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.