Tuesday, September 30, 2014

September 30, 2006 - 3-Run 8th-Inning Rally Puts Cardinals in Postseason

Saturday, September 30, 2006 - At Busch Stadium III (Jeff Suppan - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Brewers (Ben Sheets - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  44,294

The difference between the Cardinals winning the NL Central and advancing into the postseason and losing the division title - and going home early - really boiled down to the three-run eighth-inning rally the eventual World Series champions put together in this game - to turn a 2-0 deficit into a crucial 3-2 win over the Milwaukee Brewers.

That was a close call, fans.  Of course, any season that hinges on one or two games between postseason glory or postseason tee times - can be identified by reviewing the events in one key inning, or one key at bat.  In this particular case, a couple of managerial decisions on the part of Tony LaRussa late in this game impacted the long term benefits Cardinal fans would ultimately enjoy - namely, a tenth world championship trophy for this storied franchise.

First things first.  Prior to this game, the Cardinals had won just eleven times in September - losing sixteen times.  On September 28, their once comfortable NL Central lead had dwindled to an alarming one-half game over the defending National League champion Houston Astros.

After a much-needed win on Friday night, coupled with a Houston loss in Atlanta, the lead was back to a game and a half as the Cardinals and Brewers prepared to do battle on this beautiful Saturday afternoon in St Louis.

Both starting pitchers - Jeff Suppan and Ben Sheets - were on top of their games today - neither allowing a single run to cross the plate through the first six innings.

But then in the top of the seventh-inning, the Brewers rallied.  With one out, back-to-back singles by Geoff Jenkins and Corey Hart suddenly had runners on first and second.  After David Bell lined out to Preston Wilson in left field, Mike Rivera walked to load the bases.

Brewers nanager Ned Yost, trying to capitalize on this scoring opportunity, inserted pinch hitter Jeff Cirillo in to bat for Ben Sheets.  It was a good move, as Cirillo lined a single to center, scoring Jenkins and Hart, to give Milwaukee a 2-0 lead.

Although they were now behind by a couple of runs, the Cardinals were probably glad to get Sheets out of there.  Although he'd given up seven hits in six innings of work, Sheets had also fanned seven - including striking out the side in the sixth.

Reliever Jose Capella pitched an uneventful bottom of the seventh for Milwaukee, but the eighth-inning would be quite a different story.  Albert Pujols started the fun with a lead-off single to right.  After Wilson struck out, Scott Rolen doubled down the left field line - advancing Pujols to third.

Yost went to his bullpen again - bringing in lefty reliever Brian Shouse to face Jim Edmonds - instead, LaRussa sent pinch hitter Juan Encarnacion to bat - who received an intentional walk to load the bases.

Yost went to the bullpen again, bringing in Francisco Cordero to face Ronnie Belliard - who lined out to left field for the second out.  It was getting late - not only in this game - but the for the entire season - which seemed to be slipping away into non-postseason hell at this point - especially with Cordero now pitching for Milwaukee.  Acquired on July 28 from the Texas Rangers for some young outfielder by the name of Nelson Cruz - Cordero had been nothing short of sensational - posting a 1.69 ERA in twenty-four innings - and on the verge of wrapping this one up.

Due up was Yadier Molina - who wasn't much of a hitter early in his career.  LaRussa knew it was now or never for his fading team - sending in the future postseason cult hero - Scott Spiezio - up to bat for Yadi - and he delivered the biggest hit of his career - at least up to this point - a bases-clearing triple deep to right field.  Suddenly, the Cardinals had climbed out of the abyss - taking a 3-2 lead heading into the ninth-inning.

Tyler Johnson - who had worked a scoreless eighth-inning for St Louis - would be in line for the win (2-4) if a young Adam Wainwright could pitch a scoreless ninth to earn his third major league save.

Waino walked one and struck out one to close this one out.  The Cardinals had come-from-behind to win a game they absolutely needed to win - especially since Houston had also won today to remain just a game and a half behind St Louis.

As fate would have it, the Astros would lose again on Sunday, October 1 - and so would the Cardinals - to remain a game and a half in front of Houston - with just one game left on the schedule - a game that was previously rained-out.  Thanks to the mathematical impossibility of St Louis blowing that lead, the Redbirds didn't have to worry about playing Game 162.

St Louis finished the regular season at 83-78 - five games above .500 - but it was good enough to win the NL Central - so it was good enough to sneak into the postseason.  After eliminating the over-whelming favorites in the NLDS - the San Diego Padres - three games to one - the Cardinals advanced to the NLCS to face the over-whelming favorite New York Mets - who were beaten, four games to three.

On to the World Series, to play the extremely overwhelmingly favored Detroit Tigers - who even had home-field advantage going for them.  The only thing they didn't have going for them were a whole lot of wins.  St Louis crushed them - four games to one - much to the shock and dismay of practically everyone outside of Cardinal Nation.

The Cardinals' postseason record:  11-5 - six games above .500 - marking the first time in history a team had ever gone higher above .500 in the postseason than they had in the regular season.  The cover of Sports Illustrated - capturing the essence of this upset - displayed a photo of a jubilant World Series MVP David Eckstein on the cover - arms extended high over his head - with the appropriate caption:  "Get Over It" - but I don't think a lot of bitter fans from other championship-deprived franchises really have gotten over it.

Come to think of it, the outcome of the 2011 World Series seemed to have surprised and disappointed the disgruntled masses once again.  Of course, heading into the 2014 postseason, the Cardinals are huge underdogs again.  In fact, odds-makers have given the wild card Pittsburgh Pirates a better shot of winning the World Series.  Go figure.

Of course, that's just the way the Cardinals seem to prefer it - playing the role of the underdog.

Monday, September 29, 2014

September 29, 1964 - Cards Grab Share of First-Place with Win Over Phillies

Tuesday, September 29, 1964 - At Busch Stadium I (Ray Sadecki - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Dennis Bennett - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  27,433

In the second game of a three-game series, the Cardinals finally grabbed a share of first-place in the tight National League pennant race with a 4-2 win over the reeling Philadelphia Phillies - who had fallen into third-place - a game and a half behind the Cardinals and the Cincinnati Reds - who were beaten tonight at home by the Pittsburgh Pirates, by a 2-0 score.

The Pirates were no doubt in a foul mood when they arrived in Cincinnati - after losing five straight at home to the Cardinals.  The rare five-game series sweep catapulted the Redbirds into second-place as the season moved into the final week of the season.  After '64, the only other time St Louis has swept a five-game series was in 1982 - when they victimized the New York Mets in another September postseason drive - which also happened to coincide with a world championship season.

This particular game marked the Redbirds' seventh straight win - sending the Phillies to their ninth straight loss.  St Louis would get the series sweep the following night to cap off the worst ten days in Philadelphia Phillies' history - which began with a disastrous 0-7 home-stand (September 21 - 27) and continued with this three-game series sweep at the hands of the Cardinals (September 28 - 30).

The Cardinals wasted little time in taking command of this game - scoring a first-inning run on an RBI double by Dick Groat - then tacking on two more runs in the second-inning on three hits - and in the process, chased Phillies starter Dennis Bennett (12-14) out of the game after just 1.1 innings of work.  The Philadelphia bullpen (five relievers) did a credible job, aside from a sixth-inning solo home run off the bat of Bill White which John Boozer allowed in his thee-inning stint.

Cardinal starter Ray Sadecki limited the Phillies to a pair of runs in 6.2 innings pitched - both scoring on a pinch hit bases loaded single by Gus Triandos.

After Sadecki found himself in a two-out seventh-inning jam - runners on first and third with Dick Allen coming up to bat - manager Johnny Keane went to the bullpen - bringing in Barney Schultz - who not only got out of this jam - finished off the Phillies in the eighth and ninth-innings - allowing no hits, just one walk, while striking out two.

Sadecki (20-10) got the win, as Schultz bagged his 13th save of the season.

The season was winding down to the final weekend.  A wild finish was definitely in order.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

September 28, 2011 - Carpenter's 2-Hit Shutout Punches Wild Cards' Ticket to Postseason Party

Wednesday, September 28, 2011 - At Minute Maid Park (Chris Carpenter - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Brett Meyers - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  24,358

The Cardinals completed their most improbable quest for postseason play since 1964, with an 8-0 win over the Houston Astros.  Chris Carpenter had his most dominant outing of the season - a complete game two-hit shutout, which also included eleven strikeouts and just one base on balls.  Clearly, he was primed for postseason play.

The Cardinals took command of this game from the outset - scoring five first-inning runs on seven hits.  The Redbirds tacked on another third-inning run when Carpenter got into the act with an RBI single to score David Freese - who also scored a fifth-inning run (his third of the game) on Skip Schumaker's second RBI of the game - on a run-scoring ground out.

Allen Craig added a ninth-inning solo home run to round out the scoring - for the game - and the regular season for the National League's most dominant offensive attack.

With Carpenter anchoring the starting rotation and a vastly improved bullpen, this team seemed to have all the pieces required to go all the way.  And of course, they did.

In the meantime, after this game concluded, St Louis now held a one-half game advantage over the Braves for the coveted wild card berth in the National League.  The game between the Braves and Phillies - which began an hour before this one - was still in progress - tied at three runs apiece.

As the Cardinal players gathered in the visitor's clubhouse to watch the conclusion of that game - the Phillies scored a thirteenth-inning run to take the lead.  When Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman grounded into a season-ending 3-6-3 double-play - one hour and fifteen minutes after their win in Game 162 - the Cardinals were in - and the first of four wild champagne celebrations had begun.

Three years later, the Cardinals clinched their second straight NL Central title after Reds pitcher Johnny Cueto avenged last season's embarrassing wild card loss to the Pirates - and at least for a day - was not the most despised opposing player in Cardinal Nation.

Saturday, September 27, 2014

September 27, 1982 - Finally! A Division-Clinching Win in Montreal

Monday, September 27, 1982 - At Olympic Stadium (Dave LaPoint - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Montreal Expos (Bill Gullickson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  20,175

For the first time since the advent of division play in 1969 - the Cardinals clinched their first ever NL East title - beating the Montreal Expos by a score of 4-2.  All four Cardinal runs came in the first-inning - the final three coming across on Willie McGee's exhilerating two-out-three-run inside-the-park home run.

That was the extent of the Redbird offense tonight - but it was good enough - as Dave LaPoint (9-3) put in 5.2 solid innings - allowing just one run, before reliever Doug Bair took over the mound duties for the next five outs.  Bair's only mistake was a two-out seventh-inning pitch Tim Wallach walloped for a home run, to cut the deficit to 4-2.

But that was as close as they could get.  Bruce Sutter got the final five outs (one strikeout) to record his 36th save of the season.

