Wednesday, July 9, 2014

July 9, 1982 - A Big Win: Cards Hand Nolan Ryan a Tough Loss

Friday, July 9, 1982 - At The Astrodome (Dave LaPoint - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Nolan Ryan - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  21,178

The Cardinals were sitting atop the standings in the tight NL East race, prior to the start of a three-game series with the Houston Astros - but the Philadelphia Phillies were lurking, just two games back.

Houston Astros pitcher Nolan Ryan struck out ten Cardinal batters in nine innings of work; but it wasn't enough, as St Louis held on for a 3-2 win at the Astrodome.

And it's a good thing the Redbirds won the first game of this series, because they would drop the next two by identical 4-2 scores - leaving them in a first-place tie with Philadelphia at the All Star break.  So yeah - this was a big game to win.

George Hendrick's second-inning home run gave the Cardinals an early 1-0 lead; then, after Houston tied the game on a two-out RBI single off the bat of Art Howe in the fourth-inning - Willie McGee got the big hit in the sixth-inning to propel the Redbirds to victory.

The inning started with a lead-off single to center by Tommy Herr.  McGee then plugged the gap in right-center field to chase Herr home, as Willie cruised into third with a triple.  Keith Hernandez then lined a single into right field to score McGee with the Cardinals' third run - but that was all they could muster against the ageless Ryan.

However, three runs was good enough tonight.  Dave LaPoint allowed just two runs in 7.1 innings pitched - the second run coming across in the sixth-inning when Phil Garner's sacrifice fly scored Ray Knight from third.

After Tony Scott's one-out eighth-inning single ended LaPoint's night, Jeff Lahti provided quality relief - retiring the two batters he faced in the inning to preserve the one-run lead.

Lahti also retired the first two batters in the ninth, and should have gotten the third - but Terry Puhl  reached base when Hernandez couldn't handle his ground ball - a rare error for the perennial Gold Glover.

When pinch hitter Danny Heep was announced, Whitey Herzog decided to bring in the veteran lefty - Jim Kaat - to nail this one down - and that's just what he did - striking out Heep to end the game - to earn his first (of two) save of the year.

The next several weeks would be trying times for the Cardinals - slipping into second-place and sliding back into first - a see-saw battle for the division title that wouldn't be decided any time soon.

In retrospect, winning this game against a very dominant Nolan Ryan was huge.

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