Tuesday, May 6, 2014

April 27, 1992 - April 28, 1993 - April 29, 1978 - April 30, 1977 - 3 Come-From-Behind Winners & Boyer's Successful Managerial Debut

April 27, 1992 - With 42,902 on hand at Dodger Stadium on a beautiful night for baseball, the Cardinals fell behind early but rallied to grab the lead, and then held on, as four relievers kept the Dodgers scoreless over the final four innings to secure a 5-4 win; and send most of those fans home unhappy by the seventh-inning (traffic is always so bad in La La Land).

Donovan Osborne started this game for St Louis, and struggled through five innings of work, allowing the only four runs LA would score in the game (one of which was unearned) on five hits and three walks, while getting a pair of strikeouts.

But it was the bat in Osborne's hands that helped his team the most, and which ultimately bailed himself out of a probable loss.  With the Redbirds trailing 4-1, Osborne ignited a two-out, two-run fifth-inning rally with a seeing-eye single to left field.  That opened the floodgates.  Successive singles by Ray Lankford, Ozzie Smith and Milt Thompson scored two runs, reducing the deficit to a single tally.

St Louis then took the lead for good in a two-run sixth-inning, with four straight singles (Guerrero, Gilkey, Hudler and Pagnozzi) and a Craig Wilson sacrifice fly.  All told, the Cardinals had 13 hits in the game - all singles - to go along with a pair of walks.  Milt Thompson had three hits in five trips to the plate - good for two RBI; Ozzie, Pagnozzi, and Wilson had one RBI apiece.

Defensively, the Cardinals committed three errors - one by the left fielder, Thompson, and believe it or not, two by the defensive Wiz himself - Ozzie Smith - which led to an unearned run for the Dodgers.  Strangely enough, Smith only had 10 errors all season long, so 20% of them happened in this somewhat unusual game.

Four Cardinal relievers - Perez, McClure, Carpenter (Cris not Chris), and Lee Smith (who got his fifth save of the season) shut the Dodgers out over the final four innings of the game.  More from Donovan Osborne coming up next...

April 28, 1993 - With a brand-spanking new franchise to adore, 49,765 rabid Colorado Rockies' fans were on hand to witness a wild, see-saw battle between the visiting St Louis Cardinals and the Rockies in their new, hitter friendly ballpark known as Coors Field.

In this high-altitude environment, where routine fly balls routinely fly over walls, this particular evening featured just one - a two-run shot in the fifth-inning by the Cards' Mark "Hard Hittin'" Whiten.  Other than that, the Redbird offense consisted of eight hits and a mind-numbing eleven walks.  Even so, it took a ninth-inning rally for St Louis to pull this one out of the fire, and the game-winning hit was delivered by a utility player who played in just 172 games over a brief, four-year career; which ended after the '93 season.

The festivities began with old pal Donovan Osborne lasting just four innings, allowing five hits, four runs (three earned runs), four walks and two strikeouts.  Donovan may not have pitched well in this hostile environment, but he liked hitting there, going 1 for 2 with a key RBI.  Four Cardinals relievers managed to navigate through the final five innings with just two runs scored  - Lancaster, Perez, Murphy, and Lee Smith.

As the Redbirds came up to bat in the ninth-inning, trailing Colorado 6-5, three successive one-out walks (Lankford, Pena, Pagnozzi) loaded the bases.  Luis Alicea's slow roller to short forced Pena at third, but Lankford scored the tying run.  With two out, pinch hitter Rod Brewer (remember him?) delivered a run-scoring single to right field (Pagnozzi scored), which proved to be the game winner.  Lee Smith pitched a nerve-wracking bottom of the ninth (one hit, one walk and two strikeouts) for his ninth save of the year, giving bullpen mate Rob Murphy a rare win in relief.

For the 27-year old Brewer, this was a rare chance to be the hero; his career would be ending at the conclusion of this season, despite hitting .286 in limited action.

On the other side of the field, Dale Murphy would soon be calling it a career as well, which ended after 26 games of futility in Colorado - hitting just .143.  On this particular night, however, Murphy looked like the Murphy of old, going 1 for 3 with an RBI.  It's hard to imagine that just ten years earlier, he was one of the best players in the game, winning back-to-back NL MVP Awards ('82 - '83).  In the span of one decade, Murph went from the top of the mountain to Rockies bottom.  Holy cow, I still think he belongs in the Hall of Fame.

