Sunday, August 31, 2014

September 1, 1964 - Come-From-Behind Walk-Off Winner Over Braves - Starring Bob Uecker

Tuesday, September 1, 1964 - At Busch Stadium I (Ray Sadecki - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Braves (Denny Lemaster - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  8,079

Prior to 1964, the last time the Cardinals had won a National League pennant, Stan Musial was in his prime, World War II was a very recent memory, and a teenage Mickey Mantle had just gotten his Oklahoma drivers' license.  In 1946, the Cardinals were a good team and everybody knew it.  Another trip to the World Series had become old hat.  Winning the World Series was great - but no big surprise.

What did surprise and dismay many Cardinal fans in the years after '46, was the fact that their team failed to reach the World Series over the remaining seventeen seasons the great Musial would be wearing a Cardinal uniform; and that the Cardinals failed to sign that Mantle kid out of Commerce, Oklahoma - instead, letting him sign with the New York Yankees, who seemingly played in the World Series every year.

Just a year earlier, the Cardinals had made an incredible late-season run to get close to the first-place Dodgers - winning 19 out of 20 games - but LA came to town and swept a three-game September series - just when the fans were starting to believe in miracles.  In this case, the miracles would have to wait a year to come to fruition - and wouldn't you know it - hardly anybody believed it was happening - certainly not on September 1, with such a paltry crowd on hand to witness a dramatic come-from-behind walk-off 5-4 win over the Milwaukee Braves.

The fact that the Cardinals actually won this game to begin with may not have been an outright miracle - but it certainly classifies as "improbable".  First of all, backup catcher Bob Uecker made a rare start, in place of Tim McCarver.

Then, Milwaukee proceeded to score four runs (one of the runs was unearned) in the third-inning - and in the process, knocked starting pitcher Ray Sadecki out of the game after just 2.1 innings.  Reliever Ron Taylor inherited runners on second (Joe Torre) and third (Henry Aaron) - with two runs already in and just one out - a sticky situation to say the least.  Unfortunately, for Taylor, the situation got stickier when his first order of business was to balk in a run, before giving up an RBI single to Gene Oliver - before settling down to finally restore order.

Order was indeed restored.  Milwaukee would not score another run for the remainder of the game - and that gave the Redbirds the opportunity to catch up.  And they took advantage of that opportunity - which is what championship-caliber teams usually do.  It also gave Taylor the opportunity to improve his record to 8-3 - as he worked the final 6.2 innings of four-hit scoreless relief - striking out five - walking none.

After Ken Boyer's two-out two-run home run in the bottom of the third cut the deficit in half, Uecker stepped up to the plate with two out and nobody on base in the fourth - and hit his first and only home run of the season - to draw the Redbirds within a single run of tying this game up.

The Cardinals pushed that single run across the plate in the sixth-inning, when Boyer led-off with a double, advanced to third on a ground out to the first baseman - then with Julian Javier batting, Braves starter Denny Lemaster uncorked a wild pitch - scoring Boyer with the game tying run.

It was still a 4-4 game in the bottom of the ninth - and Lemaster was still on the mound for Milwaukee.  With one out, Javier started the game-winning rally with a double into the left field corner.  With first base open, Carl Warwick was intentionally walked, to set up a possible double play.  A good double play candidate - Uecker - was the next batter.  The only problem with that strategy:  Uecker lined a single to left, instead of a ground ball to the shortstop.

As Javier raced home with the winning run, the Cardinals had now moved up a notch - into third place - a spot in the standings they hadn't occupied since June 3.  However, they were still 7.5 games behind Philadelphia - who also won tonight.  But the Phillies were already looking in the rear view mirror - and their paranoia would soon begin strangling them.  A ten-game losing streak was imminent.  But who knew?

As a side note, Bob Uecker - who was two for three in this game - raised his batting average all the way up to .200 at this point in the season - but alas, he would finish at .198.  It's fascinating to realize had Uecker had his "normal" game (what .200 hitters normally do - which is nothing significant) - the Cardinals would have lost - and in all likelihood, lost out on their chance to play in the World Series.

That's the kind of stuff that just blows my mind.

August 31, 2002 - Cards Sweep Doubleheader - Hammer Cubs at Wrigley

Saturday, August 31, 2002 - At Wrigley Field (Game One Starting Pitcher - Luther Hackman - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Game One Starting Pitcher - Mark Prior) - Attendance:  37,639

On paper, the pitching match-up in the first game of this doubleheader between the Cards and Cubs would seem to favor the Cubs - with their up-and-coming young starter - Mark Prior (6-6) - going up against a guy who is normally used in relief - Luther Hackman (4-4).  Although Prior pitched well - allowing just two runs in five innings - Hackman was a little better - yielding no runs in his five innings of work.

The big difference was in the quality of work performed by bullpens over the final four innings.  The Cubs could only score once - on an eighth-inning solo home run by Mark Bellhorn off Jeff Fassero - while the Cardinals scored a pair of sixth-inning runs (one unearned run) off Joe Borowski - then really teed off on Francis Beltran, who gave up a solo home run to Eli Marrero in the eighth, then a three-run bomb to Eduardo Perez in the ninth.

Along with Marrero and Perez, Albert Pujols also went deep - connecting on a solo shot off Prior in the fifth - one of three hits the sophomore slugger would tally in this rout - a decisive 8-1 drubbing of the Cubbies.

Game Two Starting Pitchers - Andy Benes vs Jason Bere

Even though Benes (4-4) was in the twilight of his career, this pitching match-up clearly favored the Cardinals - on paper and where it counts - on the playing field.  The Redbirds torched Bere (1-10) for eight runs (seven earned runs) in just four innings of work - four of those runs scoring on Eli Marrero's grand slam home run in the third.  Even pitcher Andy Benes got into the home run derby act today - hitting a solo blast off the battered Bere in the fifth.  It would be the only home run for Benes in 2002 - and it would be the last home run he'd ever hit (8 career home runs in 14 seasons).

While St Louis nicked three Chicago relievers for one run apiece over the final five innings (including a seventh-inning home run by Jim Edmonds) - the only serious chink in the armor for the Cardinal bullpen was the three runs Steve Kline coughed up in the sixth-inning.  It didn't matter - the Cardinals cruised to an easy 10-4 win, to complete the doubleheader sweep.

After today's action, the first-place Cardinals had improved to 76-59 on the season - and they would finish with a NL-best 21-6 record over the final month - and manager Tony LaRussa would later be named NL Manager of the Year - in what was certainly his most trying season as a major league manager.

After the tragic death of pitcher Darryl Kile, LaRussa guided his team through a period of profound sorrow.  Undoubtedly, their fallen teammate was on the minds of the Cardinal players throughout the day.  After all, the reason they were playing a doubleheader was to make up the game that had been cancelled in June - in the wake of Kile's passing.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

August 30, 2011 - Cards Nip Error-Prone Brewers, 2-1

Tuesday, August 30, 2011 - At Miller Park (Edwin Jackson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Brewers (Shaun Marcum - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,384

In the first game of a three-game series, newly acquired Cardinal starting pitcher Edwin Jackson had a strong outing - limiting the Brewers to one run on six hits in seven innings of work.  However, if not for two costly errors by the right side of the Milwaukee infield, Jackson would have exited this game on the wrong side of a 1-0 score - and more importantly, the Cardinals would have lost this game to remain 9.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves - the team they were chasing for that postseason wild card berth.  Instead, thanks to a pair of unearned runs, the Redbirds kept their postseason hopes alive with a 2-1 win over the Brew Crew.

Brewers starting pitcher Shaun Marcum pitched admirably, but defensive lapses in the sixth-inning gave the Cardinals a golden opportunity to break a scoreless tie - and they cashed in.

The inning began with Skip Schumaker hitting a routine ground ball to first baseman Prince Fielder, which went under his glove and through his legs to right fielder Corey Hart - as Schumaker skipped to first base. Next up - Rafael Furcal bounced one - with a lot of topspin - to second baseman Jerry Hairston - who misjudged the effect the topspin would have on the ball when he tried to field it.  He got in front of it, but the ball hit the heel of his glove for an error.  Three inches lower, and he would have at least gotten the force out at second - perhaps a double play.

Instead, with runners on first and second, Yadier Molina lined a single to center to load the bases for Edwin Jackson - who drove in the first run of the game with base hit to right - as the bases remained loaded for Jon Jay - who drove in the second run of the game with a sacrifice fly.  That was it:  Two runs, two hits, two errors and two runners left on base.

The Brewers began the sixth-inning with back-to-back doubles by Corey Hart and Nyjer Morgan to cut the St Louis lead in half.  But Jackson was able to prevent any further scoring - first, by striking out Prince Fielder with one out and the runner on third - for out number two.  Then he got Casey McGehee on a fly ball to center to retire the side.

After working a scoreless seventh-inning, Jackson's night was over.  The bullpen's night was just beginning.  Reliever Arthur Rhodes got the first out in the eighth-inning, then turned the ball over to Jason Motte, who gave up a hit - but no runs - in his two-out stint.

Newly acquired reliever Marc Rzepczynski faced one batter in the bottom of the ninth - Prince Fielder - but the designated lefty specialist failed to get his man.  Fielder walked.

LaRussa then brought in Fernando Salas to face Casey McGehee - who also walked.  Betancourt was the next batter - who was up there bunting, trying to advance the runners to second and third.  Instead, a hard charging Albert Pujols fielded the bunt and fired a strike to third base for a crucial force out of Fielder.  The game ended when pinch hitter Mark Kotsay (replacing Hairston) grounded into a 4-6-3 double play.

And yes, the Braves lost tonight - at home - to the Washington Nationals - who pounded out four home runs in a 9-2 Atlanta beat down.  The fun was just beginning.

Friday, August 29, 2014

August 29, 2001 - Just a Routine 16-14 Win Over Padres

Wednesday, August 29, 2001 - At Busch Stadium II (Bud Smith - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Diego Padres (Bobby Jones - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  31,362

When the Cardinals beat the Padres by the score of 16-14 on this date in 2001, it became the ninth time in franchise history St Louis had played in games with a combined score of at least thirty runs.  With this win, they have now won four of those nine games - and with a margin of victory of just two runs - it was the closest slug-fest in franchise history.

After the Padres roughed up Cardinal starter Bud Smith for two first-inning runs - and another pair in the second, on the strength of a Ryan Klesko two-out two-run home run - the Redbirds suddenly found themselves in a 4-0 hole as they prepared to take their turn at bat in the bottom of the second.

Padres starter Bobby Jones retired Albert Pujols to record the first out of the inning - but it was all downhill for San Diego after that.  Jim Edmonds started what would become a nine-run rally with a double.  By the time the Cardinals finished they would pound out seven hits - including a pair of two-run home runs by J.D. Drew and the guy who started the rally - Jim Edmonds.  They would also benefit from a very costly San Diego error - making five of the nine runs scored of the unearned variety.

