Two years ago today, on Sunday, October 14, 2012, the Cardinals - fresh off their stunning upset of the Nationals in Game 5 of the NLDS - stormed into AT&T Park for Game 1 of the NLCS - and came away with a nice 6-4 win over Madison Bumgarner and the Giants. MadBum gave up all six runs in just 3.2 innings pitched - featuring a pair of two-run home runs by David Freese and Carlos Beltran. Just for the record, no runs scored on balks.
Three years ago today, on Friday, October 14, 2011, the Cardinals won a pivotal Game 5 of the NLCS over the Brewers at Busch Stadium, by a score of 6-2. Octavio Dotel, in relief of Jaime Garcia, entered the game with two on and two out in the fifth-inning to strike out the despicable Ryan Braun - before he was certifiably proven to be despicable. But that got him the win, as Jaime needed one more out to receive credit. With so much at stake, TLR wasn't about to let this one get away. St Louis now had a 3 games to two advantage over the Brewers.
Eight years ago today, on Saturday, October 14, 2006, the Cardinals blanked the Mets at Busch, 5-0, in Game 3 of the NLCS. Jeff Suppan got the win, with some help from the bullpen - and he even belted a solo home run for style points. St Louis now had a two games to one advantage over the Mets.
Those were wonderful postseason games to win, of course. And two out of the three victories facilitated a trip to the World Series - which concluded with world championships in both seasons. That first one against the Giants wasn't quite enough to help the Cardinals reach the Fall Classic, but maybe they'll pull off some miracles this time around in San Fran. Crazier things have happened already in this postseason.
In terms of getting the adrenalin riled up, these three really do the trick - and they helped the Cardinals reach the World Series, to boot:
3 - Thursday, October 14, 2004 - Game 2 - NLCS vs Houston Astros - At Busch Stadium
Ten years ago today, the Cardinals had to fight tooth and nail to come away with a 6-4 win over a very tough Houston Astros wild card team. All six runs scored by the Redbirds came via the long ball - as St Louis took a two games to none advantage in this best-of-seven showdown - and it's a good thing they won both of those games. Otherwise, the Astros would have knocked the Redbirds out of the postseason for two straight years.
Down 3-0 in the fifth-inning, the Cardinals take a 4-3 lead on a pair of two-run home runs - one by Larry Walker and one by Scott Rolen. Undaunted, Houston came back to tie the game, 4-4.
Equally undaunted, the Cardinals took the lead for good in the eighth-inning. Back-to-back home runs by Albert Pujols and another by Scott Rolen (on an 0-2 pitch) made it a 6-4 lead - and that's where it stayed.
Julian Taverez pitched an inning of scoreless relief for the nerve-racking win.
2 - Wednesday, October 14, 1987 - Game 7 - NLCS vs San Francisco Giants - At Busch Stadium
The Cardinals secured their third trip to the World Series in six seasons - with a Danny Cox complete-game eight-hit shutout of the Giants. The final score: 6-0.
What made Cardinal fans jump out of their seats was the completely unexpected second-inning three-run home run by switch-hitting Jose Oquendo - turning a slim 1-0 lead into a nice 4-0 cushion - all but ensuring victory for the Redbirds.
Jose's memorable blast off Giants starter Atlee Hammaker came as a right-handed batter, on a 3-2 pitch. For fans watching the blast on television - the image of that perfect swing connecting with that nice meatball - will be long-remembered.
But for the sheer joy of an unexpected source of power - nothing can compare to:
1 - Monday, October 14, 1985 - Game 5 - NLCS vs Los Angeles Dodgers - At Busch Stadium
The game and the series were tied, 2-2 - when switch-hitting Ozzie Smith stepped up to the plate with one out in the bottom of the ninth-inning. Batting left-handed against Dodgers reliever Tom Niedenfuer - Ozzie had a home run cut on the first pitch, but fouled it back. The thought of Ozzie hitting a home run from that side of the plate was preposterous - but there he was hacking away - despite never going yard as a left-handed batter in his career.
Before all that ninth-inning drama unfolded, the game began with the Cardinals staking Bob Forsch to a quick 2-0 first-inning lead. Dodgers starter Fernando Valenzuela walked the first two batters - Willie McGee and Ozzie Smith - then Tommy Herr cashed in with a two-run double.
However, even though Herr would move up to third on a passed ball, with nobody out - the Cardinals failed to bring him in. Otherwise, this game would have ended in somewhat boring fashion, with a 3-2 win - after the Dodgers were retired in the top of the ninth. Theoretically, anyway.
In reality, the Dodgers scored their two runs in the fourth-inning, on a two-run home run off the bat of Bill Madlock.
Still deadlocked heading into the ninth-inning, Jeff Lahti retired LA in order - good enough for the win - although at the time, nobody knew it. Nobody knew when this game was actually going to end. Extra-innings seemed very likely - especially after McGee was retired for the first out to begin the bottom of the ninth.
When Ozzie connected on a Niedenfuer belt-high fastball, Jack Buck's incredulous call will forever be a part of Cardinal lore:
"Smith corks one down the line in right...It may go!...Go crazy, folks! Go crazy! The Cardinals have won the game, 3-2!...on a home run - by The Wizard! Go crazy!"