Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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.

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