After Edmonds belted his two-run bomb to close out the scoring, manager Bruce Bochey had to remove his battered starter after just 1.2 innings of work.  Chuck McElroy came in from the bullpen to retire Craig Paquette to mercifully end the assault - at least for the time being.

While the Cardinals were taking a little breather after that nine-run outburst, San Diego went back on the offensive.  In the fourth-inning, a one-out walk to Rickey Henderson, his inevitable stolen base and a fielding miscue by shortstop Edgar Renteria suddenly had runners on second and third for the hot-hitting Klesko - who scored 'em both with a double to make it a 9-6 game.  LaRussa had stuck with his young starter as long as he could.  Smith only made it through 3.1 innings - five outs shy of qualifying for the win.  However, the way the Padres were teeing off on him, it's doubtful he would've made it through five innings with the lead.

Gene Stechschulte came in from the bullpen to face the next batter - Phil Nevin - who took him deep - for a two-run home run, to make it a 9-8 game.  Gene settled down after that to retire the side with no further damage - then he pitched a scoreless fifth-inning to put himself in line for the win - which seemed more likely, after Jim Edmonds came through again - with a two-out two-run fourth-inning single to give the Cards a little breathing room - 11-8.

Incredibly, Edmonds would be the only Cardinal base runner left on base in this game.  Whenever they failed to score, they never even bothered to get a runner on base - and that happened in four different innings.  This set another obscure franchise record:  Fewest Runners Left on Base When Scoring 16 or More Runs - a record that never even occurred to me until this moment.  In fact, it's probably a major league record.

As if on cue, the Cardinals score two more runs in the fifth without leaving any runners on base - and they do it without hitting the ball.  In fact, those two runs score when pinch hitter Bobby Bonilla strikes out - with two runners on base - Renteria and Marrero (who both walked).  While Padres pitcher Nunez was preoccupied with striking out Bobby B, he didn't notice that Renteria (on second) and Marrero (on first) were planning to execute a double steal.  Padres catcher Ben Davis, in his attempt to nail Renteria at third, instead threw the ball to Rickey Henderson in left field - allowing Renteria to score the first run on the play.

As Henderson retrieved the errant throw, Marrero was now heading for third, which caused Rickey to make another errant throw in the general direction of third base.  As the ball was now rolling into an area uninhabited by any San Diego player with a glove on either hand, Marrero proceeded to race home with the second run on the play.  Had this occurred in a World Series, it no doubt would have been referred to as The Play.  

Fortunately, for the Cardinals, Bonilla struck out.  Had he fouled that pitch off, or put it "in play" - unless he hits one in the gap - those runs likely would not have scored - and this game would have been tied 14-14 - heading into overtime.  Bonilla, in his final season as a major league player, perhaps made his greatest contribution to the Cardinals - by striking out in this situation.

With the Cardinals now leading, 13-8,  the Padres scored three sixth-inning runs off reliever Mike Timlin - the last two scoring on former-Cardinal Ray Lankford's double.  It was now a 13-11 game.

The score remained 13-11 as the Padres took their turn at bat in the eighth-inning.  After giving up three singles, Cardinal reliever Steve Kline quickly found himself in a bases loaded one-out situation.  LaRussa stuck with him - and Kline responded by inducing Ben Davis to hit a convenient ground ball to Renteria at shortstop - who stepped on second and tossed to first for the inning-ending double play.

The Cardinals tacked on three insurance runs when they took their turn at bat in the bottom of the eighth.  It all started with two out and nobody on base.  Polanco singled, then Drew doubled, putting runners on second and third for Albert Pujols.  With first base open, Padres reliever David Lundquist chose to pitch to the rookie, as Jim Edmonds - who had already driven in four runs tonight - was lurking on deck.

Up to this point, Pujols had not driven in a run - but he got three RBI with one swing of the bat.  His three-run home run cleared the bases once again - and gave the Cardinals a comfortable 16-11 lead, heading into the ninth-inning.

Reliever Dave Veres - in a non-save situation - yielded a two-run home run to Cesar Crespo and a solo blast by Ryan Klesko - to make it a save situation, if TLR went to the bullpen again.  But he let Veres finish his work, which also included a pair of strikeouts.

It was finally over.  Stechschulte - in relief of Bud Smith - picked up the win by managing to record five outs - three of them coming on strikeouts.  He also surrendered a home run with an inherited runner on base - so that run was charged to Smith, whose final pitching line read:  3.1 IP - 5 H - 7 R - 5 ER - 4 BB - 4 SO - 1 HR.

As Smith pondered his disappointing performance in tonight's game - when his team erased an early four-run deficit by scoring nine runs for him in the second-inning - but failed last the necessary five innings to qualify for the win - he knew he needed to make some serious adjustments.

On Monday, September 3, Bud Smith would be the starting pitcher against the same team that knocked him out of this game so early.  The venue would move to San Diego.  The game would be televised on ESPN.  The outcome would be a complete surprise to everyone.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

This Day in St Louis Cardinals History: August 28, 1969 - 1970 - 1971 - Three for Thursday!

Thursday, August 28, 1969 - At Busch Stadium II (Steve Carlton - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Don Wilson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  13,754 

The Astros scored an unearned first-inning run off Cardinals' starter Steve Carlton (8 IP - 6 H - 1 R - 0 ER - 3 BB - 10 SO) - and that was it.

Joe Hoerner pitched an inning of perfect relief - striking out two in the ninth.

Meanwhile, Astros starter Don Wilson held the Cardinals scoreless until the ninth-inning - when Dave Ricketts scored Vada Pinson from third with a sacrifice fly.  

After reliever Mudcat Grant (7-10) retired the Astros in order in the tenth-inning - Redbird utility infielder Steve Huntz led off the bottom of the tenth with a walk-off home run - handing Wilson (16-9) the tough-luck loss.

Friday, August 28, 1970 - At Dodger Stadium (Jerry Reuss - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  LA Dodgers (Don Sutton - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  19,964

Joe Torre broke a scoreless tie with a ninth-inning lead-off home run off Dodgers' starter Don Sutton (13-10).  

Cardinals' starter Jerry Reuss (5-5) pitched a complete game two-hit shutout - striking out five - walking one.

Saturday, August 28, 1971 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Gary Nolan - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,823

Exactly two weeks after no-hitting the Pirates, Bob Gibson (13-11) was almost as dominant in this start against the Reds - a complete game three-hit shutout - striking out thirteen - walking one.

The Cardinals scored a pair of third-inning runs off Reds' starter Gary Nolan (11-13) - RBI singles by Ted Sizemore and Joe Torre gave Gibson more than enough run support tonight - although they added two more runs in the fifth - on another Sizemore RBI single along with an unearned run on a botched play by the catcher - future Hall of Famer - Johnny Bench.

August 27, 1981 - Hendrick's 13th-Inning Home Run a Game Winner Over Padres

Thursday, August 27, 1981 - At Jack Murphy Stadium (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Diego Padres (Rick Wise - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  7,056

George Hendrick drove in all three runs for the Cardinals - including a thirteenth-inning solo home run - to lift St Louis to a 3-2 win over the Padres.  Jim Kaat (6-2) - the fifth pitcher used by manager Whitey Herzog - pitched 2.1 innings of scoreless relief to record the win.

Bob Forsch worked the first 7.2 innings - allowing just one run on five hits - but a blown save by Bruce Sutter gave the San Diego fans some bonus baseball in this strike-shortened debacle of a season.

Prior to receiving four innings of free baseball, the San Diego fans were blessed with the tearful reunion of former-Padres outfielder George Hendrick - who greeted the faithful gathering with a two-out third-inning double - scoring Tommy Herr and Ken Oberkfell with the first two runs of the game.

Padres starting pitcher - Rick Wise - the guy the Cardinals acquired before the '72 season in exchange for Steve Carlton - allowed just those two runs in his six innings of work.  The San Diego bullpen - Boone, Lucas and Littlefield - took care of the next six innings of scoreless relief - until another former Cardinal hurler - John Curtis - entered the game in the thirteenth.

Before all that excitement, the eighth and ninth inning offensive outburst by the Padres lineup made it all possible.

Forsch was still working on a shutout with two out and a runner on third in the bottom of the eighth - when pinch hitter Randy Bass got San Diego on the board with a single to center - scoring Luis Salazar.

At that point, Herzog decided to bring in his well-rested closer - Bruce Sutter (all the players in major league baseball were well-rested - thanks to their two-month strike-inflicted summer vacation).  Sutter struck out future teammate Ozzie Smith to end the inning - but trouble lurked ahead.

With one out in the bottom of the ninth, Gene Richards singled to left.  Sutter then struck out Rupert Jones for the second out - but another former Cardinal - Terry Kennedy - singled to center - advancing Richards to third.  Broderick Perkins then tied the game with another single to send the crowd into a post-strike frenzy.  Free baseball!  The fans were certainly getting their money's worth tonight.

Proving that the ninth inning was just a fluke, Sutter came back and pitched a scoreless tenth, before a new St Louis reliever - Bob Shirley - created more excitement in the eleventh.

Bob was a bit wild - walking the first two batters - Richards and Jones - before retiring a pinch hitter by the name of Gwosdz on a ground ball to third - advancing the runners to second and third.

Herzog then brought in Mark Littel - whose first order of business was an intentional walk to Perkins.  With the bases loaded, there was no place to put Luis Salazar - so Littel struck him out.

Herzog made his final pitching change - as Jim Kaat was summoned to face Jim Lefebvre - and he got him on a force out at second base - to extend the free baseball for the unappreciative fans (by this time, they wanted to go home - savoring a Padres' victory).

After both teams failed to score in the twelfth-inning, St Louis seemed unlikely to score in the thirteenth - as Oberkfell grounded out and Keith Hernandez looked at a called third strike.  But George Hendrick stepped up to the plate and whacked one into the nearly vacated left field bleachers - to give the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

By the time one of the spectators meandered over to locate the home run ball from their former hero - Kaat retired the side in order - to preserve what seemed to be a very important win for the Cardinals (40-25) - who were in first place - 2.5 games ahead of Philadelphia.

The Redbirds would finish the season with a 59-43 record - the best overall record in the NL East - but not good enough to qualify for the postseason - because under the new rules for the strike-shortened debacle of a season - they finished "second" in each "half" (pre-strike and post-strike).

The Cardinals had company.  The Cincinnati Reds had the best overall record in the National League - but they too failed to win either "half".  That would be their last hurrah.  Cincinnati was an aging team - in transition - spending the decade of the eighties in futility.

