Archive for the ‘Games’ Category

Whether facing a journeyman such as Barney Schultz or a fellow Hall of Famer like Steve Carlton, Cubs icon Ernie Banks produced some of his most spectacular performances against Cardinals pitching.

ernie_banksBanks, 83, died Jan. 23, 2015, a week before his 84th birthday.

In a 19-year playing career with the Cubs, Banks had 512 home runs, 1,636 RBI and 2,583 hits. Against the Cardinals, Banks batted .277 with 326 hits in 324 games, including 64 home runs.

“One thing that the fans never really knew about Ernie … is that he talked all of the time,” George Altman, an outfielder with the Cubs and Cardinals, wrote in his autobiography. “He talked to the opposing hitters when they reached first base. He talked to our infielders. He talked to us on the bench.”

All of that talking became too much for Cardinals ace and Hall of Famer Bob Gibson.

“Ernie Banks was a good example of a guy whom I probably would have enjoyed quite a bit if he had been on my side _ I don’t doubt that he was as nice a guy as everybody said _ but as it was he talked too damn much,” Gibson said in his book “Stranger to the Game.”

“He was always jabbering at me a day or two before I pitched against the Cubs, trying to get me off my game. One day at old Busch Stadium he came by during batting practice and said, ‘Hoot, you pitching tomorrow? We’re going to beat you. We’re going to beat your ass tomorrow.’ I said, ‘Ernie, you’d better leave me alone.’

“It wasn’t in his nature to do that, though, and the next day I answered him.”

Gibson drilled Banks in the ribs with a pitch. “He didn’t have much to say to me after that,” Gibson said.

That day, July 18, 1962, Gibson struck out Banks three times and held the Cubs to three hits in a 2-1 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Banks had a career batting mark of .229 (24-for-105) against Gibson with three home runs and 13 RBI.

Some of Banks’ most memorable games versus the Cardinals:

Communication breakdown

Banks hit two home runs on April 16, 1955, but the Cardinals won, 12-11, in 14 innings at St. Louis.

In the second inning, Randy Jackson, Banks and Dee Fondy hit consecutive home runs off Tom Poholsky.

With the score at 9-9 in the 12th, Banks and Fondy connected for back-to-back homers off Schultz. The Cardinals tied the score in the bottom half of the inning on Wally Moon’s two-run homer with two outs off Bubba Church.

A misplay involving Banks ignited the winning rally in the 14th. Bill Sarni lifted a fly to short left. Banks, the shortstop, and left fielder Hank Sauer miscommunicated and the ball dropped in for a double. Moon followed with a single off Vicente Amor, making his big-league debut, scoring Sarni. Boxscore

Slugging shortstop

Three months later, on July 8, 1955, Banks again homered twice against the Cardinals. This time, the Cubs won, 6-4, in 11 innings.

Banks hit a solo home run off Floyd Wooldridge in the first. In the 11th, Banks broke a 4-4 tie with a two-run homer off Gordon Jones. Boxscore

The home runs gave Banks a season total of 23, most for a shortstop in one year since Glenn Wright slugged 22 for the 1930 Dodgers.

In a five-game stretch against St. Louis in July 1955, Banks hit .550 (10-for-18).

Perfect at plate

Banks produced five hits in a game for the only time in his major-league career on Sept. 29, 1957, against the Cardinals. He was 5-for-5 with a career-best three doubles and two singles in an 8-3 Cubs victory in the season finale. Boxscore

Lucky seven

Banks had a career-high seven RBI in a game three times. The second time was against the Cardinals at St. Louis on May 1, 1963. Banks hit a pair of three-run home runs _ in the first inning off Ray Sadecki and in the seventh off Harry Fanok _ and added an RBI-single in the eighth. The Cubs won, 13-8. Boxscore

Fit to be tied

Ten years after his 12th-inning home run off Schultz, Banks hit another dramatic shot against the Cardinals knuckleball pitcher.

On April 12, 1965, in the season opener at Chicago, the Cardinals carried a 9-6 lead into the bottom of the ninth. With two outs and none on, Tracy Stallard walked Ron Santo and Altman followed with a single.

Red Schoendienst, in his debut as manager, replaced Stallard with Schultz. Banks greeted him with a three-run homer “into the teeth of a 20 mph wind,” according to the Associated Press, tying the score at 9-9.

