Wednesday, September 3, 2014

September 3, 2001 - The Bud Smith No-Hitter

Monday, September 3, 2001 - At Qualcomm Stadium (Bud Smith - Starting Pitcher) - Opponent:  San Diego Padres (Bobby Jones - Starting Pitcher) - Attendance:  36,535

When Bud Smith and Bobby Jones last met - in St Louis on August 29 - things didn't go so well for either pitcher - as their pitching lines indicate.

Jones:  1.2 IP - 7 H - 9 R - 4 ER - 1 BB - 0 SO - 2 HR (L - 8-16)
Smith:  3.1 IP - 5 H - 7 R - 5 ER - 4 BB - 4 SO - 1 HR (ND)
Total:   5 IP - 12 H - 16 R - 9 ER - 5 BB - 4 SO - 3 HR

The two bullpens produced similarly horrific results:

Padres:  6.1 IP - 8 H - 7 R - 5 ER - 0 BB - 6 SO - 1 HR
Cards:   5.2  IP - 10 H - 7 R - 7 ER - 2 BB - 7 SO - 3 HR
Total:    12 IP - 18 H - 14 R - 12 ER - 2 BB - 12 SO - 4 HR

The two teams combined for 30 runs - the ninth time in Cardinals' franchise history they've participated in games with a combined total of at least 30 runs.  They haven't accomplished that dubious feat since - which is more of a testament to their pitching, which has usually been above average since 2001.

Now, five days after their disastrous starts in St Louis, both pitchers were hoping for significantly better results in this different venue - especially since this game was to be telecast to a nationwide audience on ESPN.

In the top of the first-inning, Albert Pujols - a 21-year old rookie slugger for St Louis - quickly put his hitting prowess on display for all to behold.  His thirty-second home run - a two-run shot off Jones staked Smith to a 2-0 lead (Pujols now had 106 RBI).  In his most recent start, Smith was unable to secure a 9-4 lead - heading into the third inning.  That is to say, he was unable to convince his manager - Tony LaRussa - that he should be allowed to stay in the game long enough to qualify for the win - as San Diego began teeing off on him like he was throwing batting practice.

St Louis tacked on a couple of more runs - one in the fifth - on a two-base throwing error by catcher Ben Davis - trying to nail Placido Polanco at second base on a stolen base attempt.  The throw ended up in center field, instead - a well-placed projectile as far as Polanco was concerned - allowing him to dash home with the third run of the game - as Bud Smith not only kept the Padres from scoring - he kept them from hitting safely, as well.  Was this really the same Bud Smith who had trouble getting anybody out in the San Diego lineup just five days ago?

The answer to that rhetorical question is, "Yes, indeed.  Believe it or not."

The Cardinals closed out the scoring in the seventh.  With two out, Fernando Vina walked - then scored on Polanco's double in the left-center field gap.  That, of course, was more than enough run production.  What a difference five days makes.

Meanwhile, Smith was still managing to prevent the Padres from hitting safely, and the Cardinal defense did its part by committing no errors, whatsoever.  Bud did have some control issues, however - walking four batters - Lankford (second-inning), Henderson (third and sixth-innings), then Jiminez (ninth-inning).  He also struck out seven along the way.

LaRussa was getting concerned with the relatively high pitch count, but as long as his young hurler continued getting outs, he would remain in the game.  When the final out was recorded at 8:55 pm - local time - Phil Nevin on a ground ball right back to the mound, which was fielded cleanly by the young pitcher who tossed to first for the out - Bud Smith had thrown 134 pitches - and he had his first and only no-hitter in his brief career.  As a matter of fact, this was the only complete-game shutout he would accomplish in his major league career.

By today's standards, 134 is an extremely high pitch count - which would probably cause most managers to remove him from the game - for precautionary reasons.  All that exertion didn't seem to adversely affect Smith, however - at least not this season.  This win raised his season's record to 4-2 - he would finish at 6-3.  Not bad for a late season call-up.

Smith wasn't so sharp the following season, however, as the Cardinals packaged him, Polanco and reliever Mike Timlin to Philadelphia - in exchange for the great Scott Rolen.  That was probably Bud Smith's greatest contribution to the franchise.  Unfortunately, he never pitched for Philadelphia - or any other major league team, for that matter.

Meanwhile, the Cardinals contributed another "loss" for Bobby Jones to absorb, as his record fell to 8-17.  He'd go on to lead the NL with 19 losses that season - then 2002 would mark the end of his career, as well.

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