For the Cardinals, however, there would be redemption the following season - a world championship - followed by two more trips to the World Series in '85 and '87.

Strangely enough, the year they hit rock bottom - 1990 - was the year the Reds won it all - proving that success or failure in major league baseball can happen at a rapid pace.  Just ask fans of the Boston Red Sox about that.

Monday, August 25, 2014

August 26, 2011 - Molina, Berkman Power Cards to 5-4 Win Over Pirates

Friday, August 26, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Jake Westbrook - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (James McDonald - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,480

After being swept at home in a three-game series with the Dodgers, manager Tony LaRussa held a brief team meeting with his players prior to the four-game series with the Pirates.  In essence, the message imparted by TLR was simply:  Don't quit.

After winning the first game on Thursday, the Cardinals had to perform some come-from-behind magic to take the second game from Pittsburgh - and they did, thanks to home runs by Yadier Molina and Lance Berkman.

Berkman's thirtieth home run of the season - a two-run eighth-inning blast - lifted the Cardinals to a 5-4 win - but it was Molina's three-run homer earlier in the game which made the game winner possible.

Things didn't start out well for St Louis starter - Jake Westbrook.  One walk, three hits and a sacrifice fly quickly put the Cardinals in a 3-0 hole after the first-inning.

The Redbirds evened the score in the third-inning.  Matt Holliday led off with a base on balls.  One out later, David Freese singled.  With two on and one out, Yadier Molina blasted a James McDonald letter-high fastball into the left field seats to suddenly make it a 3-3 game - while giving a lucky fan a souvenir.

The Pirates quickly regained the lead in the fourth-inning.  Jose Tabatha's two-out double scored Ronnie Cedeno from second - but that would be the last run Pittsburgh would score.

Westbrook's night was over after six innings.  He had yielded seven hits and walked five - but limited the damage to four runs.  The final three innings of flawless relief - Arthur Rhodes' perfect seventh - followed by Kyle McClellan's (10-6) two perfect innings - allowed Berkman's home run into the Cardinals' bullpen off Pirates reliever Jose Veras (2-4) to have significance.  Looking back on the 2011 season, the home run meant the difference between a trip to the postseason and going home after Game 162.

After winning Game 132 - the Cardinals (69-63) were 9.5 games behind the Milwaukee Brewers (79-54) - who also won tonight.  Strangely enough, they were also 9.5 games behind the Atlanta Braves - who lost tonight.

The Cardinals would take three of four from the Pirates before sweeping a three-game series in Milwaukee.  Clearly, they weren't quitting.

August 25, 1964 - Brock's 13th-Inning Walk-Off Home Run Vs Pirates

Tuesday, August 25, 1964 - At Busch Stadium I (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Veale - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  8,664

In a game that almost got away from the Cardinals, Lou Brock's dramatic thirteenth-inning home run was a walk-off winner - giving the Redbirds a crucial 7-6 win over the Pirates.  Of course, at the time, this game seemed about as "crucial" as a spring training contest - nice to win, but nobody thought it could possibly affect the pennant race.  After all, St Louis (67-58) still trailed Philadelphia (76-49) by nine games with only 31 to play.  Why, it would take a 26-11 Cardinal finish - coupled with a 16-21 Phillie flop to give the Redbirds the pennant - assuming the two other teams in front of St Louis don't pull their own miracles.

Of course, that's precisely what happened.  But who knew?

Apparently, the St Louis fan base had little idea a miracle was about to happen.  Otherwise, more than just a few close friends and family members would have paid the price of admission to witness a small part of baseball history tonight.

The Cardinals actually looked like they were going to run away with this game - almost from the onset - when they scored four second-inning runs off Pirates starter Bob Veale.  Incredibly, backup catcher Bob Uecker was right in the middle of everything.  It's safe to say, without his contributions in this game, the Cardinals don't win - which means they don't win the pennant, either.  Imagine that.

The inning began with consecutive walks to Bill White and Carl Warwick.  Julian Javier then scored White with a single to right, as Warwick advanced to third.  Next up - the amazing Uecker - lined a double deep to center field - scoring both runners - and when the relay throw to home was booted by the catcher, Uecker streaked into third.  He later came in to score the fourth run of the inning on a Curt Flood single.

Staked to that 4-0 lead, Cardinal starter Curt Simmons was touched for one run in the Pirates' third-inning on a Bob Bailey RBI single.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh manager went to the bullpen early in this game - replacing Veale with the hard-throwing reliever - Tommie Sisk - to begin the third-inning.  Sisk walked three but didn't allow a hit or a run in his four-inning stint - striking out four along the way.

While Sisk silenced the St Louis bats, the Pirates lineup tied the game with a three-run seventh - knocking Simmons out of the game after pinch hitter Gene Freese led-off with a home run, followed by a double by Bob Bailey, then a two-base error by second baseman Javier made it a 4-3 game - with the tying run in scoring position.

Manager Johnny Keane brought in Barney Schultz to face Roberto Clemente - who immediately smacked a knuckle ball into left field for a game tying single.  Then, with Jerry Lynch batting, Clemente stole second.  With the go-ahead run in scoring position with still nobody out, Schultz was able to get Lynch on a fly ball to Flood in center - then struck out Donn Clendenon and Bill Mazeroski to end the threat.

The score remained knotted at four runs apiece through eleven innings.  Pirates reliever Vern Law worked his magic through the ninth - then Al McBean took over to start the tenth.  Barney Schultz stayed in the game until running into twelfth-inning trouble.

A lead-off walk to Clemente was followed by a one-out single off the bat of Clendenon to left field.  Clemente challenged Brock's arm - beating his throw to third - allowing Clendenon take the extra base, as well.  With first base open, Mazeroski was intentionally walked to set up a possible double play.  Pinch hitter Smokey Burgess foiled that strategy - lining a single to center field - scoring both Clemente and Clendenon.  After another single had runners on first and second, Bob Humphreys was summoned from the Cardinal bullpen - and the unsung hero struck out Freese - then retired Bailey on a ground ball to the shortstop.

With St Louis down by two runs, the situation looked bleak - especially since they hadn't scored a single run since the second-inning.  I guess they were due.  Brock started the inning with a single to left off McBean.  Dick Groat also singled, as Brock stopped at second.  Next up - Ken Boyer - grounded one to Mazeroski at second base, but barely beat the relay throw from the shortstop to avoid the double play.

With runners on first and third, Bill White delivered an RBI single to center, as Boyer advanced to third.  Next up - Mike Shannon - doubled into right field - scoring Boyer, as White held up at third - and that's where he remained, as pinch hitter Charlie James was retired on a foul popup to the third baseman - then after an intentional walk to Tim McCarver, Dal Maxvill stuck out to end the threat.  However, the game was now tied once again.  Unbelievable.

Reliever Ron Taylor set the Pirates down in order in the lucky thirteenth - setting the stage for Brock's heroics.  After Curt Flood was retired by McBean for the first out of the inning, the lefty hung a slider to Brock - which was deposited over the right field pavilion - onto Grand Avenue - for the walk-off winner.

The game was four minutes shy of being four hours in duration. Of the 8,664 paying fans who were seated at the beginning of this crazy marathon, it's safe to assume a few thousand had already vacated the premises by the time this one ended.  Those die-hard fans who stuck around for the comeback win would no doubt regularly remind their friends and family that they were there - and they just knew the Cardinals were going to win the pennant all along.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

August 24, 2012 - Cards' 6-Run 6th Caps Come-From-Behind Win Over Reds

Friday, August 24, 2012 - At Great American Ballpark (Lance Lynn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Mat Latos - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  36,162

The Cardinals entered the sixth-inning at Great American Ballpark trailing Mat Latos and the Reds by three runs - by the time they were finished, the Cardinals had turned the tables - turning that three-run deficit into a three-run advantage, en route to an 8-5 win.  Joe Kelly, who entered the game in relief of Lance Lynn -  inheriting two runners on base in the bottom of the third - worked three innings of mostly dominant relief to notch the win (4-5).  Kelly allowed one run on five hits and one walk - with six strikeouts - all swinging.

As a matter of fact, all six pitchers used by manager Mike Matheny - Lynn, Kelly, Salas, Mujica, Boggs and Motte - all had at least one strikeout in the game.  The final total of fourteen strikeouts featured thirteen that were of the "swing and miss" variety.

Starter Lance Lynn didn't last long in this one - however, he avoided total disaster in the first-inning - when with one run already in, and runners on first and third and nobody out - he induced Ryan Ludwick to ground into a 5-4-3 double play.  A second run scored - but that was it - at least for now.

David Freese returned the favor in the second-inning - with runners on first and third and nobody out - he grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.  Allen Craig, who singled to open the inning, scored the run for St Louis.

The Reds came right back with another run in their half of the second - when Ryan Hanigan's sacrifice fly scored Todd Frazier from third, to make it a 3-1 Cincinnati lead.

After the Cardinals failed to score on Latos in the third, the Reds put the first two runners on base in their half of the third.  Singles by Brandon Phillips and Ludwick prompted Matheny to bring Kelly in from the bullpen to restore order.  After yielding an RBI single by Frazier and an infield hit by Scott Rolen - Kelly found himself in a bases loaded-one out jam - but he struck out Hanigan and Latos to avoid further damage.

The Cardinals - trailing 4-1 entering the fourth-inning - got a two-out single by Yadier Molina to keep the inning alive.  Then with Freese batting, Latos uncorked a wild pitch to move Yadi up to second - and this time Freese drove him in with a base hit to center.

Kelly struck out the side in the bottom of the fourth - giving him a string of five straight strikeouts - but he ran into more trouble in the fifth-inning.  With one run already in and runners on second and third with just one out - Kelly issued an intentional walk to Hanigan - then stuck out Latos again for the second out.  Then, lead-off hitter Zack Cozart nearly hit one out of the park to deep center field - but Jon Jay hauled it in at the base of the wall to retire the side.

Trailing 5-2 entering the sixth-inning - the Redbirds began teeing off on a suddenly ineffective Latos.  Singles by Carlos Beltran and Matt Holliday preceded Allen Craig's game-tying three-run home run to straight-away center field.  Next up - Molina - made it back-to-back jack with an opposite field shot to right - which just got over right fielder Jay Bruce's outstretched glove.  The Redbirds tacked on two more runs.  After Latos walked Freese - the fifth straight batter to reach base - manager Dusty Baker finally pulled his starter - bringing in Alfredo Simon to face Skip Schumaker - who promptly singled to left, as Freese stopped at second.  A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third - still nobody out.

Rafael Furcal scored Freese from third with a single to center, as Skip skipped to third on the hit.  Pinch hitter Matt Carpenter (for Joe Kelly) brought in the sixth and final run of the inning with a sacrifice fly to center.  It was also the first out recorded in the inning - but all good things must end sometime.

