Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31, 1987 - Coleman Delivers Come-From-Behind Walk-Off Winner Over Pirates

Friday, July 31, 1987 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Brian Fisher - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  38,757

Vince Coleman's two-out ninth-inning double scored Jose Oquendo from first base, to give the Cardinals a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 walk-off win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Ken Dayley (6-1) pitched one scoreless inning of relief to get the win.

Coleman had been a walk-off hero once before - as a rookie - delivering a game winning hit on June 30, 1985 to beat the Phillies.  Apparently, he has a penchant for beating teams from Pennsylvania on paydays in odd-numbered years when the Cardinals would lose a seven-game world series to an inferior team from the American League West.

This contest featured a showcase of key players involved in a trade between the two ball clubs - when the Cardinals acquired catcher Tony Pena from the Pirates in exchange for catcher Mike LaValliere and outfielder Andy Van Slyke.  To put it bluntly, Pena was a total bust for St Louis; whereas both LaValliere and Van Slyke would become valuable assets for a Pirates organization on the rise.  By the early '90's, they would become the best team in the NL East.  By 1990, the Cardinals had sunk to the bottom of the NL East - their first and only last place finish since 1918.

Still, the Cardinals were a very good team in 1987, in spite of this trade - and they won this particular game with a little help from the much-maligned Pena.

Pittsburgh struck first - off Cardinal starter Bob Forsch - in the very first inning.  With one out, Van Slyke singled to right, then advanced to third when Johnny Ray also singled to right.  Next up - Sid Bream - walked, to load the bases.  Although Bobby Bonilla scored Van Slyke with a sacrifice fly, Forsch was able to get out of the inning with just one allowed.

The Pirates came right back in the second-inning to tack on another run.  LaValliere opened with a double to right field, then advanced to third when right fielder Curt Ford booted the ball.  The next batter - Sam Khalifa - singled to center, scoring the second run of the game for Pittsburgh.  However, he was thrown out trying to steal second - on a nice throw from Pena.  It was a very big out for St Louis, since Pittsburgh would fail to score another run in the inning, despite two more hits, a passed ball and a stolen base getting thrown into the mix.

The Pirates scored their third run of the game in the fifth-inning.  A one-out walk to Van Slyke and a single to center by Ray put runners on the corners.  Then with Ray in motion, Sid Bream hit a slow roller back to Forsch, whose throw to shortstop Ozzie Smith was too late for the force out at second; however, The Wizard was able to elude the hard slide of Ray and retire the slew-footed Bream at first, as Van Slyke scored.

Trailing 3-0, the Cardinals finally got something going off Pirates starter - Brian Fisher - in the bottom of the fifth.  Jim Lindeman was plunked by a Fisher pitch to start the proceedings.  Pena then lined a double to left field, advancing Lindeman to third.  But John Morris - pinch hitting for Bob Forsch - was retired on a foul popup to the third baseman.  The next batter - Vincent Van Go - drove in his first run of the game with a ground out to first baseman Bream - who barely beat Coleman to the bag for the out.

Pat Perry, in relief of Forsch, held the Pirates in check for the next three innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, Jose Oquendo - pinch hitting for Perry - drew a lead-off walk, prompting manager Jim Leyland to bring in Brett Gideon from the Pirates bullpen to face Vincent Van Go - who grounded one to shortstop Khalifa - who, in his haste to turn two, booted the ball - putting runners on first and second with nobody out.  That was the break the Cardinals needed to turn this game around.

After Ozzie moved the runners up to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, Tommy Herr brought them in with a base hit to left - tying the game at three runs apiece.  Just like that.

After Dayley retired the Pirates in the top of the ninth, Lindeman led-off the bottom half with a single to left field.  After Pena's grounder forced Lindeman at second, Oquendo's grounder forced Pena at second.  With two outs and a runner still on first, the game seemed destined for extra innings.

Instead, Coleman lined one into the right center field gap.  Cardinal broadcaster Jack Buck knew from his vantage point high above the field - the game was over.  "That's a winner!"

The Cardinals were in first place to stay.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

July 30, 1968 - Gibson Maintains Sub-One ERA in Win Over Mets

Tuesday, July 30, 1968 - At Shea Stadium (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Dick Selma - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  34,835

Bob Gibson was certainly the most dominant pitcher in major league baseball in 1968 (aka The Year of the Pitcher).  His season-ending 1.12 ERA was a post-Dead Ball Era record for any starting pitcher - ever.  After a July 25, 1968 shutout of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Gibson's ERA had actually dipped below 1.00 for the first time all season (the pitcher's equivalent to hitting .400?) - 0.96 - to be precise.

This statistical anomaly was of no concern to Gibson, whatsoever.  He never bothered to keep track of such nonsense.  As far as he was concerned, his job was simple:  Prevent the other team from scoring.  Period.  Then, with any luck at all, his team could score a run somewhere along the line, and his job would be done.

In this game, the Cardinals provided Gibson with an early 1-0 cushion - when Dal Maxvill shocked everyone with a third-inning lead-off triple to right field.  After Gibson struck out, Brock grounded one sharply, right up the middle, which Mets starting pitcher Dick Selma got a glove on, but couldn't make a play; however,  Maxvill had to stay at third on what was ruled a single.  Curt Flood then hit a ground ball to the right of third baseman Ed Charles - whose only play was a force-out at second base - but this time, Maxvill was able to score.

"There's your run, Gibby!"  There was more truth to that joking remark than not - at least in 1968.

They say scoring runs is contagious.  That usually wasn't the case in '68 - except in this game - although the Mets helped out with some strange defensive maneuvers - very strange, in fact.

In the top of the fourth-inning, Orlando Cepeda led-off with a single to left field.  Then Tim McCarver walked.  Next up - Mike Shannon - grounded one to Charles at third - but in his haste to turn two, couldn't field it cleanly, for a costly error - which loaded the bases.

Next up - Julian Javier - drove in Cepeda and McCarver with a single to right field.  By this time, Selma was unraveling - a wild pitch, another base hit and a sacrifice fly scored two more runs.  But the Cardinals weren't quite through.

Perhaps the most bizarre play of 1968 happened with Brock batting - once again, with Maxvill on third base.  Lou, who was deprived of an RBI an inning prior - when his infield single didn't score Maxvill from third, got a cheap one this time around.  After grounding one right back to Selma, the befuddled Mets hurler apparently thought there was a runner on first (there wasn't).  After fielding the ball, Selma quickly threw a strike to second baseman Jerry Buchek - who in turn, relayed the ball to first base for the out, as a grinning Maxvill dashed home with the fifth run of the inning - on what can best be described as a phantom double play.

It's quite possible that Gibson had a rare lapse of concentration when he returned to the mound for the bottom of the fourth.  Who could blame him?  At any rate, after getting the first two batters, Ed Charles drew a base on balls - the only one Gibson would allow in the game.  Then, Ed Kranepool doubled to right field to score Charles all the way from first.

That ended the scoring for the Mets - who at least attained a moral victory by spoiling another shutout for the Cards' ace.  The ERA stayed virtually the same for Gibson, however.  Still 0.96.

Meanwhile, Cepeda added another needless run for the Redbirds in the seventh - scoring Flood (who doubled with two out) from second base.  That was it - a 7-1 Cardinal winner.  Those seven runs were the most the Cardinals scored in any of Gibson's road starts in '68.  Twice, they scored eight runs for him at home - in games won by the Redbirds - 8-1 and 8-0.

It's a pity all that run support couldn't have been spread out over some of his other starts - when he really could have used an extra run or two...

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

July 29, 2011 - Pujols Joins 2000 Hit Club in 9-2 Clubbing of Cubs

Friday, July 29, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Edwin Jackson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Garza - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,042

Recently acquired pitcher Edwin Jackson (8-7) was making his St Louis Cardinals debut - and it was a good one - allowing just one run in seven innings, as the Cardinals cruised to a convincing 9-2 win over the Cubs.

After David Freese's three-run fourth-inning home run off Matt Garza (4-8) erased an early 1-0 deficit, the focus of the fans' attention was definitely centered on Albert Pujols and his quest for career hit number 2000.  Pujols started the fourth-inning rally with hit number 1999 - a double - which was immediately followed by Matt Holliday's infield single, then the Freese blast to left center field.

The Cardinals tacked on three more runs in the sixth to build a comfortable 6-1 lead, as Jackson, who escaped from a second-inning bases-loaded-no-out jam with just one run allowed - settled down to blank the Cubs over his final five innings of work.  He turned the ball over to the guy he displaced in the starting rotation - Kyle McClellan - to start the eighth-inning.  Kyle then proceeded to demonstrate why he became the odd-man out, after giving up one run on a pair of hits and a walk, while getting just one batter out.

Jason Motte then came in from the bullpen to record the final two outs of the inning - minimizing the damage to just a single run.  In the process, he gave a nice demonstration of the type of quality pitching the Cardinals were looking for in the back-end of the bullpen, as he eventually became the unofficial closer for Tony LaRussa all the way through Game Seven of the World Series.

With Carlos Marmol now pitching for the Cubs in the eighth-inning, the Cardinals put another three spot on the board - but the scoring was incidental to the historical milestone that occurred.  With two runs already in and Ryan Theriot on second base with two out, Albert Pujols lined his second double of the game to score Theriot.  It was career hit number 2000 for Albert - a milestone that had previously been reached just three times in franchise history - by Hornsby, Musial and Brock.  For the 42,042 fans now giving their hero a standing ovation, the possibility that Pujols would actually be leaving them at the conclusion of this season - was unthinkable.

For the fans still bitter about that - get over it.  Think about the eleven Hall of Fame-caliber seasons Albert Pujols produced with the Cardinals.  The eight postseason appearances.  The three National League championships.  The two World Series championships.  Sure, he has a large ego and felt slighted when he didn't think the front office really wanted him to stay.  So he left for more money and more perceived recognition.  That was his decision.

But in reality, the front office didn't want him to stay.  Not at that price, anyway.  And that was a good business decision.

Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2002 - The Edgar Renteria Game: 10-9 Walk-Off Winner Over Cubs

In the past fifty years of Cardinal baseball, there have been some memorable games played on July 28.  Here's a sample:

1964 - At Wrigley Field - The Cards come-from-behind to send the game into extra innings - Score 5 runs in the 10th to beat the Cubs, 12-7.  White, McCarver & Shannon homer for St Louis.

2001 - At Wrigley Field - The Cards break a 4-4 tie with 3 runs in the 8th to beat the Cubs, 7-4.  Pujols, McGwire & Paquette homer for St Louis.