April 29, 1978 - In one of the most dismal seasons in franchise history - just ten years removed from a classic World Series appearance - the Cardinals were a team in total disarray.  When manager Vern Rapp forced a mandatory "clean cut" grooming code down the throats of these Redbirds, there was a lot of squawking - and losing - going on, from the onset.  When Rapp's band of malcontents posted a 6-11 record right out of the gate (featuring a seven-game losing streak), Rapp was dismissed before interim manager Jack Kroll (1-1) turned the reigns over to fan-favorite, Kenny Boyer to guide the team - further into oblivion.  But who knew?

The 20th game of the '78 season would be Boyer's first as manager (drawing an above average crowd of 20,596), as the defending National League champion LA Dodgers came to town, with their crafty veteran knuckle-curve ball specialist, Burt Hooton on the mound facing  26-year old Eric Rasmussen for the Redbirds.  Both pitchers were brilliant; in fact, Hooton had allowed just one hit through six scoreless innings - a double to Ted Simmons.  But trouble was lurking ahead.

Leading off the seventh-inning, Keith Hernandez got the second - and last hit of the night for St Louis - with a line drive single to center.  Perhaps rattled by the prospect of Ted Simmons now batting, Hooton unleashed a wild pitch, sending Hernandez to second.  Simmons then pulled a ground ball to second base, allowing Hernandez to move up to third on the out.  An intentional walk to Jerry Morales set up a potential inning-ending double play with Ken Reitz due up - the Cardinals' third baseman, and quite possibly the slowest runner in the world.  Reitz foiled that strategy by lifting a sacrifice fly to center field, scoring Hernandez, and breaking up Hooton's shutout bid.  That ended the scoring for St Louis.

But one run was enough as Rasmussen quickly finished off the Dodgers with a complete game four-hit shutout.  Game time:  One hour and thirty-three minutes!

Strangely enough, in a season in which the Cardinals would post a miserable 69-93 record, they were able to win seven of twelve encounters with the Dodgers - a team heading to a second straight World Series engagement with the New York Yankees (and a second straight World Series defeat).

This would be the last game Rasmussen would win as a member of the Cardinals.  After three straight losses, Rasmussen was traded to San Diego for controversial right fielder "Silent" George Hendrick, in an effort to help spark an anemic offense.  Although Hendrick hit well, the Cardinals still floundered for the most part until the strike-shortened '81 season; and it would be Hendrick leading the '82 Cardinals with 104 RBI, and then delivering the game-winning single against the Milwaukee Brewers in Game Seven of the World Series. That turned out to be a pretty good trade for St Louis.

April 30, 1977 - With 16,883 on hand at Busch Stadium II, the Cardinals played host to the bumbling Atlanta Braves, who nearly won this game despite committing five errors which led to two unearned runs.  Not to be outdone, the Cardinals only made one error - by shortstop Garry Templeton - but it was a whopper, also allowing two unearned runs to score.

Cards starter Pete Falcone pitched well enough to win (5.1 IP - 6 H - 4 R - 2 ER - 0 BB - 4 SO - 1 HR), but was fortunate to escape defeat, leaving the game on the wrong end of a 4-1 score.  In the sixth-inning, after a Ted Simmons lead-off  home run, Keith Hernandez walked, then Ken Reitz lined a single to center field which was booted, allowing Hernandez to score the second, and final run of the inning.

In the seventh-inning, the Cards tied it on a Templeton single, a Bake McBride sacrifice bunt and a Hector Cruz run-scoring single.  They grabbed the lead in the eighth, thanks again to the Braves' sloppy defense.  Hernandez sliced a double down the left field line, and eventually advanced to third with two out.  Jerry Mumphrey then reached base on a botched ground ball by the shortstop, as Hernandez scored the go-ahead run.

John Urrea pitched three scoreless innings of relief for the win.  Final:  5-4, St Louis over Atlanta.  If we were only counting "earned runs", the Cardinals still won, 3-2.

This sloppy win on the last day of April gives the Cardinals (in select games from 1964 to 2013) a perfect 30-0 won-loss record.  I wonder what May will have in store for this team?  

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