer - has never thrown a complete game shutout in his entire career.  Gibson did it 56 times.

May 7, 1965 - Bob Gibson was on the mound for the Cardinals as they traveled to Philadelphia to take on the Phillies at decrepit Connie Mack Stadium, with a paid crowd of 14,499 mostly disgruntled fans on hand to jeer their Phillies on to defeat.

On the bump for Philadelphia was southpaw Chris Short; in his prime and in the middle of a six season stretch ('63 - '68) when he posted an ERA under 3 five times.  Strangely enough, the only season he was able to win 20 games ('66) happened to coincide with his highest ERA (3.54) over that six year stretch.  Go figure.

In this game, Short pitched well enough to win (8 IP - 8 H - 2 R - 4 BB - 4 S0), but it was too much Lou Brock (4 for 5 - 1 R - 1 RBI - 1 SB) who was the catalyst of a two-run sixth-inning for St Louis; and it was way too much Bob Gibson, who pitched a one-hit shutout (3 BB - 8 SO) to earn his fifth win without a loss.  At the time, those five wins represented 50% of the total for the entire staff (10 wins - 10 losses); not a good sign for the defending World Champions.  Gibson would go on to win 20 games for the first time in his career, but nobody else managed more than 11 wins on a team that seemed to age overnight.

May 8, 1967 - With a sparse gathering of 5,388 at venerable Forbes Field, the Cardinals had a see-saw battle with the Pittsburgh Pirates, as the Redbirds barely hung on to win in ten-innings, 6-5.

Ray Washburn started this one for the Cardinals (6.2 IP - 8 H - 3 R - 0 BB - 3 SO); then over the next 3.1 innings a total of five St Louis relievers were used to finally nail this one down.  The Pirates used five different pitchers in this game - Pizarro, Face, Short, McBean and Law (who took the loss with that one really bad inning).  Ron Willis got the win for St Louis, although he only worked one inning and was charged with two runs (he walked two).

Here's how the scoring went:  The Pirates scored 2 runs in the 4th - The Cardinals tied it with 2 runs in the 6th - The Pirates grabbed a 3-2 lead in the 7th - The Cardinals tied it again with a run in the 9th - The Cardinals seemingly put the game out of reach with 3 runs in the 11th - The Pirates scored 2 in the 11th, so in fact, the game was out of reach.  Had 'em all the way.

Mike Shannon and Tim McCarver each had two RBI; Curt Flood and Orlando Cepeda each chipped in with one apiece, as the St Louis lineup had twelve hits and six walks in the contest.

Monday, May 12, 2014

This Day in St Louis Cardinals History - May 5, 1992 - This Win Preceded 13 Straight Cinqo De Mayo Losses

May 5, 1992 - The Cardinals played host to the San Francisco Giants as 17,770 Margarita-drinking fans at Busch Stadium II witnessed a rare event for St Louis - A Redbird winner on Cinqo De Mayo!  The franchise would have to wait until 2006 before once again claiming victory on this hallowed Mexican holiday (that's 13 straight losses for those keeping score at home).  Strangely enough, that May 5, 2006 win for St Louis had significance in the standings, as the Redbirds just barely won enough regular season games to qualify for postseason play.  Oh yeah, they won the World Series that year.  Imagine that.

Omar Olivares, a young pitcher with an apparently bright future got the starting assignment for St Louis, as San Francisco countered with Kelly Downs, who had one of the worst - and shortest - starts of his career.  He was knocked out of the game after just three innings, as the Cardinals built a 5-0 lead, featuring back-to-back third-inning home runs by Brian Jordan (a two-run blast) and Rex Hudler.

Meanwhile, Olivares had no trouble at all with the Giants through the first four innings; primarily due to the fact that San Francisco had no hits.  This seemed like an easy winner; however, when the Cardinals loaded the bases with no out in the bottom of the fourth, and failed to score, the momentum suddenly changed.  The Giants broke through for a run in the fifth-inning, then shocked the partisan fans with a four-run explosion in the sixth-inning to tie the game, 5-5.