2004 - At Great American Ballpark - The Cards out-slug the Reds, 11-10.  Rolen hits 2 home runs - Womack & Edmonds add one apiece for St Louis.

2007 - At Busch Stadium III - In an otherwise dismal season, the Cards sweep a double-header over the Brewers - Scoring three 9th-inning runs for a 7-6 walk-off win in the first game.  St Louis wins the second game, 5-2 - as '06 World Series hero Anthony Reyes gets his first win of the season - to go with 10 losses.

2009 - At Busch Stadium III - The Cards score six runs in the 6th - then four runs in the 8th - in a decisive 10-0 win over the Dodgers.  Strangely enough, LA out hit St Louis - 9 to 8 in the game.

2010 - At Citi Field - The Cards score six runs in the first-inning - but the Mets score four runs in the eighth to send game into extra innings, tied 7-7.  The Redbirds finally win it in the 13th-inning - when Pujols singles in Schumaker with the game-wining run.  Final score:  St Louis 8 - New York 7.

All very exciting games - but the most memorable game happened exactly twelve years ago.  I like to call it The Edgar Renteria Game:

Sunday, July 28, 2002 - At Busch Stadium II (Matt Morris - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Clement - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  47,583

It was a hot and muggy evening in St Louis.  The game time temperature was 95 degrees, with a nine mph wind blowing from right to left, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan welcomed the ESPN viewing audience to another edition of Sunday Night Baseball.

Things didn't start out so well for the home team.  Matt Morris struck out the first two batters he faced, but had trouble getting that third out.  A walk to Sammy Sosa, then a single by Fred McGriff preceded a two-run double off the bat of Moises Alou.

The 2-0 Chicago lead quickly became 6-0 in the third-inning.  Once again, Sosa drew a two-out walk, followed by a McGriff single.  Alou drove in the first run with a single, then Corey Patterson shocked everybody with a three-run bomb.

The score remained 6-0 until the Cardinals finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth-inning - aided by a defensive miscue, along with a questionable managerial decision.

Jim Edmonds began the inning with a single to right field.  Albert Pujols then grounded one to shortstop Mark Bellhorn, whose only play was at first base - however, he threw wildly - very wildly - allowing Edmonds to score and Pujols to ramble into third.  At this point in the game, Cubs starter Matt Clement had been in total control - but manager Bruce Kimm decided to yank him - hoping the bullpen could navigate through the final four innings and protect what was currently a five-run lead.  In other words, Kimm panicked.

Jeff Fassero was the first of four Cub relievers to enter the game.  The first batter he faced - JD Drew - doubled, scoring Pujols.  After Drew advanced to third on a Tino Martinez infield ground out, Edgar Renteria picked up his first RBI of the game with a single to center field.  The next batter - Mike Difelice - doubled to left, advancing Renteria to third.

Kyle Farnsworth was then summoned in from the Cubs bullpen to face pinch hitter Kerry Robinson - who walked, to load the bases.  Then, lead-off hitter Fernando Vina singled to right field, scoring Renteria, as Difelice had to stop at third.  The rally came to an abrupt halt when Eduardo Perez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play - but at least the Cardinals were back in the game - trailing 6-4.

The Cubs were relentless, however.  With Steve Kline now pitching for the Cardinals, Corey Patterson's one-out seventh-inning double was followed by a Delino DeShields walk, a Todd Hundley RBI single and a Kyle Farnsworth sacrifice fly - to give Chicago a secure 8-4 lead - which became an even more secure 9-4 lead after Bill Mueller's solo eighth-inning home run off Dave Veres.

Farnsworth completed his 2.2 scoreless inning stint in the bottom of the eighth-inning, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were chatting about Jon's poor taste in neck ties, how the NL Central race was still up for grabs, and a reminder to stay tuned - Sports Center is coming up next.

Statistically speaking, the Cardinals had a one percent chance of winning this game - entering the home half of the ninth-inning, trailing 9-4.  Tom Gordon was the new Cubs pitcher - and much to Bruce Kimm's chagrin - three straight Cardinal batters reached base:  Vina singled, pinch hitter Miguel Cairo doubled him in, then Edmonds singled Cairo in.  It was now a 9-6 ballgame - and St Louis now had an eight percent chance of winning this game.

Time to bring in the closer - Atonio Alfonseca - to close this one out.  In a sense, that's exactly what happened.  The first batter - Albert Pujols - patiently worked the count full, then walked on the seventh pitch of the at bat - bringing the tying run to the plate, in the person of JD Drew - who struck out on a called third strike.  But then Tino Martinez - less than a year removed from his World Series heroics with the Yankees - stroked a single to right field - scoring Edmonds to make it a 9-7 game.

This brought the winning run to the plate - in the person of Edgar Renteria.  After Alfonseca missed with the first pitch, Edgar was anticipating a fastball - in the strike zone - and he got it.  And he got all of it - sending the ball on its merry way over the left field wall, for a dramatic three-run walk-off home run.

It was a classic moment that many Cardinal fans no doubt had the foresight to record on their now-antiquated VCR's - to play back from time to time, for posterity's sake.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

July 27, 2012 - Homer-Happy Cards Make History in Win Over Cubs

Friday, July 27, 2012 - At Wrigley Field (Lance Lynn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Travis Wood - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,778

Just six days after scoring twelve runs in a single inning - equaling a franchise record - the Cardinals were at it again - making history against Chicago Cubs pitching.  This time, it was an obscure home run record that was established - in a see-saw battle that was eventually won by the Cardinals - 9-6.

It all started with two outs in the top of the first - when Matt Holliday homered deep to left center field (his 18th) off Cubs starter Travis Wood - to give the Cardinals a 1-0 lead.

Cardinal starter Lance Lynn is used to getting a lot of run support in his outings - and after giving up a lead-off triple to David DeJesus, a run-scoring single to Starlin Castro, and then a two-run home run to Anthony Rizzo - it was apparent the Redbirds would have to step up the offensive production if they expected to win this one.

With the Cardinals now trailing 3-1, Lance Berkman led-off the second-inning with a single, which was immediately followed by a game-tying Yadier Molina home run (his 16th) - which landed on Waveland Avenue.  The Redbirds weren't through.  Matt Carpenter drew a base on balls, then scored on Daniel Descalso's triple.  Next up - Lance Lynn - knew a 4-3 lead was not going to hold up today - so he helped himself out with a sacrifice fly to give the Cardinals a precarious 5-3 lead.

After the Cubs failed to score in the bottom of the second, Berkman got into the act with a two-out home run (his 2nd) in the third-inning, to build the lead to 6-3.  For Lance, in an injury-plagued final season as a member of the Cardinals - this would prove to be his last home run wearing a St Louis uniform.  The previous year, a healthy Berkman hit 31 home runs - and became an immediate fan-favorite in Cardinal Nation.

Meanwhile, the Cubs quickly tied the game in the bottom of the third - after a lead-off triple by Castro, an RBI single by Rizzo, an RBI double by Alfonso Soriano and an RBI single by Geovany Soto.

Matt Carpenter untied it, leading off the fourth-inning with another St Louis home run (his 4th - and the fourth in as many innings for the Cardinals).  This one almost - but not quite - made it onto Sheffield Avenue - landing high off the back wall in right field.

After Lynn kept the Cubs scoreless in the bottom of the fourth, Allen Craig made St Louis Cardinals history by hitting the fifth home run in as many innings - another solo shot, which landed in the fourth row of the left field bleachers - to give the Cardinals an 8-6 lead.  It was the first time in franchise history the team had ever homered in five consecutive innings.  Now, the all-time franchise record for home runs in a single game (7) seemed feasible (last accomplished on July 12, 1996 - against the Cubs - who else?).

Alas, the Redbirds had no more home runs in their bag of tricks today.  However, center fielder Jon Jay had a circus catch in his bag of tricks today - robbing Rizzo of extra bases with an absolutely ridiculous leaping grab of his fifth-inning smash to center field - to protect that slim two-run lead.

After getting through the fifth, unscathed, manager Mike Matheny gave his starter the rest of the day off.  Five St Louis relievers - Fuentes, Browning, Salas, Rzepczynski and Motte (who got his 23rd save) - kept Chicago off the board over the final four innings - giving Lynn his rather fortuitous 13th win - with only 4 losses.

The Redbirds scored a final insurance run in the seventh - when Jay was hit by a pitch, stole second, advanced to third on a throwing error by the catcher, then scored on Holliday's single to center.

Coincidentally, the Cardinals won yesterday's game (from 2004) by that same 9-6 score - although it took 11 innings to score that many runs, and they only hit three home runs.  Weaklings.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

July 26, 2004 - Cards' Power-Hitting Trio Keys Extra-Inning Win Over Reds

Monday, July 26, 2004 - At Great American Ballpark (Woody Williams - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Paul Wilson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  23,155

The Tremendous Trio - Albert Pujols, Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds - each homered and scored two runs, as the Cardinals won an eleven-inning war of attrition over the Cincinnati Reds, by a final score of 9-6.  The three Redbird home runs were required to send the game to extra innings - deadlocked at five runs apiece.

Cincinnati also went yard three times; however, it would be a dropped fly ball by Reds' right fielder, Wily Mo Pena, which opened the floodgates in the eleventh-inning - allowing the opportunistic Cardinals to score four unearned runs to ensure victory.

St Louis starter - Woody Williams - had better games.  He got off to a shaky start when a Sean Casey RBI double and a two-run home run off the bat of D'Angelo Jiminez gave the Reds a quick 3-0 lead after one inning.

The Cardinals got one run back in the second, when Scott Rolen led-off with a double - but only advanced to third when Jim Edmonds hit a long fly ball to center which Rolen thought was going to be caught - but it landed safely - causing a red-faced Rolen to hear Edmonds chirping from second base about being deprived of an RBI.  Instead, Reggie Sanders had the honor - scoring Rolen with a sacrifice fly, to make it a 3-1 game.

In the fourth-inning, Rolen took matters into his own hands with a one-out solo home run - his 21st of the season - to trim the deficit to a 3-2 Cincinnati advantage.

Edmonds responded in the sixth-inning - jumping on the first pitch from Reds starter Paul Wilson for a two-out two-run home run - his 25th of the season - to give the Cardinals a brief 4-3 lead.

The Reds regained the lead in the bottom of the sixth, on a pair of solo home runs - the first from Adam Dunn, leading-off the inning - and one out later, a blast from Wily Mo Pena.