The Cardinals now had the lead - 8-5 - and that's how it ended.

Fernando Salas - in relief of Kelly - struck out the three batters he faced in the sixth.

Edward Mujica struck out the first two batters in the seventh in his perfect inning of relief.

Mitchell Boggs was perfect in the eighth - with one strikeout.  He got Stubbs on a called third strike - a rarity in this game.

Jason Motte made it interesting in the ninth - allowing a pair of hits - but striking out Scott Rolen to earn his 30th save of the season.

Even with this win over first-place Cincinnati, the Cardinals (69-56) were still six games behind in the NL Central race.  The race for the second wild card spot was definitely up for grabs, however.  The Redbirds were a game and a half behind the Atlanta Braves for the number one spot - but they held a game and a half advantage over the Dodgers for that second slot.

Despite a fairly lackluster 19-18 finish, the Cardinals still held onto that second wild card berth, as LA could only muster an even .500 (18-18) stretch run.

Saturday, August 23, 2014

August 23, 1968 - 11-Inning Walk-Off Winner Over Pirates

Friday, August 23, 1968 - At Busch Stadium (Ray Washburn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Veale - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  34,845

Welcome to The Year of the Pitcher.

Phil Gagliano's eleventh-inning two-out triple scored Mike Shannon from first base to give the Cardinals a 3-2 walk-off win over the Pirates.  Losing pitcher Ron Kline (10-3) hit Shannon with a pitch - enabling him to score the winning run when Gagliano's line drive happened to find the gap.

Meanwhile, in the second game of a doubleheader at Yankee Stadium, the Detroit Tigers and New York Yankees played to a 3-3 tie through nineteen innings - at which point, everybody had to go home on account of some curfew law.  They'd have to try again with a much earlier starting time.

Runs were a rare commodity in 1968.  The two runs the Pirates scored in this game came as a direct result of two separate errors by the usually reliable second baseman - Julian Javier.  Otherwise, this game would have ended in regulation - with a 2-0 Cardinal win - and Ray Washburn would have had a complete game shutout.  Instead, he toiled for ten innings just to be rewarded with a "no decision".  Joe Hoerner (6-2) gets the win in relief with one inning of perfect work - striking out two - for style points.

Prior to Gagliano's game-winning three-bagger, the Cardinals got some offensive firepower from last year's NL MVP - Orlando Cepeda.  His seventh-inning two-out two-run home run off Bob Veale tied the game at two runs apiece.  It was only fitting that Javier would find some measure of redemption by drawing a base on balls prior to the two-run blast.

In the grand scheme of things, this game had little significance on the pennant race.  After all, the Cardinals had already eliminated any doubt about the ultimate outcome of the National League championship.  After tonight's game, St Louis (82-47) held a thirteen game advantage over second-place San Francisco.  It would take a major Cardinals collapse coupled with an equally major Giants surge to make baseball history.  Of course, that didn't happen.

Strangely enough, on this same date, back in 1964, the Cardinals were in fourth-place - eleven games behind the Philadelphia Phillies - and we all know what happened.

Of course, there was 2011.  On this same date, just three years ago, the Cardinals trailed the Atlanta Braves by 10.5 games in the wild card race - and we all know what happened.

In 1968, the Cardinals advanced to the World Series with such ease, it may have given their fans a false sense of security that they were invincible.  Reality usually lies somewhere between the perception of invincibility and hopeless ineptitude.

We just never know what's going to happen in major league baseball from one day to the next - so it's best to simply enjoy the ride.

Friday, August 22, 2014

August 22, 1982 - "Brummer's Stealing Home!"

Sunday, August 22, 1982 - At Busch Stadium II (Joaquin Andujar - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Francisco Giants (Atlee Hammaker - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  46,821

No one in their right mind would have imagined it.  No one in their right mind would have attempted it.  But it happened anyway.  In the bottom of the twelfth-inning in a tie ballgame with the San Francisco Giants, the Cardinals had just loaded the bases with two out.  In the batter's box was David Green and on third base was an antsy Glen Brummer.  As Giants reliever Gary LaVelle began his windup, Brummer suddenly bolted towards home plate.  Home plate umpire Dave Pallone - no stranger to controversial calls - ruled Brummer safe at home.  The Giants vehemently argued that the pitch taken by Green was in the strike zone - for what should have been a third strike.  Pallone insisted it was a ball - and even if he had second thoughts, it was too late to do anything about it once the pandemonium on the field erupted - which began about one second after his "safe" call.

Perhaps the Cardinals caught a break - but those things tend to even out over the course of a season.  One thing is certain:  From that day forward, whenever the name "Glen Brummer" pops up in a conversation throughout Cardinal Nation, it will invariably be linked to that audacious 12th-inning walk-off theft of home in the middle of a heated pennant race.  It was perhaps the single most defining moment of the entire regular season for the Redbirds.

Even before that crazy finish, this game had its share of drama.  The Cardinals struck first off Giants starter Atlee Hammaker - scoring a second-inning run on back-to-back doubles by George Hendrick and Gene Tenace.

Then in the fourth-inning, with Hendrick on first base with two out, Willie McGee homered to give St Louis a 3-0 lead.

Cards starter Joaquin Andujar pitched five innings of scoreless ball before unraveling in the sixth.  A one-out two-run double by Jack Clark preceded a Darrell Evans single to bring home the Ripper.  After Dave Bergman lined another single wihch advanced Evans to third, manager Whitey Herzog yanked his Dominican Dandy in favor of the lefty reliever - John Martin.  The first batter he faced - Milt May - scored Evans from third with the go-ahead run on a ground out to second - but Martin did a nice job of damage control just to keep it a 4-3 deficit.  Martin departed after pitching a scoreless seventh - then Doug Bair added two more perfect innings of relief.

The Cardinals were still down 4-3 entering their half of the ninth-inning - as closer Greg Minton tried to nail it down for Frank Robinson's squad.  He struck out the first batter he faced - Ozzie Smith - but hit the next batter with a pitch - the speedy David Green - who wasted no time in stealing second with Tommy Herr batting.  Green then took off for third - but Herr grounded out to the shortstop - perhaps foiling another successful steal by Green.

With the Cardinals down to their last out, Ken Oberkfell came through with the game-tying hit - a double into right field.  This one was heading into extra innings.

Jim Kaat came out of the Cardinal bullpen to pitch the tenth-inning.  The first batter he faced - Will Venable - stirred up some trouble with a double.  Then with Joe Morgan batting and Glen Brummer now catching, Morgan lifted a foul popup behind home plate - which Brummer dropped.  Kaat - the cool professional - gave his young catcher a look that said, "Shucks, don't worry about it kid!"  He struck Morgan out on the next pitch.

After walking Chili Davis intentionally - Kaat then induced pinch hitter Jim Wohlford to ground one to Tommy Herr for the easy 4-6-3 double play to end the threat.

The Cardinals threatened to end it in the eleventh - but luckily, they kept the game going - for the twelfth-inning Glen Brummer Show.  Herr was stationed on third with one out - after he was picked off first by the new Giants pitcher - Gary LaVelle - but first baseman Dave Bergman forgot to catch the ball.  However, pitcher Jeff Lahti was the next batter - and he could only hit a weak ground ball back to the pitcher - as Herr had nowhere to run.  For a split second, it appeared Keith Hernandez might end it - but his line drive was snared by Bergman this time - probably more in self-defense than anything else.

After Lahti finished his perfect 1.1 inning stint, LaVelle returned to the mound to face the Cardinals in the fateful twelfth-inning.  After Hendrick flew out to left to start the inning, our hero - Brummer - always up there hacking - singled to left.  It's interesting to note - in 64 plate appearances in 1982 - Brummer rarely saw a pitch he didn't like.  He never walked.  In other words, this kid appeared to be too impatient to waste time dilly dallying around - which may explain why he suddenly bolted for home plate out of the blue a few minutes into the future.

Willie McGee - who homered earlier in this game - lined a single to left, as Brummer showed great restraint by stopping at second base.  After Julio Gonzalez was retired on a foul popup to the suddenly sure-handed Bergman at first base - Ozzie kept the inning alive with an infield single off the pitcher's glove.

Holy cow, the bases were now loaded.  What happened next was described by the astonished Mike Shannon on the Cardinals' radio network:  "Brummer's stealing home!"

Yes, he was safe - raising his season stolen base total to two (he had four in his brief major league career).

Most importantly, the NL East division-leading Cardinals (71-52) didn't lose any ground to the Phillies - who also won on this Sunday afternoon - so they were still two games behind the Runnin' Redbirds in the tight NL East race.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

August 21, 1964 - Cards' 3-Run 9th at Candlestick Burns Giants - 6-5

Friday, August 21, 1964 - At Candlestick Park (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Francisco Giants (Bob Hendley - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  19,644

Trailing by two runs with two outs and a runner on first in the top of the ninth-inning at Candlestick Park - the Cardinals managed to score three times for an improbable 6-5 win over the San Francisco Giants.  With this unlikely victory, the fourth-place Redbirds managed to keep pace with first-place Philadephia - who had already beaten Pittsburgh.  That's the good news.  The bad news:  The Cardinals were still ten games out of first place.  No big deal.

The Cardinals got off to a flying start off Giants starter Bob Hendley - scoring two first-inning runs when Ken Boyer doubled home Curt Flood from second and Dick Groat from first - staking Curt Simmons to an early lead.

Unfortunately, Simmons quickly relinquished that lead in the bottom of the first.  After lead-off hitter Harvey Kuenn doubled, Hal Lanier advanced him to third with a single.  Simmons then managed to strike out Willie Mays, but Orlando Cepeda brought in Kuenn with a sacrifice fly to cut the lead in half.  Next up - Jim Ray Hart - homered to give the Giants a 3-2 lead.

The situation worsened when San Francisco added another run in the second off the veteran St Louis southpaw.  Jim Davenport tripled to start the Cardinals' bullpen stirring.  This was going to be a very short outing for Simmons, who did manage to strike out Tom Haller - but he was unable to prevent Bob Hendley from bringing in the run with a well-executed squeeze bunt.  Simmons retired Hendley as second baseman Julian Javier covered first for the putout.  However, after Kuenn tripled, manager Johnny Keane had seen enough - bringing in Bob Humphreys to face Lanier - and he got him to retire the side.

After the Cardinals failed to score in the third-inning, the Giants added another run in the bottom half - when Cepeda got his second RBI of the game with a solo home run.  San Francisco now had a 5-2 lead - but that would be the last run they'd score in this game.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals scored an unearned run in the fifth-inning.  Curt Flood led-off with a single - but Lou Brock was called out on strikes.  Then, with Flood running on the pitch - Dick Groat hit a routine ground ball to third baseman Hart - who made an errant throw to first which Cepeda was unable to dig out of the dirt.  With runners on first and second, Boyer got his third RBI of the game with a base hit that scored Flood.

