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Combining an effective hitting stroke with a strikeout pitch that dazzled a lineup stacked with fellow future Hall of Famers Rogers Hornsby, Jim Bottomley and Chick Hafey, Dazzy Vance gave one of the best individual performances all-time against the Cardinals.

dazzy_vanceOn July 20, 1925, Vance, 34, struck out 17 and produced three RBI, including the walkoff hit in the 10th, carrying Brooklyn to a 4-3 victory over the Cardinals at Ebbets Field.

Ninety years later, on May 13, 2015, Corey Kluber, 29, struck out 18 in eight innings, lifting the Indians to a 2-0 victory over the Cardinals at Cleveland. Boxscore

Kluber’s strikeouts are the most by one pitcher against the Cardinals, topping the mark held by Vance.

Whiff wiz

A right-hander, Vance didn’t get his first big-league win until he was 31 in 1922.

He was named winner of the National League Most Valuable Player Award in 1924 when he was 28-6 for Brooklyn and led the league in wins, ERA (2.16), strikeouts (262) and complete games (30).

Mixing a powerful fastball with a sweeping curve, Vance led the NL in strikeouts with Brooklyn for seven consecutive years (1922-28). His 17 against St. Louis represented his single-game high in 16 big-league seasons.

Vance struck out every player in the Cardinals lineup that day except shortstop Specs Toporcer, who got his nickname because he wore eyeglasses.

Hornsby and Bottomley each struck out three times, tying career highs. Hafey struck out once.

Unlike Kluber, who held the 2015 Cardinals to one hit, Vance wasn’t untouchable against the 1925 Cardinals. He yielded nine hits and walked six. Vance used his bat as well as his strikeout pitches to put himself in position to win.

Power pitcher

In the first inning, Vance walked the first two batters, Max Flack and Ralph Shinners, then struck out Hornsby and Bottomley and got Hafey to fly out to right.

Vance quickly found a groove. He struck out the last two batters of the second and the first two batters of the third.

The Cardinals’ starter, left-hander Duster Mails, was effective early, too, holding Brooklyn scoreless in the first three innings.

In the fourth, Les Bell reached Vance for a two-run single, breaking the scoreless tie.

Vance responded in the fifth, hitting a two-run home run.

Vance hit .143 in 1925 and .150 for his big-league career. Most of his hits came against off-speed pitches. Known for his wit, Vance explained his approach to hitting in the 1976 book “The Gashouse Gang” by Robert Hood:

“I was a slow-ball hitter,” Vance said. “I found that out years ago when I was a boy on a farm. We were plagued with rats, so we got a ferret and shoved him down a hole. I stood at another hole with a baseball bat. When a rat ran out, I swung and missed. Another came and I swung and missed. I must have missed half a dozen.

“Then out came this fellow nice and slow and I clouted him good. Unfortunately, it was the ferret. From then on, I knew I was a slow-ball hitter.”

Walkoff winner

In the eighth, with Hornsby on first, one out and the score still tied at 2-2, Vance struck out Bottomley and Hafey. Vance singled leading off the bottom half of the inning and Brooklyn got the go-ahead run on Milt Stock’s RBI-double.

The Cardinals tied the score at 3-3 in the ninth when Toporcer tripled and Bell singled for his third RBI of the game.

After nine innings, Vance had struck out 15, tying his career high. Rube Waddell of the 1908 Browns had established the big-league record for strikeouts in nine innings with 16 against the Athletics.

In the 10th, Vance struck out Hornsby and Bottomley, giving him his total of 17.

After catcher Hank DeBerry led off the bottom of the 10th with a double and was lifted for pinch-runner Johnny Mitchell, Vance followed with a single, scoring Mitchell with the run that gave Vance the win and Brooklyn a 4-3 victory. Boxscore

Vance finished the 1925 season with a 22-9 record and 221 strikeouts in 265.1 innings.