After Wilson retired the first two Cardinal batters in the eighth-inning, Pujols tied the game in dramatic fashion - by bashing his 29th home run of the season.  At that point, Reds manager Dave Miley went to the bullpen - first bringing in Todd Jones, then Danny Graves - to keep the Cardinals scoreless until the eleventh.

Likewise, Tony LaRussa went to the bullpen after Williams completed his six innings of work - using Calero, Kline, Tavarz, Eldred and King (4-1) to keep the Reds in check through ten-innings.

With Phil Norton (1-3) on the mound for the Reds to begin the eleventh-inning, Edmonds coaxed a lead-off walk.  That would be the only batter Norton would face, as John Riedling was summoned in from the bullpen to face Sanders - and he got his man on, a fly ball to right field.  However, John Mabry couldn't be contained - lining a single to left, as Edmonds stopped at second.

Then, Mike Matheny cleverly lined one to Wily Mo Pena in right field - who dropped the ball.  The clanging sound of ball meeting glove reverberated throughout the vast confines of Great American Ballpark - as the opportunistic Redbirds now had the bases loaded with just one out.

The Cardinal batters decided right field was the place to hit it - and they did just that to score four unearned runs.

Tony Womack drove in the first unearned run for the Cardinals, with a single to Wily Mo - scoring Edmonds.  Next up, pinch hitter So Taguchi (batting for winning pitcher Ray King) hit a long sacrifice fly to Wily Mo - not only scoring Mabry with the second unearned run of the inning - it also advanced the clever and speedy Matheny to third.  Womack then stole second with Edgar Renteria at bat.  With first base open, Riedling, not so cleverly decided to pitch to the Cardinals' shortstop - and Edgar rewarded him with a two-run single to Wily Mo - to conclude the scoring for St Louis:  Four unearned runs, to take a 9-5 lead, heading into the bottom of the eleventh.

Jason Isringhausen - in a non-save situation - closed the game out - although he allowed an unearned run of his own - but that was it.  John Mabry - a good hitter but not a great left fielder - dropped Adam Dunn's line drive to open the bottom of the eleventh.  The clanging sound reverberated nicely from the acoustical splendor of left field.  Then one out later, with Dunn on second base, Wily Mo tried to atone for his earlier gaffe - lining a ground rule double to score the final run of the game for Cincinnati.

In the end, the game that began as a six-home run slug-fest in regulation, became an extra-inning comedy of errors.  The Cardinals had the last laugh - improving to 63-36 - first place in the NL Central - now 10 games ahead of the second-place Cubs.

Friday, July 25, 2014

July 25, 1964 - Cards Survive 7-Run Phillies' 9th - Win 10-9

Saturday, July 25, 1964 - At Connie Mack Stadium (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Dennis Bennett - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  10,948

The Cardinals almost blew this one.  Usually, an eight-run lead is a safe lead - especially when the other team only has three more outs to work with.  In this case, as the Cardinals tried to close out the Phillies in the bottom of the ninth - leading by a score of 10-2 - eight straight Philadelphia batters reached base before a single out could be recorded - but luckily for the Cardinals, only seven scored.  Had 'em all the way.

At the time, this harrowing victory over the first-place Phillies seemed a bit inconsequential.  All it did was put the Cardinals back to .500 (48-48) for the fourteenth time in a season that seemed destined for the second division.  After all, the Cardinals were still mired in 6th-place - nine games behind the first-place Phillies - and only a half game ahead of the seventh-place Cubs.

To say the Redbirds had been struggling prior to this game is an understatement.  They had suffered a three-game sweep to close out a home-stand at the hands of the Pirates (July 21-23), then dropped the first game of this four-game series with the Phillies, by a 9-1 score - and that was with their best pitcher - Bob Gibson - getting pummeled.  Psychologically, this was the lowest point of the season for the Cardinals, as they prepared to try again - with Curt Simmons on the mound for game two at Connie Mack Stadium.

Philadelphia not only scored last in this game - they also scored first - taking a 2-0 fourth-inning lead when Gus Triandos doubled home Dick Allen and Alex Johnson, after they both singled.  That would be the extent of the Phillies run production off the Cardinals' veteran lefty through eight innings.

In the meantime, the Cardinals began their scoring spree off Phillies starter Dennis Bennett in the fifth-inning.  With catcher Tim McCarver getting the night off, funnyman Bob Uecker filled in behind the plate and had a perfect night with the bat - two singles and three walks in five plate appearances.  He walked to start the fifth for the Cardinals.  After Curt Simmons struck out, Curt Flood singled, then Julian Javier drew another walk to load the bases for Dick Groat - who popped out to second.

With two out, Ken Boyer stepped into the batter's box and belted a high fastball down the left field line - and over the wall for a grand salami - giving St Louis a lead they would not relinquish.

Fortunately, they were relentless tonight - scoring at least one run in each of the remaining innings.  In the sixth, after Mike Shannon led-off with a triple, Carl Warwick - starting in left field tonight in place of Lou Brock - brought him in with a single - ending Dennis Bennett's night after allowing five runs in five innings.

St Louis added another run in the seventh, to build a 6-2 lead - when Boyer hit his second home run of the game - a solo shot off Ed Roebuck.

Uecker again ignited another rally, in the eighth, with a lead-off single off the third Philadelphia pitcher in the game - Dallas Green.  Strangely enough, without Green's assistance, the Cardinals would have lost this game, and worse yet - they never would have won the pennant, which means they never would have won the World Series.  So, thank you Dallas.

Returning to the action in the eighth-inning, after Uecker's shocking single, Simmons laid down a sacrifice bunt which Green booted - putting two very slow runners on first and second.  After Curt Flood forced Simmons at second base with a grounder to the shortstop, Uecker somehow managed to advance to third on the play, as Flood now became the runner at first.

Javier then singled Uecker in with an unearned run, as Flood raced to third.  Groat's sacrifice fly to center then scored Flood with the second unearned run of the inning - all thanks to Dallas Green.

Luckily for St Louis, Green remained in the game to pitch the ninth.  Bill White started things off with a single to right field - taking a wide turn at first base, which shortstop Bobby Wine thought was too wide, as he tried to pick him off - but the throw was off the mark, allowing White to cruise into second.  Shannon then singled to drive in White - then after Warwick was retired on a line drive to right field - our man Uecker got his second straight hit off his favorite pitcher - Dallas Green - putting runners on the corners with one out.

Curt Simmons was allowed to hit for himself - already leading 9-2.  He drove in what proved to be the deciding run - the tenth run - with a base hit to right.

With a 10-2 lead, Simmons was expected to simply go the distance, to give the bullpen a night off.  Nobody was warming up as the inning began.  Nobody expected Simmons would face five batters - and fail to record a single out.  But that's what happened.  Single, walk, walk, single, single - made it a 10-4 game - and the bases were still loaded.

Glen Hobbie hastily entered the game at this point, and couldn't throw a strike - walking in the fifth run of the game for Philadelphia - then after missing badly on the first two pitches to the biggest threat in the Phillies' lineup - rookie Dick Allen - manager Johnny Keane brought in Ron Taylor to complete the base on balls - forcing in another run to make it a 10-6 game.  Bases still loaded - still nobody out.

The next batter - Alex Johnson - knew he'd get a pitch to hit - and sure enough, Taylor grooved a fastball which Johnson ripped to right field for a single - scoring two more runs, as Allen moved up to third.  It was 10-8 and the circumstances were now dire for the Redbirds.  A loss in this game would be devastating - and they would for all intents and purposes, be finished for the season.

Keane went to the bullpen again - bringing in Mike Cuellar - who at least had plenty of time to warm up before entering the game.  He got the first out of the inning when John Herrnstein hit a sacrifice fly to right fielder Mike Shannon - but an overly aggressive Alex Johnson inexplicably tried to tag up from first and take second base after the catch.  He was out by ten feet - and suddenly, with two out and nobody on base now, the Phillies finally fizzled - as Triandos, who singled to start the trouble, ended it by popping out to second.

In the end, this harrowing win gave the Cardinals some much-needed momentum, as they would take both games of the Sunday double-header from a shell-shocked Phillies team - to win three out of four in this crucial series - although, at the time it didn't seem that "crucial" to anybody.

Although the Cardinals were finally above .500 to stay - they would still be 11 games out in little less than a month - August 23, to be exact.  However, as the other teams in the National League began falling by the wayside over the final month of this amazing season - most notably, the Phillies - the Cardinals continued to surge.  It was quite a finish, to say the least.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

July 24, 1982 - Opportunistic Redbirds (5 Runs/5 Hits) Stifle Astros (1 Run/11 Hits)

Saturday, July 24, 1982 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Bob Knepper - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  22,462

The Cardinals had to be opportunistic to win this game - and they were - getting just five hits and five walks of total offense, they managed to score five runs, in handing the Houston Astros a frustrating 5-1 loss.

Houston, on the other hand, squandered most of their scoring opportunities - unable to get the key hit off Cardinals starter Bob Forsch - who yielded ten hits in 7.1 innings pitched, but just one lone run.

Houston had at least one hit in every inning - except the second - and their frustration started early - in the very first-inning.  After a lead-off single, Astros second baseman Dickie Thon tried to steal second base - unsuccessfully - while Terry Puhl was batting.  With one down and nobody on base now, Puhl then tripled - but was stranded when Forsch reached back for a little extra on his fastball - striking out Ray Knight.  Bob only had two strikeouts all day.  Jose Cruz was then retired on a fly ball to left to end the threat.  It was going to be that type of game for Houston - plenty of chances and plenty of missed opportunities.

The Cardinals, on the other hand, had very few scoring chances, but when they arose, the Redbirds rose to the occasion - starting with a third-inning run they tallied on just one hit - a lead-off single from Ozzie Smith.  With Forsch batting, Ozzie immediately swiped second - allowing Forsch the chance to move him to third with a sacrifice bunt - and he did.  Tommy Herr's sacrifice fly to center gave the Cards a quick 1-0 lead.

St Louis then jumped on Houston starter Bob Knepper for four runs in the fourth.  With one out, George Hendrick singled, then advanced to third on a single by Gene Tenace.  The next batter - Tito Landrum - scored Hendrick with a double to left field, while Tenace stopped at third.  Light-hitting Mike Ramsey then got into the act - scoring both runners with a single to left - and when Astros third baseman Art Howe botched the relay from the outfield, Ramsey advanced all the way to third base.  Ozzie then plated the fourth run of the inning (an unearned run) with a sacrifice fly to center field.