After each team scored in the 11th, the game was ended because of darkness and declared a tie, with all statistics counting. Boxscore

“Stallard pitched like a son of a gun,” said Schoendienst. “But when Altman got that good, solid hit I … decided to take him out. Why not? Schultz was warmed up and nobody has touched him for anything in the spring games.”

Last hurrah

At 39, Banks hit a pair of two-run home runs off Carlton _ the first giving the Cubs a 4-3 lead in the sixth and the second snapping a 4-4 tie in the eighth _ but the Cardinals rallied and won, 8-6, at St. Louis on June 29, 1970.

The home runs were the 506th and 507th of Banks’ career and were the last he would hit against Cardinals pitching. Boxscore

Composer Burt Bacharach, Banks’ self-described No. 1 fan, was in St. Louis for a concert and was greeted by Banks outside the clubhouse after the game.

“You were making beautiful music out there,” Bacharach said to Banks.

Banks played against the Cardinals for the final time on Sept. 10, 1971, when he grounded out as a pinch-hitter against Don Shaw at Wrigley Field. Boxscore

Previously: Bob Gibson vs. Billy Williams: a classic duel

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Four years after impressing the Angels as rookie sensations, reliever Jordan Walden and outfielder Peter Bourjos are being reunited on the 2015 Cardinals. If they produce for the Cardinals like they did for the 2011 Angels, it would help St. Louis remain an elite contender in the National League.

jordan_waldenWalden and Bourjos both made their major-league debuts with the Angels in August 2010. In their first full big-league seasons, Walden was the closer and Bourjos was the regular center fielder for a 2011 Angels team that achieved 86 wins.

The Cardinals acquired Walden and outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves on Nov. 17, 2014, for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Walden is expected to excel in a setup role in the 2015 Cardinals bullpen. He also serves as insurance in case closer Trevor Rosenthal is hurt or ineffective.

Bourjos, acquired by the Cardinals with outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Angels for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas on Nov. 22, 2013, hit .231 with nine doubles and five triples in 119 games for the 2014 Cardinals.

The 2015 Cardinals would like to see Bourjos perform like he did in 2011 when he hit .271 with 26 doubles and 11 triples in 147 games for the Angels.

Walden also was stellar that season, producing a 5-5 record with 32 saves and a 2.98 ERA for the 2011 Angels. He broke the Angels’ rookie record for saves (22) set by Ken Tatum in 1969.

Walden, 27, is 12-13 with 38 saves and a 3.10 ERA in five big-league seasons with the Angels and Braves.

Here are 5 key items Cardinals fans should know about Jordan Walden:

1. Dazzling debut

With the Twins leading the Angels, 4-0, on Aug. 22, 2010, at Minneapolis, Walden was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth in his big-league debut.

He threw a fastball clocked at 99 mph to the first batter he faced, Joe Mauer.

Mauer walked and Jason Kubel singled, putting runners on first and third with no outs.

Walden then struck out Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome before getting Delmon Young on a ground out, stranding the runners.

Asked afterward how Walden ranked among Angels pitching prospects, manager Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register, “Jordan is a guy who has the most upside of the guys we were looking at.” Boxscore

2. Cardinals connections

On June 17, 2011, Walden and Bourjos combined to help Angels starting pitcher Joel Pineiro, a former Cardinal, earn his 100th win in the majors.

Facing the Mets at New York, Bourjos hit a RBI-double off starter Chris Capuano in the top of the sixth, giving the Angels a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Bourjos made a leaping grab of a Ronny Paulino drive off Pineiro before crashing into the center field wall.

In the ninth, with the Angels ahead, 4-3, Walden came in for the save. He walked the first two batters, Jose Reyes and Justin Turner. He then struck out Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan on sliders.

“He threw some terrific breaking balls,” Scioscia said of Walden. Boxscore

3. Replacing Rivera

Walden was named to the 2011 American League all-star team as a replacement for the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, who had a triceps injury. “Even being mentioned in the same sentence with him is pretty awesome,” Walden said.

Walden, who had 19 saves, a 2.95 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36.2 innings at the time of his selection, was the sixth Angels rookie to make an AL all-star team and the first since pitcher Jason Dickson in 1997.

4. Change of pace

Walden, a right-hander, has held left-handed batters to a .199 average in his career in the majors. Right-handed batters have hit .232 against him.

One reason for his success against left-handed batters is his changeup, which darts down when thrown well. “I like to show it to lefties because it fades away from them,” Walden said.

5. Angels angst

With the signing of free agent Albert Pujols from the Cardinals, the 2012 Angels were considered a certain pennant contender. Instead, despite the addition of a second wild-card team, the Angels failed to qualify for the postseason.