Vance pitched for the Cardinals in 1933 and ’34, giving St. Louis a tandem of Dazzy and Dizzy (Dean). Vance appeared in his lone World Series in 1934 for St. Louis against the Tigers. His career record is 197-140 (190 wins for Brooklyn and seven for St. Louis) with 2,045 strikeouts.

He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1955.

Previously: Arthur Rhodes: 1 of 5 Cardinals in a Series age 40

Previously: Cardinals were Bob Feller’s first big-league test

Previously: Stan Musial: Bob Feller was best pitcher

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In one weekend, Troy Percival went from being perceived as a risk to being viewed as a valuable reliever for the Cardinals.

troy_percivalPercival earned wins in his first two appearances for the Cardinals in 2007. Eight years later, Miguel Socolovich became the first St. Louis reliever to match that feat, getting wins in his first two appearances for the 2015 Cardinals.

Socolovich, 28, signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in November 2014, went 1-0 in seven scoreless appearances for Class AAA Memphis in April 2015 and was called up by the Cardinals in May 2015.

The right-hander earned a win in his Cardinals debut with a flawless inning of relief on May 3, 2015, in the Cardinals’ 3-2 victory over the Pirates in 14 innings at St. Louis. Boxscore

Socolovich followed that with a win in his next appearance, pitching a scoreless inning of relief on May 4, 2015, in the Cardinals’ 10-9 victory over the Cubs at St. Louis. Boxscore

Angel in St. Louis

Percival, 37, signed with the Cardinals as a free agent in June 2007, posted a 1.35 ERA in six appearances for Memphis and was called up by the Cardinals before a weekend series against the Reds at Cincinnati.

A closer with the Angels and Tigers, Percival had retired as a big-league player and had sat out the 2006 season because of persistent arm ailments.

In 2007, though, Percival found he was able to throw effectively again. He was in contact with several former Angels teammates who had become Cardinals. They included infielders Adam Kennedy, Scott Spiezio and David Eckstein; outfielder Jim Edmonds and pitcher Russ Springer. Percival threw for the Cardinals during a workout. Impressed, the Cardinals signed him on June 8, 2007, and sent him to Memphis to get into game condition.

The right-hander earned a win in his Cardinals debut with a flawless inning of relief on June 29, 2007, in the Cardinals’ 4-2 victory over the Reds.

With the Reds ahead, 2-1, Percival entered the Friday night game in relief of starter Brad Thompson and retired all three batters he faced in the seventh. After the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the eighth on RBI-singles by Chris Duncan, Juan Encarnacion and Yadier Molina, Percival was credited with his first big-league win since April 22, 2005, for the Tigers against the Twins.

“It’s a dream come true,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to the Associated Press. “He gets three outs and gets the winning decision. That’s movie material.”

Said Percival: “I didn’t come back for myself. A lot of friends on this team called me and said they needed pitching help. My arm felt good enough to do it.” Boxscore

Encore performance

Two days later, on Sunday July 1, 2007, Percival made his second Cardinals appearance. With the Cardinals ahead, 8-5, in the fourth inning, Percival relieved starter Mike Maroth. The Reds had two runners on base and no outs. Percival got out of the mess he inherited by retiring all three batters he faced without allowing either base runner to advance.

After walking the leadoff batter in the fifth, Percival was relieved by Troy Cate. The runner, Brandon Phillips, moved to third on a single by Ken Griffey Jr. and scored on Jeff Conine’s sacrifice fly. The run was charged to Percival but it didn’t impact the outcome. The Cardinals won, 11-7. Percival was credited with the win in a scorer’s decision for his successful rescue effort in the fourth. Boxscore

Bolstering a Cardinals bullpen that included closer Jason Isringhausen and setup reliever Ryan Franklin, Percival contributed a 3-0 record and 1.80 ERA in 34 appearances for the 2007 Cardinals. Granted free agency after the season, Percival signed with the Rays and finished his career with them in 2008 and 2009.

