Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

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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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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In a showdown of two master showmen, Dizzy Dean upstaged Babe Ruth.

babe_dizzyEighty years ago, Ruth, 40, entered his final big-league season with the 1935 Braves. The fading home run king had gone to the National League after 21 years (1914-34) in the American League with the Red Sox and Yankees.

Dean, 25, was the colorful Cardinals ace and reigning NL strikeout king who had earned 30 wins the year before and pitched St. Louis to the 1934 World Series championship.

They faced one another for the first time in a regular-season game on May 5, 1935, at Boston.

Seeking a strikeout

In the book “Diz,” Dean biographer Robert Gregory wrote, “He had been looking forward to his first league showdown with Babe Ruth and telling everybody he’d have no choice in the matter. He would have to strike him out.”

Ruth and Dean greeted each other cordially before the game and took part in a newspaper-sponsored promotion with local youth players.

Then, it was show time.

“Babe was watching me pretty closely while I was warming up before the game,” Dean said in the book “Ol’ Diz” by Vince Staten. “He had that old eagle eye of his on every move I made.”

In his first at-bat, Ruth walked.

When Ruth came to the plate for the second time, Dean upped the ante. “I figured that if I didn’t steal the show he would,” Dean said.

Play deep

As Ruth took his practice cuts, Dean smiled at him and turned toward his outfielders.

“He motioned them to play farther back,” wrote Gregory. “They retreated a few steps, but Diz shook his head, no, no, that’s not deep enough, and kept waving his glove until they were almost at the walls.”

Then, Dean went to work on Ruth. He got the count to 1-and-2. On his fourth delivery, Dean unleashed his best fastball. Ruth took a mighty swing and missed. Dean had his strikeout of the Bambino.

“Babe almost broke his back going for that steaming third fastball,” according to the Associated Press.

In his third at-bat, Ruth grounded out.

Basking on the stage set for him, Dean slugged a home run that sailed over Ruth’s head before clearing the left-field wall. He earned the shutout in a 7-0 Cardinals victory. Boxscore

Encore performance

Two weeks later, on May 19 at St. Louis, Ruth and Dean had a rematch. Again, Dean prevailed. Ruth was 0-for-4 with a strikeout. Dean pitched another complete game and drove in two runs, leading St. Louis to a 7-3 victory. Boxscore

In five games against the Cardinals in 1935, Ruth batted .071 (1-for-14) with a single, three walks and five strikeouts. With his overall average at .181 in 28 games that season, Ruth retired at the end of May.

In his prime, Ruth faced the Cardinals in two World Series. He hit .300 (6-for-20) with 4 home runs and 11 walks in the seven-game 1926 World Series. In the 1928 World Series, Ruth hit .625 (10-for-16) with 3 home runs and 3 doubles in four games.

Previously: Stan Musial: ‘Babe Ruth was the greatest who ever played’

Previously: Pennant clincher: How Dizzy Dean got 2 shutouts in 3 days

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In the last classic pitchers duel at Busch Stadium II, Mark Mulder gave the best performance of his Cardinals career, tossing 10 shutout innings and beating Roger Clemens and the Astros.

mark_mulder2Ten years ago, on April 23, 2005, in the Cardinals’ final season at the ballpark that had been their home since 1966, Mulder pitched a masterpiece in a 1-0 St. Louis victory.

Mulder, a left-hander, threw an efficient 101 pitches and faced 33 batters, three more than the minimum for 10 innings. He induced 17 ground outs. Each of the Astros’ five hits was a single.

Clemens, 42, winner of seven Cy Young awards, was as good as expected, holding the Cardinals scoreless on four hits in seven innings before being relieved by Chad Qualls.

Mulder, 27, making his fourth Cardinals start after coming to St. Louis from the Athletics in a December 2004 trade, was better.

In a ballpark that had been the site of gems by Cardinals pitchers such as Bob Gibson, Steve Carlton, Bob Forsch, Joaquin Andujar and John Tudor, Mulder’s performance ranked among the best. It was the last 1-0 game played at Busch Stadium II.

“Somewhere, Bob Gibson was smiling,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Bernie Miklasz wrote. “This was Gibby’s kind of hardball.”

Throwing strikes

Mulder became:

_ The first Cardinals starter to pitch an extra-inning shutout win since John Tudor did so on Sept. 11, 1985, in a 1-0 St. Louis victory over the Mets.

_ The first Cardinals starter to go 10 innings since Jose DeLeon went 11 against the Reds in a 2-0 Cincinnati victory on Aug. 30, 1989.

_ The first Cardinals starter to go 10 innings and win since Greg Mathews did so against the Mets in a 3-1 St. Louis victory on Aug. 16, 1986.

_ The first major-league starter to pitch a 10-inning shutout win since Roy Halladay of the Blue Jays did so against the Tigers in a 1-0 Toronto victory on Sept. 6, 2003.

“Any time it’s a 0-0 game or 1-0 game or 1-1, I love that,” Mulder told Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch. “It makes me focus … I’m throwing strike one. I’m getting ahead. It’s enabling me to do a lot more things as far as working both sides of the plate.”

Said Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan: “He’s really changed his delivery, which has allowed him to repeat pitches better.”

Dodging trouble

In the fourth inning, Mulder escaped serious injury. Mike Lamb’s bat shattered when he hit a ground ball to second. The barrel of the bat struck Mulder on the ankle and he doubled over in pain. “It hit me right in a spot where it made my whole foot go numb,” Mulder said to MLB.com.

Feeling quickly returned to the ankle, though, and Mulder was able to continue.

Before sending Mulder to pitch the 10th, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa consulted with the pitcher. “He said he was OK to go,” La Russa said.