Part of the blame was placed on Bourjos, who slumped to a .220 batting mark with 37 hits in 101 games, and on Walden, who had an 8.31 ERA after his first six appearances.

Walden was replaced as the closer by Ernesto Frieri.

So desperate for relief help were the 2012 Angels that 40-year-old Jason Isringhausen, the former Cardinals closer, made 50 appearances for them.

Walden did recover and finished the 2012 season at 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39 innings. Still, the Angels traded him to the Braves for pitcher Tommy Hanson on Nov. 30, 2012.

In two seasons with the Braves in a setup role for closer Craig Kimbrel, Walden was 4-5 with a 3.15 ERA, four saves and 116 strikeouts in 97 innings.

Previously: How Jason Heyward, Hank Aaron made powerful connection

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The first night home game for the Cardinals had two unintended consequences: It prompted the dismissal of their manager and led to a ban on serving beverages in glass bottles.

sportsmans_park2Seventy-five years ago, on Jan. 31, 1940, the National League Cardinals and the American League Browns agreed to share the $150,000 cost to install lights at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

Stupp Brothers Bridge and Iron Company of St. Louis was hired to do the structural work and Westinghouse Electrical Supply Company was given the job of putting in the reflectors and floodlights on eight steel towers.

“It will require electrical energy totaling 1,176,000 watts per hour, not including lighting in the stands, to turn night into day at the historic old Grand Boulevard establishment,” The Sporting News reported. “This, it is said, would be sufficient juice to take care of the lighting needs of a city of 25,000 persons.”

The Browns got the honor of playing the first night game in St. Louis on May 24, 1940, against the Indians. Before 24,827 spectators on a Friday night, Bob Feller pitched a seven-hitter, struck out nine and hit his first big-league home run, leading the Indians to a 3-2 victory. Boxscore

Eleven nights later, the Cardinals got their first chance to play under the lights at home.

Dark times

On June 4, 1940, 23,500 spectators turned out on a Tuesday night to see the Cardinals open a series against the Dodgers.

A runner-up to the National League champion Reds in 1939, the Cardinals stumbled early in 1940, losing 16 of their first 24 games. Their record was 14-22 entering the Dodgers series. Cardinals owner Sam Breadon was becoming increasingly impatient with second-year manager Ray Blades.

Seeking a sharp, winning performance before the large crowd in the club’s first night home game, Breadon saw just the opposite. Sparked by a three-run home run by Pete Coscarart off Mort Cooper, the Dodgers scored five in the first.

As the Dodgers added to the lead, “pop bottles thrown from the bleachers littered the outfield,” The Sporting News reported, “partly because the Dodgers rattled long drives off the wall and partly because of (inconsistent) umpiring.”

Though Cardinals cleanup batter Joe Medwick, who had gone hitless in his last 16 times at bat, went 5-for-5 with three doubles, the Cardinals stranded 14 and the Dodgers won, 10-1, behind left-hander Vito Tamulis, who scattered 11 hits. Boxscore

Changing times

Disheartened by the debacle, Breadon made up his mind right then to fire Blades, The Sporting News reported.

The announcement of Blades’ firing came two days later, surprising general manager Branch Rickey, who hadn’t been informed by Breadon of the decision. Billy Southworth, managing the Cardinals’ minor-league club at Rochester, N.Y., was Breadon’s choice to replace Blades.

Breadon also announced that the Cardinals would use paper cups instead of bottles for serving cold drinks in the Sportsman’s Park bleachers.

Night moves

The 1940 Cardinals would play seven home night games, winning three.

Their first home night win occurred on a Tuesday, July 2, 1940, when right-hander Bill McGee pitched a seven-hit shutout and contributed a two-run single, beating the Reds, 4-0, before 14,944. Boxscore

A look at the Cardinals’ other five night home games in 1940:

_ Harry Danning had three hits, including two doubles, and a RBI for the Giants in an 8-6, 11-inning victory on Thursday night July 11 before 10,363. Boxscore

_ Hugh Mulcahy pitched a five-hit shutout in a 3-0 Phillies win on Wednesday night July 17 before 7,113. Boxscore

_ Joe Orengo tied the score with a solo home run in the bottom of the ninth and the Cardinals got a run in the 11th to beat the Pirates, 7-6, on Wednesday night Aug. 14 before 11,077. Boxscore

