Randy Flores was the winning pitcher in one of the most dramatic postseason games played by the Cardinals.
On Oct. 19, 2006, Flores pitched a flawless eighth inning, setting the stage for Yadier Molina and Adam Wainwright to lift the Cardinals to a 3-1 victory in Game 7 of the National League Championship Series against the Mets at New York.
Nine years later, Flores, 40, was playing another prominent role for the Cardinals. He was chosen by general manager John Mozeliak to be Cardinals scouting director, starting the job on Sept. 1, 2015.
Flores, who earned both an undergraduate degree in finance and a master’s degree in administration from the University of Southern California, was hired for the front-office role, in part, for his leadership and management skills, Mozeliak said to Dan McLaughlin in an interview for radio station KMOX.
Flores’ skills in performing under pressure on the field passed the test in the epic pennant-clinching 2006 game at Shea Stadium.
Trusted by Tony
In the eighth inning, with the score tied at 1-1 and most of the 56,357 spectators howling for the Mets to take the lead, Cardinals starter Jeff Suppan walked the leadoff batter, Carlos Beltran.
Next up for the Mets was cleanup batter Carlos Delgado. A left-handed slugger, Delgado had been walked three times in the game by Suppan.
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa replaced Suppan with Flores, a left-handed reliever.
Flores had posted a 5.62 ERA in 65 appearances during the regular season. He’d been much better during the postseason, though. Flores had pitched twice in the NL Division Series against the Padres and three times versus the Mets in the Championship Series and hadn’t yielded a run.
Now, with a berth in the World Series at stake, La Russa was entrusting the Cardinals’ fate to Flores.
Delgado had hit three home runs against the Cardinals in the series and 38 overall during the regular season, with 114 RBI.
Flores struck him out on a slider in the dirt.
Rough vs. righties
Another power hitter, David Wright, was up next. A right-handed batter, Wright had driven in the Mets’ run in the first with one of their two hits in the game against Suppan. During the season, Wright had hit 27 home runs with 102 RBI.
The matchup with Flores favored Wright. Right-handed batters had hit .329 versus Flores during the season.
La Russa could have brought in a right-hander to face Wright. He didn’t because Shawn Green, a left-handed batter, was on deck. Tyler Johnson, a rookie, was the lone remaining left-hander in the bullpen.
Preferring to stick with his veteran, La Russa gambled and let Flores face Wright.
Flores struck him out on a slider.
Complete the job
Beltran, who had 18 stolen bases during the season and one during the series, hadn’t budged off first base.
Like Delgado and Wright, Green had the proven ability to drive in Beltran with an extra-base hit. Acquired by the Mets from the Diamondbacks in August, Green had produced 31 doubles and 15 home runs during the season.
Flores induced him to ground out to first baseman Albert Pujols, ending the inning and emboldening the Cardinals with his shutdown performance.
In the ninth, Molina slammed a two-run home run off reliever Aaron Heilman, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead and positioning Flores for the win.
Facing Adam Wainwright, the Mets loaded bases with two out in the bottom half of the inning before the rookie struck out Beltran on three pitches, the final one a jaw-dropping curve. Boxscore
Said Flores to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch about earning the win: “The best moment possible, winning Game 7 of the NLCS _ unless you’re talking about Game 7 of the World Series.”
The win was the personal highlight of an outstanding 2006 postseason for Flores. Overall, he pitched 5.2 scoreless innings against the Padres, Mets and Tigers.
Signed by the Cardinals as a free agent in November 2003 after spending the season in the Rockies minor-league system, Flores played five years (2004-08) with St. Louis and was 9-2 with a 4.35 ERA and three saves in 237 appearances.
Previously: Bob Gibson was nearly unbeatable against Mets