Montreal starter Bill Gullickson (12-13) - after that shaky four-run first-inning, settled down over the next five innings to keep St Louis in check - but the damage had already been done.

It seemed fitting that the Cardinals would wrap up their first-ever division championship against the team that burned them on Opening Day '69 - to begin twelve seasons of near misses and otherwise ineffective play for a franchise that normally prides itself on excellence.

As defending National League champions, the '69 Cardinals opened the new season with a shocking 8-7 loss to the expansion Montreal Expos.  Now, thirteen years later, they'd finally come full circle.

The best was yet to come, as this underdog team would have the audacity to beat the powerful Milwaukee Brewers in a classic seven game World Series.

Friday, September 26, 2014

September 26, 1985 - Tudor Blanks Phillies, 5-0 - Notches 20th Win

Thursday, September 26, 1985 - At Busch Stadium II (John Tudor - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Kevin Gross - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  23,598

The Cardinals completed a perfect 7-0 home-stand with a 5-0 win over the Phillies, as John Tudor went the distance - allowing just four hits to notch his twentieth win of the season.  Most importantly, the Cardinals (97-56) maintained their four game lead over the New York Mets (93-60) - as their ace - Dwight Gooden - tossed a shutout of his own - blanking the Cubs at Wrigley Field by a 3-0 score.

Tudor, who didn't walk a batter, had little trouble keeping the Phillies off the bases - aside from right fielder Glenn Wilson, who was three for three (two singles and a double).  The only other hit Tudor surrendered to anyone not named Glenn didn't happen until the ninth-inning - when third baseman Rick Schu singled.  By that time, the Redbirds had already built-up a 5-0 lead - scoring in a variety of ways - just not hitting any home runs.

Their first run came in the second-inning when Terry Pendleton - batting with Andy Van Slyke on first and Darrell Porter on third - grounded into a 6-4-3 double play while Porter scored.

Porter started a two-out fourth-inning rally with a base on balls.  Then, with Van Slyke batting, Porter surprised everyone by stealing second.  Van Slyke also drew a free pass, then both runners scored on Pendleton's triple.

Strangely enough, the fastest man in baseball - Vince Coleman also grounded into a 6-4-3 double play in the fifth-inning, with John Tudor on first and Ozzie Smith on second.  Ozzie advanced to third on the play, and scored when Willie McGee singled.  After Phillies starter Kevin Gross (14-12) retired the side, his night was over after five innings - allowing four runs on four hits and three walks.

In the sixth, with goofball Larry Andersen working in relief, Porter started another rally by getting hit with a pitch - although Van Slyke forced him at second on a ground ball to first baseman Mike Schmidt.  With Pendleton batting, Van Slyke decided the best way to atone for failing to advance Porter was to steal second - just like Porter.  Pendleton then singled him over to third, which gave the Cards the chance to execute a double steal while Ozzie was taking his turn at bat.  It worked to perfection - as Pendleton swiped second, Van Slyke made a mad dash for home - and made it, easily.

A double play, a two-run triple, a two-out single and a steal of home - that's a typical Cardinal run-scoring formula for manufacturing runs.

Tonight, with Tudor's performance, that second-inning double play grounder was all the run support needed to put this one in the "win" column.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

September 25, 1974 - One For The Ages: Come-From-Behind 13-Inning Walk-Off Win Over Pirates

Wednesday, September 25, 1974 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Ken Brett - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  41,345

The Cardinals had dropped the first two games of a three-game series with the Pirates - to fall into second-place in the NL East race - now one-half game behind Pittsburgh.  Fighting for their postseason lives, they pulled off this amazing double-comeback to regain a slim one-half game advantage over a superior Pirates team - with six games left to play.  Had the Cardinals managed to win the division title that season, this game would have gained prominence in its historic significance.  As it stands, a whole generation of Cardinal fans have grown up unaware of one of the wildest games ever played.  And the good guys even won.

              1   2   3    4   5   6    7   8   9   10  11     R    H   E
Pirates  5   0   0    0   1   2    0   0   1    0    3      12   16   3     LP:  Jim Minshall (0-1)
Cards    0   0   6    0   3   0    0   0   0    0   4       13   17   1    WP:  Mike Garman (7-2)

The Cardinals pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat tonight, with a one-of-kind come-from-behind extra-inning walk-off win over the Pirates.  In thirteen-innings, the final score:  St Louis 13 - Pittsburgh 12.  What made this game especially unique was the fact that the Pirates had taken a 12-9 lead after their turn at bat in the top half of the thirteenth, only to have the Cardinals score four runs in the bottom half.  The walk-off blow was a simple little sacrifice fly off the bat of pinch hitter Jim Dwyer that scored pinch runner Larry Herndon from third base.

What made this game even more unique is the fact that the Pirates immediately broke on top with a five-run first-inning - knocking starting pitcher Bob Forsch out of the game after retiring just one batter:  0.1 IP - 3 H - 5 R - 2 BB - 0 SO - 1 HR (That home run was a three-run bomb by Manny Sanguillen, after the Pirates had already pushed two runs across the board.)

With Forsch making an untimely early exit, manager Red Schoendienst brought Rich Folkers in from the bullpen to escape the first-inning with no further damage.  Folkers then pitched a scoreless second-inning before being removed for a pinch hitter - as the Cards tried to get something going in the bottom of the second - to no avail.

However, the top of the order would be getting something started as the Cardinals took their hacks in the third-inning - still trailing, 5-0.

Lou Brock started the rally off Pirates starter Ken Brett (George's older brother) with an infield single in the shortstop - third base hole.  Ted Sizemore advanced Brock to third with a single to left field - then Reggie Smith drove in the first run of the game for St Louis with a single to center.

Ted Simmons and Joe Torre followed with run-scoring singles - to make it a 5-3 game - before Bake McBride's grounder right back to Brett resulted in a force out at third base.  With that, manager Danny Murtaugh brought in the first of six relievers he would use - Larry Demery - who inherited runners on first and second - as Ken Reitz stepped into the batter's box.

Reitz tied the game with a double down the left field line - then came in to score when pinch hitter Jose Cruz (batting for Mike Tyson) put the Cardinals in front, 6-5 - with a base hit to right field.

As the crowd was going wild, Schoendienst decided this would be a good time to execute the hit and run play.  With Cruz bolting off first base, Claude Osteen - a pretty good hitting pitcher - hit a soft line drive to the shortstop which was quickly turned into an inning-ending double play.

Still, not a bad inning:  Six runs on seven hits.  The Cardinals had a 6-5 lead - but that lead was short-lived.

Osteen, who had temporarily restored order in the third and fourth innings, couldn't get anybody out in the fifth.  Richie Hebner led-off with a single - followed by Al Oliver's run-scoring double to tie the game, 6-6.  After intentionally walking Willie Stargell, Osteen's night was over (2 IP - 2 H - 1 R - 2 BB - 1 SO) - Al Hrabosky's weird night was just beginning.

The Mad Hungarian came into this tie game to face Dave Parker with two on and nobody out.  Force out at second.  With runners on first and third and one out, Hrabosky retired Sanguillen on a short fly ball to right - not deep enough to score the runner from third.  He then got Ed Kirkpatrick on a called third strike - as the crowd went wild.  Pittsburgh had tied the game, but Hrabosky had stolen the momentum.

Ted Simmons greeted Pirates reliever John Morlan with a base hit to right to start the bottom of the fifth for the Redbirds.  Morlan then plunked Joe Torre with a pitch - putting runners on first and second.  With Bake McBride batting, Morlan uncorked a wild pitch - advancing the runners to second and third.  McBride's sacrifice fly to left field scored Simmons - to restore the one-run lead for the Cardinals.  The next batter - Ken Reitz - gave the Cardinals a three-run lead with a bomb deep to left.

The Pirates countered with two runs in the sixth, as the Bad Mad Hungarian reared its ugly head for the first time.  After striking out Frank Taveras, Hrabosky immediately gave up a base hit to pinch hitter Ken Macha - followed by a double to Rennie Stennett.

With runners on second and third, Hrabosky retired Richie Hebner on a short fly ball to right field, for the second out - but Al Oliver brought in both runners with a single to left field.  Hrabosky avoided further damage by retiring Stargell - but the Cardinal lead was down to one run:  9-8.

Meanwhile, Pittsburgh relievers Ramon Hernandez and Dave Guisti were throwing zeroes at the Redbirds, while Hrabosky regrouped to pitch a scoreless seventh and a scoreless eighth, as the crowd kept their fingers crossed heading into the ninth-inning.

The crowd roared when The Hungarian struck out Stargell to open the ninth.  But things went bad again when Parker was hit by a pitch.  Next up - Sanguillen - lined a single to center field, which McBride misplayed - allowing Parker to score all the way from first, as Sanguillen cruised into second.  Hrabosky avoided any further damage - but the game would be heading into extra innings - tied, 9-9.

Incredibly, Hrabosky was still hanging in there, to start work in eleventh-inning.  Pinch hitter Art Howe reached on an infield single down the third base line.  Pinch running for Howe - Miguel Dilone - advanced to third on Stargell's single to right field.  Hrabosky dramatically struck out Parker for the first out - but Sanguillen gave Pittsburgh the lead with a base hit to left - then Kirkpatrick added a pair of insurance runs with a ringing double to right field.

By this time, Schoendienst finally decided to bring in a fresh arm out of the bullpen - Mike Garman - who retired the two batters he faced - Popovich and Zisk - to avoid further disaster.

Hrabosky - at times brilliant, at times brutal - had this pitching line:  6.1 IP - 10 H - 6 R - 5 ER - 0 BB - 9 SO -  Obviously, he was throwing strikes - at times, quite successfully.  Obviously, the Pirates were a free-swinging bunch - refusing to take a base on balls, getting lots of hits while striking out like major league ballplayers of the future - lots of times.

Little did anyone suspect that Mike Garman's brief 0.2 IP stint would earn him a win - but it did.

On the mound for Pittsburgh to start the bottom of the thirteenth - Juan Jimenez - would face three batters and all three batters reached base.  Sizemore singled, Smith walked and Simmons stirred the crowd into a frenzy with an RBI double.

Rookie reliever Jim Minshall entered this game with the Pirates clinging to a two-run lead, with the tying runs in scoring position and nobody out.  Good luck, kid.

The first batter - Joe Torre - grounded one to second baseman Rennie Stennett - who booted it - badly - allowing both runners to score as the slow-footed Torre rambled into second - representing the winning run.  Pinch runner Larry Herndon replaced the future managerial Hall of Famer at second base - waiting for someone to drive him in.

Next up - Bake McBride - laid down a perfect bunt - advancing Herndon to third as he beat the throw to first.  Reitz - who had a big night - tried to end it in dramatic fashion, but chased a high fastball - striking out instead.