_ Al Glossop had two RBI and rookie Nick Strincevich pitched a five-hitter, leading the Braves to a 3-1 triumph on Monday night Aug. 26 before 8,472. Boxscore

_ Johnny Mize and Marty Marion each had two RBI, lifting the Cardinals to a 4-2 win over the Cubs on Wednesday night Sept. 4 before 16,197. Boxscore

Previously: Rift with Branch Rickey led Cards to oust Frankie Frisch

Previously: Top 5 reasons why Sam Breadon should be in Hall of Fame

Previously: How Mike Gonzalez became first Cuban manager in majors

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In a storybook start to his major-league career, Jason Heyward hit a home run with his first swing minutes after being anointed by one of the game’s all-time sluggers.

jason_heywardThe Cardinals, who acquired Heyward from the Braves on Nov. 17, 2014, are counting on him having magic moments for them, too.

On April 5, 2010, the Braves opened their season against the Cubs at Atlanta. Heyward, a Georgia prep standout selected by the Braves in the first round of the amateur draft three years earlier, was tabbed by manager Bobby Cox to debut in right field and bat seventh.

Hank Aaron, the Braves icon, was there to throw the ceremonial first pitch. Heyward, 20, was given the honor of catching the toss.

After delivering the pitch, Aaron offered advice to the rookie.

He said, ‘Have fun. You’re ready to do this,’ ” Heyward told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Electric feeling

Soon after, in the opening inning, Heyward stood in the left-hand side of the batter’s box, taking his first big-league at-bat. The score was tied at 3-3. The Braves had two runners on base. Carlos Zambrano, an imposing right-hander, was pitching.

Zambrano’s first two deliveries to Heyward missed the strike zone. Heyward didn’t bite at either.

On the 2-and-0 pitch, Zambrano threw a sinking fastball toward the inner part of the plate.

Heyward swung and sent a drive 446 feet into the right-field stands. A three-run home run.

Turner Field erupted in pandemonium. The crowd noise was so loud, “I couldn’t hear myself think,” Heyward said.

Said Braves third baseman Chipper Jones: “I haven’t felt electricity like that in a long time.”

Watching from the dugout, Terry Pendleton, the Braves hitting coach who had played third base for two pennant-winning Cardinals clubs, said, “As soon as he hit it, we started high-fiving and saying, ‘You’ve got to be kidding me.’ You can’t script something like that.” Video

Gifted athlete

Heyward, 6 feet 5 and 245 pounds, produced a RBI-single in the eighth off Justin Berg. He finished the game 2-for-5 with four RBI and two runs scored in the Braves’ 16-5 victory. Boxscore

“He’s by far the best 20-year-old I’ve ever seen,” said Braves catcher Brian McCann.

Said Cox: “He’s a very talented kid and, when he’s not hitting, he’s going to help us in the outfield. He’s a very gifted athlete and a terrific defensive player.”

Heyward had hit .520 with eight home runs in his senior year in high school. Baseball America rated him the No. 9 overall prospect in the 2007 draft.

The first player chosen in that draft was pitcher David Price by the Rays. The Braves, with the 14th pick, made Heyward the first outfielder taken in the first round. Four picks later, the Cardinals selected infielder Pete Kozma.

Said Roy Clark, Braves director of scouting: “We are ecstatic, as you might imagine. We didn’t anticipate Mr. Heyward getting to us. He’s just a quality person. Great kid. Not only that, he’s got tremendous upside. We thought he was one of, if not the best, position players in the draft.”

Seeking consistency

Heyward followed the Opening Day home run with an impressive first season. He hit .277 with 29 doubles, 18 home runs, 72 RBI and 144 hits in 142 games for the 2010 Braves. His on-base percentage was .393.

Since then, his production has been inconsistent. He slumped in 2011, hitting .227, then rebounded in 2012 with 27 home runs and 82 RBI. He had just 38 RBI in an injury-plagued 2013, then produced 155 hits in 149 games in 2014.

Heyward has a .262 batting average with 644 hits in 681 games and a .351 on-base percentage in five big-league seasons.

Cox was right about Heyward’s fielding skills. Heyward has won two Gold Glove awards.

The Braves traded Heyward and reliever Jordan Walden to the Cardinals for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins.

The Cardinals needed a right fielder to replace Oscar Taveras, who died in an auto accident. The Braves needed pitching.

At 25, Heyward still hasn’t entered his prime. Whether he has reached his peak is a question that remains unanswered.

