Friday, July 1, 2011 - At Tropicana Field (Randy Westbrook - Starting Pitcher) - Opposition: Tampa Bay Rays (Wade Davis - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 19,934
Jake Westbrook (7-4) was brilliant for seven innings - shutting out the Rays on two hits and three walks, while striking out seven. Lance Lynn was not-so-brilliant for one inning - three runs on three hits (including a two-run home run). Fortunately, he was also able to get three outs, as the Cardinals hung on for a 5-3 win over Tampa Bay - as Fernando Salas pitched a perfect ninth-inning to record his 14th save.
Wade Davis only allowed two runs in his seven innings of work - but the eighth-inning was a bad one (actually 0.2 IP) for Rays reliever J.P. Howell, who walked two and gave up just one hit - but it was a three-run home run to Colby Rasmus - which at the time, gave the Cardinals a comfortable 5-0 lead.
The inning began innocently enough for Howell - retiring the first two batters - but then a walk to Lance Berkman started all the trouble. With David Freese batting, Howell was called for a balk - then the distracted pitcher walked Freese - then completely self-destructed by serving up a long home run to Rasmus - down the right field line.
Much earlier in this game - in the second-inning - a Berkman double, a Freese single, a Rasmus RBI ground out and a Yadier Molina RBI single gave the Cardinals a 2-0 lead - until all hell broke loose in the eighth - as the lead was cut to two again.
In another three months, both the Cardinals and Rays would qualify for postseason play on the day forever known as Wild Card Wednesday - Game 162. St Louis had it easy on that last day - an 8-0 win over the Astros - Tampa, on the other hand didn't have it so easy; but they did manage to overcome a 7-0 deficit to the Yankees in thrilling fashion.
Looking back on this game, that 5-0 lead wasn't so comfortable after all.
Sunday, July 1, 2012 - At Busch Stadium III (Randy Westbrook - Starting Pitcher) - Opposition: Pittsburgh Pirates (Erik Bedard - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 37,821
This time, Jake Westbrook was far from brilliant in his six innings pitched against the up-and-coming Pittsburgh Pirates - who scored four runs on nine hits (including a two-run home run) and a walk. On the bright side, Jake did manage to strike out six - and this time, the bullpen - Rzepczynski, Boggs and Motte (for the save - his 17th) gave him all the relief needed to secure the win.
Pirates starter Erik Bedard was even less effective - lasting only 4.2 innings - getting touched for five runs on eight hits (including a pair of home runs) and a couple of walks. The Pirates' bullpen did a stellar job also, but the game had already been decided - for all intents and purposes - by the end of the fifth-inning.
St Louis jumped out to a 3-0 lead after three-innings - thanks to a Yadier Molina second-inning solo home run and an Allen Craig two-run third inning blast.
But then the Pirates grabbed the lead after plating four runs in the fourth-inning - highlighted by a Clint Barmes two-run double, immediately followed by a Michael McHenry two-run home run.
But the Cardinals rallied for Jake with two runs in the fifth to take a lead they would not relinquish. It all began with Bedard plunking Matt Carpenter with a pitch - then Matt Holliday getting revenge on the ball by smashing it down the left field line for a run-scoring double. The next batter - Craig - hit one high and far to left-center field, but it stayed in the park; however, Holliday was able to tag up and advance to third with the potential go-ahead run. But Freese seemed to put the rally in the deep freeze when he struck out on a high fastball.
Molina was then walked intentionally, as Pittsburgh elected to pitch to Shane Robinson in that situation. The strategy backfired on manager Clint Hurdle when Shane lined a single to center to score Holliday with what proved to be the winning run.
It wasn't pretty, but Westbrook now joined a list of Cardinal pitchers who had won on the same day in back-to-back seasons. And I have no idea how extensive that list might be - for now.