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.

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