Skip Schumaker had six hits in a game for the Cardinals, equaling a feat that hadn’t been achieved in nearly three-quarters of a century. He also slugged a grand slam against the Reds and went 5-for-5 against the Pirates. But his most important hit during eight seasons with St. Louis occurred during one of the greatest at-bats in one of the classic games in franchise history.
Chris Carpenter pitched a gem against the Phillies in the deciding game of the 2011 National League Division Series, but the effort could have been wasted if Schumaker hadn’t driven in the run that led to a 1-0 Cardinals victory.
Schumaker’s first-inning RBI-double off Phillies ace Roy Halladay figures to be the defining achievement of his Cardinals career. It’s recalled here in tribute to Schumaker, who was traded by the Cardinals to the Dodgers Dec. 12, 2012, for minor-league shortstop Jake Lemmerman.
In 2011, Schumaker was the Cardinals’ everyday second baseman. In Game 4 of the National League Division Series at St. Louis, Schumaker singled in each of his first two at-bats. In the fifth inning, when he batted again, a squirrel ran across the plate, distracting pitcher Roy Oswalt as he unleashed a pitch. Oswalt asked umpire Angel Hernandez to nullify the pitch, ruled a ball. Hernandez denied the request. “I was wondering what size of animal it needed to be for it not to be a pitch,” Oswalt told reporters. (The Cardinals went on to win, 5-3, preventing the Phillies from clinching the series that night. Thus was born the Rally Squirrel, which became a part of Cardinals lore. Said Phillies manager Charlie Manuel: “Being from the South and being a squirrel hunter, if I had a gun there, might have did something. I’m a pretty good shot.”) Boxscore and MLB video
Schumaker subsequently flied out to center in that squirrelly at-bat. He was lifted before the start of the next inning with what the Cardinals described as a hamstring cramp caused by dehydration.
Just before Game 5 at Philadelphia, doctors cleared Schumaker to play. Manager Tony La Russa opted to start Nick Punto at second base and Schumaker in center field (in place of the slumping Jon Jay). Schumaker hadn’t started a game in center field in eight weeks. But he was hitting .364 (4-for-11) against Halladay in his career. La Russa batted Schumaker second in the order, behind shortstop Rafael Furcal.
The decision paid immediate dividends.
Furcal led off the game with a triple. Schumaker followed with an at-bat the St. Louis Post-Dispatch would describe as “epic.” He fell behind in the count 0-and-2 and fouled off five two-strike pitches. On the 10th pitch of the at-bat, Schumaker pulled a curveball into the right-field corner for a run-producing double. MLB video
“That was a good at-bat,” an admiring Halladay said to the Post-Dispatch. “I threw him two or three pitches that were good pitches and he just kept fouling them off.”
Said Schumaker to ESPN.com: “I was happy just to put the barrel of the bat on the ball.” Asked whether he was fortunate to foul off a couple of the toughest Halladay pitches, Schumaker said, “Yeah, probably seven of the 10.” MLB video
Halladay stopped the Cardinals the remainder of the game, but Carpenter was better. He shut out the Phillies on three hits. The Cardinals advanced to the National League Championship Series against the Brewers. Boxscore
(Schumaker wouldn’t play in the Milwaukee series. In his second at-bat against Halladay, Schumaker strained a muscle in his side. He flied out to left field and left the game. He told the Post-Dispatch, “That’s not a situation I’m coming out of unless something serious is going on.” Schumaker returned for the World Series against the Rangers. He started three games in center field and appeared in three others. He had two hits in 11 at-bats.)
Schumaker’s most memorable regular-season performance occurred on July 26, 2008, when he had six hits (all singles) in seven at-bats in the Cardinals’ 10-8 victory in 14 innings against the Mets at New York. He keyed the winning rally with a one-out single off Aaron Heilman. One out later, Albert Pujols launched a two-run home run. Boxscore
Batting in the leadoff spot and playing left field, Schumaker became the first Cardinal in 73 years to produce six hits in a game. Until then, the feat was last achieved by rookie Terry Moore on Sept. 5, 1935, against the Braves at St. Louis. Batting leadoff and playing center field, Moore was 6-for-6 (five singles and a double). Boxscore
Schumaker and Pujols (who was 5-for-8) became the first Cardinals pair since 1930 to each have five hits in a game. Shortstop Charlie Gelbert and center fielder Taylor Douthit each had five hits against the Cubs on May 16, 1930, at St. Louis. Boxscore
On the last day of the 2007 season, Schumaker, batting second, was 5-for-5 (four singles and a double) against the Pirates at Pittsburgh. Boxscore
Three years later, on Aug. 9, 2010, during a heated series against the Reds at Cincinnati, Schumaker hit the only grand slam of his career, a fourth-inning blast off Mike Leake that carried the Cardinals to a 7-3 victory. Boxscore
“Everyone gets lucky now and then in their career,” Schumaker said to the Post-Dispatch after the game. “I probably hit it in the right park and it worked out for me.”