That was the extent of the St Louis attack on this Saturday afternoon.  Knepper's day was over after being lifted for a pinch hitter in the fifth-inning - then Mike Lacoss and Randy Moffitt each pitched two-innings of no-hit-no-run relief for Houston - but the Astros lineup could only muster one fifth-inning run - on a two-out Dickie Thon double and a Terry Puhl run-scoring single.

After Ray Knight's one-out single off Forsch in the eighth-inning, manager Whitey Herzog brought in Jim Kaat to pitch to Jose Cruz - and the veteran lefty induced Cruz to hit into a Taylor-made 6-4-3 double play.

Bruce Sutter then got the final two outs in the ninth-inning (both strikeouts) to preserve the victory (although not a save situation), as Forsch improved to 10-5 on the season.

This was the kind of game the Cardinals managed to win with remarkable consistency in '82 - when they were outhit, but not outscored.  Opportunistic would seem to be their M.O.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

July 23, 1977 - Come-From-Behind Extra-Inning Walk-Off Winner Over Astros

Saturday, July 23, 1977 - At Busch Stadium II (John Urrea -Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Dan Larson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  29,444

Jerry Mumphrey's one-out eleventh-inning single to center field scored Hector Cruz from second base to give the Cardinals a unique come-from-behind 4-3 walk-off win over the Houston Astros.

Houston starter, Dan Larson only allowed three hits (and no walks) in ten innings pitched - but two of them came in the fourth-inning - a two-out infield single by Tony Scott broke up the perfect game - then Ted Simmons broke up the shutout with a two-run home run, which gave starter John Urrea a two run lead to work with.

The only other St Louis hit - the only other base runner allowed by Larson - came about on a fifth-inning lead-off double by Keith Hernandez - but the Redbirds failed to capitalize on that opportunity.

The Astros tied the game in the sixth-inning, with a two-out rally of their own.  Terry Puhl led-off the inning with a single to left field, but was erased when Enos Cabell grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.  But then, Cesar Cedeno doubled to left field and Bob Watson drew a base on balls - then, with the runners in motion, Jose Cruz scored Cedeno on a single to left field, as Watson easily advanced to third.  Next up - Ed Herrmann brought Watson home with the tying run on a single to right field.

Urrea escaped further damage, but after yielding a two-out double to Watson in the eighth-inning, manager Vern Rapp brought in The Mad Hungarian - Al Hrabosky - to face the dangerous Jose Cruz - and he got his man - on a fly ball to left field, to keep it a 2-2 game.

Hrabosky worked two more scoreless innings, although he did his best to keep the fans on the edge of their seats by walking three batters.  What a showman.

Meanwhile, Dan Larson continued working his magic through ten-innings.  Perhaps the biggest break for the Cardinals came in the eleventh-inning - when Larson was lifted for a pinch hitter - although the strategy was successful, as Houston scored an unearned run to take the lead.

With Rawley Eastwick now pitching for the Cardinals, Ed Herrmann greeted him with a lead-off single to right field.  Art Gardner was inserted into the game as a pinch runner for Herrmann, as the next batter - Julio Gonzalez - laid down a bunt which Gold Glove first baseman Hernandez aggressively charged - but booted - allowing Gardner to scamper all the way to third on the error, while Gonzalez was content to stay on first.

With runners on the corners and nobody out, the infield moved in - and the move paid off - at least for the time being - when Roger Metzger's ground ball to Hernandez resulted in a force out at second, as the runner on third didn't move.  However, the next batter - pinch hitter Joe Ferguson - scored the runner from third with a sacrifice fly to right field.   Eastwick retired the side to keep it a one run ballgame - but the Cardinals would have to rally to overcome a rare unearned run resulting from a Keith Hernandez error.  Of course, they did rally.

The new pitcher for Houston - Bo McLaughlin - was greeted with a lead-off double by Ken Reitz - The Zamboni - so nicknamed by Cardinal announcer Mike Shannon - for his fielding prowess.  The nickname was also appropriate since Reitz ran about as fast as the Zamboni.  Mike Phillips replaced the Cardinals' third baseman as the base runner, while Reitz eventually made it back to the Redbirds' dugout - to a hero's welcome.

After a Dave Rader sacrifice bunt moved the tying run to third base, the next batter - Hector Cruz - not only got the tying run home, he wound up on second, with a double.  The next batter - Jerry Mumphrey - gave the Cardinals the come-from-behind-extra-inning-walk-off-win - with a single to center, scoring Cruz with the deciding run.

Of course, walk-off wins don't happen very often - especially the "come-from-behind-extra-inning" variety.  In fact, this was the only game the Cardinals played on July 23 - since 1964 - that they came away with a walk-off win of any kind.

It's a good thing they came through in 1977 - otherwise, it would have eliminated the Walk-Off Wednesday theme for today.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July 22, 2011 - Pujols, Freese & Molina Go Deep in 6-4 Win Over Pirates

Friday, July 22, 2011 - At PNC Park (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Paul Maholm - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  38,490

The Cardinals staked Chris Carpenter to a 4-0 first-inning lead - on a pair of two-run home runs - then Carpenter later helped his own cause with a run-scoring single - as St Louis held on for the win, to move into a virtual tie with Pittsburgh for second-place in the NL Central - one game behind first-place Milwaukee.

Jon Jay started the first-inning rally against Pirates starter Paul Maholm with a one-out triple to right field, bringing Albert Pujols to the plate - in his favorite ballpark to hit.  As if on cue, Pujols launched one to deep right-center field - three rows deep - to put the Redbirds quickly on top, 2-0.

One out later, after Lance Berkman doubled down the left field line, David Freese belted an opposite-field home run deep to right field to give the Cardinals a four run advantage right off the bat.

The Pirates cut that deficit in half in the second-inning.  With two out, Garrett Jones doubled, followed by a run-scoring single from Ronnie Cedeno, a scratch infield single from Michael McHenry, then an RBI single from Maholm - trying to help his own cause.

Carpenter returned the favor in the third-inning - lining a two-out base hit to right-center field, to score Yadier Molina, who had doubled.

Pittsburgh scored two more runs in the sixth-inning - but questionable base-running took them out of a potentially big-inning, when they collected five hits off a tiring Carpenter.

With one out, and runners on second and third, Garrett Jones brought both home with a bloop single near the line in left field - but was nailed by a strong throw from Matt Holliday when he tried to stretch it into a double.  That play loomed large when the next two batters - Cedeno and McHenry - also singled; however, the inning ended when pinch hitter Xavier Paul grounded out to Pujols at first base - unassisted.

Then Yadi gave the Cardinals a bit more breathing room with a two-out solo home run in the eighth-inning - giving the Cardinals a 6-4 lead - and that's where it finished, after Fernando Salas worked a scoreless ninth-inning for his 18th save of the season.

Carpenter, who had gotten off to a slow start, improved to 6-7.  By the time the regular season ended, it's safe to say he had his "A" game going.

Monday, July 21, 2014

July 21, 2012 - Cards Tie Franchise Record - 12 Runs in the 7th-Inning

Saturday, July 21, 2012 - At Busch Stadium III (Jake Westbrook - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Garza - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  43,424

On September 16, 1926 - at the Baker Bowl in Philadelphia - the Cardinals won both games of a double-header against the Phillies, by scores of 23-3 and 10-2.  In that first game, the Redbirds established a franchise record by scoring twelve runs in a single inning.  The details of that big third inning are not known, but we do know that for the full nine innings, the Cardinals amassed 22 hits, walked eight times, reached base on four Philadelphia errors, and stole seven bases.  Of the 22 hits, the Cardinals had just four extra base hits - all doubles.

It would take another 13,475 regular season games for the Cardinals to score a dozen runs in a single inning again.  And we do know all the details for this one.

Both starting pitchers - Jake Westbrook and Matt Garza - allowed nary a run.  However, Garza made an early exit - leaving the game after just three innings pitched - apparently, some physical discomfort caused his removal.  At any rate, reliever Justin Germano worked the next three innings, unscathed.  His undoing would prove to be a slow roller down the third base line off the bat of David Freese - leading-off the bottom of the seventh-inning.  Freese beat it out for a rare infield single - the first of ten hits the Cardinals would tally - and the only one allowed by the unfortunate Germano.

James Russell then came in from the Cubs' bullpen to face Jon Jay - who was retired on a botched bunt attempt.  But then, pinch hitter Allen Craig (batting for Jake Westbrook, who improved to 8-8 after this win) hit the first of seven doubles the Redbirds would notch in the lucky seventh - a total that tied a major league record for two-base hits in a single inning.

With runners on second and third, Rafael Furcal drove in the first run of the game with a ground ball single into left field.

Skip Schumaker followed that up with a triple, to make it a 3-0 lead.

After Matt Holliday walked, Carlos Beltran scored Skip with a ground rule double down the right field line, which bounced into the stands, causing some poor guy to spill his beer all over himself - and he didn't even get the souvenir.  It's now 4-0.

After Yadier Molina was intentionally walked to load the bases (sure, why not?), Russell got the second out of the inning when he induced Lance Berkman to popup to the second baseman.

Suddenly, another pitcher was summoned from the Cubs' bullpen - Manny Corpas - who would face four batters in rapid succession:  Freese - a two-run double (6-0 now) - Jay - another two-run double (8-0) - Craig - his second double of the inning, which scored the last guy who doubled, to make it 9-0.

After Furcal walked, Rafael Dolis came in out of the pen, and held Schumaker to a single - although it did drive in another run (10-0).

The scoring concluded after Matt Holliday hit the record-tying seventh double - scoring Furcal and Schumaker with the 11th and 12th runs of the inning.

Although the scoring would end, the hilarity continued when Dolis struck out Beltran on a wild pitch - as Beltran reached first base, and Holliday ambled into third.

With a chance to re-write the record book, Matheny decided to give Molina the rest of the night off - sending Tony Cruz in to pinch hit - and he struck out on a non-wild pitch.

The inning was finally over - 17 batters and 37 minutes after it started.

The Cardinals finished with nine doubles - four shy of their own major league record for most two-base hits in a single game.  It happened in the second game of a double header between the Cardinals and Cubs on July 12, 1931 - St Louis had 13 doubles - Chicago 10 doubles - the 23 combined doubles is also a major league record in a single game.  The two teams combined for nine doubles in the first game of the double-header.  The 32 doubles between two teams in a double-header also happens to be a major league record.

