Thursday, July 31, 2014

July 31, 1987 - Coleman Delivers Come-From-Behind Walk-Off Winner Over Pirates

Friday, July 31, 1987 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Brian Fisher - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  38,757

Vince Coleman's two-out ninth-inning double scored Jose Oquendo from first base, to give the Cardinals a dramatic come-from-behind 4-3 walk-off win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Ken Dayley (6-1) pitched one scoreless inning of relief to get the win.

Coleman had been a walk-off hero once before - as a rookie - delivering a game winning hit on June 30, 1985 to beat the Phillies.  Apparently, he has a penchant for beating teams from Pennsylvania on paydays in odd-numbered years when the Cardinals would lose a seven-game world series to an inferior team from the American League West.

This contest featured a showcase of key players involved in a trade between the two ball clubs - when the Cardinals acquired catcher Tony Pena from the Pirates in exchange for catcher Mike LaValliere and outfielder Andy Van Slyke.  To put it bluntly, Pena was a total bust for St Louis; whereas both LaValliere and Van Slyke would become valuable assets for a Pirates organization on the rise.  By the early '90's, they would become the best team in the NL East.  By 1990, the Cardinals had sunk to the bottom of the NL East - their first and only last place finish since 1918.

Still, the Cardinals were a very good team in 1987, in spite of this trade - and they won this particular game with a little help from the much-maligned Pena.

Pittsburgh struck first - off Cardinal starter Bob Forsch - in the very first inning.  With one out, Van Slyke singled to right, then advanced to third when Johnny Ray also singled to right.  Next up - Sid Bream - walked, to load the bases.  Although Bobby Bonilla scored Van Slyke with a sacrifice fly, Forsch was able to get out of the inning with just one allowed.

The Pirates came right back in the second-inning to tack on another run.  LaValliere opened with a double to right field, then advanced to third when right fielder Curt Ford booted the ball.  The next batter - Sam Khalifa - singled to center, scoring the second run of the game for Pittsburgh.  However, he was thrown out trying to steal second - on a nice throw from Pena.  It was a very big out for St Louis, since Pittsburgh would fail to score another run in the inning, despite two more hits, a passed ball and a stolen base getting thrown into the mix.

The Pirates scored their third run of the game in the fifth-inning.  A one-out walk to Van Slyke and a single to center by Ray put runners on the corners.  Then with Ray in motion, Sid Bream hit a slow roller back to Forsch, whose throw to shortstop Ozzie Smith was too late for the force out at second; however, The Wizard was able to elude the hard slide of Ray and retire the slew-footed Bream at first, as Van Slyke scored.

Trailing 3-0, the Cardinals finally got something going off Pirates starter - Brian Fisher - in the bottom of the fifth.  Jim Lindeman was plunked by a Fisher pitch to start the proceedings.  Pena then lined a double to left field, advancing Lindeman to third.  But John Morris - pinch hitting for Bob Forsch - was retired on a foul popup to the third baseman.  The next batter - Vincent Van Go - drove in his first run of the game with a ground out to first baseman Bream - who barely beat Coleman to the bag for the out.

Pat Perry, in relief of Forsch, held the Pirates in check for the next three innings.

In the bottom of the eighth, Jose Oquendo - pinch hitting for Perry - drew a lead-off walk, prompting manager Jim Leyland to bring in Brett Gideon from the Pirates bullpen to face Vincent Van Go - who grounded one to shortstop Khalifa - who, in his haste to turn two, booted the ball - putting runners on first and second with nobody out.  That was the break the Cardinals needed to turn this game around.

After Ozzie moved the runners up to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, Tommy Herr brought them in with a base hit to left - tying the game at three runs apiece.  Just like that.

After Dayley retired the Pirates in the top of the ninth, Lindeman led-off the bottom half with a single to left field.  After Pena's grounder forced Lindeman at second, Oquendo's grounder forced Pena at second.  With two outs and a runner still on first, the game seemed destined for extra innings.

Instead, Coleman lined one into the right center field gap.  Cardinal broadcaster Jack Buck knew from his vantage point high above the field - the game was over.  "That's a winner!"

The Cardinals were in first place to stay.

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