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Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Taking advantage of an unmotivated, jet-lagged team, Fernando Valenzuela pitched a no-hitter against the Cardinals. It was the second no-hitter pitched in the major leagues that night and the first versus the Cardinals in 12 years.

fernando_valenzuelaTwenty-five years ago, on June 29, 1990, Valenzuela pitched the only no-hitter of his career in a 6-0 Dodgers victory over the Cardinals at Los Angeles.

Earlier that night, Dave Stewart, Valenzuela’s former Dodgers teammate, pitched a no-hitter for manager Tony La Russa’s Athletics against the Blue Jays. It was the first time no-hitters had been pitched in both the American League and National League on the same day.

Valenzuela, 29, struck out seven and walked three. The Cardinals also had a runner reach on an error.

The Dodgers’ left-hander pitched the first no-hitter against the Cardinals since Tom Seaver of the Reds on June 16, 1978. Since Valenzuela’s gem, the only no-hitter pitched against the Cardinals was by Johan Santana of the Mets on June 1, 2012. Eight no-hitters have been pitched against the Cardinals.

Control, confidence

After beating the Pirates in a night game at St. Louis on June 28, the Cardinals stayed overnight at home and left the morning of June 29 for that night’s game against the Dodgers. The Cardinals arrived in Los Angeles about 12:30 in the afternoon Pacific Coast time.

The Dodgers watched on the clubhouse television as Stewart completed his no-hitter at Toronto. Boxscore

Valenzuela turned to his teammates and said, “You’ve seen one on TV. Now come watch one live,” Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Valenzuela’s previous big-league best had been a two-hitter.

From the start, it was evident Valenzuela was in command. “Throughout the game, I had excellent control,” he told the Orange County Register. “I had a lot of confidence.”

Timely tip

In the ninth, Vince Coleman led off for the Cardinals. The speedster was the batter Valenzuela feared most in the St. Louis lineup. “Coleman makes a lot of contact and he can bunt,” Valenzuela said.

Coleman hit a shot down the third-base line, but it was foul. With the count 2-and-2, Coleman faked a bunt attempt and was called out on strikes by umpire Jerry Layne.

Willie McGee was up next and he walked.

That brought to the plate Pedro Guerrero, who had been Valenzuela’s Dodgers teammate from 1980-88. Guerrero was playing on his 34th birthday.

“When Willie got on,” Guerrero told Hummel, “I said, ‘I’m going to be the one that’s going to do it.’ “

Guerrero hit a groundball up the middle. As Valenzuela reached for the ball, it tipped his glove and was deflected to second baseman Juan Samuel, who stepped on second for the force on McGee and threw to first for the game-ending double play.

“Do you think if I don’t touch that ball, it goes through for a single? I think it does,” said Valenzuela. “I think if I don’t touch it, I’m in trouble.” Boxscore

Cardinals crusher

The loss was the fifth in six games for the Cardinals, dropping their record to 30-44.

“We’re pathetic,” said Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog.

Said Guerrero: “We didn’t look too good out there, but I think flying on game day had something to do with it.”

Stewart called the Dodgers clubhouse after the game to congratulate Valenzuela.

The no-hitter evened Valenzuela’s season record at 6-6 and lowered his ERA from 4.09 to 3.73.

A week later, Herzog resigned, saying he was embarrassed by the play of his team.

Previously: Willie Mays on Ray Washburn: ‘Never saw a better curve’

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

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Joe Medwick was a special hitter for the Cardinals. He also was expensive and high maintenance. When his popularity waned, the Cardinals decided the value Medwick could bring them in a trade was greater than what he could produce for them in the lineup.

joe_medwick3Seventy-five years ago, on June 12, 1940, the Cardinals traded Medwick and pitcher Curt Davis to the Dodgers for $125,000 and four undistinguished players, or, as one writer described them, “a few ham sandwiches.”

Cardinals owner Sam Breadon and general manager Branch Rickey got exactly what they wanted. With attendance sagging and the Cardinals out of contention, Breadon and Rickey were seeking cash.