No other major league team had even hit as many as nine doubles in a single game since - until the historic night of July 21, 2012.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

July 20, 1974 - 3-Run 9th Lifts Cards to 6-5 Walk-Off Win Over Astros

Saturday, July 20, 1974 - At Busch Stadium II (Alan Foster - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Dave Roberts - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  13,448

Capping off a dramatic three-run rally - Tim McCarver's two-out bases loaded single in the bottom of the ninth turned a 5-4 deficit into a thrilling 6-5 walk-off win over the Houston Astros.  The Cardinals (45-49) were in third-place in the NL East after this come-from-behind win - but only three games out of first - and climbing.

The Cardinals scored first in this game - in the third-inning - when Lou Brock's one-out double off Astros starter Dave Roberts was followed by utility infielder Jerry DaVannon's run-scoring single.

The Astros tied the game in their next turn at bat.  Bob Watson led-off the fourth-inning with a single - then Lee May reached base when Mike Tyson - playing shortstop - booted his ground ball.  Instead of turning a double play, the error now had Houston runners on first and second with nobody out.

Then came the defensive play of the game, which in essence, saved the game for the Cardinals.

The next batter for Houston - Milt May (no relation to Lee) - hit a ground ball that seemed destined for right field - however, DaVannon - playing second base - made a nice play to his left and quickly threw to first baseman Joe Torre for the out - who in turn threw a bullet to Tyson covering second, tagging out the lumbering Lee May, sliding into the bag.  Suddenly, there were two out, with a runner at third.  When the next batter - Doug Rader singled home Watson with the tying run - the unusual 4-3-6 double play loomed large - preventing a potentially big inning for the Astros.  For the Cardinals, escaping with a 1-1 tie was a bargain.

The Redbirds broke the tie in the sixth-inning on a pair of one-out doubles by Reggie Smith and Joe Torre, and a two-out RBI single by Mike Tyson - which plated Torre, to give St Louis a short-lived 3-1 lead.

Houston scored four times in the eighth-inning when Foster simply ran out of gas.  The Cardinal starter would face four batters in the inning - unable to record a single out.  The first batter - Roger Metzger - singled - scoring on Cesar Cedeno's double - who then scored on Bob Watson's single to right field - who then advanced to second on the throw home.  The game was suddenly tied, 3-3.

After Lee May was intentionally walked, manager Red Schoendienst made the first call to the bullpen - bringing in Rich Folkers to face Milt May - who laid down a sacrifice bunt, moving the runners up to second and third.  After Doug Rader was intentionally walked, the veteran thorn in the side to the Cardinals - Tommy Helms - singled Watson in from third, as the bases remained loaded.

Orlando Pena - the 40-year old much-traveled reliever - then came in to face the dangerous Cliff Johnson - retiring the slugger on a pop fly to the shortstop, for the second out of this very long inning.

Enter Al Hrabosky - The Mad Hungarian - to face rookie Greg Gross - who walked, to force in the fourth run of the inning.  Hrabosky struck out the next batter - Metzger - to retire the side.  But the situation looked bleak for the Cardinals - trailing 5-3, as they hit in the bottom of the eighth.  The situation looked even bleaker when they failed to score.

After the Mad Hungarian kept Houston from scoring in the top of the ninth, he retreated to the dugout, lit up a cigarette, popped open an ice cold Budweiser, and enjoyed the show - looking forward to picking up an easy win in relief.

Houston pitcher Mike Cosgrove, who entered the game in the eighth-inning to get the final out - started the ninth, trying to protect a 5-3 lead.  Luis Melendez - the speedy part-time outfielder - pinch hit for Hrabosky to open the bottom of the ninth - and he was successful - plugging the gap in right-center field for a triple.  Lou Brock brought Luis in with a ground ball to the second baseman, but it cost the Cardinals the first out of the inning.

Jerry DaVannon - who drove in the first run for the Redbirds, and made a nice play at second base to save at least a run or two - did what he needed to do in this situation - walk.  Bake McBride - 1974 NL Rookie of the Year - followed that up with a single to right field.  The next batter - Reggie Smith - tried to win it with one swing - but his fly ball to right field was caught just shy of the warning track.

Don Wilson - normally a starter for the Astros - was then summoned into the game to try to get that elusive third out, with Joe Torre coming to the plate.  But Wilson was a bit wild - as a patient Torre coaxed a two-out walk to load the bases.  That gave Tim McCarver - who entered the game in the eighth-inning as a pinch hitter (unsuccessfully) - another shot.  This time, the veteran catcher - in his second tour of duty with the Cardinals - delivered the game winning hit - a line drive single to center field - scoring DaVannon from third and then McBride - who was flying in from second with the game winning run.

For McCarver, who saw little action in '74 - this was probably the highlight to his season.  By September 1, he would be gone - sold to the Boston Red Sox for an unspecified sum.

For the Cardinals - a team on the rise - their quest for a division title would fall a little short, despite a strong 41-26 finish (third best in the NL).  Unfortunately for the Redbirds, the Pittsburgh Pirates (44-49 at the time) would finish the season with a 44-25 record to win the East - and send the Cardinals home for the postseason.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

July 19, 1983 - Neil Allen Blanks Padres on 3 Hits

Tuesday, July 19, 1983 - At Busch Stadium II (Neil Allen - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Diego Padres (Tim Lollar - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  31,395

On June 15, 1983, the St Louis Cardinals traded the popular, line-drive-hitting Gold Glove first baseman - Keith Hernandez - to the New York Mets, for pitchers Neil Allen and Rick Ownbey.  While the acquisition of Hernandez was one of the key ingredients to the mid-'80's rise of the Mets - the Cardinals, on the other hand, became National League champions in '85 and '87, in spite of this trade.

To Allen's credit, he pitched well for St Louis, initially.  In fact, his first starting assignment with the Cardinals came against the Mets, at Shea Stadium - pitching eight strong innings in a 6-0 St Louis win.

One month later, as the Cardinals desperately tried to cling to first place in the weak NL East, Allen had his finest outing in a Cardinal uniform - going the distance - blanking the San Diego Padres on three hits.  He walked just one, while striking out just three.

Strangely enough, Padres starter - Tim Lollar - also allowed just three hits in his eight innings of work.  But thanks to a home run from an unexpected power source and a bunch of walks, the Cardinals manufactured four runs - more than enough to win on this night.

After Allen induced Steve Garvey to ground into an inning-ending double play (following a one-out walk to Juan Bonilla), the Cardinals wasted little time in putting pressure on Padres starter - Tim Lollar.  Lonnie Smith led-off with a single to right field - and with Willie McGee batting - stole second.  When McGee grounded one right back to the pitcher, Lollar had the presence of mind to catch Lonnie straying too far away from the second base bag.  Smith was retired in an unusual pitcher-to-second baseman-to-catcher putout at third base - and in the pursuit of Lonnie, Willie had time to scamper to second base.  With David Green now batting, McGee stole third - then raced home when Green was retired on a ground ball to the shortstop.

Little did anyone know, that one run was going to be enough to win this game.  The Padres would only have three more base runners for the rest of the game - a pair of singles by Rupert Jones, in the third and fifth-innings, and a one-out single by Alan Wiggins in the ninth.  That was it.  San Diego never even got a runner in scoring position all night long.

Meanwhile, still nursing that 1-0 lead in the fifth-inning, Ozzie Smith connected for his second home run of the season - a two-run shot (following a walk to Tommy Herr).  He would go on to hit one more in '83 - a new career high.  Ozzie had two home runs in '82 - his first season with St Louis - prior to that, in four seasons with San Diego, the Wizard had just one home run to his credit - in 2536 plate appearances.

The Cardinals added one more run in the sixth-inning - when seldom-use utility infielder Floyd Rayford doubled - scoring McGee from second base.

After this win, Neil Allen had improved to 4-1 with his new team, as the Cardinals maintained the illusion of competing for a second straight division title.  At the time, their record of 46-44 was good enough for the top spot in the NL East - but only a game ahead of Pittsburgh, a game and a half ahead of Philadelphia, and two games ahead of Montreal.  Two nights later - after losing the next two games with San Diego, the Cardinals had slipped to third place - and would never see first again in '83.

The season that began with high hopes had slowly faded into mediocrity, thanks to a 33-39 finish.  Even the Mets - who were mired in last place at the time - finished the rest of the schedule just a game under .500.  They now had their first baseman of the future - the Cardinals now had their excess baggage.  

Friday, July 18, 2014

July 18, 2010 - How Sweep It Is! Come-From Behind Walk-Off Winner Over Dodgers

Sunday, July 18, 2010 - At Busch Stadium III (Jeff Suppan - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Los Angeles Dodgers (Vincente Padilla - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,743

After being swept by the Dodgers in three straight NLDS games in the 2009 postseason, the Cardinals were hoping to get some measure of revenge in 2010.  They didn't get it in LA, that's for sure - getting swept in a three-game series (June 7 - 9) when everything seemed to go wrong for the Redbirds.  The frustration from '09, combined with that early June sweep had the Cardinals chomping at the bit by the time LA arrived in St Louis right after the All Star break - for a crucial four-game series.  After taking the first three games over LA - when everything seemed to go wrong for the Dodgers this time around - the Cardinals tried to make it a four-game sweep - on a beautiful Sunday afternoon for baseball.

The Dodgers had other ideas.  Leading-off the fifth-inning for LA in a scoreless ballgame, Ronnie Belliard singled to left off Cards' starter Jeff Suppan - but was erased on a force out grounder by Xavier Paul - who was now the runner on first base with one out.  Next up - A.J. Ellis - singled to left, advancing Paul - who was running on the pitch - all the way to third.  Then the  pitcher, Vincente Padilla helped his own cause with a double down the left field line to score Paul, as Ellis stopped at third.

This had the makings of a big inning, but Suppan was able to wriggle out of further trouble when he got Rafael Furcal on a short fly to right field, then retired Jamey Carroll on a ground out to the second baseman.

Suppan would work another scoreless inning, before giving way to an erratic Mitchell Boggs to start the seventh-inning.  The Dodgers still led by that same 1-0 score, as the Cardinals could only muster one hit in Padilla's six innings of work - although he walked five - but none of the free passes cost him.

It was Belliard again causing trouble for the Cardinals, with a lead-off seventh-inning single to left.  After Paul was retired on a fly ball to center, Ellis hit a slow roller to third baseman Felipe Lopez, who rushed his throw to second, trying to start a double play - instead, the throw sailed into right field for a very costly error.

