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.

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