The Cardinals, trailing by a 5-3 score, started the sixth-inning in promising fashion with a triple by Mike Shannon.  However, backup catcher Bob Uecker demonstrated why he was the backup catcher - by popping up to the second baseman for out number one.  After pinch hitter Carl Warwick walked, manager Al Dark made a pitching change - bringing in Jim Duffalo to face Curt Flood - who struck out.  Brock then grounded out to end the threat.

The Cardinals again threatened in the seventh-inning, with Dick Groat leading off with a triple.  Ken Boyer then walked - but Duffalo got Bill White on a pop up to the second baseman.  With Julian Javier due up next, Keane decided to pinch hit for him - with the veteran Bob Skinner - but he struck out.  Shannon then grounded out to the second baseman, who forced Boyer at second - unassisted.

After the Cardinals went quietly in the eighth-inning, it was the Giants' turn to squander a golden scoring opportunity in the bottom half.  With Ron Taylor now pitching for St Louis, Jesus Alou led-off with a single to right field.  Next up - Jim Davenport - reached on an infield single which shortstop Dick Groat fielded, but couldn't make a play.  But then Taylor induced Tom Haller to ground one to Dal Maxvill at second base - who entered the game as a replacement for Javier - who left the game when Skinner pinch hit for him in the seventh.  Maxvill flipped the ball to Groat who turned the easy double play.  Alou was on third with two out, but the next batter was the pitcher - Duffalo - who struck out to end the inning.

Duffalo returned to the mound to face the Cardinals in the ninth-inning - trying to protect a 5-3 lead.  Brock led-off with a single - but the next two batters - Groat and Boyer - were both retired on ground balls to the second baseman, as Brock advanced to second.  The next batter - Bill White - who represented the tying run - was intentionally walked - bringing the light-hitting Dal Maxvill to the dish.  Javier's replacement in the lineup promptly lined a single to left field - scoring Brock - and putting the tying run - White, who was intentionally walked - in scoring position.

Mike Shannon then lined a single to center to score White - and when second baseman Hal Lanier inexplicably missed the throw from Mays - Maxvill came all the way around to score the go-ahead run - and Shannon advanced to third while the Giants were running around trying to stop that runaway ball.

A stunned Jim Duffalo was relieved of duty by this time - as the veteran lefty Billy Pierce finally stopped the bleeding by getting pinch hitter Jerry Bucheck on a fly ball to a bewildered Mays in center.

Out of the Cardinal bullpen to close out the game came their new secret weapon - knuckle ball specialist Barney Schultz - who retired Kuenn on a ground ball to the shortstop - then induced pinch hitter Duke Snider to ground out harmlessly to second.  Schultz recorded his sixth save of the season by getting Willie Mays - who had a home run cut - to pop out to Groat at shortstop to end it.

The Cardinals had come back from the dead to win this game - but after dropping the final two games of this series, St Louis would slip to eleven games back of Philadelphia on August 23 - the low-water mark for the entire season.  The most remarkable finish to any major league season was in store, although nobody could have possibly imagined what was about to transpire.

One thing Cardinal fans know for sure, fifty years later:  It's a good thing they won this game.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

August 20, 2006 - Cards' 4-Run 1st-Inning Sinks Cubs

Sunday, August 20, 2006 - At Wrigley Field (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Juan Mateo - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,485

The Cardinals jumped on Cubs rookie pitcher Juan Mateo for four first-inning runs - featuring a solo home run by Chris Duncan and the big blow - a three-run job by Juan Encarnacion.  That was enough run support for Chris Carpenter (8 IP - 7 H - 2 R - 0 BB - 7 SO) - although they added a ninth-inning insurance run for good measure.  When closer Jason Isringhausen gave up a lead-off home run to Aramis Ramirez in the bottom half of the ninth, the St Louis lead was trimmed to two again - but nobody else reached base.  The 5-3 final improved Carpenter's season record to 12-6 - as the Cardinals (66-57) maintained a two and a half game lead on Cincinnati in the NL Central.

For Mateo, who recovered after that horrendous first inning to throw zeros for the next six innings - the damage had been done.  He would suffer his first major league loss, after winning in his August 3 debut - allowing two earned runs in five innings of work to beat the D-backs.  He would continue to struggle for the remainder of the season - finishing with a 1-3 record in ten starts - and an ERA close to 6.00.  That was it.  His big-league career would be over, at the tender age of twenty-three.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals - beset by injuries - were barely able to reach the postseason dance.  They put together an improbable championship run with well-timed peak performances from several key players to win it all.  But the team was in transition - slipping to a sub-.500 season the following year.  But a few key trades and development of new talent would bring the franchise new life.  By 2011, they would be back on top of the baseball world again.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

August 19, 1968 - Gibson's Best: 2-Hit Shutout of Phillies

Monday, August 19, 1968 - At Connie Mack Stadium (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Woody Fryman - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  12,278  

Major league baseball's best pitcher in 1968 - Bob Gibson - had his best performance of the year - shutting out the Phillies on two hits - as the Cardinals scored twice as many runs as they really needed to win this game:  Two.  Strangely enough, both runs were driven in by seldom-used utility outfielder Ron Davis, who got the start in center field tonight, as manager Red Schoendienst gave Curt Flood a rare night off.

Davis put the Cardinals on top early.  His second-inning single off Phillies starter Woody Fryman scored Mike Shannon from second base to stake Gibson to a 1-0 lead.  Although Fryman completed the inning with no further scoring, he was removed from the game by manager Bob Skinner prior to the start of the third-inning.  In all likelihood, Fryman suffered a minor injury of some sort - although that is unclear.  What we do know for certain is Woody was going to get tagged with the loss (11-12).

The next pitcher for Philadelphia - John Boozer - managed to keep the Redbirds scoreless until the eighth-inning - when a lead-off triple by Phil Gagliano stirred up some excitement.  Bobby Tolan entered the game as a pinch runner - but was still stuck at third after Orlando Cepeda popped up to the second baseman - and with the infield playing in - Mike Shannon grounded out to the first baseman - who made the play unassisted.  Next up - Tim McCarver was walked intentionally to get to the light-hitting Davis - who foiled the strategy by lining a single to center - scoring Tolan.

Before all that happened, Gibson had been cruising along with a no-hitter through the first five innings.  A two-out first-inning base on balls to Johnny Briggs had been the only Philadelphia base runner.  But as fate would have it, the first hit allowed by Gibson was a one-out seeing-eye single to center by none other than John Boozer.  It would be his only hit in eleven plate appearances in '68.  Go figure.

The only other hit Gibson allowed came with two-out in the eighth-inning.  After walking Clay Dalrymple, pinch hitter Johnny Callison - batting for Boozer - grounded a single to center.  But that was the extent of the Phillies' offense tonight.  Tony Taylor - representing the lead run - tried to hit one out, but his lazy fly ball to hitting star Ron Davis was an easy out.

Gibson, who finished the night with eleven strike outs, got the free-swinging Dick Allen for the fourth time - to finish 'em off in style.  His record improved to 18-5 on the season, as his ERA fell to an even 1.00 - on the way to 1.12 by season's end.

Meanwhile, to further illustrate the kind of year 1968 was in major league baseball - there were eight other games played on August 19 - and half of those also produced shutouts - the most notable of which took place between the New York Mets and San Francisco Giants at Shea Stadium.  It took seventeen-innings before the Giants finally scored the lone run of the game.  Mets rookie starter - Jerry Koosman - pitched a full twelve innings before finally being taken out of the game.  Giants starter - Bob Bolin - only made it through eleven innings.  Pitch counts?  Nobody bothered to keep track of such nonsense.

Monday, August 18, 2014

August 18, 2000 - Down 6-0, Cards Walk-Off with 7-6 Win Over Phillies

Friday, August 18, 2000 - At Busch Stadium II (Rick Ankiel - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Robert Person - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  46,253

In a game that took an excruciating three hours and forty-three minutes to complete, the Cardinals rallied from a six run sixth-inning deficit to walk-off with a 7-6 win over the Phillies - thanks in large part to twelve walks issued by five different Philadelphia hurlers.

Cardinal starter Rick Ankiel had control issues of his own - walking three batters in 4.1 innings pitched.  His trouble started in the fourth-inning when Philadelphia scored three times - the first run scoring on a bases loaded passed ball by backup catcher Carlos Hernandez, which preceded a two-run Kevin Jordan single.

Meanwhile, Phillies starter Wild Robert Person managed to keep the Cardinals scoreless on two hits through five innings, despite walking six batters.  However, a high pitch count (111) prompted manager Terry Francona to go to the bullpen a bit early in this contest.

By that time, the Phillies had tacked on three more runs - two of which were charged to Ankiel - who was removed after loading the bases with one out in the fifth.  Reliever Gene Stechschulte's first order of business was to walk the first batter he faced, to give Philly a 4-0 lead - then Lieberthal's sacrifice fly made it 5-0.

The lead was extended to six-zip on an Arias sacrifice fly in the sixth-inning.  After that, the Cardinal bullpen restored order - while the Phillies' created calamity.

The Redbirds finally broke through with a run in the bottom of the sixth off reliever Wild Wayne Gomes.  Fernando Tatis led-off with a double, advanced to third on a wild pitch - then scored on Edgar Renteria's ground out to the shortstop.

After Gomes walked Polanco leading off the seventh for St Louis, Francona went to the bullpen again - bringing in Wild Ed Vosberg to face Fernando Vina - who singled to left field.  Next up - J.D. Drew - walked to load the bases for Jim Edmonds - who also walked, to make it a 6-2 game.  After Will Clark struck out, Francona brought in Wild Vincente Padilla to walk in another run - Tatis had the honor on this particular bases loaded freebie.  Ray Lankford then hit a sacrifice fly to put the Redbirds within two runs of tying this mess up.

Francona patiently let Padilla work his way through a two-run eighth-inning - which began with Hernandez hitting a ground ball to Scott Rolen at third - and the normally sure-handed Rolen couldn't find the handle - for a very costly error.  After Polanco walked, Vina moved the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt - and Drew drove them in with a single back up the middle.  Holy cow, the game was now tied - 6-6.

The fifth and final pitcher for Philadelphia - Wild Chris Brock - issued a one-out walk - the twelfth of the game by Phillies pitchers - to Ray Lankford - followed by pinch hitter Eric Davis' single to right field - advancing Lankford to third.  Brock certainly didn't want to be the guy to walk the thirteenth batter in this game (it's bad luck) - so he threw strikes to Carlos Hernandez - who hit one of them safely into left field for the game winner - a walk-off winner - which seemed appropriate on a night that featured seventeen time-consuming walks between the two teams.