Olivares' Cinqo De Mayo night was over:  5.1 IP - 5 H - 5 R - 2 BB - 5 SO- 1 HR (That's a lot of "fives", or as they say in Mexico, cinqos).  Reliever Mike Perez finally retired the side in the sixth, after a couple of inherited runners scored to blow the save but set himself up for the win if St Louis could figure out a way to score again.

Sure enough, the Cardinals scratched out a run in their half of the sixth-inning, when Ozzie Smith scored from third base on a Todd Zeile sacrifice fly.  After both teams failed to score in the seventh, the Giants loaded the bases with one out in the eighth, raising the level of paranoia from "moderate" to "extreme" in Cardinal Nation.  Suddenly, Craig Colbert's vicious line drive was snagged by wondrous second baseman Rex Hudler, who flipped the ball to Ozzie covering second base for the inning-ending double play.

The Cardinals then tacked on an unearned run in the bottom of the eighth to take a 7-5 lead heading into the ninth.  Lee Smith bagged his ninth save of the year with a perfect inning of work.  St Louis managed to win this game despite blowing a five-run lead to a San Francisco lineup featuring old pal Willie McGee (3 for 4 with 2 runs scored) and future folk hero Will Clark (2-run sixth-inning home run).

Mike Perez (1.2 IP - 2 H - 0 R) was in the right place at the right time to get the win.  Hard-luck Giants' hurler Dave Burba (4 IP - 2 H - 1 R - 2 BB - 4 SO) was in the wrong place at the wrong time to get the loss.  The Cardinals' win snapped a two-game Cinqo De Mayo losing streak (1990-'91), but they would lose again the following year, and continue losing on May 5 throughout the Clinton administration and for most of the Bush administration.

Since 1964, the Cardinals are 16-30 on Cinqo De Mayo (not scheduled five times on May 5).  They won in '64, '82, '06, and '11 - when they won the World Series; but they also won in 2013 when they lost the World Series.  They lost in '67 when they won the World Series; but they also lost in '68, '85, '87 and '04 when they lost the World Series.  Overall, in the ten seasons the Cardinals advanced to the World Series, when they won on Cinqo De Mayo, they also won the World Series four out of five times; but when they lost on Cinqo De Mayo, they also lost the Series four out of five times.

Confusing Conclusion:  The Cardinals clearly have a better chance of winning a World Series in any given year if they also happen to win on Cinqo De Mayo.  Well, they beat Atlanta on May 5, 2014, so if they happen to make it to another Fall Classic this year, I like their chances this time around.

Pass the salsa.

This Day in St Louis Cardinals History: May 2, 1971 - May 3, 1967 - May 4, 1964 - 2 Shutouts & Why Gibson Didn't Win 20 in '64

May 2, 1971 - Imagine a game with the two teams combining for 17 hits, two walks and four errors.  That's what the St Louis Cardinals and Montreal Expos produced on this beautiful Sunday afternoon at Busch Stadium II, with a modest crowd of 10,320 to witness the action.  The starting pitchers - Carl Morton for the Expos and Steve Carlton for the Redbirds - seemed to thrive on surviving peril; both pitched complete games and the only run scored in the game was of the "unearned" variety.

The offensive outburst happened in the bottom of the third-inning, as Lou Brock (who was 3 for 4 with a stolen base) singled to center, advanced to second on a Luis Melendez tapper back to the pitcher (Brock was trying to steal), then moved up to third (he was trying to steal again) when Ted Simmons just got a piece of the pitch to roll it into fair territory; the catcher made the putout.  In case you were wondering, Brock had never successfully stolen home in his entire career.  In this particular situation, it wasn't necessary.