That gave pinch hitter Jim Dwyer a chance to become a hero - and he did - with a fly ball deep enough to left field to easily score Herndon from third.  This wild three hour and forty-one minute walk-off win put the Cards back on top in the NL East race - one half game in front of the Pirates.

Unfortunately, Hollywood endings weren't written for the Redbirds in 1974.  With six games to be played, they won three of them - but one of the games on the schedule - a rain-out - was unnecessary - as Pittsburgh had already clinched the division title in their final game.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

September 24, 1964 - Gibson & Sadecki Dominate Pirates in Doubleheader Sweep

Thursday, September 24, 1964 - At Forbes Field (Bob Gibson - Game One Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Wilbur Wood - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  2,842

The Cardinals began this five-game series with the Pirates by doing exactly what they needed to do - win both ends of this doubleheader.  Bob Gibson went the distance in the first game - scattering nine hits while striking out eleven in a 4-2 Cardinal win.  The only mistake that cost him was a seventh-inning two-run home run off the bat of Donn Clendenon, after the Redbirds had already scored the first four runs of the ballgame.

The Cardinals started the game with back-to-back singles by Curt Flood and Lou Brock.  After Dick Groat was retired on grounder to the first baseman - unassisted - both runners moved up a base.

Cleanup hitter Ken Boyer was intentionally walked to load the bases - with Bill White up next - hoping to get a big hit.  Instead, Wood balked in a run (Flood), as Boyer and Brock were now perched on second and third - then White stuck out.

Then, with Julian Javier batting, Brock wandered a bit too far off the third base bag, was picked off by catcher Orlando McFarlane, and was subsequently tagged out after a brief rundown (C - 3B - C - SS) - to end the inning.

Naturally, Javier led-off the second-inning with a single that probably would have scored two runs an inning earlier.  Mike Shannon followed with a ground out to the third baseman, as Javier advanced to second.  Then with Bob Uecker batting, Wood uncorked a wild pitch, enabling Javier to take third.

With first base open, and the pitcher due up, Uecker walked.  Of course, this particular pitcher was a pretty good hitter (.206 career vs Uecker's .200) - and Gibson helped his own cause with a run-scoring sacrifice fly to center field, to give himself a 2-0 lead.

The Cardinals tacked on two more runs in the fifth.  Flood opened with a single to center field, but was forced out at second on Brock's grounder to the shortstop.  Groat then came up with the big hit - a double down the left field line - advancing Brock to third.

Boyer received his second intentional walk of the game to load the bases for Bill White - who drove in Brock and Groat with a single to right field, as Boyer advanced to third.  After Javier walked to once again load the bases, manager Danny Murtaugh brought in reliever Don Schwall to pitch to Mike Shannon - ending Wilbur Wood's shaky outing (4.1 IP - 6 H - 4 R - 6 BB - 1 SO).  Who would have thought - seven years later, pitching for the Chicago White Sox he would begin a string of five straight seasons of starting over 40 games each year?  You never know...

Who would have thought - the Cardinals would have two runners picked off third base in the same game?  But that's what happened as Shannon was at bat.  This time, it was Boyer wandering a bit too far off third, as McFarlane bagged another victim.  Shannon was then retired on a fly ball to center - which may have scored the run from third - but 50 years later, we just don't know these things.

What we do know is Clendenon's two-run home run off Gibson would conclude the scoring in game one - good enough for a much-needed win.

Game Two Starting Pitchers:  Ray Sadecki vs Tom Butters

Sadecki pitched one of the finest games of his career - a complete game five hit shutout.  He walked just one batter while striking out ten - that's 21 strikeouts in one day, folks.

The first two runs the Cardinals put on the board came via the long ball.  Brock hit a solo home run in the third-inning, then Shannon smacked one in the fifth-inning.  Those were the only runs Butters allowed in his eight innings of work.  The Cards then tacked on a couple of ninth-inning insurance runs - both charged to Don Schwall, who gave up a lead-off single to Shannon, then struck out Sadecki before Flood singled to right - advancing Shannon to second.

With that, reliever Frank Bork entered the game to pitch to Brock - who forced Flood at second on a grounder to second baseman Bill Mazeroski, as Shannon advanced to third.  At that point, Pirates' pitching achieved the rare "daily double" - two run-scoring balks.  This one - with White batting - scored Shannon, as Brock moved into scoring position - and White took advantage of the opportunity with a run-scoring double, to make it a 4-0 game.

The third pitcher in the inning - Tommie Sisk - then struck out Boyer to end the inning.

Sadecki finished 'em off in style - striking out Clendenon, Freese and Stargell to nail this one down.

At the end of the day, the Cardinals were now 3.5 games behind the first-place Phillies - who were beaten at home by the Milwaukee Braves, by a final score of 5-3.  The Reds were a half game in front of St Louis - just three games behind Philadelphia.

St Louis had just nine more games to play - Cincinnati had ten more - and Philadelphia still had the ordeal of playing eight more games.

The way the season played out was truly mind-boggling.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

September 23, 1985 - Pendleton Sparks 5-4 Come-From-Behind Win Over Pirates

Monday, September 23, 1985 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Walk - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  17,611

Terry Pendleton's two-out two-run eighth-inning triple lifted the Cardinals to a crucial 5-4 come-from-behind win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The win kept the first-place Cardinals (94-56) three games in front of the Mets (91-59) - whose 4-1 win over Philadelphia had already been posted on the scoreboard by the time the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the eighth-inning, trailing by a run.

The Pirates broke out on top early, forcing the Cardinals to play "catch up" - prior to Pendleton's eighth-inning hit that gave St Louis its first lead of the game.

Cardinals' starter Bob Forsch struggled in the early going, as Pittsburgh scored a first-inning run on a lead-off walk to R.J. Reynolds, a stolen base and Sid Bream's RBI single - then added another run in the second when Joe Orsulak's two-out double scored Tony Pena.

The Cardinals tied it in the second off Pirates' starter Bob Walk - on back-to-back singles by Darrell Porter and Andy Van Slyke, an RBI single by Mike Jorgensen and an RBI ground-out off the bat of Ozzie Smith.

The scored remained knotted at two runs apiece until the Pirates plated two more runs off a tiring Forsch in the sixth-inning.  With one out, Jim Morrison lit a fire for the Pirates with a solo home run, to take a 3-2 lead.  After Sammy Khalifa singled, advanced to second on Walk's sacrifice bunt - Orsulak drove in his second run of the game with a single - giving the Pirates a 4-2 lead - signaling the end of the night for Forsch (5.2 IP - 9 H - 4 R - 2 BB - 4 SO - 1 HR).

At that point, manager Whitey Herzog brought in reliever Pat Perry to retire the side - and he did.  After getting into a little seventh-inning trouble, reliever Bill Campbell entered the game with two on and one out, and proceeded to strike out the only two batters he faced - to keep the deficit to two runs.

The Cardinals reduced the deficit to a single run, when Pendleton doubled to start the bottom of the seventh, advanced to third on Jorgensen's fly ball to right, then scored on Ozzie's single - his second RBI of the game.  With that, Walk's night was over (6.1 IP - 6 H - 3 R - 1 BB - 3 SO).  He exited with the lead, but it was a lead the Pirates' bullpen could not protect.

After reliever Pat Clements got the final two outs in the seventh, Willie McGee greeted him with a lead-off single in the eighth.  Two outs later, McGee was still on first base as another pitching change was made - Cecilio Guante was brought in to face Cesar Cedeno.  At that point, Willie stole second, then advanced to third when the red-hot Cedeno singled to left.

With two out and runners on the corners, Pendleton came through with his two-run triple - putting the Cardinals on top for the first time in this game, 5-4.  Those five runs had been driven in by the tail-end of the batting order:  Pendleton (2), Jorgensen (1) and Smith (2) - the 6th, 7th and 8th-place hitters took care of the offensive business tonight.

Jeff Lahti (5-2) worked 1.2 innings for the win - although he needed ninth-inning relief from Todd Worrell when Bream's two-out double suddenly put the tying run in scoring position.  Worrell got the one-out save - his fourth of the season - as Herzog's Closer By Committee strategy had been modified with the arrival of the hard-throwing rookie.

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22, 1974 - Simmons Slugs Cubs with Fists & His Bat in Wild Walk-Off Win

Sunday, September 22, 1974 - At Busch Stadium II (Bob Gibson - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Steve Stone - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  43,267

Ted Simmons - who had four RBI on the day - delivered a two-out ninth-inning single, scoring Lou Brock from second base, to give the Cardinals a wild, brawl-enlivened 6-5 walk-off win over the Cubs.

It was a fitting ending for Simmons, who had been right in the middle of a benches-clearing brawl that began in the top of the ninth when Cubs batter Bill Madlock became irritated with the antics of Cards' closer - Al Hrabosky - who would step off the mound with his back to home plate, to psyche himself up prior to working to the batters.  No sooner had The Mad Hungarian positioned himself to begin his work, Madlock stepped out of the batter's box and began wandering towards the on-deck circle.  After this little cat and mouse game went on for a couple of minutes, home plate umpire Shag Crawford tried to get Madlock back in the batter's box - and when he was still wandering around, Crawford motioned to Hrabosky to begin pitching.  Al's first hurried throw in the direction of home plate was immediately called a strike.

At this point, Cubs manager Jim Marshall and the on deck hitter, Jose Cardenal got involved in the brewing melee - which eventually reached total pandemonium when Madlock and Simmons exchanged a few choice words - quickly followed by a strong right hook by Simba into the jaw of the previously jawing Cub third baseman.  By this time, both benches were in the donnybrook, and by the time order was restored, only one participant was ejected - Cubs manager Marshall.

Madlock finally stepped into the box and struck out - and then Simmons ended it with another knockout punch - but this one came with a bat in his hands.

This wild, wild win, coupled with Pittsburgh's 4-0 loss to the Mets, increased the first-place Cardinals' lead over the Pirates to 1.5 games, heading into a most bizarre final week of the season.

Back to the actual game.

Bob Gibson, nearing the end of a legendary career, had a bit of a rough start in this one, as former teammate Jose Cardenal greeted him with a first-inning RBI single - to stake Cub starter Steve Stone to a 1-0 lead.

The Cardinals struck back in the bottom half of the first, with some two-out thunder.  Reggie Smith doubled - giving cleanup hitter Ted Simmons a chance to bat with a runner in scoring position - and he cashed in, with a home run deep to right field, as the Cards grabbed a 2-1 lead.

St Louis padded that lead with a pair of third inning runs.  Brock, on his way to a major league record 118 stolen bases (since broken) - started the rally with a lead-off walk, stole second, then advanced to third when Ted Sizemore laid down a sacrifice bunt.