Jason Christiansen - the fifth St Louis pitcher in this game - got the final two outs in the top of the ninth to pick up the win (3-8).  He didn't even walk anybody.

For the fans now filing out of the ballpark after witnessing a game that dragged on for nearly four hours - at least it was the weekend, so most of them could sleep late on Saturday.

Sunday, August 17, 2014

August 17, 1982 - Hernandez Lifts Cards to Walk-Off Win Over Padres

Tuesday, August 17, 1982 - At Busch Stadium II (Joaquin Andujar - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Diego Padres (Eric Show - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  27,679

Keith Hernandez scored the first run and drove in the final run in a 3-2 walk-off win over the San Diego Padres.  Bruce Sutter - who entered the game in relief of Joaquin Andujar in the ninth-inning, inheriting a runner on second with no out - got out of the jam and got the win - improving to 8-5 on the season.  This win, coupled with the Phillies' loss in Montreal, gives the Cardinals (68-50) a two-game lead in the tight NL East race.

It was a lead-off triple by Keith Hernandez in the sixth-inning - followed by a sacrifice fly off the bat of George Hendrick - that broke a scoreless tie.  For Padres starting pitcher Eric Show, it was only the third hit  surrendered in the game.

San Diego answered back with a pair of runs in the seventh-inning.  Broderick Perkins' two-out double scored Terry Kennedy from first - then Tim Flannery drove in Perkins with a single to center - and when Willie McGee booted the ball - Flannery kept running all the way to third base.  The next scheduled hitter - pitcher Eric Show - was removed for a pinch hitter - former Cardinal Sixto Lezcano - who was retired on a fly ball to Lonnie Smith in left field.  The decision by manager Dick Williams to remove Show from the game with a one-run lead - when he had been pitching brilliantly - may have been a favor to the Cardinals.

With Gary Lucas now pitching for the Padres, Ken Oberkfell greeted him with a lead-off seventh-inning single to right field.  Ozzie Smith then said hello to his former teammate with a run-scoring double to left.  Andujar got into the act, screaming "Say hello to my little friend!" - ripping the third straight hit off Lucas - a single to left - advancing Ozzie to third.

Next up - Tommy Herr - hit into some bad luck.  His line drive was hit directly to second baseman Flannery, who then doubled an absent-minded scar-face Andujar - who apparently thought the ball was not going to be caught - off first base.  Lucas managed to escape further damage - but in his first inning of work he had allowed the same number of base hits Show had allowed in six innings.

It appeared Andujar's base running blunder might come back to haunt the Cardinals when Terry Kennedy led-off the ninth-inning with a double.  At that point, manager Whitey Herzog brought in his miracle worker - Bruce Sutter - to bail the Redbirds out of this precarious situation - and he did - with a little help from his shortstop - actually, a lot of help from his shortstop.

After the Padres' catcher started the ninth with that two-base hit, Joe Pittman entered the game as Kennedy's pinch runner - representing the lead run.  After Jim Lefebvre moved the runner up to third with a sacrifice bunt, the Cardinal infield moved in - hoping for a ground ball to one of the infielders to keep the runner from scoring.  The strategy paid off - in an unconventional manner.  The next hitter - Luis Salazar - ripped a hard hit ground ball to Ozzie's right - who made a diving back-hand stop - freezing Pittman at third.  Salazar got the hit, but Ozzie saved the run.

Sutter then got Perkins on a pop fly to Ozzie - and Flannery on a ground out to Herr.

Leading off the bottom of the ninth was none other than The Wizard himself - Ozzie Smith - who received his second standing ovation from the appreciative fans for his game-saving stop.  Smith coaxed a walk off the doomed Lucas - then advanced to second on Mike Ramsey's sacrifice bunt.  Herr was intentionally walked to set up a possible double play - but Lonnie Smith was the next batter - who rarely hit into double plays.

Williams then brought in Luis DeLeon to pitch to Lonnie - who also walked - to load the bases for Keith Hernandez.  With no place to put him, DeLeon gave Hernandez a pitch he could handle - and Keith lined it into right for the game winner.

Three walks and a hit.  A typical Cardinal rally for a team that knew how to manufacture runs - and knew how shut down the opponent's chances to manufacture runs - with some pretty slick fielding.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

August 16, 1967 - Errors & Ejections Highlight Walk-Off Win Over Cubs

Wednesday, August 16, 1967 - At Busch Stadium II (Nelson Briles - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Joe Niekro - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,228

The Cardinals completed a three-game sweep of the Chicago Cubs with a frenetic 4-3 walk-off win - scoring a pair of unearned runs in a ninth-inning that featured three Cubs' ejections stemming from three separate controversial calls - from three separate umpires.  Ah, those were the good old days - before the technological advances enabled instant replay to settle disputes - because watching Leo Durocher go ballistic was generally quite entertaining.

Prior to the ninth-inning Chicago meltdown, the game began with a rare base running blunder featuring the game's premier stolen base artist - Lou Brock.  The Cards' lead-off hitter singled off Cubs starter Joe Niekro to open the first-inning for St Louis - then with Curt Flood batting - Brock stole second.  When Flood also lined a single to center, third base coach Joe Schultz gave Lou the "stop" sign as the throw from center fielder Adolfo Phillips was cut off by second baseman Glen Beckert - Brock, who had rounded third expecting to be waved home, looked back at Beckert, then decided to keep running for home.  Unfortunately, the brief pause at third was costly, as Beckert made a perfect throw to catcher John Stephenson just in time to nail Brock.

Meanwhile, Flood was able to advance to second while all this was going on - and later scored when Orlando Cepeda lined another single to center.  The Cardinals had a 1-0 lead, but may well have run themselves out of a big inning.

The Cubs tied it in the second-inning, although they also missed out on a big inning.  Ron Santo led-off with a single off Cards starter Nelson Briles - then after Ernie Banks struck out, Clarence Jones singled - putting runners on first and second for Stephenson - who doubled to score Santo, as Jones stopped at third.  Adolfo Phillips was intentionally walked to load the bases, hoping to induce a double play ground ball from the light-hitting pitcher - Joe Niekro.  Niekro complied, hitting it to third baseman Mike Shannon, who quickly threw to catcher Tim McCarver for the force out at home - who in turn, had plenty of time to retire Niekro lumbering down to first.

In the fourth-inning, McCarver broke the 1-1 tie with a lead-off home run.

With the score still 2-1 in favor of St Louis as the Cubs hit in the seventh-inning, Briles retired the first two batters, but Don Kessinger kept the inning alive with a single - for Glen Beckert - who established a career high with five home runs in 1967.  He got one of them here to suddenly give the Cubs a 3-2 lead - silencing the Cardinal fans - while the Cub fans became quite a bit more vociferous.  In the stands, a few isolated fisticuffs broke out - but the real action happened on the field, as the Cardinals hit in the bottom of the ninth, still down by a run.

Bill Hands, who was brought in to relieve Niekro to start the seventh-inning, was still on the mound for Chicago to work the bottom of the ninth.  He retired the first batter - Roger Maris - on a fly ball to right field - but Cepeda got a rare infield hit when his ground ball to shortstop Kessinger was too hot to handle.  Next up - McCarver hit a ground ball to Ernie Banks at first base - and in his haste to try to turn the double play - booted the ball instead.  McCarver was safe at first as Cepeda now occupied second.

As tensions rose, Shannon lined a bullet to Kessinger at short, who quickly threw to Beckert covering second to double up Cepeda - but Beckert dropped the ball.  Cepeda was safe on the error, but Beckert was livid, insisting he had possession long enough to be ruled a catch.  Second base umpire Augie Donatelli steadfastly disagreed, explaining the way it was - by this time - to the entire Cubs infield, along with their fiery manager - Leo Durocher.  After several minutes of jawing back and forth, Donatelli decided to give Leo the Lip the rest of the night off - which further incensed Durocher for a few extra minutes of profanity and dirt kicking.

Meanwhile, there was still a baseball game to be decided - and more controversy to unfold.  Next up - Julian Javier - grounded one in the hole at shortstop.  As Kessinger fielded the ball, his only play was to attempt a force out of Cepeda at third - but somehow, Cepeda was ruled safe at third by third base umpire Stan Landis.  It's not clear whether Landis ruled that Cepeda beat the throw, or whether Santo missed the bag or missed the tag.  But what is clear is Santo thought Landis should have his eyes examined, and discussed the issue - vehemently - for several minutes.  He too, was given the rest of the night off by Landis, as Paul Popovich was brought in to stand at third base for a few more minutes.

With the bases loaded - and the Cardinals down to their last out - Phil Gagliano managed to draw a game-tying base on balls - on four borderline pitches that drew the ire of Bill Hands - who vented his frustration with home plate umpire Al Barlick.  He too, was given the rest of the night off, as Cepeda performed his patented "Cha cha" dance moves all over home plate - much to the delight of the Cardinal fans and much to the chagrin of the downtrodden Cub fans.

Chuck Hartenstein was the new pitcher - taking over for the ejected and dejected Hands - as pinch hitter Alex Johnson finished 'em off with a ground ball up the middle.  Beckert managed to get a glove on the ball but had no play - everybody was safe - as McCarver raced home with the winning run.

Both runs the Cardinals scored - thanks to two errors - were unearned.  There have probably been other games in major league history that featured back-to-back-to-back ejections - but this was the only time I can remember seeing it.

After this devastating series sweep, the Cubs were now twelve games behind the Cardinals - but the good news for Chicago - they were only a game and a half out of second place - although they never quite made it there.

Friday, August 15, 2014

August 15, 2006 - Carpenter Blanks Reds on 4 Hits - 5-0

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 - At Busch Stadium III (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Aaron Harang - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  42,761

This was a big game for St Louis - and Chris Carpenter knew it.  The Cardinals had been struggling - to say the least - since the All Star break.  A loss in tonight's game would put the Reds just a half game behind the Cardinals in the NL Central - with Houston not far behind.  As far as Carp was concerned, this game was as "must win" as it gets in mid-August.

Offensively, the newest member of the Cardinals - second baseman Ronnie Belliard (acquired from Cleveland in exchange for Hector Luna on July 30) - drove in the first two runs for St Louis.  In the second-inning, his two-out single scored Scott Rolen from second base - and in the fourth-inning, he immediately followed Juan Encarnacion's one-out double with a double of his own - to provide Carpenter with a 2-0 lead.

That lead was extended in the fifth-inning.  After David Eckstein led-off with a single to center, Chris Duncan followed with a home run deep to right - one of twenty-two home runs Duncan would hit in just 95 games that season.