Joe Torre then hit a routine grounder to the shortstop which was kicked for a costly error; no RBI for Torre (who led the league with 137 in '71), but a run nonetheless for the Redbirds, who now led 1-0.  Curiously, Torre would be 0 for 4 in this game as his batting average dipped to .350; he'd end up at .363 to win the batting title as well as becoming the National League's MVP.

This single run would prove to be the lone tally for the entire game.  The pitching lines for both starters were strikingly similar:

Morton - 8 IP - 8 H - 1 R - 0 ER - 1 BB - 3 SO
Carlton - 9 IP - 9 H - 0 R - 0 ER - 1 BB - 2 SO

Carlton allowed at least one hit in every inning, except the ninth, when he set the Expos down in order to secure the win; improving to 5-1 (1.82 ERA) on the young season.  He would go on to win 20 games for the Cardinals that season, and at the age of 26, seemed destined to become the ace of the Cardinals staff, with the current ace, Bob Gibson already in his mid-thirties; Gibby would call it quits after the '75 season, shortly before his 40th birthday.

However, when Carlton had the audacity to ask for a $10,000 raise prior to the 1972 season, an outraged team owner, Gussie Busch ordered general manager Bing Devine to trade "the sob"; thus ensuring the Cardinals would be also-rans for the next ten years; until Busch had the good fortune to bring Whitey Herzog on board to run things in the early eighties.  Before accepting the job, Whitey made it clear to the cantankerous Busch he alone would be running the show - no mandated trades or other such nonsense (like the Steve Carlton fiasco, for example).

May 3, 1967 - If Steve Carlton's 9-hit shutout of the Expos was somewhat nerve-wracking, the one spun by Cardinals starter Ray Washburn seemed like a walk in the park, by comparison.  The first-place Cincinnati Reds were in town to take on the Cardinals at Busch Stadium II, with 14,879 on hand to witness a game that would be over in a snappy one hour and forty minutes.

The Cardinals only mustered six hits and one walk in this game, but half of the hits and the lone base on balls occurred in the fourth-inning, off Reds starter, Milt Pappas.  The Redbird rally began with a one-out bunt single by Roger Maris - a guy previously known for hitting the long ball during his New York Yankees playing days.  Orlando Cepeda then banged a double down the left-field line to move Maris to third base.  After Tim McCarver was intentionally walked, Mike Shannon foiled the strategy by singling in Maris and Cepeda, to put the Cardinals up 2-0.  That was all the scoring in this one.

For Cardinals starter Ray Washburn, two runs was more than enough; his complete game two-hit shutout of Cincinnati gave him his first win of the season (he had two losses) and improved the second-place Cardinals' record to 11-7 - two games behind the Reds (15-7).  This would prove to be the only shutout Washburn would bag in '67, but it came at a time when the Cardinals were looking to stay close to a team that seemed poised to run away with things in the National League.  As it turned out, it would be St Louis running away with things this year.  But who knew?

May 4, 1964 - With 7,437 in attendance at Busch Stadium I, the Cardinals played host to the Philadelphia Phillies.  Neither starting pitcher - Philadelphia's Dennis Bennett nor the Cardinals' Bob Gibson - lasted very long in this game; Bennett was knocked out after just 2.1 innings, allowing five hits (including one home run) and five runs; Gibson only pitched four innings, allowing three hits and just one run.  His early exit from the game had nothing to do with his pitching performance.  It had everything to do with getting drilled by a Jack Baldschun fastball as he was leading off the fourth-inning.  As a precaution, manager Johnny Keane removed an irritated Gibson from the game, just one inning shy of qualifying for the win.  The fact that the very next hitter, Carl Warwick, homered to give St Louis a 7-1 lead, made the fuming Gibson even more indignant about this early exit.

The Cardinals would go on to score nine runs in this contest, while reliever Roger Craig (5 IP - 5 H - 1 R - 1 BB - 2 SO) was the beneficiary of this easy win, improving to 2-0 on the young season.  Curt Flood and Tim McCarver also homered in this game, while Ken Boyer had three hits good for four RBI, en route to a league leading 119 RBI for the year; while bagging the NL MVP Award to go with his World Series championship ring.