With runners on first and second, Garret Anderson pinch hit for Padilla - delivering a run-scoring double to give LA a 2-0 advantage.  With first base open, Furcal was intentionally walked - loading the bases.  Then, with Carroll batting, Boggs uncorked a wild pitch - scoring Ellis with the third Dodger run.  Somehow, Carroll struck out - but that would be the last batter Boggs would retire in this game.  After an intentional walk to Andre Ethier loaded the bases once again, Boggs accidentally walked Matt Kemp to force in the fourth Dodger run.

That was enough for manager Tony LaRussa - relieving his rattled reliever of his duties for the afternoon - bringing in Dennys Reyes to face Blake DeWitt - who grounded one to Lopez at third, who got the force out at second this time.  The inning was finally over - and the Cardinals' chances of winning this game seemed "over" as well - especially after they failed to capitalize on a seventh-inning lead-off double by Randy Winn, off the new Dodger pitcher - Travis Schlichting - who retired the next three batters to keep the Cards scoreless and frustrated, heading into the eighth-inning.

After a St Louis reliever by the name of Evan Maclane kept it a 4-0 deficit with one inning of scoreless work (the only complete big league inning he'd ever pitch) - the Redbirds started working on getting back into this game in their half of the eighth, with Schlichting still on the mound for LA.  Brendan Ryan coaxed a lead-off walk - but Lopez, trying to atone for his error that handed the Dodgers two unearned runs in the seventh - tried too hard - flying out to left for the first out of the inning.  After Jon Jay drew the second free pass off Travis, Justin Miller came in from the bullpen to pitch to the young rookie - Allen Craig - who was playing first base today, as Pujols was given a rare day off - at least as a starter.

Craig was off to a horrendous start to his major league career, but this game was the turning point for him.  With one swing of the bat, the four run deficit was cut in half, as Craig scored both Ryan and Jay with a double down the left field line.  Manager Joe Torre sensed this one getting away from him, and quickly brought in the veteran Jonathan Broxton to pitch to Matt Holliday - who flew out to right field for the second out of the inning.  However, Randy Winn - whose lead-off double the inning before was wasted, promptly brought Craig home with a single to right field - making it a 4-3 game now.  There was more drama in this inning, but no more scoring.  After Skip Schumaker walked, LaRussa sent Albert Pujols in as a pinch hitter for catcher Jason LaRue - but he grounded out to short to end the inning.  However, the Redbirds were back in it - and LaRue's defensive replacement behind the plate would ignite the game winning rally in the ninth-inning.

After Ryan Franklin pitched a scoreless ninth-inning for St Louis, all he had to do was sit back and enjoy the final stage of the Cardinal comeback.  Yadier Molina - just in the game - led-off the bottom of the ninth with a single to right field.  After Ryan bunted him down to second, Lopez again tried to atone for his two-run error by hitting a walk-off two-run home run.  He almost did it, but his fly ball deep to left field was hauled in at the warning track, for the second out in the inning.

Jay drew another base on balls, putting runners on first and second - for a relaxed and confident Allen Craig - enjoying the best day of his brief major league career.  Allen lined a single to center, scoring Molina with the tying run.  With the winning run now on second base, Matt Holliday - who had been having a tough day to this point - promptly ended it with a base hit to right.  As Jay streaked home with the game-winning run, the Redbirds had completed the four-game sweep - and were still in first place (51-41) in the NL Central - a half game ahead of the Cincinnati Reds.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, they would finish the season with a dismal 35-35 record, to finish five games behind the Reds.  Inexplicably, their season record against five sub-.500 teams (Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Marlins and Royals) was 21-32.  Their worst offense was losing ten out of fifteen games against the hapless Houston Astros.  This would shape up to be one of the most frustrating seasons in recent memory - when the Cardinals seemed to have plenty of talent to go deep into the postseason - but they never got there.

As 2010 ended in disappointment for Cardinal fans, 2011 would be quite a different story, altogether.  "2011 would be quite a different story!"  (If you get it, you know this is a gag from the movie, Airplane!)  If you don't get it, and find it offensive, please head over to your favorite social media site to voice your concerns, pipe shot.

Thanks, Management

Thursday, July 17, 2014

July 17, 2000 - 3-Home Run Attack Silences Metrodome Fans - An 8-3 Winner Over Twins

Monday, July 17, 2000  - At The Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome (Pat Hentgen - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Minnesota Twins (Mike Lincoln - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  20,171

As the Cardinals discovered in the 1987 World Series - beating the Minnesota Twins at the Metrodome, with 50,000 screaming fans serving as an eardrum-throbbing distraction for the visiting team, is virtually impossible.  The 1991 Atlanta Braves came close to pulling it off, but they too were swept in four straight World Series games in that deafening hellhole.

It's a little easier when the decibel level is a bit lower than that of a jet's engine at take-off - when only 20,000 or so moderately enthused fans are in attendance - like in this particular inter-league game - when the Cardinals managed to take control early on, keeping the fans out of it - but then again, this wasn't the World Series.

The Cardinals scored first - on a second-inning solo home run from the soon-to-be-departed Chris Richard (traded to Baltimore for lefty reliever Mike Timlin).  They added another run in the third-inning, on Thomas Howard's RBI single - scoring Jim Edmonds, who doubled to lead-off the inning.

However, the Twins scored a run off the veteran Pat Hentgen - a Cy Young Award winner in '96, having his last quality season as a starter in 2000.  A young David Ortiz drove in Cristian Guzman from third with a ground-out to the second baseman, to make it just a 2-1 St Louis lead.

In the fifth-inning, the Redbirds got a two-run home run off the bat of Fernando "Double Grand Salami" Tatis, to extend the lead to 4-1.

Minnesota knocked Hentgen out of the game in the seventh-inning, after consecutive singles by Jacques Jones and Marcus Jensen suddenly brought the tying run to the plate.  Heathcliff Slocumb took over on the mound and escaped major damage, when only Jones came around to score.

Nursing just a two-run lead, as the Cardinals began the eighth-inning, facing reliever Jason Ryan - Placido Polanco started a rally with a one-out single to center.  Manager Jim Kelly went to the bullpen again - bringing in Travis Miller to pitch to Fernando Vina - and that worked, as Vina struck out.  However, after Edgar Renteria walked, Edmonds gave the Cardinals some breathing room with a three-run bomb to right field.  Just like that, it was 7-2, in favor of St Louis - putting the Homer Dome crowd noise on "mute".

Both teams exchanged meaningless ninth-inning runs, as the Cardinals won for only the second time in this facility since inter-league play began in 1997.  With this win, Hentgen improved to 9-6 - and with his loss, Mike Lincoln had slipped to 0-3.

The home field advantage was diminished, but not vanquished in Minnesota - St Louis would still lose two out of three to a mediocre Twins team in this series.  But at least their hearing wasn't adversely affected this time around.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

July 16, 2012 - 3-Run 9th Stuns Brewers at Miller Park

Monday, July 16, 2012 - At Miller Park (Lance Lynn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Brewers (Mike Fiers - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  30,128

For eight innings and two-thirds innings, the Cardinals' offensive production amounted to five hits, five walks and no runs.  However, as the Brewers were reminded, getting that last out isn't always so easy.  Three hits and a walk later, the Redbirds scored three times to overtake the Brew Crew - handing them a 3-2 loss, right there in front of their stunned Miller Park faithful.  It was beautiful.

The much-maligned Lance Lynn pitched seven strong innings - allowing one run on seven hits, no walks and ten strikeouts.  The only mistake that cost him was a seventh-inning pitch that Corey Hart belted out of the park - giving Milwaukee a 1-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Mike Fiers - who also worked seven innings - kept the Cardinals scoreless on four hits, four walks and four strikeouts.  Francisco Rodriguez worked a scoreless eighth-inning for Milwaukee, before turning the ball over to John Axford - the closer who had been nearly flawless in 2011, but not quite so flawless in 2012.  His record would fall to 2-6 after this loss.

In the meantime, with someone named Barret Browning now pitching for the Cardinals to start the eighth-inning - trouble was brewing.  A one out walk to Norichika Aoki prompted rookie manager Mike Matheny to bring in Jason Motte to face Carlos Gomez - who flew out to right field - and the despicable Ryan Braun - who doubled to right field, scoring Aoki with an insurance run.  Motte then retired Aramis Ramirez on a pop fly to the second baseman - but with two runs to work with, Axford's save opportunity looked promising.

However, after Matt Carpenter led-off the ninth with a base on balls, a murmur of trepidation could be heard in the house that Miller built.  Matheny then sent Lance Berkman in to pinch hit for Daniel Descalso - and Lance gave that ball a ride, backing Gomez to the wall in center field to make the catch.  The next pinch hitter - Carlos Beltran - hit one deep to right field, but Corey Hart also flagged it down at the base of the wall  - for out number two - as the crowd exhaled in relief - many now happily chortling their disdain for the team they refer to as the "crying birds" - the team that had the audacity to reach the postseason the year before, and knock tha Crew outta tha playoffs - as Nyjer Morgan aka T-Plush aka T-Gumbo might have said.

It's hard to figure out their deep seated resentment towards the Cardinals - and their fans - but it's always fun whenever their chortling turns into stunned silence - bringing many into such a state of depression, only a case of Miller can remedy.

The chortling subsided a bit, after the next batter - Rafael Furcal - beat out a slow roller down the third base line for an infield single.  Next up - Skip Schumaker - walked, to load the bases.

As Matt Holliday stepped into the batter's box, the only audible sounds in the ballpark were the beer vendors hawking their product that made Milwaukee famous - oblivious to the pending doom that was about to occur:  Holliday grounded one into right field, chasing home both Carpenter and Furcal with the tying runs.

The next batter - Allen Craig - blooped a single which fell safely between the shortstop, left fielder and center fielder - to score Schumaker with the go-ahead run.  The side was finally retired when Molina hit one deep to center field, which again backed Gomez to the wall to make the catch.

By this time, the few thousand Cardinal fans who made the six hour drive to catch this game seemed to be enjoying themselves, as Motte - now in line to secure the win (to improve to 4-3) - struck out Hart and Weeks before retiring Maldonado on a ground ball to third, which Matt Carpenter (defensive replacement) scooped and fired to first for the game winner.