Next up - Reggie Smith - tripled deep to right field, scoring Brock - then came in to score when Simmons got his third RBI of the day with a sacrifice fly deep to right field.

Trailing 4-1, the Cubs scored four sixth-inning runs off a tiring Gibson, who had long since intimidated manager Red Schoendienst with a menacing glare that precluded any pitching changes - at least while Gibby was still on the mound.  Consequently, Gibson bore the full brunt of the three hits, two walks, an error, three stolen bases and a sacrifice fly that gave the Cubs a 5-4 lead.

The Redbirds tied it off Cubs reliever Oscar Zamora in their half of the sixth, when Ken Reitz - batting with runners on first and third and nobody out - grounded into a 6-4-3 double play.  The rally was squashed, Reitz was not credited with an RBI - but at least a run was in.

With the scored knotted at five runs apiece, Gibson had apparently convinced his manager to keep him in the game for just one more inning - and he pitched a 1-2-3 seventh to maintain that tie, to put himself in position for the "win" if his teammates could rally in the bottom of the seventh.

However, pinch hitter Jim Dwyer - batting for Gibson - failed to reach base.  With one out, Brock singled, stole second, but was eventually forced out at third when Simmons - after a walk to Reggie Smith - grounded one right at third baseman Bill Madlock, who stepped on the bag to end the threat.

Al Hrabosky - the eccentric southpaw whose pre-pitch ritual got on the nerves of Madlock aka Mad Dog - took over the pitching chores in the eighth-inning, and continued in the ninth - retiring all six batters he faced - two on strikes - including Mad Dog himself.  Imagine that.  The Mad Hungarian striking out the Mad Dog.  Such madness.

Reliever Dave LaRoche - who stayed out of harm's way when all the punches were being throw in the top half of the ninth - was on the mound when the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the bottom half.  Leading-off was the irrepressible Hrabosky - who was going to be in this one for the long haul, if necessary - and he flew out to right.

Then Brock singled again, as the chants of "Lou, Lou" reverberated through the stadium.  With Sizemore batting, Lou took off for second - but the hit & run was on - unsuccessfully, as Sizemore flew out to right - as Brock scrambled back to first.

Next up - Reggie Smith - capped off his perfect day at the plate by drawing his second walk of the game - to go with two triples and a double in five plate appearances.  That allowed Simmons with yet another RBI opportunity - and Simba delivered another knock-out punch - the walk-off single to center field, scoring Brock for the 6-5 win.

It was another exciting, nearly insane victory for the over-achieving Cardinals, as they tried to win their first-ever NL East title.  But there were also behind the scenes distractions - that ultimately may have prevented the postseason party for St Louis.

This game?  It was nothing - just good clean fun.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

September 21, 2011 - Freese Burns Mets: 2-Run Triple, 3-Run HR in 6-5 Comeback Win

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Chris Schwinden - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,658

David Freese gave fans a postseason preview tonight - his two-out two-run first-inning triple to right field - which scored Albert Pujols and Lance Berkman - was eerily similar to what happened in Game Six - when the Cardinals were one strike away from World Series defeat.  Freese later won that game with, arguably, the most dramatic home run in franchise history.

In this particular game, with the Cardinals down 4-3 in the seventh-inning to the New York Mets - with two out and two on (Pujols and Berkman - naturally), Freese smacked an opposite-field home deep to right field off Mets reliever Danny Herrera - to provide just enough cushion for an eventual 6-5 win.

Meanwhile, down in Miami, the Marlins had already beaten the suddenly hapless Braves, 4-0 - whose lead over the Cardinals for the one and only wild card spot in the postseason had shrunk to 1.5 games.  They were doomed -  and they probably knew it.

The Cardinals were red hot - by far the best offensive team in the National League all season long - on the verge of taking it up another notch - just in time for the postseason.

Defensively, however, the Cardinals were well below average - and it was some bad glove work that nearly cost them this game.

After Freese had staked Jaime Garcia to that early 2-0 lead, Allen Craig added a second-inning run -scoring Yadier Molina from third with a single off Mets starter Chris Schwinden.

That 3-0 lead immediately evaporated as the Mets took their turn at bat in a nightmarish third-inning for Garcia - and especially for shortstop Rafael Furcal.  After retiring the first two batters on strikes, Garcia couldn't put his mound rival away.  Schwinden grounded one up the middle, just off second baseman Skip Schumaker's glove for an infield single - then all hell broke loose.

Jose Reyes doubled down the left field line - advancing Schwinden to third.  Next up - Angel Pagan - hit a routine grounder to Furcal at shortstop, which should have ended the inning.  Instead, the ball squirted under his glove and through his legs into shallow left center field - as two unearned runs crossed the plate.

Next up - David Wright advanced Pagan to second with a legitimate infield single off Furcal's glove.

Mets manager Terry Collins then sent Josh Satin in to pinch hit for Lucas Duda - and the strategy paid off, as Satin laced one down the left field line - scoring both runners - to give the Mets a 4-3 lead.

That's where the score remained until the Cardinals displayed their own brand of two-out-nobody-on magic.  After reliever Miguel Batista - who briefly toiled for St Louis earlier in this season - retired the first two batters in the seventh, Pujols kept the inning alive with a base hit to center.

Exit Batista - enter Danny Herrera - who immediately served up a Lance Berkman single to left field.

Up to this point in the season, Freese had been a good - but far from great - hitter.  He was most effective when he didn't try to pull every pitch - when he would drive the ball to dead center - or to the opposite field - as he did in this game.  His blast into the Cardinals' bullpen suddenly turned a 4-3 deficit into a 6-4 lead.

The postseason dream, which seemed to be a complete fantasy at the beginning of the month, had come alive - as the crowd came alive - with one swing of the bat.

The Mets made things interesting in the ninth-inning - when the unofficial closer - Jason Motte - yielded a two-out solo home run to Willie Harris.  Motte then sent the crowd into a frenzy by striking out Josh Thole to earn his eighth save of the season - preserving the 6-5 win for Jaime Garcia (7.2 IP - 6 H - 4 R - 0 ER - 0 BB - 5 SO), who improved to 13-7 on the season.

David Freese - in what had been his finest performance in any game during his brief career - was just getting started.

Saturday, September 20, 2014

September 20, 2013 - A 7-6 10-Inning Winner at Miller Park

Friday, September 20, 2013 - At Miller Park (Shelby Miller - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Brewers (Johnny Hellweg - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  37, 148

Carlos Beltran's tenth-inning sacrifice fly scored Kolten Wong from third base - lifting the tenacious Cardinals to a come-from-behind 7-6 win over the Brewers at Miller Park.  This win, coupled with Pittsburgh's loss to Cincinnati, gave the Redbirds a two-game lead over the second-place Pirates in the tight NL Central race.

The three Matts - Carpenter, Holliday and Adams - had three hits apiece to wreak havoc throughout this game, while Aramis Ramirez was wreaking havoc on his own - starting with a first-inning three-run home run off Cards starter Shelby Miller - to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead.

Holliday had driven in Carpenter in the top of the first to give the Redbirds a brief 1-0 advantage.

After that shaky start, Miller settled down - allowing just one more run over the course of his six-inning stint - as the Cardinals were trying to claw their way back into this game.

Perhaps Shelby's biggest contribution to his team came when he was taking his turn at bat - leading off the fifth-inning, still trailing 3-1 - when Milwaukee starter Johnny Hellweg inexplicably hit him with a pitch.  As far as the Brewers were concerned, giving a weak-hitting opposing pitcher a free pass to open an inning was a Cardinal sin.  Sure enough, it came back to haunt them, as Holliday singled Miller home from second, to cut the Brewers' lead to 3-2.

Milwaukee got that run back in their half of the fifth - when Ramirez got his fourth RBI of the game with a sacrifice fly - scoring Norichika Aoki from third.

Still trailing 4-2 to start the seventh-inning, the Cardinals rallied off Brewers reliever Mike Gonzalez.  Back-to-back doubles from Carpenter and Beltran suddenly made it a 4-3 game.

After another pitching change - Brandon Kintzler now on the mound for Milwaukee - Matt Adams tied the game for the first time since it was nothing to nothing with a base hit to right - scoring Beltran.

It was still tied at four runs apiece when the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the top of the ninth - facing reliever Jim Henderson.  The first batter - Holliday - walked.  The second batter - Adams - hit one far over the right field wall - into the second deck - to put St Louis on top for the first time since the first-inning - 6-4.

A shell-shocked Henderson handed the ball over to reliever Donovan Hand - who did the job - retiring the side with no further trauma.

All Star closer Edward Mujica - trying to protect a two-run lead - was greeted with a lead-off Jeff  Bianchi double to start the bottom of the ninth.  After retiring Yuniesky Bentancourt on a ground ball to the shortstop, Aoki singled - putting runners on the corners for pinch hitter Logan Schafer - who singled home Bianchi - as Aoki stopped at second.  The last batter Mujica would face as a member of the Cardinals in a save situation - Jonathan Lucroy - walked - to load the bases.

With the game on the verge of slipping away, Cardinal manager Mike Matheny brought in newly acquired reliever John Axford - trying to protect a slim one-run lead with the bases loaded with former teammates - and just one out.  Making the situation even more difficult - Axford's first assignment was to somehow retire RBI-machine Ramirez.  As luck would have it, Axford induced a weak ground ball that dribbled down the third base line - which third baseman Daniel Descalso, trying to make a bare-handed play, couldn't find the handle.

The game was now tied - the bases were still loaded - with the dangerous Carlos Gomez trying to end it with one swing of the bat.  In a sense, that's what happened.  His ground ball to Descalso's left was fielded cleanly - then delivered instantly back to Molina for the force out at home - who then fired a strike to first to complete the stunning double play.  Both teams had scored two ninth-inning runs - but when the Brewers failed to finish it off, the Cardinals had regained the momentum - and they took advantage of it right away.

Michael Blazek - the seventh Milwaukee pitcher - began the tenth-inning by walking pinch hitter Kolten Wong - who promptly found himself standing on third after another one of Matt Carpenter's major league-leading fifty-five doubles.  That also happened to set a franchise record for most doubles in a single season by a left-hand batter - a record formerly owned by the late, great Stan Musial.

Carlos Beltran then brought Wong in from third with a sacrifice fly deep to right field - to give the Cardinals a 7-6 lead.

Carlos Martinez - the seventh St Louis pitcher - retired the Brewers in order in the bottom of the tenth, to earn his first career major league save.  John Axford (7-7) picked up the win for the team he frequently mocked on Twitter ("St Louis sucks" - type stuff) - but he seemed to have no problem fitting in with his new teammates as the season wound down - successfully, for the Cardinals - not so well for his old team.