For Gibson, the '64 season was certainly a memorable one, capped off by a World Series MVP honor, featuring a brand spanking new Chevrolet Corvette as part of the package.  However, his quest for attaining a 20-win season would have to wait another year.  Thanks in large part to his early exit in this game, Gibby won just 19 games in '64.

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Roger Freed Game - May 1, 1979

May 1, 1979 - Before a paid gathering of 6,349, the St Louis Cardinals played host to the Houston Astros at Busch Stadium II.  This cavernous structure would be even more deserted by the time this game ended at 10:47 pm, but for those who stuck around (like me, for example) to witness its conclusion, it would be one of the most memorable games in franchise history - known simply as The Roger Freed Game.

The Cardinals' Silvio Martinez delivered the first pitch at 7:38 pm to Astros center fielder, Terry Puhl, who promptly hit a lazy fly ball to Cardinals right fielder George Hendrick, for the first out of the game.  It was not going to be a good night for Puhl (who hit .287 in '79) - an 0 for 6 would be his destiny tonight.  Martinez went on to retire the side in order.

Taking the mound for Houston was perhaps the most intimidating pitcher in the game - JR Richard, who would go on to lead the National League with a 2.71 ERA in '79, while recording an amazing 313 strikeouts in 292.1 innings of work.  Tragically, his career would be shortened by what was first diagnosed as "fatigue" the following season; but what in reality was a life-threatening stroke.  On this night, a healthy JR Richard matched Martinez by setting St Louis down in order in the first.

The Astros broke through in the second-inning to score one run, but they ran themselves out of a potentially big inning.  Jose Cruz led off with a double down the left field line, then scored on Enos Cabell's single to right field.  With Bob Watson at bat, Cabell was thrown out trying to steal second.  Watson got the third straight hit off Martinez with another single to right field.  Watson then managed to get picked off first to record the second out in the inning; Art Howe then grounded one to Ken Reitz at third who fired a bullet to first baseman Keith Hernandez to retire the side.  Three hits; just one run.

Ted Simmons quickly tied the game in the bottom of the second-inning, with a lead-off home run deep to right field.  One hit; one run.

Both pitchers settled down to keep the scored knotted at one through five and a half innings.  The Cardinals broke through in the bottom of the sixth, with Lou Brock starting things off with a single to center field - his only hit in this game.  However, the next hitter, Keith Hernandez (who would go 0 for 5 on the night) bounced into a 6-4-3 double play, apparently ending the rally.  It not only was a tough night for the Cards' first baseman; he had gotten off to a slow start with the bat, and by the time this one was over, his batting average would be down to .218.  Suffice to say, he snapped out of it, ending the season with a league-leading .344 BA, then being named co-MVP with Pittsburgh's Willie Stargell.

 Back to the sixth-inning; Ted Simmons lined a two-out single to right field, then came all the way around to score when George Hendrick ripped a Richard fastball off the center field wall for a stand-up double.  That was it; three hits; one run.  The Cards now led for the first time in the game; 2-1.

After Martinez held Houston in check in their half of the seventh-inning, the Redbirds made some more noise in the bottom half.  Ken Reitz led off with a single to left field, then after a Mike Tyson strikeout, Martinez was allowed to hit for himself; forcing Reitz at second with a grounder to second.  With Martinez perched at first base, Gary Templeton lined one in the right center field gap, as Martinez huffed and puffed his way all around to score on the triple.  That was it; two hits; one run.  The Cards now had an insurance run to go up, 3-1.  After retiring the side, Richard's night was over:  7 IP - 7 H - 3 R - 2 BB - 4 SO - 1 HR.  Joaquin Andujar would be the new pitcher for Houston in the 8th-inning.