By season's end, the Cardinals would earn a wild card spot by winning 88 games - to the Dodgers' 86 games.  Having this one in the win column didn't hurt.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

July 15, 2005 - 13-Innings: Pujols Powers Come-From-Behind-Walk-Off Winner Over Astros

Friday, July 15, 2005 - At Busch Stadium II (Mark Mulder - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Andy Pettitte - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  48,420

In a marathon thirteen-inning game that would take four hours and twenty-three minutes to complete, Albert Pujols' two-run home run lifted the Cardinals to a thrilling 4-3 win over the Houston Astros.  That was his only hit (along with one walk) in six plate appearances - so it's safe to say he was due.

Both starting pitchers - Mark Mulder (8 IP) and Andy Pettitte (7 IP) - had strong outings - both allowing just one run while they were in there.

The Cardinals scored first, when second baseman Mark Grudzielanek hit his fifth home run of the season in the second-inning.

The Astros tied the game in the fifth-inning.  After loading the bases on three singles, Mulder uncorked a wild pitch with Craig Biggio batting - scoring Chris Burke, who had the first of the three singles.  But Mulder escaped with no further damage - despite walking Biggio to load the bases again - this time for the ever-dangerous Lance Berkman - who lined out to Jim Edmonds in center.  Lance would fail to get a hit in five plate appearances - although he did walk once.  In fact, Biggio had just two walks - and no hits - in seven plate appearances.

Keeping that one-two tandem in check was one of the big keys for a Cardinal victory - which would have ended in regulation, had closer Jason Isringhausen managed to get through the ninth, unscathed.  By then, the Cardinals added another run in the eighth-inning when reserve catcher Einar Diaz connected for his first and only home run of the season - off reliever Chad Qualls - giving the Redbirds a 2-1 lead heading into the fateful ninth-inning.

However, Orlando Palmiero's lead-off double turned into a run (after advancing to third on a sacrifice bunt) when Mike Lamb scored him on a sacrifice fly to left field.

From this point, the bullpens took over, keeping the other team in check until the thirteenth-inning rolled around.  Julian Taverez pitched a scoreless tenth and eleventh for St Louis, then Reyes made it through the twelfth unscathed - while Gallo, Wheeler, Lidge and Springer foiled the Cardinals' attempts to walk-off with a win through twelve.

With Reyes still pitching for the Cardinals in the thirteenth-inning - with one out, Orlando Palmiero walked.  Ausmus then bunted him over to second.  With Lamb the next battter, manager Tony LaRussa replaced Reyes with Ray King - but the strategy failed, as Lamb stroked an RBI single to center, giving Houston a 3-2 lead.  After yielding another hit, Brad Thompson was summoned from the bullpen to retire the only batter he would face.  Little did he know, his 0.1 IP would earn him his first win of the year.

In the bottom of the thirteenth - with Springer pitching for the Astros - David Eckstein coaxed a lead-off walk.  Then Edmonds, trying to end it in one swing, struck out.  At this point, Houston manager Phil Garner brought in Chad Harville - a fresh arm - to pitch to Albert Pujols.

Pujols worked the count full, fouling off a couple of nasty sliders to stay alive.  On Harville's seventh pitch - a fastball that caught too much of the plate - Pujols launched it deep to left-center field - and when it finally landed - the Cardinals had walked-off with the win.  It took Albert six plate appearances before getting his first hit of the game - but for the Cardinal fans now going crazy, it was worth the wait.

Monday, July 14, 2014

July 14, 1964 - The Comeback of the Year - A Walk-Off Winner Over Dodgers

Tuesday, July 14, 1964 - At Busch Stadium I (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Los Angeles  Dodgers (Sandy Koufax - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  24,817

In a season filled with nail-biting wins and excruciating losses - when a National League pennant would hang in the balance until the very last day of the season - this walk-off win over the Dodgers will forever be known as The Comeback of the Year for the '64 St Louis Cardinals.

Curt Simmons started the game for the Cardinals, but didn't last long.  His trouble began in the second-inning - with a lead-off single to left by Frank Howard.  The next batter - Ron Fairly - just tried to move Howard to second base with a bunt - but Simmons bobbled it, allowing Fairly to safely reach on the error as Howard moved to second.  Next up - Johnny Roseboro - blooped a single to center, scoring Howard.

The next batter - Nate Oliver - just tried to move the runners up to second and third with a bunt - but it was well-placed - and by the time Simmons got to it, he had no play.  The bases were again loaded; however, the next batter was the pitcher - Sandy Koufax - and he couldn't do much - hitting a foul popup which first baseman  Bill White grabbed for the first out of the inning.

Maury Wills then grounded one to short - Dick Groat got a force out of Roseboro at third - but Fairly scored an unearned run.  Simmons then struck out Derrell Griffith to end the inning - but the Cardinals were already in a 2-0 hole, facing the best pitcher in baseball.

The hole deepened in the third inning, starting with a one-out single by Tommy Davis - followed by Frank Howard's double down the left field line.  With runners on second and third, the Cardinals had the infield playing in - and the strategy paid off when Simmons induced Ron Fairly to ground one directly to Javier at second base - who got the out at first as the runners remained at second and third.

Simmons couldn't dodge this bullet however, as Roseboro lined a two-out double to right, scoring both runners.  When Nate Oliver ripped another double to score Roseboro, manager Johnny Keane had seen enough.  Simmons' night was over, allowing five runs (four earned) in just 2.2 innings - and despite the fact that Sandy Koufax was the next batter - it would be Glen Hobbie coming in from the bullpen to retire the Dodgers' weak-hitting pitcher - who now had stranded a total of four runners in his two trips to the plate.  But then again, it didn't seem to matter; after all, he was now staked to a 5-0 lead - normally, an insurmountable lead with Koufax on the mound.

After the Cardinals failed to score in the bottom of the third, Maury Wills led-off the fourth-inning for LA with a line-drive single to left field - and when Lou Brock bobbled the ball, Wills advanced to second on the error.  Two outs later, with Wills on third, catcher Tim McCarver missed connections on a Hobbie slider - as Wills raced home on the passed ball.  It was now 6-0 - a situation that seemed utterly hopeless at the time.

However, the Redbirds got that run back in their half of the fourth, when Mike Shannon hit a solo home run off Koufax - but that was all the scoring, for now.

In the sixth-inning, Bill White made it a 6-2 ballgame with a lead-off home run - but Koufax then struck out the next two batters - Javier and McCarver - to reassert his dominance.

The Dodgers got that run back in the seventh-inning - when Ron Fairly singled in Tommy Davis from second - to restore a five-run lead - 7-2.  After the Cardinals failed to score in the bottom of the seventh, many of the disheartened fans began filing towards the exits.

But then, St Louis caught a break.  With Bob Humphreys now pitching, Sandy Koufax led-off the eighth-inning for LA with a single to center field.  In his previous two trips to the plate, Koufax had been retired with a total of four runners on base - three in scoring position.  Now, he's reluctantly forced to run the bases - advancing to second on Wills' sacrifice bunt.  Jim Gilliam - pinch hitting for Griffith - then lined a single to right field, as Koufax - huffing and puffing - stopped at third.  Humphreys then struck out Willie Davis, and got Tommy Davis on a foul popup to White at first, to get out of the jam.

Not only had the Dodgers failed to score, their ace pitcher was forced to expend more energy than normal - and "normal" for Koufax was to rest comfortably in the dugout - not run wild on the base paths.  In retrospect, the fatigue factor seemed to be a major factor as Koufax faced the Cardinals in the bottom of the eighth-inning.

After Dick Groat hit a slow roller to the right side, beyond the reach of the first baseman, Koufax hustled over to cover the bag - taking the throw from the second baseman for the out.  Statistically, St Louis now had just a one-percent chance of winning this game.

However, Koufax - who needed just five more outs for the complete-game victory - suddenly ran out of gas.  The next batter - Ken Boyer - singled to left - then Bill White walked on a borderline full-count pitch.  Mike Shannon - a hot hitter tonight - singled to left - loading the bases.  Julian Javier then scored Boyer with a sacrifice fly to center, but it was an expensive way to get a run - when outs were at a premium.  But then McCarver got a big two-out hit - a single to left field, scoring White to make it a 7-4 ballgame.

Dodgers manager Walter Alston removed the fatigued Koufax from the game at this point - bringing in Ron Perranoski - who got the third out in the eighth - retiring Phil Gagliano on a ground ball to the shortstop who got the force out at third.

Reliever Ron Taylor (3-2) set the Dodgers down in order in the top of the ninth, setting the stage for the completely unforeseen walk-off win in the bottom of the ninth.

Curt Flood started the rally by drawing a base on balls - however, Lou Brock couldn't catch up to a Perranoski fastball, striking out.  Next up - Dick Groat - drew another base on balls, bringing the tying run to the plate - Ken Boyer - who lined a single to center, scoring Flood.  Now the potential winning run was in the batter's box - Bill White - who drew the third walk of the inning to load the bases.

At this point, Alston removed the suddenly wild Perranoski from the game - bringing in Bob Miller to face Shannon, who grounded one slowly to the shortstop, with the runners in motion - the only play was to get the out at first base, as Groat scored the sixth run of the game for St Louis.

With the game on the line - down by a run, with runners on second and third - Keane decided to send a pinch-hitter in place of Javier - veteran Bob Skinner, who was recently acquired in a trade with Cincinnati - on June 13.  Skinner was in the twilight of his very productive major league career - but he knew how to handle pressure situations - ripping a Miller fastball up the middle, scoring Boyer with the tying run, then White, streaking home from second - with the winning run.

Harry Caray was beside himself in the broadcast booth - his raspy voice bellowing his signature "Cardinals win" exclamation at least a half dozen times, as the crowd in the background roared its delirious approval of this game's unlikely outcome.

The significance of this improbable come-from-behind win would not be fully appreciated until the successful conclusion of the regular season - when the Cardinals' miracle finish brought them the pennant on that last day.  It's also interesting to note - the Dodgers would clobber the Cardinals on Wednesday and Thursday, by a combined score of 23-5 - to take two out of three from the future World Champions.

For now, St Louis had improved to 44-41 - still in fifth-place - 7.5 games behind the Giants.  Not quite Pennant Fever in Cardinal Nation, but at least the Redbirds were over .500.  More importantly, this team never believed they were out of any game - and they certainly never felt they were out of the pennant race.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

July 13, 2000 - Cards Drop 13-Run Bomb on White Sox

Thursday, July 13, 2000 - At Comiskey Park II (Andy Benes - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago White Sox (Mike Sirotka - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  32,263

Four years and one day after the St Louis Cardinals annihilated the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field - 13-3 -  with a franchise-record seven home run attack - the Cardinals dropped another 13-run bomb at Comiskey Park - clobbering the White Sox - 13-5.  Four Redbird home runs were a part of the arsenal this time around - giving Andy Benes (10-3) a relatively easy seven-innings pitched win.

