Sunday, June 22, 2014

JUNE 22: 1996 - McGee Leads Assault on Montreal & 1985 - Curt Ford's MLB Debut - Walk-Off Winner Over Cubs

Saturday, June 22, 1996 - At Olympic Stadium (Mike Morgan - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Montreal Expos (Uqueth Urbina - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  16,895

Willie McGee set the tone for this game - right off the bat - with a two-out two-run first-inning single - as the Cardinals cruised to an easy 9-4 thumping of the Montreal Expos.  Three of the four Montreal runs came in the ninth-inning off an obviously weary Mike Morgan, who didn't quite have enough in the tank to go nine - but the outcome of this game was never in doubt.

St Louis scored early and often, building a 9-0 cushion by the fifth-inning - then put it on cruise control over the last four innings.

After solo home runs by Ray Lankford and John Mabry followed McGee's first-inning RBI's - and gave the Cardinals a 4-0 lead - McGee duplicated his first-inning feat - in the fifth-inning - with another two-run single.  This time, his teammates added three more runs to make it a nine-zip walk in the park - before Montreal finally scored a run in the sixth - but it was too little, too late.

This win kept the Cardinals at .500 (36-36) - and in a first-place tie with the Houston Astros (38-38) - who would fade down the stretch, while the Cards got hot in September.  But not hot enough in October.

Meanwhile, back in 1985...

Saturday, June 22, 1985 - At Busch Stadium II - (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Rick Sutcliffe - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  49,231

The Cardinals looked to extend their recent mastery of the Chicago Cubs in tonight's game before a packed house at Busch.  Just last weekend, the Redbirds flew into Wrigley for a three-game series, and left with a three-game sweep.  In this series, St Louis had already taken the first of the three to be played - on Friday night, by a 7-5 score - extending their winning streak against their rivals to four.

This game would be tied after nine innings - one run apiece.  The Cubs scored the first run of the game off Forsch - without a hit.  A hit batsman, and two walks loaded the bases with two out in the fifth-inning.  Although Forsch had only allowed three hits in 4.2 innings pitched - his walk total was now at six - and now, with the bases loaded, Herzog had seen enough - bringing in Ricky Horton to face Leon Durham.  Sure enough, even Horton had control problems tonight - walking in a run - which was charged to a downcast Bob Forsch.  But Horton retired the next batter to keep the game within reach - down by just a run.

The Cardinals finally broke through off Sutcliffe in the seventh-inning.  With one out, Andy Van Slyke doubled, and later scored when pinch hitter Steve Braun - playing in his final major league season - came through with an RBI single to tie the game at one run apiece.

In the Cardinals' half of the tenth-inning - with the score still tied, 1-1 - Ozzie Smith singled off Cubs' closer - Lee Smith.  Cubs' pitching had not allowed a base on balls all night (in contrast with the Cardinals' pitchers - nine free passes given out - but with Tom Nieto batting, Smith uncorked a wild pitch, sending Smith to second - where he stayed, for now, as Nieto struck out.

This time, Herzog called on a 24-year old rookie making his major league debut - Curt Ford - to pinch hit for Tom Lawless.  Ford's first career hit was a walk-off winner - in extra innings, no less - as the huge crowd went crazy - well, almost.

St Louis (38-27) had beaten the Cubs again - their fifth win in a row against the team that had owned them the season before.  They would go on to sweep the series, and were flying high - playing with extreme confidence - and playing extremely well.  A major league-best 63-34 record after this game allowed them to sneak past the New York Mets in the final week of the season - setting the stage for a memorable and bittersweet post season run for the Redbirds.

Too bad they couldn't review bad calls back then.

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