Thursday, July 2, 1964 - At County Stadium (Ray Sadecki - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent: Milwaukee Braves (Warren Spahn - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance: 6,863
The rapid ascent in the standings for the '64 St Louis Cardinals would take place in a couple of months. In the meantime, the team hovered around .500 - sometimes under by a game or two - sometimes over by a game or two. This was a game the Cardinals needed to win just to get back to .500 (again).
The Cardinals fell behind early, tied it, fell behind again, then finally took the lead late in the game - and thanks to three nearly perfect innings of relief from Bob Humphreys - held on for a 4-3 win over the Braves.
Ray Sadecki worked the first six innings - allowing three runs on seven hits - and all three of those runs came via the home run ball - a two-run shot by Rico Carty in the second-inning, and a solo blast by Gene Oliver in the sixth. Sadecki walked four batters, but only one came around to score - Oliver, whose second-inning free pass preceded the Carty home run. Ray also struck out eight batters - an impressive total a half-century ago, when most batters did everything in their power just to make contact. Striking out was disgraceful - nowadays, it's no big deal.
After Milwaukee established its 2-0 lead after two innings, the Redbirds got one of those runs back in the third-inning - after Tim McCarver led-off with a double, Sadecki moved him over to third on a good sacrifice bunt - from where he easily scored when Curt Flood lined a single to center.
The Cardinals tied the game, 2-2 in the fourth-inning, when Julian Javier hit a two-out solo home run off Warren Spahn; however, the Braves untied it in the sixth when Oliver hit his solo home run.
Trailing 3-2 entering the seventh-inning, Javier led off with a single to right field. Next up, Phil Gagliano - hitting in a bit of bad luck - lined hard but right at third baseman Eddie Mathews for the first out.
But then Charlie James doubled down the left field line - scoring Javier to tie the game again. Pinch hitting for Sadecki, Carl Warwick came through with a single that moved James up to third.
With runners on the corners with just one out in the seventh-inning of a tie ballgame, manager Bobby Bragen replaced Spahn with Jack Fischer - who seemed to be fishing for the strike zone after walking Flood to load the bases. Lou Brock then hit a sacrifice fly to center field - and for the first time in the game - the Cardinals had a lead - but it was just a slim 4-3 advantage with nine more outs to go.
Securing those nine outs with relative ease was journeyman reliever Bob Humphreys - an unsung hero for the '64 Cardinals, who posted a 2.53 ERA in 42.2 innings pitched out of the bullpen - winning two games and saving another two without a loss.
Today, Humphreys protected that one-run lead with three innings of no-hit pitching (he walked one), earning his first save of the season. Now that's a save.
Meanwhile, the Cardinals (38-38) were still mired in fifth-place - 9.5 games behind the first-place Phillies.
If the situation seemed dismal just five games shy of the mid-season point, it must have seemed completely hopeless when the Cardinals were even further back on August 23 - 11 games out, with little more than a month to play.
But at least they were over .500 by then (65-58). And climbing.