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.

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