The Cardinals wasted no time in getting down to business - scoring a pair of first-inning runs on a pair of solo home runs - the first by Edgar Renteria and the other by Fernando Tatis.

They tacked on three more runs in the third-inning, on an RBI single by Eric Davis and a two-run double by Ray Lankford - to build a 5-0 lead - which grew to 7-0 in the fourth-inning after Tatis hit his second home run of the game - a two-out two-run shot, which chased starting pitcher Mike Sirotka (8-7).

In the fifth-inning, with Kevin Beirne now pitching for the White Sox, the Cardinals got something going after two were out.  After Mike Matheny singled to left, Shawon Dunston doubled down the left field line, and when left fielder Carlos Lee bobbled the ball, Matheny was able to score an unearned run.  Although Dunston wasn't credited with an RBI this time, he more than made up for it his next trip to the plate - in the seventh-inning.

Before that, however, the White Sox were able to score a run in the sixth-inning - on an RBI single off the bat of Paul Konerko - driving in Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who had doubled previously.

Heading into the seventh-inning with an 8-1 lead, the Cardinals sent ten batters to the plate - starting with a lead-off single by Eric Davis, who would strike out to end the inning.  In between, Ray Lankford followed Davis' single with one of his own - then one out later, Mike Matheny walked to load the bases.  At this point, White Sox manager Jerry Manuel replaced Beirne with Jesus Pena - whose first pitch to Dunston was promptly deposited into the left field bleachers, for a grand slam home run.  The Cardinals added another run on a Jim Edmonds sacrifice fly that scored Fernando Vina from third, to build a very comfortable 13-1 lead.

After Benes allowed another run in the bottom of the seventh, manager Tony LaRussa gave him the rest of the night off - bringing in Mike James to work the eighth-inning - who gave up a solo home run to Chris Singleton.  Then, Heathcliff Slocumb made it through the ninth, after being touched for a couple more cosmetic runs.

In the end, every Cardinal batter in the starting lineup - except Craig Paquette - had at least one hit and scored at least one run.  With one swing of the bat, Dunston had 4 RBI - Tatis drove in three - Lankford added two more RBI - while Renteria, Edmonds and Davis had one apiece.

Missing from the lineup was a gimpy-kneed Mark McGwire, who was still the number one power source for the Cardinals this season - but they had plenty to spare tonight.

Saturday, July 12, 2014

July 12, 1996 - Cards Hit Franchise Record 7 HR's in 13-3 Clubbing of Cubbies

July 12, 1996 - At Wrigley Field (Andy Benes - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Steve Trachsel - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  38,918

The Cardinals tied a franchise record - first set on May 7, 1940 - with seven home runs - in a 13-3 beat-down of the Chicago Cubs at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.

Eleven of the thirteen runs tallied by the Redbirds came via the home run.  Only the first two runs St Louis scored - in the second-inning - came without the benefit of a home run.

After that, it was Home Run Derby:

Inning - 3 - John Mabry connects off Cubs' starter Steve Trachsel for a two-run home run, then the next batter - Gary Gaetti - also homers - the first of two back-to-back home runs the Cardinals would generate in this game.

Inning - 5 - Ray Lankford & Ron Gant go back-to-back to start the inning, which finishes off Trachsel - Gaetti hits his second home run of the game - a two-run blast off reliever Rodney Meyers - to cap off a four-run inning.

Inning - 6 - Brian Jordan gets in on the fun with a three-run home run off another new reliever - Tanyon Sturtze.  Former Cardinal Kent Bottefield pitches a scoreless seventh-inning for Chicago and is given a standing ovation for becoming the first Cubs' hurler to avoid the long ball in this game.

Inning - 8 - Gant goes yard again - and in the process, ties a franchise record with the seventh Cardinal home run of the game.

Strangely enough, the Cardinals weren't much of a home run hitting team in '96 - aside from this game.  They hit 142 home runs for the season, which ranks them eleventh out of fourteen NL teams.

Ron Gant (2 HR) would lead the Cardinals with 30 HR - Gary Gaetti (2 HR) would finish second with 23 HR - Ray Lankford (21 HR), Brian Jordan (17 HR) and John Mabry (13) - rounded out the top five in Cardinal home runs in '96 - so it stood to reason these would be the guys going deep in this game.

The other 7-home run game - May 7, 1940 - At Sportsman Park - Opponent - Brooklyn Dodgers - Final Score - 18-2.  Home Runs Derby - Part I:

Eddie Lake (2) - Johnny Mize (2) - Stu Martin - Joe Medwick - Don Padgett

The Cardinals led the National League with 119 Home Runs in 1940 - But 7 in one game was ridiculous.

For Eddie Lake, those were the only home runs he'd hit all season (32 Games - 66 AB) - Stu Martin only hit four home runs in 114 Games (369 AB) - Don Padgett had just six home runs (93 Games - 240 AB) - Mize hit 43 HR - so that made sense - Medwick hit 3 HR (37 Games), then was traded to these same Brooklyn Dodgers, where he would hit another 14 HR (106 Games).

Friday, July 11, 2014

July 11, 1964 - Cards Make It Back to .500, Crush Error-Prone Mets

Saturday, July 11, 1964 - At Shea Stadium (Ray Sadecki - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Tracy Stallard - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  19,475

The Cardinals took advantage of a hapless, error-prone Mets team to cruise to an easy 11-4 win - and in the process, return to .500 again (41-41).  So this is the team that would go on to win the National League pennant on the last day of the season and beat the New York Yankees in the World Series?  Much can happen in three months...

Thanks to a mind-boggling six Mets' errors, five of the eleven runs St Louis scored were unearned.  Most Little League teams play better defensively - especially in the mysterious ways the Mets executed their defensive prowess in the third-inning - when they actually had a 2-1 lead going into the frame.

Actually, New York started out like they were going to make Ray Sadecki's start a very brief one.  After the Cardinals failed to score in the top half of the first-inning, the Mets quickly had Sadecki on the ropes in the bottom half of the inning.  After lead-off hitter Ed Kranepool was retired, Ron Hunt lined a single to left field.  Back-up catcher Hawk Taylor followed with a single of his own to left - then Joe Christopher scored Hunt with a single to center field - and when Curt Flood bobbled the ball, Taylor moved up to third, while Christopher took second.  The fun continued when Jim Hickman lined a base hit to right field, scoring Taylor, as Christopher stopped at third.

Obviously rattled, Sadecki then walked Charley Smith to load the bases.  On the bright side - at least the streak of consecutive singles stopped at four.  The next hitter - George Altman - wasn't fooled either.  He simply hit into some bad luck, when his line drive was flagged down by second baseman Julian Javier - who quickly flipped to Dal Maxvill to double Hickman off second base.  Altman was shaking his head after that one - he would later hit a solo home run off Sadecki, in the sixth-inning - proving that timing is everything.

The Cardinals were fortunate to only be down two runs, the way the Mets teed off on Sadecki - almost like he was throwing batting practice.  They came back and scored a run in the second-inning, when Mike Shannon singled home Ken Boyer - who led-off with a double.

The real fun for the Redbirds happened in a bizarre five-run third-inning that seemed more like a Twilight Zone episode than baseball game - at least for fans of the Amazin' Mets.  Ray Sadecki - who likely would have been knocked out of the game in the first-inning had Altman's line drive been a couple of feet to the left or right of where it was hit - not only survived the bad start - he led-off the third with a double down the right field line.  Playing conservatively, manager Johnny Keane had Flood lay down a sacrifice bunt, which put Sadecki on third with one out.

The Twilight Zone episode began with Lou Brock - who tied the game with a double of his own to center field - then Dick Groat untied the game with a single to center.  Boyer also singled to center, putting runners on first and second.  The inning should have ended when Bill White hit a double play grounder to shortstop Roy McMillan- instead, the first error of the game loaded the bases.

The second error of the game for the Mets was simply, amazing.  Mike Shannon hit another double play grounder, to second baseman Ron Hunt, who got the force-out to McMillan covering the second base bag, as Groat scored the third run of the inning; however, the relay to first was off the mark, but catcher Hawk Taylor backed up the play - then got overly ambitious by trying to catch Boyer napping at third.  His throw was so wild, it not only allowed Kenny to trot home with the fourth run of the inning, Shannon was also able to ramble all the way home while the ball was skipping merrily down the left field corner.

Tracy Stallard had yielded six runs in his three innings of work - featuring three unearned runs.  The Mets bullpen would yield another five runs - two more unearned runs after four more errors.

The fifth-inning was hilarious.  Three consecutive ground balls were kicked by three different Mets' infielders.  Boyer reached on third baseman Charley Smith's error - then White reached on another McMillan error at shortstop - finally, Shannon loaded the bases when pitcher Darrell Sutherland (no relation to Donald) couldn't find the handle on his easy double play grounder.  Strangely enough, the Cardinals only came away with one run out of that mess.  After Javier's sacrifice fly plated Boyer, White was nailed at the plate trying to tag up on McCarver's fly ball to left field.  The inning-ending double play put the crowd into a state of delirium.  One run, no hits, three errors.

By the time the sixth and final, Mets error occurred - in the ninth-inning - the Cardinals were safely ahead, 8-4 - but they would add three more runs just for fun.

The defensive replacement at shortstop - Amado Samuel (no relation to Juan), botched a relay throw from right fielder Joe Christopher after Mike Shannon's RBI single scored Boyer from third - but White, who started from first base, also came around to score when the ball clanged off Samuel's glove into left field, meandering towards the foul line while a frustrated George Altman retrieved it too late to stop the eleventh, and final, run of the debacle to cross the plate.  As a footnote to this play, Amado Samuel's three-year - 144-game major league career came to an abrupt end after this game.  Such a shame.  He was just trying to fit in with the rest of the squad.

In the end, Sadecki survived a potentially disastrous first inning to improve to 10-6, on his way to a 20-win season.  Stallard would lose yet another to fall to 5-11, on his way to a 20-loss season (leading the NL in that dubious category).

Meanwhile, the fifth-place Cardinals were still 9.5 games behind the first-place San Francisco Giants.  They were much closer to ninth-place than first - only 3.5 games separated them from being the second-worst team in the National League.  The Mets had a lock on last-place, by a wide margin.

Unbelievably, St Louis would finish the season with a NL-best 52-28 record - good enough for 93 wins and a pennant.