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.