Albert Pujols - arguably the true NL MVP in '06 (based on WAR) - followed Duncan's blast with a double - then after moving up to third on a So Taguchi sacrifice bunt - scored when a rattled Aaron Harang uncorked a wild pitch to Rolen.  Harang managed to get through the inning with just three runs scored, but his night was over after five-innings - down 5-0.

The Cincinnati bullpen - future Cardinal Ryan Franklin and Brian Shackelford combined for three innings of scoreless relief - although it didn't matter.  Carpenter was in complete control of this game.

No relief was needed for the Cardinal ace, as he recorded the complete game shutout - allowing just four hits - walking none - and striking out six - to improve to 11-6 on the year.  Strangely enough, after this performance, Carpenter's ERA fell to 3.09 - and that's exactly where it finished when the season ended.  Most importantly, he would win four out of six decisions down the stretch - when every victory seemed so hard to come by as the Redbirds stumbled into the postseason by the slimmest of margins.

After this win, the Cardinals (63-55) were now 2.5 games ahead of the Reds (61-58) - and 6.5 games ahead of the Astros (57-62).  After a lackluster 20-23 record for the rest of the season, the Redbirds (83-78)  lost five games in the standings to Houston's 25-18 finish - who finished the season in second place (82-80).  The Reds fell to third (80-82) - thanks to their even more lackluster 19-24 finish.  Cincinnati had the opportunity to take control of the division - but it just wasn't in the cards.

By the time the postseason arrived, all that travail seemed like a distant memory.  When the Redbirds won 11 postseason games in just 16 tries, they were world champions - a big shock to practically everybody outside of Cardinal Nation.  After all, this is what the Cards did in the regular season against the three teams they faced in the postseason:  Padres (2-4) - Mets (2-4) - Tigers (0-3) - Combined:  (4-11) - Ug.

To those who thought St Louis had no chance against San Diego...absolutely no chance against New York...then who thought Detroit would sweep - all I can say is...They were due!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

August 14, 1971 - The Bob Gibson No-Hitter

Saturday, August 14, 1971 - At Three Rivers Stadium (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Johnson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  30,678

Bob Gibson had never given much thought to his prospects of pitching a no-hitter.  It didn't happen in '68 - when he had one of the most dominant seasons by a starting pitcher in baseball history.  Now, three years later - at the age of thirty-five - he was still a very good pitcher, but well past his prime.  His only concern was trying to catch the first-place Pittsburgh Pirates - a team loaded with talent and holding a 5.5 game lead over St Louis prior to this game.

The Cardinals jumped all over Pirates starter Bob Johnson for five runs on four hits in just one-third of an inning - knocking him out of the game after Joe Hague knocked a three-run home run out of the park.  In that small sample size, Johnson's earned run average was 135.00 - in case you were wondering.

The next pitcher for Pittsburgh - Bob Moose - made it through the the fourth-inning before running into more trouble in the fifth.  Ted Kubiak's two-run double scored Torre and Simmons - and Kubiak eventually scored from third on Gibson's sacrifice fly.

The next "Bob" to enter the game - Bob Veale - made it through eight innings - and like Moose, gave up three runs in his last inning of work.  A bases loaded walk to Dal Maxvill preceded Gibson's two-run single - padding the lead to 11-0.

All those unnecessary runs weren't the big story in this game.  By the time the Cardinals had scored their final run of the game, Gibson still hadn't allowed a hit.  The first batter to reach base was Milt May - who stuck out on a wild pitch in the second-inning - then reached first before Simmons could even make a throw.  Gibson would strike out two other batters in the inning - en route to a ten strikeout game.

The only other base runners for Pittsburgh came via the base on balls:  Jackie Hernandez in the third-inning - Willie Stargell in the fourth - and Bob Robertson in the seventh.

The strikeout victims:  Stargell (three times) - Robertson (twice) - May, Hernandez, Moose, Sands and Clines (one apiece).

The only "non-Bob" to pitch in this game was Gibson's former teammate - Nelson Briles - who was the pitcher the Cardinals added to the starting rotation back in '67 - when Gibson suffered a broken leg on a vicious line drive off the bat of Roberto Clemente.  Briles pitched a scoreless ninth, then watched in admiration from the Pirates' dugout as his former mentor - Gibby - got the final three outs to get that elusive no-hitter.

Gibson's final pitch of the game was a called third strike to Willie Stargell - who may not have liked the call -  but deep down inside, was happy to see his fierce rival make history.

For the joyous Cardinals, they would close out the four game series sweep on Sunday - with a come-from-behind 6-4 win - to close within 3.5 games of first in the NL East.  But that would be as close as they'd get, as the Pirates regrouped from this temporary setback to easily take the division title - then went on to win a classic seven-game World Series over Baltimore.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

August 13, 2013 - A 14-Inning Walk-Off Winner Over Pirates

August 13, 2013 - At Busch Stadium III (Adam Wainwright - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Charlie Morton - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,253

Looking back on the 2013 season - this is the game that essentially handed the NL Central division title to the Cardinals.  A loss would have left them four games behind the Pirates - which would have been their fate if not for a dropped fly ball in the ninth-inning by an otherwise excellent defensive left fielder.  What were the odds?  100 to 1?

In the end, the Cardinals would prevail in fourteen innings - thanks to a walk-off single by Adron Chambers that scored Jon Jay from second base with the fourth run of this marathon game with the Pirates.

Four hours and fifty five minutes before that dramatic conclusion, Adam Wainwright took the hill for St Louis - and fell behind quickly - on Andrew McCutchen's two-run opposite-field home run to right field.

After the Cardinals failed to score on Pirates' starter Charlie Morton in the bottom of the first - Wainwright yielded a solo home run off the bat of Jody Mercer, to give Pittsburgh a 3-0 lead.  That would prove to be the last time they'd score over the next twelve innings, as Wainwright righted the ship for the next five innings - and the bullpen took care of the other seven - although there were a couple of tense moments, just for entertainment purposes.

St Louis finally broke through on Morton in the sixth-inning.  Consecutive singles by Beltran, Craig and Holliday loaded the bases with no outs.  David Freese then hit a convenient ground ball near the bag at second - fielded by shortstop Mercer who stepped on second and threw to first to complete the double play.  Beltran scored on the play, but the rally seemed to be going down the drain, with two outs and Craig on third.  However, Jay got the run in with a clutch two-out base hit, to make it a 3-2 game.

That's where the score remained as reliever Trevor Rosenthal took over for Wainwright to begin the eighth-inning - which started ominously when Neil Walker doubled into the right field corner.  However, second base was as far as Walker would go.  The next three Pirate batters - McCutchen, Alvarez and Martin - all struck out chasing 100 mph heat.

The Cardinals still trailed 3-2 in the bottom of the ninth - facing Mark Melancon - who retired Kozma on a ground ball to the second baseman, for out number one.  Next up - Daniel Descalso lifted a routine fly ball to left field, which Starling Marte nonchalantly dropped.  Kids, this is why they tell you to use two hands when catching those fly balls - just in case the ball happens to hit the heel of the glove, you might be able to grab it with that spare hand before it falls to the ground - in this case, it fell to the ground for a two-base error - because Descalso was hustling all the way on the play - The Cardinal Way.

Melancon temporarily regrouped - striking out Matt Carpenter for the second out of the inning - but he wanted no part of Carlos Beltran - walking him on four straight pitches.  However, that meant he had to pitch to Allen Craig - who did what he did best in 2013 - hit with runners in scoring position.  In this situation, Craig scored Descalso with the tying (unearned) run - on a single to right field.  Beltran was thrown out trying to make it to third, but the damage had been done.

After the Cardinals failed to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the tenth, eleventh and thirteenth - with pitcher Seth Maness ending the latter innings by first grounding into an inning-ending double play with runners on first and third (the eleventh) and then striking out with the bases loaded (the thirteenth).  By that time, manager Mike Matheny had run out of options.

Fortunately, Maness was doing good work on the mound - especially in a nerve-wracking thirteenth-inning - when he pitched out of a bases loaded-one-out jam by getting Harrison to ground one near the third base bag - which defensive-replacement-Descalso scooped up, stepped on third and fired a strike to first to end the threat.

Just when it seemed this game would never end - with Jared Hughes on the mound for Pittsburgh - with one out in the bottom of the fourteenth, Jay reached on an infield hit to the shortstop - then with Adron Chambers batting - stole second.  Chambers then hit a slicing line drive to left which fell safely in front of left fielder Marte - but he played this one extremely well - throwing a strike to home - but just a split second too late to nail the speedy Jay - who made a very nice fade-away slide to avoid the tag.

Sam Freeman - the sixth Cardinals' pitcher used by Matheny in this game - pitched one inning of scoreless relief for the win - his first (with no losses).

It was a crucial game to win - especially from a psychological perspective.  The Cardinals felt like they were never out of any game - and for the most part, they were right.

Monday, August 11, 2014

August 12, 1982 - Cards Back on Top After 3-2 Win Over Pirates

Thursday, August 12, 1982 - At Three Rivers Stadium (Joaquin Andujar - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Ross Baumgarten - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  16,430

The Cardinals broke a scoreless tie with three fifth-inning runs - and that was just enough to beat the Pirates, thanks to a solid start by Joaquin Andujar (7 IP - 4 Hits - 2 Runs) and a strong finish by Bruce Sutter (1.2 IP - 0 Hits - 0 Runs - 2 SO).  The 3-2 win put the Redbirds back on top in the NL East - a half game ahead of the Phillies, who lost to Montreal tonight.

Pirates starter Ross Baumgarten pitched well until the fifth-inning - when the bottom of the St Louis lineup started all the trouble.  Ozzie Smith led-off with a single to left field.  Next up - Joaquin Andujar - in an apparent bunting situation - fooled everybody by lining a single to right field.  The ball was hit so hard, Ozzie had to stop at second.  After Tommy Herr advanced the runners to second and third with a sacrifice bunt, Lonnie Smith brought them home with a single to center.

With Keith Hernandez now batting, Lonnie stole second - then advanced to third when Hernandez grounded out to the shortstop.  George Hendrick then brought Smith in with a single to left, for the third and final run of the game for the Cardinals - but it was enough tonight.

Andujar held Pittsburgh scoreless through the first six innings - but Jason Thompson got the Pirates on the board with a lead-off home run in the seventh.  Andujar got the next three batters, but ran into trouble in the eighth-inning, when his control deserted him.  A lead-off walk to John Milner suddenly brought the tying run to the plate in the person of Willie Stargell.  When Andujar missed with his first two pitches to the 42-year old Pirates' slugger, Herzog had seen enough - bringing in the 43-year old Jim Kaat to pitch - who completed the base on balls - putting runners on first (Jim Smith pinch ran for Stargell) and second.

After Kaat retired Omar Moreno on a pop fly to short, Johnny Ray singled to left - bringing Milner in to score.