In July 2014, Percival was named head coach of the baseball team at University of California, Riverside. Percival was a catcher at UC Riverside for three seasons before he was drafted by the Angels after his junior year. After one season as a catcher in the Angels’ farm system, Percival converted to pitching.

Previously: The story of how the Cardinals acquired Lee Smith

Previously: Trevor Rosenthal: 1st Cardinal younger than 30 to save 40

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Rescued from the minors and given the chance for a final fling with the franchise he rooted for as a boy in Illinois, T.J. Mathews delivered his longest and most impressive big-league performance for the Cardinals.

tj_mathewsOn Sept. 9, 2001, Mathews pitched 4.1 flawless innings of relief for the Cardinals and got the win in an 8-1 St. Louis victory over the Dodgers at Busch Stadium II. Mathews retired all 13 batters he faced, striking out five.

Fourteen years later, on April 30, 2015, Carlos Villanueva pitched 3.2 perfect innings of relief for the Cardinals and got the win in a 9-3 St. Louis victory over the Phillies at Busch Stadium III. Villanueva became the first Cardinals reliever to work 3.2 innings or more without allowing a base runner since Mathews shut down the Dodgers. Boxscore

Baseball pedigree

Mathews, a Belleville, Ill., native, grew up as a Cardinals fan. His father, Nelson Mathews, had been an outfielder with the Cubs and Athletics in the 1960s. In 1992, T.J. Mathews was selected in the 36th round of the amateur draft by the Cardinals.

A right-hander, Mathews debuted with the Cardinals in 1995 and pitched effectively for them in relief. On July 31, 1997, Mathews was one of three players traded by the Cardinals to the Athletics for first baseman Mark McGwire.

Four years later, on June 22, 2001, Mathews, 31, was released by the Athletics. The Cardinals signed him two weeks later. After three appearances for St. Louis, Mathews was sent to Class AAA Memphis. In September, when the minor league seasons ended and big-league rosters expanded, the Cardinals brought him back.

Postseason quest

On Sept. 9, 2001, the Cardinals entered the day tied for second place with the Cubs in the National League Central Division at 77-64, 5.5 games behind the Astros. With 21 games remaining, the Cardinals needed a strong finish to have a chance at earning a postseason berth as either division champion or the wild-card entry.

Matt Morris, seeking his 20th win, was the Cardinals’ starter that Sunday afternoon against the Dodgers. After an inning, the game was halted by rain. The delay lasted two hours and four minutes.

Morris wanted to continue. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, concerned the long delay could hamper Morris’ ability to properly loosen his arm, sent Luther Hackman to pitch the second.

“That was a real tough decision,” La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Morris: “When they make a decision that benefits your future, you can’t really complain.”

Hackman pitched a scoreless second. In the third, with the Cardinals ahead, 2-0, Hackman lost command. With one on and two outs, he walked three consecutive batters, forcing in a run and enabling the Dodgers to get within a run, 2-1.

La Russa lifted Hackman and brought in Mathews to face Adrian Beltre with the bases loaded. Mathews got Beltre to fly out, ending the threat.

Untouchable

Mathews retired the Dodgers in order in the fourth through seventh innings. He was lifted for a pinch hitter with the Cardinals ahead, 7-1. Mike James and Mike Timlin mopped up, pitching an inning apiece. Boxscore

Mathews got the win, the last of his 32 in an eight-year major-league career. The win also was his first since 2000 with the Athletics and his first as a Cardinal since 1997.

“He’s hard (for batters) to pick up,” said Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny. “Even catching him is tough. The ball comes right out of his jersey. His release point is kind of funny.”

Said Mathews: “Somebody had to go out and give us some innings. I thought maybe I’d go three at the most. After that third one, I thought, ‘Aw, what the heck.’

