Saturday, October 25, 2014

October 25, 1987 - A Game 7 Disappointment at the Metrodome

Sunday, October 25, 1987 - World Series - Game 7 vs Minnesota Twins at the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome - Attendance:  55,376 - Starting Pitchers:  Joe Magrane vs Frank Viola 

It was a disappointing conclusion to an otherwise exemplary 1987 season for Whitey Herzog's Cardinals - succumbing to the Minnesota Twins at their hostile, high-decibel home ballpark, by a score of 4-2.

It was a predictable outcome to this best-of-seven series - when home-field advantage was never more prominently on display:  Minnesota had it - and won all four games played at home.  It was no coincidence when they also won the World Series four years later by taking all four games played in this noisy hell-hole over the Atlanta Braves.

The Cardinals were able to muster up enough offense early in this relatively quiet game to take a short-lived 2-0 lead.

Back-to-back-to-back second-inning singles by Jim Lindeman (playing in place of the injured Jack Clark), Willie McGee and Tony Pena staked the Cards to a 1-0 lead.  Two outs later, with Pena and McGee still occupying first and second, ninth-place hitter Steve Lake - a pretty good first pitch fastball hitter - grounded Frank Viola's first pitch fastball into left field for a run-scoring single.  And just like that, the St Louis offense had been shut off.

Trying to protect a 2-0 lead, the rookie Joe Magrane pitched admirably through the first four-innings - allowing one run on four hits.  He got some defensive help in the second-inning from left fielder Vince Coleman - who cut down Don Baylor at the plate, trying to score from second on a base hit off the bat of Tim Laudner.  At the time, it preserved the shutout, but later in the inning, the Twins scored a two-out run on an RBI single from Steve Lombardozzi.

Still nursing a 2-1 lead, Magrane yielded a one-out fifth-inning single by Greg Gagne - prompting Herzog to bring Danny Cox in from the bullpen to face Kirby Puckett.  However, the strategy backfired when Puckett's RBI double tied the game at two runs apiece.

With the crowd's decibel level rising, a distracted Cox walked Gary Gaetti - then, with Don Baylor batting, manager Tom Kelly put the runners in motion - but the lead runner - Puckett - was thrown out trying to steal third, as Gaetti advanced to second.

When Baylor delivered with a clean single to left field, Vince Coleman once again played the ball well and made yet another strong throw home - this time, to nail Gaetti at the plate.  Two outfield assists in one World Series game.  Vince Coleman was the last player to accomplish that feat in World Series play.  Had the Cardinals managed to win Game Seven, chances are Vince Coleman would have won World Series MVP honors.

The game was still tied, but it was the Cardinal defense that got Cox out of that jam.  Danny apparently had nothing left in the tank at this point - further evidenced by the back-to-back walks he issued to Brunansky and Hrbeck to start the home half of the sixth-inning.

Herzog then brought in his closer - Todd Worrell - in an attempt to preserve this precarious tie.  He retired the first batter - Laudner - on a foul popup to first baseman Lindeman - however, he walked pinch hitter Roy Smalley to load the bases.  After striking out Dan Gladden, the irrepressible Greg Gagne scored Brunansky on an infield hit which utility infielder Tom Lawless - playing in place of the injured Terry Pendleton - couldn't handle at third base.

Minnesota had taken the lead on three walks and a scratch hit.  Worrell struck out Puckett to end the threat, but the damage had been done.

With the decibel levels reaching new highs as the game progressed, Viola regained his mastery over the patch-work Cardinal lineup.  After the Twins tacked on an eighth-inning insurance run on a two-out RBI double by Dan Gladden, closer Jeff Reardon finished 'em off in the ninth.

The Twins had their first-ever World Series championship - ironically, two years after the Kansas City Royals won their first title - also at the expense of Herzog's Cardinals.

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