Friday, September 19, 2014

September 19, 1996 - Cards Walk-Off Cubs in 13-Innings, 5-4

Thursday, September 19, 1996 - At Busch Stadium II (Andy Benes - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Jaime Navarro - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  34,923

Tom Pagnozzi's one-out thirteenth-inning infield single scored pinch runner Miguel Mejia from third base - giving the NL Central division-leading Cardinals a 5-4 walk-off win over the Cubs.  Cory Bailey (4-2) - the seventh St Louis pitcher employed by manager Tony LaRussa in this game - worked the final two scoreless innings of relief for the win.

Basking in the glory of this extra-inning victory made it easier to forget the blown save the Cardinal bullpen was responsible for - when Chicago pushed across a run in the top of the ninth, to forge a 4-4 tie - and send the game into a few extra innings of free entertainment for the fans.

This one began with a bang, when the first hitter of the game - Chicago's Brian McRae hit the second pitch Andy Benes delivered over the left field wall, to give the Cubs a quick 1-0 lead.

Cubs starter Jaime Navarro had some first-inning trouble of his own, however.  Ozzie Smith - nearing the end of his Hall of Fame career - led-off with a double into the left-center field gap.  Next up - Ray Lankford walked on four straight pitches - as "ball four" was a wild one - allowing Ozzie to move up to third.

Ron Gant also walked (the first of four free passes he would receive in this game) - loading the bases for fan-favorite Willie McGee - who struck out swinging - eliciting the usual words of encouragement from sympathetic fans knew how badly he felt whenever he failed to deliver in situations like this.

Future hitting coach John No Gloves Mabry made contact with a Navarro pitch, but it produced no positive results, either.  His little dribbler to the left of the pitcher's mound was pounced on by the agile Cubs hurler - who got the force out at home for out number two.

The inning, which had begun so full of promise, was on the verge of despair.  Next up - former Minnesota Twin-World Series champion and Cardinal nemesis - Gary Gaetti - delivered a bases-clearing double to suddenly give the Redbirds a 3-1 lead.

The Cubs cut the lead down to 3-2 in the third-inning.  Luis Gonzalez scored McRae from second with a base hit to center.

St Louis again loaded the bases with nobody out in their half of the third.  A walk to Lankford, a stolen base, another walk to Gant, and a hit batsman - McGee - once again brought Mabry to the plate in an ideal RBI situation.  Instead, Mabry grounded one to third baseman Dave Magadan - who fielded the ball, stepped on third and fired a strike to first for the double play.  A run scored on the play - but of course, Mabry was not credited with an RBI - and the Cards had to settle for just that one run.

Mabry's frustration intensified when the Cubs took their turn at bat in the seventh.  Ryne Sandberg opened with a single to center.  After he was forced out at second on Tyler Houston's infield grounder, Rey Sanchez grounded one to Gaetti at third, whose only play was to get the runner at first. But when Mabry tried to catch Sanchez rounding the second base bag a bit too far - his throw went into left field - allowing Sanchez to score.  The score was now 4-3, in favor of St Louis - and that lead seemed awfully precarious.

Meanwhile, after Navarro exited the game after six innings - allowing four earned runs - his immediate replacements prevented any further Cardinal scoring for another six innings.

Benes was removed after seven innings with a 4-3 lead.  Marc Petkovsek - the first of six Cardinal relievers - got the first two outs in the eighth - then LaRussa brought in southpaw Tony Fossas to get the final out - before sending him back to the mound to start the ninth.

Dave Magadan - a good left-handed hitter - started  the inning with a single to center.

Exit Fossas - enter T.J. Mathews to face Sandberg - who forced the runner at second on an infield grounder.  But then, trouble ensued.  Tyler Houston ripped a double down the left field line - advancing Sandberg to third.  After pinch hitter Brent Brown was intentionally walked to load the bases - pinch hitter Brooks Kieschnick hit a slow roller to Ozzie - whose only play was to get the runner at first, as Sandberg scored the tying run.

After the Cardinals failed to score in their half of the ninth, Dennis Eckersley - the fifth pitcher to appear in the game for the Redbirds - got into an immediate jam, when Mark Grace opened the tenth-inning with a double.  Eck then struck out Doug Glanville - but the next batter - Jose Hernandez - singled to left, as Grace stopped at third.

Next up - Ryne Sandberg - who became a notorious Cardinal killer back in '84 - most notably, at Bruce Sutter's expense in one particular game - which literally, made Sandberg a household name.  But that was then - this is now.  Ryno lined one to Gant in left field - not particularly deep - just hit hard.  Grace gambled, trying to tag up from third - and lost.  Gant's throw to Pagnozzi nailed Gracie - for an inning-ending double play.  The Cardinals had dodged a bullet - but could they take advantage of this break?

They finally cashed in - in the thirteenth-inning.  Mike Campbell - beginning his third inning of work, was greeted by John Mabry's double down the right field line.  Redemption, at last.  Pinch runner Miguel Mejia was then moved up to third on Gaetti's sacrifice bunt.

Tom Pagnozzi finally ended it with a base hit deep in the hole at shortstop, which Jose Hernandez could do nothing with - as the speedy Mejia streaked in from third with the walk-off run.

The Cardinals (83-70) were now five games up, with just nine to play.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

September 18, 1968 - Washburn Returns the No-Hit Favor to Giants

Wednesday, September 18, 1968 - At Candlestick Park (Ray Washburn - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Francisco Giants (Bobby Bolin - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  4,703

One day after San Francisco Giants pitcher Gaylord Perry no-hit the newly-crowned and possibly-hung-over-National League champion St Louis Cardinals, by a final score of 1-0 - Ray Washburn made baseball history when he returned the no-hit favor.  Fortunately, his team was able to score a couple of runs late in this game, to win it by a score of 2-0.

It was the first (and only) time opposing pitchers had ever thrown back-to-back no-hitters - but it really came as no big surprise.  After all, this was The Year of The Pitcher.  Even the game's best pitcher in '68 - Bob Gibson - knew he'd have to throw at least a nine-inning shutout to stand a reasonably good chance of winning on any given day.  As fate would have it, Gibson happened to be the starter on the same day Perry utilized his petroleum jelly skills to maximum efficiency against a bleary-eyed St Louis lineup in Tuesday's series opener at the Stick.

The lone run Gibby allowed in that one - came via a first-inning home run off the bat of Ron Home Run Hunt - who managed to go yard twice that season.

This time, it was Giants starter Bobby Bolin who pitched a fine game (8 IP - 7 H - 2 R - 2 BB - 6 SO) but got no help from a lineup whose offensive production amounted to five scattered walks - then going 0 for 2 with runners in scoring position.

The game was still scoreless after six innings - which meant the Cardinals had been scoreless for fifteen consecutive innings in San Francisco - when Mike Shannon snapped the streak with a double that scored Orlando Cepeda from second base, to give Washburn the necessary run support to achieve personal victory.

Then for good measure, the Redbirds tacked on an insurance run in the eighth - when Curt Flood singled home Dick Schofield from third - who had doubled leading-off the inning.

As Washburn went back to the mound to begin his final inning of work, the partisan Giants gathering seemed to appreciate the historical implications of what was taking place.  The first batter - Ron Hunt - who won yesterday's game with a first-inning home run off Gibson - grounded out to second, as Gibson glared in his direction from the visitor's dugout - no doubt reflecting back to the absurdity of his accomplishment on Tuesday.

The next batter - Willie Mays - created a stir whenever he stepped into the batter's box.  But he too, was retired on a ground ball to an infielder - third baseman Mike Shannon - today's hitting hero - avoided becoming the goat by handling this chance cleanly for out number two.

With a two-run lead, the presence of the final hitter - Willie McCovey - was maybe a bit less nerve-wracking than usual, since nobody was on base.  However, with a two-team back-to-back no-hitter on the line, the nail-biting index was still at record levels.  When McCovey's lazy fly ball to Flood in center became the final out of the game - Washburn (13-7) had notched the only no-hitter the Cardinals' pitching staff compiled in 1968.

Of course, it was also one of a franchise-record thirty shutouts registered by the staff that season.  Certainly, Cardinal pitchers did their part in helping major league baseball decide to lower the mound for the '69 season.  Not surprisingly, no other team has blanked opponents as many as thirty times in a season since The Year of The Pitcher.

In 2014, after Adam Wainwright's latest shutout, St Louis now has twenty-one of 'em - and this season may have a few more to add to that list.  Currently, Wainwright & Company have tied the 1943 Cards with those twenty-one shutouts - for the third highest total in franchise history.  The second highest total was compiled the very next season - 1944 - when they tossed twenty-six shutouts.  The 1985 Cardinals had twenty shutouts, for sole possession of fifth-place.  In sixth-place, with eighteen shutouts:  The '42 edition,

Those five previous teams had something in common:  They made a World Series appearance each time - winning the championship twice - in '42 and '44 - when they beat the Yankees and then the St Louis Browns.

Seventy years later, maybe a rematch of the '44 World Series is in order?  The St Louis Cardinals vs the Baltimore Orioles would be interesting.  Of course, Cards vs Angels would be even more interesting.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

September 17, 1985 - Andujar's Final St Louis Cardinals Win

Tuesday, September 17, 1985 - At Three Rivers Stadium (Joaquin Andujar - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Pittsburgh Pirates (Bob Kipper - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  3,924

The Cardinals - a team that rarely relies on the long-ball to win games - hit three home runs tonight en route to a convincing 10-4 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates.  The beneficiary of this offensive explosion - Joaquin Andujar (21-9) - went the distance in earning what would prove to be his final win (68) as a member of the Cardinals.  Unfortunately, he still had three more losses to add as a member of the Cardinals (51-52 & 53).

Back to this game:  After Sid Bream's first-inning RBI single staked Pirates starter Bob Kipper to an early 1-0 lead, the Redbirds struck back in their next turn at bat.  With one out in the second-inning, Tito Landrum and Terry Pendleton hit back-to-back singles.  Next up - Ozzie Smith - hammered a Kipper offering over the left field wall - giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead - just like that.

After the Cardinals and Pirates exchanged unearned runs in the third-inning to make it a 4-2 Cardinal lead, Cesar Cedeno blasted a two-out two run home run in the fifth - scoring Tommy Herr in front of him - to extend the St Louis lead to 6-2.  After Kipper finally retired the side, his night was over - giving up six runs - five earned runs - on five hits, a pair of walks, four strikeouts - and of course, two home runs.