Previously: Home run vs. Cardinals put Hank Aaron on road to record

Previously: Hank Aaron and the home run that wasn’t vs. Cardinals

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For Cardinals pinch-hitter Gerald Perry, a controversial feat against a future ace salvaged an afternoon that began with a gaffe.

pedro_martinezOn April 13, 1993, Perry hit the first big-league home run yielded by Pedro Martinez, then a Dodgers rookie.

Twenty-two years later, on Jan. 6, 2015, Martinez was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. In 18 seasons with the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies, Martinez produced a 219-100 record and 2.93 ERA with 3,154 strikeouts. He ranks sixth all-time in winning percentage.

In 1993, Martinez was 21, a relief pitcher in his first full big-league season with the Dodgers.

Perry, 32, was an 11-year big-league veteran, an established professional.

On this Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles, he made a rookie mistake.

Room service, please

Perry thought the Cardinals and Dodgers were playing a night game. Instead, it was a rare weekday afternoon starting time because the game was the Dodgers’ home opener.

According to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Perry “was resting at the Century Plaza Hotel, having room service and watching a movie (“The Bodyguard”) on television” when he got a call from Cardinals equipment manager Buddy Bates, informing him he was about 90 minutes late.

Perry took a cab to Dodger Stadium and arrived in the clubhouse about 45 minutes before the start of the game. “I was very embarrassed walking in,” Perry said.

The Dodgers led, 7-5, after six innings. Martinez, the Dodgers’ third pitcher of the game, had held St. Louis scoreless in the fifth and sixth. The right-hander was making his second appearance of the season and his fourth overall in the big leagues.

In the seventh, the Cardinals had two runners on base with two outs when manager Joe Torre called on Perry, a left-handed batter, to pinch-hit for reliever Les Lancaster.

Tom Lasorda, the Dodgers’ manager, stuck with Martinez.

Trouble if it’s fair

Perry swung at a high changeup and lined a deep drive down the right-field line.

As the ball carried toward the foul pole, Darryl Strawberry, the 6-foot-6 right fielder, “leaned over the waist-high wall” and reached for the ball, Hummel reported.

On KMOX radio, Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon told his audience, “Swing and a long one down the right-field line. It’s trouble if it stays fair … Well, we can’t tell.”

A fan with a glove caught the ball.

It landed just inside the foul line _ a three-run home run, giving the Cardinals an 8-7 lead.

Strawberry claimed the fan interfered.

“I would have had it,” said Strawberry. “I had it all the way. He just took it away.”

An inning after the home run, ushers escorted the fan from his seat. “Perhaps for his own safety,” Hummel wrote.

Cardinals catcher Hector Villanueva, who was in the bullpen, witnessed the fan being harassed by fellow spectators. “They were throwing stuff at him,” Villanueva said.

After viewing a video replay of Perry’s home run, Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi opined, “There’s no way Strawberry would have caught that ball because the ball was already by him. What’s he whining about?”

Said Perry to the Orange County Register: “I was hoping and praying (Strawberry) wouldn’t catch it. Thanks to the fan, too.”

Martinez was lifted after completing the seventh. In the ninth, Pagnozzi hit a solo home run off Ricky Trlicek, extending the St. Louis lead to 9-7, and Lee Smith shut down the Dodgers in their half of the inning, earning his 358th save, then a major league record. Boxscore

When Perry got back to the clubhouse, he found a sign, created by his teammates, taped over his locker that informed him of the next Cardinals-Dodgers game. It read: “Night game, Rookie.”

Redbirds vs. Pedro

Martinez took the loss. Against the Cardinals in his career, he would finish 4-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 16 regular-season appearances, including 11 starts. He also earned a win against them with seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. Boxscore

Martinez gave up 10 career home runs versus the Cardinals. Six of those 10 occurred in three games.

_ John Mabry and Gary Gaetti connected for home runs against Martinez on July 28, 1996, in a 6-4 Cardinals victory over the Expos at St. Louis. Boxscore

_ Mark Grudzielanek and Abraham Nunez homered for the Cardinals against Martinez in a 7-6 St. Louis victory over the Mets on May 14, 2005, at New York. Boxscore

_ Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel hit home runs off Martinez in an 8-7 Cardinals triumph over the Mets at St. Louis on July 2, 2008. Boxscore

Previously: How Joe Girardi became a member of Cardinals’ family

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In a last hurrah to a stellar career, John Smoltz got one win for the Cardinals and, in so doing, set a franchise record.

john_smoltzOn Jan. 6, 2015, Smoltz was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. The right-hander is the only big-league pitcher with 200 wins and 150 saves. He also earned 15 postseason wins: seven in the National League Division Series, six in the NL Championship Series and two in the World Series.

