Friday, June 27, 2014

June 27, 1985 - McGee Sparks Another Cardinal Win

Thursday, June 27, 1985 - At Veterans' Stadium (Kurt Kepshire - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Shane Rawley - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  22,691  

After losing the first two games of a three-game series to a mediocre Philadelphia team, the Cardinals were trying to salvage the final game before heading home - for a pivotal three-game series with the formidable and widely despised New York Mets.

First things first, however.  The Cardinals would manage to escape with a 4-3 win tonight, thanks to a couple of costly Philadelphia mistakes - one in the field and one on the bases - along with a perfect night from the National League's leading hitter - and a rare home run from a defensive Wiz.

It also helped that Kurt Kepshire manged to work around his control problems - issuing four walks in 6.2 innings pitched - but none of the free passes came around to score.  The two runs he allowed came via the long ball - a fifth-inning solo home run by Ozzie Virgil - and another by Von Hayes two innings later.

That second Phillies' home run prompted manager Whitey Herzog to make a pitching change - a move that nearly came back to haunt him - until the second pitching change saved the day.

But it was Willie McGee who sparked the Cardinals' offense, reaching base in all four plate appearances - scoring three of the four Redbird runs - the first one coming after his one-out triple in the first-inning set up Tommy Herr for an easy RBI, with a ground out to short.

Willie scored the second run in the fourth-inning, after a lead-off single, a wild pitch and an error by shortstop Derrel Thomas on Herr's ground ball allowed McGee to plate an unearned run.

After Virgil's fifth-inning home run cut the Philadelphia deficit to a single run, McGee was at it again in the sixth-inning - reaching base this time on a lead-off walk.  After Herr advanced him to second on a ground out to the second baseman, Jack Clark delivered an RBI double to make it a 3-1 St Louis advantage.

The Phillies threatened in their half of the sixth, when a tiring and very wild Kepshire issued three straight two-out walks to load the bases for Virgil - who had already homered in his previous trip to the plate.  This time, however, he was retired on a foul popup which catcher Tom Nieto grabbed to preserve the two-run lead.

Leading off the seventh-inning for St Louis, Ozzie Smith connected for his third home run of the season - a new single-season career high for the Wizard - and it would prove to be the winning margin in this nerve-wracking game.

After Hayes' two-out pinch hit home run off Kepshire in the bottom half of the seventh, reliever Bill Campbell was brought in to get that third out - which he did - keeping the score 4-2, in favor of the Cardinals.  But trouble lurked ahead as Campbell remained in the game to pitch the eighth-inning - at least part of the eighth-inning - the bad part.

Campbell's peril began with a lead-off walk to Greg Gross, followed by a Mike Schmidt single, which was subsequently followed by a Glen Wilson double into center field.  Gross, of course, scored easily; however, Mike Schmidt - with nobody out - inexplicably tried to score, as well.  He didn't make it, as McGee's relay to Ozzie, whose throw to Nieto was a strike - nailing the flabbergasted Schmidt at home - as a cascade of boos reigned down on him like rain from the appreciative Philly fans.

So, instead of one run in - and runners on second and third with (still) nobody out - the Phillies had one run in with one out now - with just one runner on second.

Campbell was given the rest of the night off for his efforts, as Herzog summoned Jeff Lahti in from the bullpen to restore order - and he did - not only getting through the eighth with no further damage - Lahti also worked a perfect ninth-inning to get a well-deserved sixth save of the season.  The beneficiary was of course, Kepshire (5-5).

The Cardinals had dodged a bullet - maybe more like a cannonball.  The win kept them just a half game behind Montreal in the tight NL East race.  The Cardinals' next opponents - the Mets - were only two games behind St Louis, heading into a very crucial weekend series at Busch.

No doubt relieved to get out of Philly with a win, the Cardinals enjoyed their flight back home -but it would take another 27 years before Happy Flight was officially used to describe such air travel for the franchise.

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