The Cardinals broke the game wide open in the sixth-inning off the new Pirates pitcher - Larry McWilliams.  Smith and Tom Nieto both singled with one out - then Andujar advanced them to second and third with a sacrifice bunt.  Next up - Vince Coleman singled to right, scoring Ozzie.  Also scoring on the play was Nieto - with an unearned run, resulting from a botched relay throw by first baseman Sid Bream.  Willie McGee then got into the act - with a two-run home run of his own - plating the ninth and tenth runs for the Cardinals.  McWilliams was yanked at that point, as two different relievers mopped up the final 3.1 innings - Krawczyk and Winn - without allowing another run to score.  No doubt a moral victory for the Buccos - who perhaps raised the Jolly Roger just for the hell of it after their latest defeat.

Andujar, who had pitched brilliantly for most of the season - gave up two more runs on three hits to the Pirates in the seventh - before regrouping in the eighth and ninth to close out the 10-4 win.  This would be his last hurrah.  He would go on to lose his final three starts to stumble in at 21-12 - then pitch ineffectively in the postseason before being traded to Oakland for catcher Mike Heath.  It was one of those trades that didn't work for either team.  Andujar continued his steady decline in Oakland, while Heath was unproductive and unhappy in St Louis - helping make the '86 season one worth forgetting - at least for Cardinal Nation.

However, Andujar's five-season experience in St Louis was certainly worth remembering.  Acquired from the Houston Astros about halfway through the strike-shortened '81 season - he and manager Whitey Herzog immediately developed a good rapport - and his colorful antics quickly made him a fan favorite, as well.  Plus, he was developing into a terrific starting pitcher.  The Cardinals had gambled that Andujar - who became a free agent after the '81 season - would want to return to a team that was on the rise - where he felt wanted.

The gamble paid off.  Andujar signed a new contract with St Louis, then pitched brilliantly for the Cardinals in their World Championship '82 season - especially down the stretch - when the stakes were highest.

After a dismal '83 campaign, Andujar rebounded to win 20 games for a fairly mediocre '84 team.  He was also the early-season anchor of the '85 staff - consistently winning as the rest of the starting rotation consistently struggled.  By the time John Tudor figured things out, the Cardinals had become an unstoppable force - en route to a 101 win season - edging out an excellent Mets team that would get even better in '86.

Alas, Andujar, who was one of the league's perennial workhorses during his Cardinal years, simply ran out of gas shortly after the All Star break.  His inability to pitch effectively in the postseason ultimately cost the Cardinals a real shot at the World Series championship.  They could have used the 1982 version of Joaquin Andujar.  Not to mention instant replay.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

September 16, 2011 - 2-Run 11th-Inning Give Cards Crucial 4-2 Win Over Phillies

Friday, September 16, 2011 - At Citizens Bank Park (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Vance Worley - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  45,572

Cardinals' rookie Adron Chambers picked a good time to get his first major league hit.  Batting with two runners on in a 2-2 tie with the Phillies - Chambers - in only his second major league at bat - lined a single to right, scoring Rafael Furcal from second base with the go-ahead run.  The Cardinals added an insurance run when the much-maligned Tyler Greene scored Albert Pujols from second with a double high off the wall in left - which missed going in the seats for a three-run homer by a couple of feet.

Chambers almost scored as well, but was out on a close play at the plate.  It didn't matter, as a smiling Adron received a well-deserved hero's welcome in the Cardinals' dugout - while Fernando Salas was busy working an uneventful inning of relief for his 24th save of the season - giving Kyle McClellan (12-6) the win after pitching a perfect tenth-inning of relief.

The Cardinals had great pitching all throughout this game - and if not for a dropped fly ball by right fielder Corey Patterson - they would've walked away with a 2-1 win in regulation.  But that would've been too boring - something the '11 Redbirds definitely were not.

Phillies starter Vance Worley pitched quite well in his six-inning stint - allowing just one run on six hits and three walks.  But his control problems cost him in the second-inning, when he issued all three of those walks - the last one to Rafael Furcal with the bases loaded forced in the first run of the game - staking Jaime Garcia to an early 1-0 lead.

However, that lead was short-lived, as Garcia yielded back-to-back doubles to Polanco and Mayberry in the bottom half of the second to tie the game at one run apiece.  That would be the only run Philadelphia would score on Garcia in his seven innings of work.

In the eighth-inning, with reliever Bastardo pitching for the Phillies, Yadier Molina lined a one-out solo home run off the left field foul pole - staking Garcia to a 2-1 lead.

After Rzepczynski and Dotel collaborated on a scoreless eighth-inning, Jason Motte was called on to nail it down in the ninth - but Ryan Howard's two-out pinch hit double kept the inning alive for Carlos Ruiz.  Then Cardinals right fielder Corey Patterson kept the inning - and the game - alive for Philadelphia when he dropped Ruiz' fly ball for a very costly run-scoring error.

Had the Phillies gone on to win this game, they would have clinched the NL East title.  That explains why a grinning Phillies center fielder Shane Victorino was busy getting Ruiz' attention on second base - popping an imaginary bottle of champagne, then guzzling an imaginary glass of bubbly - while his chortling teammates joined in on the mock celebration.

It was quite a show, and it's unlikely the Cardinals on the field and in the dugout failed to miss their little vaudeville act.  "Not tonight" became the unofficial mantra for the Redbirds - who could ill-afford to lose this one in their hunt for that all-important wild card slot.

Arthur Rhodes then came out of the bullpen to relieve a distraught Motte - striking out his man to end the threat - and send the game into overtime.

After McClellan did his job in the tenth, Phillies reliever Michael Schwimer was summoned to face the Cardinals in the eleventh.  Furcal greeted him with a lead-off double down the right field line.  Patterson then laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance the runner to third.  Predictably, Albert Pujols was intentionally walked - bringing Adron Chambers - who had entered the game a bit earlier after a series of pitching changes created lineup changes - such as the one which removed cleanup hitter Lance Berkman from the game.

As the Citizens Bank Park crowd watched in horror, Berkman's replacement - Chambers of all people - got the biggest hit of the year for St Louis - driving in the go-ahead run in a game the Cards could ill-afford to lose.

Fernando Salas officially put the Phillies' champagne celebration on hold when he struck out Marberry to preserve the 4-2 win.

Meanwhile, in New York, the Mets were doing their part in aiding and abetting the dreaded Redbirds by knocking off the Braves, 12-2.

St Louis (82-68) now trailed wild card-leader Atlanta (86-65) by 3.5 games.  Somehow, that lead didn't seem like such a big deal.

Monday, September 15, 2014

September 15: Road Wins for the '60's Pennant Winners

Tuesday, September 15, 1964 - At County Stadium (Ray Sadecki - Game One Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Milwaukee Braves (Tony Cloninger - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  5,843

In the first game of a doubleheader with the Milwaukee Braves, Mike Shannon broke a 2-2 tie in the fourth-inning with a two-out three-run home run off Tony Cloninger (16-13) - en route to an 11-6 win.  Ray Sadecki (17-10) certainly had better games, but managed to record the win, with 2.2 innings of relief help from Barney Schultz - who picked up his seventh save of the season.

Game Two Starting Pitchers:  Bob Gibson vs Wade Blasingame

The Cardinals completed the sweep, with a 3-1 win in the nightcap.

Trailing 1-0 with two out in the seventh-inning, Julian Javier's two-run home run off Wade Blasingame (5-5) put the Cardinals in front to stay.  Dick Groat's RBI double in the eighth-inning scored Curt Flood with an insurance run.

Gibson (16-10) went the distance - yielding the one lone run on four hits.  He walked four and struck out twelve, as St Louis (82-63) picked up a half game in the standings on first-place Philadelphia (88-57) - 1-0 winners in Houston.

The Cardinals were still six games behind the Phillies - with just seventeen games to be played.

Friday, September 15, 1967 - At Crosley Field (Steve Carlton - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Cincinnati Reds (Gary Nolan - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  13,797

The Cardinals drew one step closer to clinching the National League pennant, as Steve Carlton (14-8) was brilliant - tossing a complete-game two-hit shutout in the Redbirds' 4-0 win over the Reds.

Mike Shannon broke a scoreless tie - connecting for a three-run home run in the third-inning off Gary Nolan (13-7).  Later that inning, Carlton helped his own cause with an RBI single - scoring Javier from second.  But tonight, he obviously didn't need the insurance.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals (92-56) now led the pack by 10.5 games with just fourteen games remaining on the schedule.  They would clinch the pennant in Game 151 - in Philadelphia.

Sunday, September 15, 1968 - At The Astrodome (Steve Carlton - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Don Wilson - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  16,638

In Game 151, the Cardinals clinched the National League pennant with a 7-4 win over the Astros.  Steve Carlton (14-8) wasn't nearly as sharp as he was one year earlier, but he went the distance - recovering from a first-inning two-run home run he served up to Jim Wynn - to hold the Astros in check while his teammates heated up the offense.

Trailing 2-1 in the third-inning, Roger Maris gave the Cardinals a lead they would not relinquish - with a two-run home run off Don Wilson (13-15).  Maris also added a sacrifice fly, as the Redbirds tacked on four more runs - giving Carlton a nice cushion - before Houston scored a couple of meaningless late-inning runs.

Curt Flood had a flawless day at the plate - with five singles in five plate appearances - scoring two runs, and driving in one.  Last season's NL MVP - Orlando Cepeda - had two hits - good for two RBI - and later led the Cardinals in their post game champagne-soaked clubhouse celebration.

In two full seasons playing in St Louis, Cepeda became an all-time fan favorite - but would be traded to the Atlanta Braves for Joe Torre, shortly before the start of the '69 season.  For Cepeda and the Braves, the trade was a good one.  Atlanta would reach the postseason before being eliminated by the New York Mets in the first-ever NLCS.

Torre played well for the Cardinals - but the team never quite made it to the postseason during his six year tenure in St Louis.  An aging group of core players and some bad trades turned the franchise into also-rans in the '70's.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

September 14, 1982 - Cards in First to Stay After 2-0 Win in Philadelphia

Tuesday, September 14, 1982 - At Veteran's Stadium (John Stuper - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Mike Krukow - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  32,854

After Steve Carlton's 2-0 shutout of the Cardinals in the series opener on Monday, St Louis returned the favor on Tuesday.  John Stuper and Bruce Sutter combined to blank the Phillies, while Darryl Porter provided the only offense of the game - a two-run fourth-inning home run - lifting the Cards to a 2-0 win.

With this win in Game 143 of the '82 season, the  Redbirds (80-63) moved back atop the NL East standings to stay - at the time, just a half game ahead of the Phillies (80-64) - but they never relinquished the lead.  This win was also the start of an eight-game winning streak.

However, winning this game wasn't so easy.  After Porter's two-run home run off Mike Krukow broke a scoreless fourth-inning tie, John Stuper had to pitch out of a bases loaded one-out jam in the bottom of the fourth to preserve the lead.

