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.

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