With just a slim one-run lead to protect, Herzog brought in Bruce Sutter for the five-out save.  He got two of the outs with one swing of Bill Madlock's bat - along with some questionable base running by Johnny Ray.  After Madlock hit a fly ball to right fielder George Hendrick - just shy of the warning track - Smith tagged up from second, and would have easily advanced to third - but Ray tried to sneak into second.  Not a good move, as Silent George threw a strike to Herr - nailing Ray to silence the Pirates' threat - not to mention the crowd.

Sutter pitched a perfect ninth - striking out the last two batters - to record his 23rd save of the season.  Andujar improved to 9-10 - and would go 6-0 down the stretch to help the Cardinals win their first-ever NL East division title.

That would prove to be the start of something big.

August 11, 1987 - Cards Win See-Saw Battle in Pittsburgh

Tuesday, August 11, 1987 - At Three Rivers Stadium (John Tudor - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Rick Reuschel - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  14,637

In a see-saw battle with the Pittsburgh Pirates, the Cardinals broke a 4-4 tie - scoring two runs in the top of the ninth - and then held on for dear life to come away with a nail-biting 6-5 win.  Ken Dayley - who pitched two perfect innings of relief - improved to 7-2, as Todd Worrell minimized the calamity in the bottom of the ninth to record his 24th save of the season.

John Tudor had a rough outing - allowing four runs in just five innings of work - but had been sidelined for most of the season after a freak dugout mishap in mid-April resulted in a smashed kneecap.  He would eventually return to form as the season progressed, but would only make sixteen starts - about half of what he would normally log had he been able to avoid any trips to the DL.

For the Pirates, Rick Reuschel was hit hard, but manager Jim Leyland left him in for a full nine innings of work, almost as if his entire bullpen crew had been kidnapped.  In nine innings, the soon-to-be-traded veteran (to San Francisco) coughed up six runs on twelve hits - but at least he got the complete game.  To the casual observer, it seemed that Leyland either lost his senses, or fell into a coma - right in the middle of a very important game.  But that's okay - the Cardinals won.

The Redbirds scored first, on Terry Pendleton's solo second-inning home run off the durable but ineffective Reuschel.

However, the Pirates quickly took the lead in the bottom of the second off a rusty Tudor - when Andy Van Slyke led-off with a single - then scored on Sid Bream's two-run shot deep to right.

St Louis tied the game in the fourth - on John Morris' two-out single - scoring Tommy Herr from third.

Pittsburgh untied it in the bottom of the fourth - on Johnny Ray's two-out solo blast.

After the Cardinals failed to score in the top of the fifth, the Pirates added another run in the bottom half - when Darnell Coles singled home Reuschel (who walked) from third.

Nursing a two-run lead, a tiring Reuschel went back to work in the sixth-inning - but couldn't hold the lead.  Ozzie Smith started the rally with an infield single which third baseman Bobby Bonilla couldn't make a play on.  Herr then doubled home Ozzie, as the Pirates bullpen was still missing in action.  Meanwhile, Leyland began nodding off in the Pirates dugout, incredibly, with a lit cigarette dangling from his lower lip.

In the meantime, Willie McGee advanced Herr to third on a ground out to first baseman Bream - to Reuschel for the putout.  Pendleton then tied the game once again - with a base hit to center.

Herzog - who rarely fell asleep in the dugout - brought in reliever Steve Peters to pitch the sixth-inning - and he survived it - two hits but no runs.

Meanwhile, Reuschel worked a scoreless seventh and eighth, while Ken Dayley - in relief of Peters - did the same.

The Cardinals broke through again in the ninth, when Tony Pena started a one-out rally with a single to left.  Pinch hitting for Ken Dayley - Jose Oquendo - reached on another infield single which Bonilla could do nothing with.  Vince Coleman also reached on an infield single to Bonilla - loading the bases.  Concerned fans now were contacting local authorities as to the whereabouts of anyone matching the description of any relief pitcher currently under contract with the Pittsburgh Pirates organization.

Ozzie then scored Pena from third on what is referred to as a "fielder's choice".  The name and position of the "fielder" remains a mystery to this day; however, we do know that Smith was safe at first to re-load the bases for Herr - who scored Jose from third with a sacrifice fly to right field.  That ended the scoring.  As it turned out, those two extra runs were just enough to ensure victory.

Todd Worrell made things interesting in the bottom of the ninth.  Consecutive singles by Cangelosi and Bonds put runners on first and second.  The situation turned grave when the devious Al Pedrique laid down a perfect bunt which Worrell couldn't reach in time to get the speedy Pedrique.

With the bases loaded and nobody out, Worrell decided it was time to wriggle out of this predicament.  He retired R.J. Reynolds on a fly ball to right - although it scored Cangelosi from third.  Bonilla - who had a tough day in the field and especially at the plate (0 for 5) - struck out on some high heat.  Worrell then got the dangerous Van Slyke on a pop fly to Ozzie - to end this crazy game.

Reuschel took the hard-earned complete game loss (8-6) - but proved he could pitch nine innings - regardless of the circumstances.  He would make just one more start as a member of the Pirates - a six-inning no decision effort - before being shipped off to bolster the Giants' stretch run to the postseason.

Big Daddy would make two starts against the Cardinals in the '87 NLCS - losing Game 1 and getting a no decision in Game 5 - a game eventually won by the Giants.  Perhaps the biggest beneficiary of this trade were the Cardinals.  After all, had they lost Game 1, they would have lost the series to San Francisco in five games.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

August 10, 2010 - Cards Win Brawl Game in Cincinnati

Tuesday, August 10, 2010 - At Great American Ballpark (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Kickin' Johnny Cueto - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  36,964

The Cardinals and Reds wasted little time in displaying their mutual disdain - which had reached new heights when the outspoken master of "swag" (whatever that is) - Reds second baseman Brandon Phillips - felt obliged to express his feelings to the media prior to the start of a key three-game series with the Cardinals.  In a rant that lasted for several minutes, his opening line cut right to the chase:  "I hate the Cardinals!"

Phillips then proceeded to have an 0 for 5 performance in Cincinnati's 7-3 Monday night loss to the hated Cardinals.  Not long after this game was in the books, BP's harsh comments to the media had become common knowledge to everyone in the visitor's clubhouse prior to the start of Tuesday night's game.

The game started innocently enough, when Felipe Lopez led-off with a double off Johnny Cueto - then later scored from third when Albert Pujols grounded out to Dat Dude at second base.

Despite the fact that Phillips had verbally blasted the Cardinals in a profanity-laced media diatribe just twenty-four hours ago, he felt compelled to perform his little first at bat ritual - tapping the shin guard of an unappreciative Yadier Molina - his way of saying "hello" to the rival catcher.  After the initial shin guard tap, Phillips stepped away to take a few practice swings, as Molina glared as if he were trying to burn a hole in the back of Dat Dude's helmet.

It was the second greeting that really irked Yadi - who clearly wasn't in the mood to fraternize with some dude who just told the world he hated everybody wearing a Cardinal uniform.  At that point, the two opposing players began discussing the issue in a manner that typically gets the other forty-eight players - along with the managers and coaches - involved in the discourse.  Initially, it seems as though cooler heads prevail - but suddenly, even the peace-makers are becoming bellicose - and all hell is breaking loose.

By this time, heated words are being exchanged by the managers, as the melee escalates.  Suddenly, the pushing and shoving between the opposing players becomes more aggressive, as the mass of tangled bodies moves like a tidal wave, crashing against the screen behind home plate.  Chris Carpenter seems to be the primary target - his body pinned helplessly to the screen - as random punches are flying from every direction.  Some of the players in the middle of this scrum are now on the ground.  Backup catcher Jason LaRue is one of them - and he's now being pummeled with a series of kicks to the head by the despicable Johnny Cueto.

Eventually, after seven minutes of the rumble, the warring parties retreat back to the safety of their own dugouts.  Most of the players escaped with a few scrapes and bruises.  Carpenter was lucky to avoid a trip to the DL - although he was bruised and battered.  LaRue wasn't as fortunate - suffering a severe concussion - which essentially ended his career.

When play resumes, only the managers - Tony LaRussa and Dusty Baker - are ejected from the game.

Jaime Garcia manages to retire the side in order, as Molina storms back to the Cardinals' dugout - eager to take his turn at bat - which comes with one out in the second.  Working the count full, he finally gets a pitch he can handle - depositing it in the left field bleachers for a crowd-silencing home run - one of only six home runs he'd hit all season.

After the Reds tie the game in the third, the Cardinals regain the lead in the sixth.  After Pujols leads off with a single, Matt Holliday brings him in with a double - then scores when Colby Rasmus also doubles.  When right fielder Chris Heisey boots the ball, Rasmus advances to third - giving Molina another RBI with a sacrifice fly to right.

The Reds answer back in the bottom of the sixth with Fernando Salas now pitching for St Louis.  After getting the first out, Salas walks the next two batters - Votto and Rolen - then strikes out Johnny Gomes.  Then the newest member of the Reds - Jim Edmonds - pinch hits for Heisey - and also draws a base on balls - to load the bases for Drew Stubbs - who singles to left to score Votto and Rolen - but Edmonds is thrown out trying for third.  Ten years ago - his first season as a Cardinal - he might have made it.  Although still a productive hitter, his wheels were now gone - and he now knew it.  His great career would end in Cincinnati - a venue which saw him make two of the greatest catches by a center fielder in baseball history.

Nursing a slim 5-4 lead, the Cardinals put the game away with three runs in the seventh - the big blow being a bases loaded single off the bat of Holliday - scoring not only the lead runners - Ryan and Jay - but also Pujols when left fielder Gomes kicked the ball.

That ended the scoring, and Ryan Franklin ended the game by getting Phillips to ground out to second with two runners on base.  The Redbirds completed the three-game sweep the following night with a decisive 6-1 win over what seemed to be a disoriented Reds team.  St Louis came to town in second place - one game behind Cincinnati.  They left town in first place - one game ahead of Cincinnati.

Somehow, the Cardinals lost all that momentum when they returned home - losing two out of three to the Cubs - as the Reds were busy sweeping the Marlins on the road.  Just like that, the Cardinals were back in second place, to stay.  That was a very weird season - an under-achieving season.  A season that produced a winning record against their newest bitter rivals - the Reds - winning 12 of 18 games.  But inexplicably, they were a combined 21-32 against five of the weakest teams in baseball - all with sub-.500 records:  Cubs, Astros, Brewers, Marlins and Royals.

Fortunately for the Cardinals, they were able to put the disappointment of 2010 behind them - with the miracle of 2011.  Still, the improbability of losing with such startling regularity to the dregs of MLB in 2010 has me shaking my head to this day.