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.