After setting down the Astros in the top half of the extra inning, Mulder was scheduled to lead off the bottom of the 10th. La Russa sent Reggie Sanders to hit for Mulder against Qualls. Sanders produced an infield single. “It was a swinging bunt that feels just as good as a ringing line drive,” Sanders told the Associated Press.

Walker walkoff

On a hit-and-run, David Eckstein grounded out, with Sanders advancing to second.

Up next for St. Louis was Larry Walker. Astros manager Phil Garner replaced Qualls with Brad Lidge. Walker lined a hit into the right-center gap, scoring Sanders with the lone run. Boxscore

“It was a fastball, down and away, and he reached for it,” Lidge said. “I’m not upset about the pitch at all.”

Said Walker: “To put the ball in play off (Lidge) is tough to do … He’s got phenomenal stuff.”

The victory gave La Russa 2,125 career wins as a major-league manager, moving him into a tie for fifth place with Hall of Famer Joe McCarthy. “You win with great organizations and great players,” La Russa said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have had both.”

Previously: Dan Haren proved more durable than Mark Mulder

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Seventy-five years ago, with water filling the dugouts and lapping at the feet of spectators in the box seats, the Cardinals and Reds raced to complete a game at Cincinnati before flooding made conditions unplayable.

crosley_fieldCompleting nine innings in 1:56, the Reds beat the Cardinals, 6-1, on April 22, 1940, at Crosley Field.

The night before, the Ohio River reached the 55-foot stage. Reds officials knew Crosley Field, located near Mill Creek, started flooding when the river got to 57 feet, or five feet above normal flood stage, International News Service reported.

It was expected the river stage would reach 57 feet in late afternoon or early evening on April 22. The Reds moved up the starting time of their game with the Cardinals that afternoon by an hour, from 3 p.m. to 2 p.m.

At game time, however, water stood a foot deep in both dugouts _ even deeper in nearby parking lots _ and a crowd of 5,197 “had to puddle-jump their way into the park,” the Associated Press reported.

Patrons seated in field-level box seats behind third base “pulled their feet higher and higher” as the game progressed and water continued to rise.

The players sat on benches in foul territory because the water in the dugouts eventually reached three feet deep, according to the book “Cardinals Journal” by John Snyder.

The game matched starting pitchers Bucky Walters, a 27-game winner in 1939 when he earned the National League Most Valuable Player Award, for the Reds against Bill McGee.

Cincinnati, the defending National League champions, broke a scoreless tie with three runs in the fifth against McGee. The Reds added three more in the seventh off Clyde Shoun.

Walters drove in three runs and pitched eight scoreless innings before the Cardinals struck for a run in the ninth. By then, water was seeping onto the field. Boxscore

The Cardinals were supposed to play the Reds again on April 23 and April 24, but both games were postponed. By then, the Ohio River had reached 58 feet and water covered the Crosley Field outfield. Another foot would put home plate under water.

Previously: Ray Sadecki: Wild, nearly unhittable in 1st Cardinals win

Previously: How Cardinals rookie Dick Hughes struck out 13 _ and lost

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(Updated April 11, 2015)

In 2005, Jason Marquis used his bat and arm against the Reds to jump-start a Cardinals club that had lost three of its first five games. On April 12, 2005, Marquis hit a three-run triple and held the Reds to a run in 6.1 innings, carrying the Cardinals to a 5-1 victory at St. Louis.

jason_marquisTen years later, Marquis joined the Reds, looking to jump-start his career against the Cardinals. In his first big-league appearance since 2013, Marquis, 36, started for the Reds against the Cardinals on April 10, 2015, at Cincinnati. He pitched six innings, allowed three runs and struck out seven in the Reds’ 5-4 victory. Marquis also had a single in two at-bats. Boxscore

‘Our best hitter’

In 2005, after consecutive losses at home to the Phillies, the defending National League champion Cardinals were seeking a spark as they entered a two-game series versus the Reds.

In the second inning, with the Reds ahead, 1-0, the Cardinals loaded the bases with none out against Aaron Harang.

Yadier Molina popped out to shortstop, bringing Marquis to the plate.

According to Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Jim Edmonds, the base runner on third, turned to third baseman Joe Randa and said, “We got one advantage here: Our best hitter is at the plate right now.”

A right-handed pitcher who batted left-handed, Marquis had hit .292 (21-for-72) for the 2004 Cardinals.

Nice stroke

Fighting back after falling behind 0-and-2, Marquis worked the count full.

The next pitch was high and Marquis pulled it sharply on the ground past first baseman Sean Casey and into the right-field corner for his first big-league triple, giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. Boxscore

The triple was the first by a Cardinals pitcher since Jason Isringhausen hit one off Joe Beimel of the Pirates on July 26, 2003.

“He really has a nice stroke,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Marquis. “The ball jumps off his bat. He loves to hit, so he takes those at-bats real seriously.”

Said Harang to The Cincinnati Post: “In that situation … I’ve got to put something around the zone. I just left it up a little bit and he turned on it.”

Silver Slugger

Marquis’ performance sparked the Cardinals, who won 11 of their next 13. He batted .310 (27-for-87) for the 2005 Cardinals and earned The Sporting News NL Silver Slugger Award as the top-hitting pitcher. Marquis also posted 13 wins for a Cardinals club that won 100 on their way to a division championship.

“My goal is to help myself win as many games outside of being on the mound, whether bunting, fielding or hitting,” Marquis said. “I take pride in what I do.”

In three years (2004-06) with the Cardinals, Marquis had a 42-37 record and batted .262.

Previously: Revisiting the deal that made Adam Wainwright a Cardinal

Previously: Cardinals players tried making Greg Maddux a teammate

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