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.