Monday, July 28, 2014

July 28, 2002 - The Edgar Renteria Game: 10-9 Walk-Off Winner Over Cubs

In the past fifty years of Cardinal baseball, there have been some memorable games played on July 28.  Here's a sample:

1964 - At Wrigley Field - The Cards come-from-behind to send the game into extra innings - Score 5 runs in the 10th to beat the Cubs, 12-7.  White, McCarver & Shannon homer for St Louis.

2001 - At Wrigley Field - The Cards break a 4-4 tie with 3 runs in the 8th to beat the Cubs, 7-4.  Pujols, McGwire & Paquette homer for St Louis.

2004 - At Great American Ballpark - The Cards out-slug the Reds, 11-10.  Rolen hits 2 home runs - Womack & Edmonds add one apiece for St Louis.

2007 - At Busch Stadium III - In an otherwise dismal season, the Cards sweep a double-header over the Brewers - Scoring three 9th-inning runs for a 7-6 walk-off win in the first game.  St Louis wins the second game, 5-2 - as '06 World Series hero Anthony Reyes gets his first win of the season - to go with 10 losses.

2009 - At Busch Stadium III - The Cards score six runs in the 6th - then four runs in the 8th - in a decisive 10-0 win over the Dodgers.  Strangely enough, LA out hit St Louis - 9 to 8 in the game.

2010 - At Citi Field - The Cards score six runs in the first-inning - but the Mets score four runs in the eighth to send game into extra innings, tied 7-7.  The Redbirds finally win it in the 13th-inning - when Pujols singles in Schumaker with the game-wining run.  Final score:  St Louis 8 - New York 7.

All very exciting games - but the most memorable game happened exactly twelve years ago.  I like to call it The Edgar Renteria Game:

Sunday, July 28, 2002 - At Busch Stadium II (Matt Morris - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Matt Clement - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  47,583

It was a hot and muggy evening in St Louis.  The game time temperature was 95 degrees, with a nine mph wind blowing from right to left, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan welcomed the ESPN viewing audience to another edition of Sunday Night Baseball.

Things didn't start out so well for the home team.  Matt Morris struck out the first two batters he faced, but had trouble getting that third out.  A walk to Sammy Sosa, then a single by Fred McGriff preceded a two-run double off the bat of Moises Alou.

The 2-0 Chicago lead quickly became 6-0 in the third-inning.  Once again, Sosa drew a two-out walk, followed by a McGriff single.  Alou drove in the first run with a single, then Corey Patterson shocked everybody with a three-run bomb.

The score remained 6-0 until the Cardinals finally broke through in the bottom of the sixth-inning - aided by a defensive miscue, along with a questionable managerial decision.

Jim Edmonds began the inning with a single to right field.  Albert Pujols then grounded one to shortstop Mark Bellhorn, whose only play was at first base - however, he threw wildly - very wildly - allowing Edmonds to score and Pujols to ramble into third.  At this point in the game, Cubs starter Matt Clement had been in total control - but manager Bruce Kimm decided to yank him - hoping the bullpen could navigate through the final four innings and protect what was currently a five-run lead.  In other words, Kimm panicked.

Jeff Fassero was the first of four Cub relievers to enter the game.  The first batter he faced - JD Drew - doubled, scoring Pujols.  After Drew advanced to third on a Tino Martinez infield ground out, Edgar Renteria picked up his first RBI of the game with a single to center field.  The next batter - Mike Difelice - doubled to left, advancing Renteria to third.

Kyle Farnsworth was then summoned in from the Cubs bullpen to face pinch hitter Kerry Robinson - who walked, to load the bases.  Then, lead-off hitter Fernando Vina singled to right field, scoring Renteria, as Difelice had to stop at third.  The rally came to an abrupt halt when Eduardo Perez grounded into a 6-4-3 double play - but at least the Cardinals were back in the game - trailing 6-4.

The Cubs were relentless, however.  With Steve Kline now pitching for the Cardinals, Corey Patterson's one-out seventh-inning double was followed by a Delino DeShields walk, a Todd Hundley RBI single and a Kyle Farnsworth sacrifice fly - to give Chicago a secure 8-4 lead - which became an even more secure 9-4 lead after Bill Mueller's solo eighth-inning home run off Dave Veres.

Farnsworth completed his 2.2 scoreless inning stint in the bottom of the eighth-inning, as Jon Miller and Joe Morgan were chatting about Jon's poor taste in neck ties, how the NL Central race was still up for grabs, and a reminder to stay tuned - Sports Center is coming up next.

Statistically speaking, the Cardinals had a one percent chance of winning this game - entering the home half of the ninth-inning, trailing 9-4.  Tom Gordon was the new Cubs pitcher - and much to Bruce Kimm's chagrin - three straight Cardinal batters reached base:  Vina singled, pinch hitter Miguel Cairo doubled him in, then Edmonds singled Cairo in.  It was now a 9-6 ballgame - and St Louis now had an eight percent chance of winning this game.

Time to bring in the closer - Atonio Alfonseca - to close this one out.  In a sense, that's exactly what happened.  The first batter - Albert Pujols - patiently worked the count full, then walked on the seventh pitch of the at bat - bringing the tying run to the plate, in the person of JD Drew - who struck out on a called third strike.  But then Tino Martinez - less than a year removed from his World Series heroics with the Yankees - stroked a single to right field - scoring Edmonds to make it a 9-7 game.

This brought the winning run to the plate - in the person of Edgar Renteria.  After Alfonseca missed with the first pitch, Edgar was anticipating a fastball - in the strike zone - and he got it.  And he got all of it - sending the ball on its merry way over the left field wall, for a dramatic three-run walk-off home run.

It was a classic moment that many Cardinal fans no doubt had the foresight to record on their now-antiquated VCR's - to play back from time to time, for posterity's sake.

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