Things got precarious once again for Stuper and the Redbirds in the eighth-inning - still clinging to that 2-0 lead.  A one-out walk to Bob Molinaro was followed by a Pete Rose single to center.  With the tying runs on base, manager Whitey Herzog brought in relief ace Bruce Sutter to face the dangerous Gary Matthews - with the most dangerous hitter in the National League - Mike Schmidt - lurking on deck.

As fate would have it, Matthews beat out an infield hit down the third base line - and just like that, the bases were loaded for Schmidt.  The Philadelphia crowd - sensing a game-changing moment - was going wild.  At the same time, Cardinal Nation's listening radio audience was having a collective nervous breakdown.

With the game - and quite possibly, the season - on the line, Schmidt grounded a split-fingered fastball right back to Sutter - who quickly fired a strike to Porter for the force-out at home - whose relay throw to Hernandez at first completed the stunning 1-2-3 double play.  Certainly, the crowd was stunned, and mostly speechless - aside from the usual assortment of boos and what-not - indigenous to that particular region of the baseball world.

As the subdued Veteran's Stadium crowd watched in horror, Sutter retired the side in the ninth for his 32nd save of the season - preserving the rookie Stuper's biggest win of his career (7-6).  That is, until Game Six of the '82 World Series.

The Cardinals won the rubber game of the series on Wednesday, to leave town a game and a half in front of the now-fading Phillies - who never quite seemed to recover from the eighth-inning double play grounder off the bat of Mike Schmidt.

The Redbirds were high-flying - reeling off six more wins in a row to maintain their stranglehold on the division lead.

Friday, September 12, 2014

September 13, 1964 - Cards Equal MLB Record in 15-2 Runaway Win at Wrigley

Sunday, September 13, 1964 - At Wrigley Field (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Chicago Cubs (Dick Ellsworth - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  11,606

On June 1, 1923, the New York Giants became the first team in major league history to score at least one run in all nine innings of a game - en route to clobbering the Philadelphia Phillies, 22-8.

Forty-one years, three months and twelve days later, the St Louis Cardinals equaled that record en route to a 15-2 whipping of the Cubs - at the Friendly Confines of Wrigley Field.  The Cards had some help from a sloppy Cubs' defense that committed a mind-boggling seven errors - allowing St Louis to score two unearned runs in the fifth-inning and another in the ninth - to keep the streak alive.

The only other time this freak occurrence took place was nearly thirty-five years later - on May 5, 1999 - when the Colorado Rockies did it to the Cubbies at Wrigley Field once again - en route to a 13-6 pasting.  (Please note:  "Clobbering" is more severe than a "whipping", which in turn is a bit more severe than a "pasting".)

It's interesting to note - no American League team has ever scored in nine consecutive innings - but on six different occasions, they have scored in all eight innings played - because they were the home team and the game ended without requiring another turn at bat.  The most recent such occurrence took place on April 29, 2006 - when the New York Yankees lambasted the Toronto Blue Jays at Yankee Stadium, 17-6.

Returning to 1964, here's what scoring at least one run in all nine innings looks like:

                  1   2   3    4   5   6    7   8   9
St Louis    2   1   2    2   2   1    3   1   1     15 - 18 - 1
Chicago    1   0   0    0   0   1    0   0   0       2 -  8 -  7 (and what it doesn't look like)

As you might suspect, every St Louis player in the starting lineup scored at least one run (even Bob Uecker - although Uecker, along with starting pitcher Curt Simmons were the only players in the starting lineup to fail to record at least one RBI).

Three Cardinal players hit home runs:  Lou Brock, Julian Javier and Mike Shannon.

RBI leaders:  Shannon (4),  Dick Groat (3), and Ken Boyer (2).

Hits leaders:  Groat (4), Curt Flood (3), Javier (3), Brock (2), Boyer (2) and Shannon (2).

Pitching Summary:

Curt Simmons (15-9):  8 IP - 8 H - 2 R - 5 BB - 7 SO
Ray Washburn was credited with a SAVE (2) for doing this:  1 IP - 0 H - 0 R - 1 BB - 0 SO

A save?  For protecting a precarious 13-run lead?

Meanwhile, Cubs starter Dick Ellsworth was relieved of his duties after 3.2 innings.  Five relievers were used in this game, and for the most part, they didn't pitch so well.

One young rookie - Sterling Slaughter - who made his major league debut on April 19 - faced four batters in the sixth-inning, and all four got base hits (Flood, Brock, Groat and Boyer) - and all four scored.  That would be his last appearance in a major league game (He no doubt told his grandchildren, the last batter he faced in a major league game went on to win the NL MVP Award that season).

After this narrow victory, the Cardinals (80-63) kept pace with the Phillies (86-57) - 4-1 winners over the Giants at Candlestick Park.  Still six games back, with only nineteen to play.  It would take a monumental collapse on the part of the Phillies to have them blow this lead.  And of course, it would happen, but not until they returned from their successful west coast road trip.  Their meltdown would be taking place at home, for their fans to witness, first-hand.

Ray Washburn saved this game?

September 12, 2006 - Come-From-Behind Walk-Off Win Over Houston

Tuesday, September 12, 2006 - At Busch Stadium III (Jeff Weaver - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Houston Astros (Andy Pettitte - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  41,453

Albert Pujols' two-out two-run ninth-inning double scored Skip Schumaker from second and Scott Spiezio from first - to lift the Cardinals to a dramatic 6-5 walk-off win over the Houston Astros.

Houston closer Brad Lidge - who gave up that famous game-winning three-run home run to Pujols in Game Five of the 2005 NLCS - was victimized once again by his nemesis.  As the rest of the regular season unfolded, this particular game-winning Pujols hit was - quite simply - the difference between postseason play for the Redbirds in 2006 - or going home.

At the time, this win over Houston merely padded the Cardinals' lead to five games over their division rivals - with just eighteen games remaining on the schedule.  However, that comfortable five-game lead would dwindle to a half-game - thanks in large part to a four-game sweep at the hands of the Astros - September 21 - 24 (Games 151-154).

Yes, it was unnerving to be a Cardinal fan at that time.  But the Cardinals were a resilient team - as we all found out for sure, by the time the postseason rolled around.

Before all that ninth-inning excitement, this game was a see-saw battle throughout - with Houston striking first - on a first-inning solo home run by Mike Lamb off St Louis starter Jeff Weaver.

The Cardinals grabbed the lead in the third-inning - on Preston Wilson's two-out two-run home run off Astros starter Andy Pettitte.  When the next batter - Scott Spiezio reached on an error by shortstop Eric Bruntlett, manager Phil Garner abruptly removed his starter - apparently due to some sort of injury.  Pettitte had worked just 2.2 innings in this game - and that home run was the only hit he allowed.  He walked one (who scored) and struck out two - but now he was suddenly out of the game.

Pettitte wouldn't appear in another game for the Astros until September 21 - when he worked five innings in a start vs the Cardinals - allowing five runs - in a game eventually won by Houston.  Whether or not his absence from the Houston starting rotation played a role in the outcome of this crazy division race is just another topic in the "what if" game for 2006.

What we do know is that the Astros took the lead once again in this game - on pinch hitter Orlando Palmeiro's bases loaded two-run single in the fourth-inning:  Houston 3 - St Louis 2.

The Cardinals tied it again in their half of the fourth, when the young, light-hitting catcher - Yadier Molina - singled with two out to bring home Edwin Encarnacion - who had previously tripled.

The Cardinals then took a short-lived lead in the fifth-inning - when Encarnacion come through again - with a two-out single - scoring Scott Spiezio from second:  St Louis 4 - Houston 3.

Weaver's night would be over after facing two batters in the sixth-inning.  The first one - Luke Scott - walked.  The second one - Chris Burke - hit a two-run home run - giving Houston a 5-4 lead.

Reliever Josh Hancock struck out all three Houston batters - Bruntlett, Ausmus and Jimerson - to end the top half of the sixth.  Two other relievers - Tyler Johnson (one inning pitched) and Braden Looper (two innings pitched) - also contained the Astros offense - allowing the Cardinals the opportunity to pull this one out of the fire.

The fateful bottom of the ninth began with pinch hitter John Rodriguez (batting for Molina) singled off Astros closer Brad Lidge to right field.  Again, imagine the consequences if J Rod had failed to reach base safely.  Luckily, he got that hit to start the game winning rally.  Skip Schumaker then entered the game to pinch run for our unsung hero - then advanced to second when pinch hitter Jose Vizcaino (batting for Looper) laid down a sacrifice bunt.

But Lidge struck out Preston Wilson for the second out of the inning - then, the Cardinals got a break, when the next batter - Scott Spiezio - was hit by a pitch.

With runners on first and second - and the Cardinals down to their last out - Pujols stepped into the batter's box.  After getting burned by Albert in last season's NLCS, Lidge had only faced his nemesis two times in '06 prior to this particular at bat.  On both occasions, Pujols was retired on fly balls to deep center.

Not this time.  Pujols lined a Lidge fastball down the left field line - into the corner.  Spiezio got a great jump off first base - and was already rounding third - heading for home - by the time the left fielder had retrieved the ball.  A jubilant Skip Schumaker - who scored the tying run - motioned for Spiezio to slide - and he did - with the winning run.

The significance of this win wouldn't be determined until the final week of the season.  But this was the kind of thing Pujols did so often, Cardinal fans may have started taking it for granted.  The truth of the matter is, without him, those eleven seasons (2001 - 2011) would have been nowhere near as exciting as they turned out to be.  And there's no way the Cardinals would have even qualified for postseason play - let alone win the World Series - in '06 or '11.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

September 11, 1974 - Cards Win 25-Inning Marathon - 4-3 Over Mets

Wednesday, September 11, 1974 - At Shea Stadium (Bob Forsch - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  New York Mets (Jerry Koosman - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  13,460

It was the longest game in franchise history - the second longest game in major league history:

                1  2  3    4  5  6    7  8  9    0  1  2    3  4  5    6  7  8    9  0  1    2  3  4    25    R  H  E  
St Louis  1  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  2    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0     1      4  18  2
New Yk   1  0  0    0  2  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0    0  0  0     0      3  16  4

It took seven hours and four minutes to complete.

The Cardinals scored the winning run in the 25th-inning - an unearned run - when the Mets committed two errors on one play.

Otherwise, this game may have lasted another 25 innings...

The first run the Mets scored, in the bottom of the first - also happened to be unearned.  Otherwise, the two-out two-run home run Ken Reitz hit in the top of the ninth would have been a game winner.

Instead, it prolonged this classic for another sixteen innings - and started the Cardinals on a six-game winning streak, which would propel them into first-place in the NL East - at least for a while.