If not for the opportunity given to him by the Cardinals, Smoltz would have had a sour ending to his career.

Saved by St. Louis

Smoltz pitched for the Braves from 1988 through 2008. He made his last appearance for them on June 2, 2008, vs. the Marlins, then had season-ending shoulder surgery.

A free agent, Smoltz signed with the Red Sox in 2009. He was a flop, posting a 2-5 record and a 8.32 ERA in eight starts. He yielded 25 earned runs and 35 hits in his last 20 innings.

On Aug. 7, 2009, the Red Sox designated Smoltz for assignment. Ten days later, they released him.

The Cardinals, in first place in the NL Central, were seeking pitching depth. They had tried four pitchers as the fifth starter _ Todd Wellemeyer, Brad Thompson, Mitchell Boggs and P.J. Walters _ and weren’t satisfied with any. They also wanted to bolster the bullpen.

Third baseman Mark DeRosa, acquired by the Cardinals in June, had played with Smoltz for seven seasons with the Braves. DeRosa suggested to general manager John Mozeliak and manager Tony La Russa that the pitcher would be a good fit with the Cardinals, according to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. DeRosa and Smoltz also were represented by the same agency.

On Aug. 19, 2009, two days after his release from the Red Sox, Smoltz, 42, signed with the Cardinals for $100,000. The team planned to give Smoltz two starts and then determine whether he would remain in a rotation with Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Joel Pineiro and Kyle Lohse, or move to the bullpen in a setup role for closer Ryan Franklin.

“There is no down side to this move,” Carpenter said.

Mozeliak called it “a unique opportunity” and “too inviting not to take a chance on.”

Said Smoltz: “You’re going to get a nasty guy on the mound … I still believe in everything I’m doing to get myself prepared for battle … You’ve got to want it. I still want it.”

To the rescue

Two days after Smoltz signed, Lohse suffered a groin injury running the bases and was placed on the disabled list. The Cardinals now were looking at Smoltz as the replacement for Lohse as the fourth starter. The question was whether Smoltz could be effective.

On Aug. 23, 2009, Smoltz provided the answer. In his first Cardinals appearance, Smoltz started against the Padres at San Diego and displayed the form that had made him an eight-time all-star with the Braves.

Smoltz struck out nine, including seven in a row, in five innings and held the Padres scoreless. Using a mix of split-fingered pitches with a slider, curve and fastball, Smoltz struck out the last batter of the second inning and struck out the side in the third and fourth innings. The seven consecutive strikeouts are a Cardinals franchise record, according to ESPN.com.

Departing with a 5-0 lead, Smoltz earned the win _ the 213th and last of his career in the majors _ in a 5-2 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

“I couldn’t ask for a better beginning (with St. Louis),” Smoltz said. “All the pitches that were giving me trouble, I was able to throw.”

Wrote columnist Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch: “No one could have seen this coming. I mean no one.” Video

Postseason finale

Smoltz stayed in the Cardinals rotation, made seven total starts and finished 1-3 with a 4.26 ERA. His ERA was 3.18 before he got shelled for six runs in four innings in his final career start on Sept. 30, 2009, against the Reds at Cincinnati.

The last pitching appearance for Smoltz came in a relief stint for the Cardinals in Game 3 of the 2009 NL Division Series against the Dodgers at St. Louis. Smoltz, pitching the sixth and seventh innings, struck out five in a row _ Ronnie Belliard, Russell Martin and Vicente Padilla to end the sixth and Rafael Furcal and Matt Kemp to start the seventh. Boxscore

“For me personally, this was an incredible opportunity after surgery,” Smoltz said to Dan O’Neill of the Post-Dispatch. “No one thought I could come back … I got a chance and I thank the organization for giving me that chance.’

His final career numbers: 213-155 with 154 saves, 3,084 strikeouts and a 3.33 ERA. In the postseason, Smoltz was 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA and 199 strikeouts in 41 games.

Against the Cardinals, Smoltz was 11-11 with a 4.13 ERA in 40 regular-season appearances, including 29 starts. He was 2-0 with a 1.20 ERA vs. St. Louis in the 1996 NL Championship Series.

Previously: Reaching 3,000 strikeouts was low-key event for Bob Gibson

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