Tuesday, June 16, 2009 - At Busch Stadium III: A classic pitching match-up between Cardinals' ace - Adam Wainwright - and the Detroit Tigers' Justin Verlander - for all intents and purposes, was over after one inning. Whereas Wainwright was able to escape a two-out bases loaded first-inning jam - retiring Brandon Inge on a long fly ball to the deepest reaches of center field - Verlander could not.
Yadier Molina's two-out bases loaded single off Verlander in the bottom of the first-inning scored two runs - and opened the floodgates. Unnerved, Verlander then balked in another run. His misfortune continued as light-hitting Joe Thurston brought in the fourth - and final - run of the inning with a double.
The rest of the game was elementary. Wainwright controlled the Detroit lineup, while St Louis scored another run off Verlander before he was relieved of duty after just four innings - then continued the assault on three relievers - Robertson, Perry and Lyon - to tack on another six runs - featuring back-to back home runs by Albert Pujols (23) and Chris Duncan (5).
The only run Wainwright allowed came on a two-out sixth-inning home run by Brandon Inge (15). As far as Wainwright and the Cardinals were concerned, they were happy that long ball didn't happen with the bases juiced - when Inge just missed hitting it out in the first-inning. Yes, timing is everything.
The only other Detroit run came off reliever P.J. Walters - when Miguel Cabrera went deep in the eighth-inning - his 12th home run and 40th RBI of the season. Strangely enough, the long since departed Inge had more home runs (15) and RBI (42) at this point in the season than the player widely regarded nowadays as the best hitter in the game.
In baseball, five years can - and usually does - bring about a lot of changes. Some players improve with age, while others regress, even before hitting 30.
Tony Gwynn, who lost his battle with cancer earlier today, hit .394 at the age of 34, during the strike-shortened 1994 season - so people tend to forget how close he came to hitting .400, twenty years ago. Seems like only yesterday.
By the way, he should have won the '87 NL MVP Award - just for the record.