The Pitchers:
                                                      IP     H      R     ER     BB     SO     HR
Bob Forsch                                    6       5      3      2         4         3        1
Mike Garman                                2       0      0      0         0         2        0
Al Hrabosky                                  3       2      0      0         0         3        0
Rich Folkers                                  2       3      0      0         1         2        0
Ray Bare                                       0.1     0      0      0         1         0        0
Claude Osteen                            9.1     4       0      0         2         5       0
Sonny Siebert W (8-8)                 2.1     2       0      0         3         1       0

After Forsch yielded a fifth-inning two-run home run to Cleon Jones, St Louis pitching shut the Mets out for the next twenty innings.

The biggest mound hero in this war of attrition for the Cardinals was Claude Osteen - the thirty-five year old veteran, in his seventeenth major league season.  Acquired from the Houston Astros on August 15, Osteen appeared in eight games for the Cardinals in '74 - compiling a 4.37 ERA in 22.2 IP - allowing 14 R - 11 ER.

In other words, aside from this game, Osteen gave up eleven earned runs in 13.1 innings - good for a 7.56 ERA.  That makes what he did into the wee hours of Thursday morning all the more remarkable.

For the Mets, Jerry Koosman pitched brilliantly, until being victimized by Reitz' two-out ninth-inning home run.  He would be removed after nine innings:  5 H - 3 R - 4 BB - 3 SO - 1 HR

Four New York relievers - Parker (3 IP), Miller (1 IP), Apodaca (3 IP) and Jerry Cram - who worked eight scoreless innings (the 17th through 24th) - did their part to extend this game for more than seven hours.

Then, Hank Webb became the sixth Mets' pitcher used in this game - to start the fateful twenty-fifth-inning.  The first batter for St Louis - Bake McBride - reached on an infield single to the shortstop.
The speedy McBride, who stole thirty bases in '74, was no doubt planning to steal one in this situation.  However, his lead was overly aggressive.  Webb had him picked off - but threw wildly - past first baseman Milner's outstretched glove - down the line in right.

McBride quickly scrambled to his feet - and with a quick glance, knew he could easily reach third on the play.  By the time right fielder Staub had retrieved the ball, he realized he had no play on McBride - so he fired a strike to home plate - which the catcher - Ron Hodges, who entered the game just an inning before, somehow let the throw elude his mitt, and failed to get his body in front of the ball, to attempt to block it.

As the ball skipped past Hodges - a shocked McBride scrambled towards home - arms flailing - staggering and falling on top of home plate.  He had scored, but at the moment, was too exhausted to move.  The batter - an overjoyed Ken Reitz - helped him to his feet - pounding on his back - celebrating the moment - hoping this one run would finally put an end to this madness.

Sonny Siebert, who got the final seven outs of this bizarre game - struck out Milner with a runner on first base in the bottom of inning number 25 - to finally end it.

Rarely do games starting three hours later on the west coast end before games on the east coast - but all those games had long since concluded.  It was well past 2 am in New York City.  There weren't too many folks still hanging around for the conclusion of this game.  The few that stuck it out 'til the end were clearly dumbfounded - but at least they had witnessed a fascinating piece of baseball history.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

September 10, 2011 - Bullpen Nails Down 4-3 Win Over Braves

Saturday, September 10, 2011 - At Busch Stadium III (Jaime Garcia - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Atlanta Braves (Derek Lowe - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  40,689

In the second game of a crucial three-game series with the Braves - the Cardinals jumped out to an early 4-0 lead, then held on for a 4-3 win, thanks to three solid innings of relief from the back-end of a now very formidable bullpen.

Jaime Garcia (12-7) allowed three runs in six innings for the win, which was preserved by one inning of scoreless relief from each of three relievers:  Marc Rzepczynski (1 H - 1 SO), Fernando Salas (0 H - 2 SO) and Jason Motte (0 H - 1 BB).  Motte, who had unofficially become the Cards' closer - earned his 4th save of 2011.

Atlanta starter Derek Lowe (9-14) gave up an RBI single to Albert Pujols and an RBI double to David Freese in the first-inning - to stake Garcia to a quick 2-0 lead.

Then in the third, back-to-back doubles by Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman - plus an RBI single off the bat of Yadier Molina gave the Redbirds a 4-0 lead.  That was just enough tonight.

Freddie Freeman made things interesting with a fourth-inning two-run home run - then Brian McCann made things even more interesting with a fifth-inning RBI single - to make it a 4-3 game - and that's where it stayed.

After Garcia pitched a scoreless sixth-inning, manager Tony LaRussa went to the bullpen to nail this one down - a formula he used to eventually earn the Cardinals a World Series championship.

Certainly, the Cardinals knew they needed to sweep the Braves in this three-game series if they were to have any chance of overtaking Atlanta in the wild card race.  They won the first game on Friday night, after a rare blown save by closer Craig Kimbrell kept the Cardinals alive - en route to a ten-inning walk-off win.  They would also take the final game on Sunday, to move within 4.5 games of the Braves - with sixteen left to play.

The wildest finish since 1964 was well under way.  Nothing would be decided until Game 162 - aka Wild Card Wednesday.  You know what happened.  Nearly three years later, it's still hard to believe.

September 9, 1964 - Cards Score 2 in 9th to Tie + 5-Run 11th = 10-5 Win Over Phillies

Wednesday, September 9, 1964 - At Connie Mack Stadium (Curt Simmons - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  Philadelphia Phillies (Jim Bunning - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  25,339

The Cardinals rallied with two runs in the top of the ninth-inning to tie - then scored five runs in the eleventh-inning to beat the first-place Phillies, 10-5.

The second-place Cardinals (78-61) were now five games out with twenty-three games left to play.  Whitey Herzog probably would have had this assessment of the Cardinals' chances of overtaking the Phillies:  "It don't look good on paper."

Had the Cardinals failed to score two runs in the ninth-inning to send this game into extra innings, their slim chance of overtaking the Phillies in '64 would have been reduced to zero - so yes, this was a big game to win.

Before their big eleventh-inning rally, the Cardinals only led one other time in this game - in the first-inning - when Ken Boyer's infield single scored Lou Brock from third base.

That 1-0 lead was short-lived, as Dick Allen's first-inning RBI double scored Johnny Callison from second base to tie it at one run apiece.

Cardinal starter Curt Simmons had more trouble with the Phillies in the second-inning - but with the bases loaded and nobody out, his mound opponent - Jim Bunning - rolled into a 4-6-3 double play.  The run scored, but Simmons avoided further damage when he struck out Cookie Rojas to retire the side.

Philadelphia plated two more runs in the fourth on an RBI single from Rojas and an RBI double from Callison.  At that point, manager Johnny Keane yanked Simmons (3.2 IP - 10 H - 4 R - 1 BB - SO) - bringing in Ron Taylor, who got the final out in the fourth.

The Cardinals got a pair of solo home runs in the top of the fifth from Brock and Boyer to reduce the Philadelphia lead to a single run - 4-3.

The bottom of the fifth began with Taylor returning to the mound to face Tony Taylor (no relation) - who lined one deep to center, for extra bases.  He should have stopped at second with nobody out - but he gambled and lost when he tried to stretch it into a triple.  The relay from Flood to Javier to Boyer was perfectly executed - and Taylor was nailed at third.  Failing to score in that inning would ultimately cost them the game - and the National League pennant.  Funny how those things work.

Meanwhile, after Bunning worked the first six innings (three runs on ten hits), reliever Jack Baldschun worked a scoreless seventh and eighth.

For the Cardinals, the veteran knuckle ball relief specialist - Barney Schultz - entered the game in the sixth-inning - and kept the Phillies at bay through the seventh.  Then with two outs in the eighth, Ruben Amaro kept the inning alive with a single to left field.  Rather than use a pinch hitter, manager Gene Mauch let his pitcher hit for himself.  Mauch looked like a genius when Baldschun proceeded to whack a run-scoring double - padding the Philadelphia lead to a more comfortable 5-3 margin.

Needing just three more outs to nail this one down, Baldschun gave up a lead-off single to pinch hitter Charlie James (batting for Schultz).  Next up - Curt Flood grounded into a force out at second.  Lou Brock then lined a single to center - advancing Flood to third.  But Bill White made the second out in the inning with a ground ball to second, as Flood scored on the play.

The Cardinals were down to their last out, with Ken Boyer now batting with a runner in scoring position.  Boyer delivered a run-scoring single to center field - tying the game a five runs apiece.

Reliever Gordie Richardson set the Phillies down in order in the bottom of the ninth.

Baldschun was still in the game, and managed to pitch a scoreless tenth-inning.

Bob Humphreys - the fifth pitcher used in this game for St Louis - took care of the Phillies in the bottom of the tenth - in order - striking out two.

Apparently, Mauch felt Baldschun was still his best option - sending him out to start his fifth inning of work, as the Cardinals took their turn at bat in the eleventh.  Consecutive singles by Flood and Brock preceded White's two-run double.  The Cardinals now led, 7-5 - and they were not finished scoring - although Baldschun was finally finished pitching.

Reliever Ed Roebuck retired Boyer on a ground ball to the second baseman - but Boyer accomplished what he set out to do in this at bat - move White to third with just one out.  Next up - Dick Groat - couldn't get the run in, however.  His foul pop behind home plate was an easy out for the catcher.

Then with two out Mike Shannon grounded one to third - which Allen booted for an error.  White trotted home with the third run in the inning, as Shannon was able to ramble all the way into second.

Next up - Javier - scored Shannon with a single to left field - prompting most of the fans who were still in attendance to offer words of encouragement for their heroes.  That didn't seem to work, either - as Javier stole second - prompting an intentional walk to McCarver - which brought Humphreys up to bat.  The Cardinal reliever didn't cooperate with the Phillies' strategy, however - lining a run-scoring single to center - plating the fifth run of the inning - which was the third unearned run of the inning.  For the Phillies and their faithful fans, this inning was a nightmare.

For the Cardinals and Cardinal Nation, it was a dream come true.

Humphreys (2-0) struck out two more batters in the bottom of the eleventh - allowing a harmless single - before closing this one out.

The Cardinals certainly needed contributions from every player on their roster to achieve their improbable quest for the NL pennant in '64.  Humphreys was instrumental - providing stellar relief work all season long.  And he wasn't bad with the bat, either.

Meanwhile, the path to the pennant would still be an arduous journey.  Philadelphia would win the next night to go back up by six games - and time was running out for the Redbirds to make up all that ground.

They would need a lot of help from other teams - to send Philadelphia into a downward spiral - and they got it - along with a lot of help from the Phillies' beleaguered manager, himself - Gene Mauch - who started managing every game like it was the seventh game of the World Series.