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.