“I haven’t thrown that much since I was in the starting rotation in (Class AAA) Louisville in ’95. I wasn’t tired. When you get outs early, you can stay out there a little bit longer.”

Said La Russa to the Associated Press: “It’s kind of hard to believe he could throw that many pitches and keep his effectiveness.”

The win by Mathews sparked a stretch in which the Cardinals won 16 of their last 21 games, tying the Astros for first place in the NL Central at 93-69 and qualifying for the postseason as the wild-card entry.

Mathews became a free agent after the season and signed with the Astros. His 2002 season with Houston would be his last in the big leagues.

Previously: Deal for Woody Williams sparked 2001 Cardinals

Previously: Matt Morris close to perfect at home in 2001

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It is fitting that pitcher Bob Forsch and catcher Ted Simmons were elected together for induction in the St. Louis Cardinals Hall of Fame.

Forsch and Simmons, elected on May 4, 2015, along with outfielder Curt Flood and instructor George Kissell, formed an iconic Cardinals pitcher-catcher battery from 1974-80.

Simmons, by far, caught more of Forsch’s games than any other catcher.

Forsch pitched in 498 regular-season games. Simmons was his catcher in 181 of those, according to baseball-reference.com. (The catcher who caught Forsch the next-most was Darrell Porter at 85.)

Forsch had a career ERA of 3.76. In games caught by Simmons, Forsch’s ERA was 3.43.

On April 16, 1978, Simmons was the catcher when Forsch pitched a no-hitter against the Phillies at St. Louis. Simmons also contributed two hits in four at-bats and scored a run in a 5-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

In his book “Tales from the Cardinals Dugout,” Forsch said of Simmons, “Teddy Simmons was my catcher, but we also became really good friends. We drove down to the ballpark together for every home game. So I may be prejudiced, but I think Teddy’s been slighted for the (National Baseball) Hall of Fame. Without a doubt.

“The thing that really impressed me about Teddy Simmons … he never, ever asked for a day off. Never. He just wouldn’t do it.”

 

simmons_forsch

 

Previously: Like Johan Santana, Bob Forsch had a disputed no-hitter

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Joining a starting rotation that featured future Hall of Famers Jesse Haines and Grover Cleveland Alexander, rookie Fred Frankhouse strung together a September winning streak that nearly lifted the Cardinals to a second consecutive National League pennant.

fred_frankhouseFrankhouse, 23, won each of his first five starts after being promoted from the minor leagues to the Cardinals in September 1927.

In April 2015, Michael Wacha became the first Cardinals pitcher 23 or younger to win each of his first four starts in a season since Frankhouse.

Stretch run

Frankhouse, 5 feet 11 and 175 pounds, was the ace of the Cardinals’ minor-league Houston affiliate in the Texas League in 1927. The right-hander with the sidearm delivery was 21-9 with a 3.24 ERA in 261 innings for Houston.

The defending World Series champion Cardinals, in a four-way race with the Pirates, Giants and Cubs for the 1927 pennant, called up Frankhouse and gave him a start in his big-league debut in the opener of a doubleheader against Chicago on Sept. 7 at St. Louis. The Cardinals started the day in third place, 2.5 games behind the Pirates, 1.5 behind the Giants and a half-game ahead of the Cubs.

Using a sweeping curve, Frankhouse held the Cubs to two runs in seven innings before being relieved by Haines. A 24-game winner in 1927, Haines, making his second and last relief appearance of the season, shut out the Cubs over the final two innings, earning the save and preserving the win for Frankhouse in a 6-2 Cardinals victory. Frankhouse also contributed two hits in three at-bats. Boxscore

Four days later, on Sept. 11, Frankhouse got his second start. He responded with a four-hit shutout, pitching the Cardinals to a 5-0 victory over the Dodgers at St. Louis. The game finished in 1:48. Left fielder Harvey Hendrick got three of the Dodgers’ hits (two singles and a double). The win lifted the Cardinals into a second-place tie with the Giants, two games behind the Pirates. Boxscore

On a roll

Cardinals manager Bob O’Farrell started Frankhouse for the third time on Sept. 15 in the second game of a doubleheader against the Giants at St. Louis. The Giants had five future Hall of Famers in the No. 2 through No. 5 spots in the batting order: Freddie Lindstrom, Edd Roush, Rogers Hornsby, Bill Terry and Travis Jackson.