Old school manager Ken Boyer stuck with Silvio Martinez, his winded starter, as the top of the 8th-inning began ominously, with a lead-off double by Alan Ashby.  This prompted Boyer to get reliever Mark Littell warmed up down in the bullpen.  After Martinez retired the next two batters, it seemed Littell might just be needed for a save opportunity in the ninth.  Instead, Craig Reynolds stroked a run-scoring double to right field, then Cesar Cedeno drew a base on balls; still no Littell.  Jose Cruz tied the game with a single to center field, finally ending Martinez' outing:  7.2 IP - 7 H - 3 R - 3 BB - 2 SO - All in all, not a bad performance, but one that probably lasted too long for a pitcher who would go on to win 15 games (losing 8) with a nice 3.27 ERA in 1979.

Mark Littell got the final out in the eighth-inning, by striking out the dangerous Enos Cabell with the game on the line.  Littell worked a perfect ninth and tenth-inning, while Andujar and Joe Sambito kept the Redbirds in check in the ninth and tenth, respectively.

All hell was about to break loose in the eleventh-inning.  Replacing Littell on the mound for St Louis was Tom Bruno, who promptly walked Cesar Cedeno; then with Jose Cruz batting, Cedeno stole second.  Cruz then hit a high chopper to Bruno, who retired the batter while Cedeno took third.  The next batter, Enos Cabell hit another high chopper that Hernandez grabbed then threw home trying to nail the speedy Cedeno.  That strategy backfired, as Cedeno slid in safely while Cabell reached first on the fielder's choice.  With Bob Watson now batting for the Astros, Cabell swiped second; setting up an intentional walk to Watson.

With a run in and runners on first and second with one out, Art Howe was retired on a fly ball to center fielder Tony Scott.  Bruce Bochy then delivered a run-scoring single to left field, scoring Cabell.  That brought up relief pitcher Joe Sambito to hit; and hit he did, driving in the third and final run of the inning with a line drive double down the right field line.  That was all for Bruno, as a weary Ken Boyer signaled veteran left-hander Darold Knowles to come in and get the final out of the inning; he did, getting Terry Puhl on a grounder to second, capping off the Houston center fielder's 0 for 6 evening.  Little did anyone know, Knowles would be in line for the win after retiring the only batter he would face in this game.

By this time, at least half of the original 6,349 decided it was time to head home.  After all, Sambito was almost invincible in 1979; making the All Star team for the first and only time in his career, while posting an impressive 1.77 ERA in 91.1 innings of work; and he was heading back to the mound to begin his second inning of work in the bottom of the eleventh.

Tony Scott started things off well for the Redbirds, reaching base on an infield hit which the shortstop fielded deep in the hole but couldn't make the throw.  Ken Reitz then struck out; but Ken Oberkfell coaxed a walk; as did catcher Steve Swisher, of all people, to load the bases.  Lead-off hitter Gary Templeton couldn't handle Sambito's fastball, and went down on strikes to record the second out in the inning, as what was left of the "crowd" uttered an almost imperceptible groan.  The Cardinals were down to their last out, as Roger Freed was summoned to pinch hit for Jerry Mumphrey (Lou Brock's defensive replacement).

After a trade with Montreal brought Freed to St Louis in '77, the unassuming part-time utility player had become a cult hero with the Redbirds that season, with a .398/.463/.627 slash line in limited play.  Just two seasons later, Freed's career would be winding down, but on this particular night, Roger battled the game's best reliever with all the ferocity he could muster; fouling pitch after pitch off, swinging from the heels each time.  He had worked the count full, refusing to let a third strike get past him.

Suddenly, he connected on a fastball; his bat exploding like a gunshot as the ball resembled a laser heading towards the handful of joyous fans in the left field pavilion.  Just like that, this game was over.  A grand salami for Mr Freed, and an unforgettable moment for this fan to have personally witnessed, after a three hour and nine minute 11-inning ordeal.

But it was definitely worth the wait.