Frankhouse yielded five runs, but got the win and his second consecutive complete game in an 8-5 Cardinals victory. The game was called after the top of the eighth because of darkness. Frankhouse retired another future Hall of Famer, Mel Ott, with a runner on base to end the game. The Cardinals, who had lost the opener, closed the day still tied with the Giants for second place, but 4.5 behind the Pirates. Boxscore

The Pirates, featuring a lineup with Pie Traynor and brothers Paul and Lloyd Waner, were distancing themselves from the Cardinals and Giants, winning 11 in a row from Sept. 9 through Sept. 17.

On Sept. 19, Frankhouse made his fourth start and pitched his third consecutive complete game, a 12-5 Cardinals victory over the Phillies at St. Louis. Backed by five RBI from his catcher, Frank Snyder, Frankhouse improved his record to 4-0, even though he yielded nine hits and walked five. The Cardinals trailed the Pirates by four with 10 to play. Boxscore

Five days later, on Sept. 24, the Giants beat the Pirates. The Cardinals, behind a fourth consecutive complete game by Frankhouse, defeated the Braves, 4-3, at St. Louis. With Frankhouse improving to 5-0, the Cardinals were within two of the Pirates. Boxscore

NL staple

St. Louis won five of its last six _ the lone loss was by Frankhouse, a 3-2 setback at Cincinnati against the Reds _ and finished the season in second place at 92-61, 1.5 behind the champion Pirates (94-60). The Giants (92-62) finished third, a half-game behind the Cardinals, and the Cubs ended up fourth at 85-68.

In six starts for the 1927 Cardinals, Frankhouse was 5-1 with a 2.70 ERA. The Sporting News called him a “sensational flash.” He pitched a total of 311 innings that season, including 50 for the Cardinals.

Frankhouse was 3-2 in 21 games for the NL champion 1928 Cardinals and 7-2 in 30 games for the 1929 Cardinals. After a rough start to the 1930 season (2-3 with a 7.32 ERA in eight games), Frankhouse and pitcher Bill Sherdel were shipped to the Braves for pitcher Burleigh Grimes on June 16. In four years with the Cardinals, Frankhouse was 17-8 with a 4.05 ERA.

The trade was significant for the Cardinals. Grimes helped them win consecutive pennants and a World Series title. Grimes was 13-6 for St. Louis in 1930 and 17-9 in 1931. He also earned two wins against the Athletics in the 1931 World Series, including the decisive Game 7.

Frankhouse pitched seven years with the Braves (63-61) and three years with the Dodgers (26-28). In 13 big-league seasons, his overall record was 106-97 with a 3.92 ERA.

He died on Aug. 17, 1989, at 85.

Previously: Cardinals home opener links Michael Wacha, Jerry Reuss

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Starting with a walk to Yadier Molina and culminating with a home run by John Mabry, the Cardinals completed the biggest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history.

john_mabry2Ten years ago, on May 2, 2005, the Cardinals overcame a six-run deficit by scoring seven runs in the ninth and defeating the Reds, 10-9, at Cincinnati.

The Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate in that memorable inning and rallied against two relievers on a combination of four singles, two walks, two home runs and an error.

“I’ve never seen this happen,” Cardinals infielder Abraham Nunez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I hope I don’t see it happen again either.”

The Cardinals never had rallied from six runs behind in the ninth inning. The Reds hadn’t blown a six-run lead in the ninth since June 29, 1952, when an 8-2 advantage turned into a 9-8 loss to the Cubs at Cincinnati. Boxscore

“It’s not easy to give a big-league game away, but that’s what we did,” said Reds reliever Danny Graves after yielding the game-winning home run to Mabry. “It takes 27 outs, not 26 (to win).”

Walks will haunt

With the Reds ahead, 5-3, in the eighth, Graves had begun to throw in the bullpen in preparation for pitching the ninth. When the Reds scored four in the eighth, however, manager Dave Miley decided to save his closer and instead sent David Weathers to pitch the ninth in a mop-up role, entrusting the 15-year big-league veteran with a 9-3 lead.

“The only way they could get back in the game is if we walked guys _ and I walked guys,” Weathers said to The Cincinnati Post.

Weathers walked the first two batters, Molina and Nunez. David Eckstein singled, loading the bases with none out.

“I was just all over the place,” Weathers said of his pitches.

Still, he almost escaped the jam unscathed.

Roger Cedeno struck out.

When Albert Pujols followed with a grounder to shortstop Rich Aurilia, it appeared the Reds might turn a game-ending double play.

Aurilia fielded the ball cleanly and tossed to D’Angelo Jimenez for the forceout of Eckstein at second base. Jimenez, however, couldn’t complete the turn and Pujols was safe at first. Molina scooted home from third on the play, making the score, 9-4.

The Cardinals remained alive, with Nunez on third, Pujols on first and two outs.

Reggie Sanders, the ex-Red, then singled, plating Nunez, moving Pujols to second and making the score 9-5.

Said Weathers: “It’s embarrassing … No excuses. That’s just bad pitching.”

Edmonds delivers

Miley lifted Weathers and replaced him with Graves, who successfully had converted all eight of his save chances that season.

The first batter Graves faced was Jim Edmonds.

Hoping to catch the Reds by surprise, “I was thinking about bunting, honestly,” Edmonds told the Associated Press.

The slugger changed his mind, though, and decided to swing away.

Graves’ third pitch to Edmonds was a hanging breaking ball.

Edmonds belted it for a three-run home run, making the score 9-8.

Reds unravel

The Reds were reeling, but the Cardinals still trailed with the bases empty and two outs.

“Nobody wants to make that last out,” said Mabry. “That’s what it comes down to.”

Following Edmonds was Mark Grudzielanek. He smacked a grounder directly at Sean Casey. The ball ricocheted off the first baseman’s arm for a two-base error.

That brought up Mabry, who started the game at third base in place of Scott Rolen, who was nursing a back strain.

With the tying run at second, “I was just trying to drive the run home by staying inside the ball and driving it to the big part of the ballpark,” Mabry said.

Mabry did even better. He hit the first pitch over the center-field fence, a two-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 10-9 lead.

“That’s why baseball’s a beautiful game,” Mabry said.

A rattled Graves yielded singles to Molina and Nunez before retiring Eckstein on a fly out to right.

As Graves left the mound, the crowd, estimated at fewer than 10,000 in the ninth, was “booing at the top of their lungs,” The Post reported.

“To have that happen just makes us feel really small,” Graves said to Post columnist Lonnie Wheeler.

Finish the job

With closer Jason Isringhausen unavailable, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa chose Julian Tavarez to pitch the bottom of the ninth.

The first batter, Joe Randa, singled. Aurilia tried a sacrifice bunt, but Randa was forced out at second.

Tavarez then plunked Jason LaRue with a pitch, advancing Aurilia to second.

The drama finally ended when Austin Kearns grounded into a double play. Boxscore

“We have no baseball luck, I guess,” said Graves, “and in this game you do need a lot of luck along with skill.”

Three weeks later, Graves ran out of luck with the Reds. They released him.

Previously: How David Bell rang up a special Cardinals home run

Previously: Jim Edmonds was dandy for Cardinals in 2004 NLCS

Previously: Slugging, fielding give Jim Edmonds hope for Hall of Fame

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