As The Sporting News noted, the Cardinals traded Medwick “while he had high market value.”

Medwick, a hitter of Hall of Fame skills, had sulked about being lifted in the late innings for a defensive replacement. When he fell into a hitting funk, Cardinals fans taunted him from the Sportsman’s Park bleachers. Witnessing this, Breadon realized there wouldn’t be a public relations backlash if he traded the club’s standout hitter. That’s when he instructed Rickey to pursue a deal.

“The tide had turned,” wrote columnist Dan Daniel. “The fans would not shout against the departure of (Medwick).”

Remarkable hitter

A right-handed batter who swung at pitches outside the strike zone with savage aggressiveness, Medwick, 20, debuted with the Cardinals in September 1932 and became their starting left fielder in 1933.

Among his many remarkable hitting feats with the Cardinals, Medwick:

_ Achieved the Triple Crown in 1937, leading the National League in batting average (.374), home runs (31) and RBI (154). Medwick is the last NL player to accomplish the feat.

_ Won the NL Most Valuable Player Award in 1937. He also led the NL that season in runs (111), hits (237), doubles (56), slugging percentage (.641) and total bases (406).

_ Led the NL in hits in 1936 (223).

_ Led the NL in doubles in 1936 (64) and 1938 (47).

_ Led the NL in RBI in 1936 (138) and 1938 (122).

_ Hit .379 (11-for-29) with five RBI in the 1934 World Series vs. the Tigers.

Medwick remains the Cardinals’ all-time single-season leader in doubles (64) and RBI (154).

Interest from Dodgers

Larry MacPhail, Dodgers president, had offered the Cardinals $200,000 for Medwick in 1939, The Sporting News reported. In contention then, the Cardinals rejected the offer.

In 1940, the Cardinals started poorly, losing 20 of their first 32 games. On June 3, Medwick was hitting .297 _ good for most but subpar for him.

Medwick felt disrespected by Breadon and Rickey. After his Triple Crown and MVP season in 1937, the Cardinals rewarded Medwick with a salary of $20,000 in 1938. When he followed his .374 batting average of 1937 with a .322 mark in 1938, the Cardinals cut his pay to $18,000 in 1939. After hitting .332 in 1939, Medwick demanded a $20,000 salary in 1940. Instead, the Cardinals gave him $18,000.

Recalling MacPhail’s interest in Medwick, Rickey contacted the Dodgers in June 1940. “Rickey telephoned and said that the Cardinals were in the mood to do some trading,” MacPhail told The Sporting News.

The ensuing conversation:

MacPhail: “Who will you trade?”

Rickey: “Anybody.”

MacPhail: “Does that go for Medwick, too?”

Rickey: “Yes.”

MacPhail took a flight to St. Louis and closed the deal.

Finances a factor

In exchange for Medwick and Davis (who had 22 wins for the 1939 Cardinals), the Dodgers sent the cash, plus pitchers Carl Doyle and Sam Nahem, outfielder Ernie Koy and third baseman Bert Haas. The Cardinals assigned Nahem and Haas to the minor leagues.

“St. Louis believes the passing of Medwick and the development of a better feeling on the club, minus Joe and his $18,000 salary, will lift the (Cardinals),” Daniel wrote.

Said Breadon: “The Cardinals were going no place with Medwick and Davis on the job _ and they certainly couldn’t be any worse without them.”

The reduction in salaries paired with the infusion of cash helped the Cardinals overcome a drop in attendance. After drawing 400,245 paid customers in 1939, the Cardinals had a total home attendance of 324,078 in 1940. According to columnist Dick Farrington, Breadon was facing “the specter of a financial loss on the season.”

Hit by pitch

In joining the Dodgers, Medwick was reunited with his pal, manager Leo Durocher. They had been Cardinals teammates from 1933-37, when Durocher was the St. Louis shortstop. They played golf together almost daily in the off-season.

Said MacPhail: “Frankly, the Medwick deal surprised me more than anyone else. If you’d have told me a week before that we’d come up with Medwick, I’d have said you were crazy. A month ago, I put out a feeler for him and was told there wasn’t a chance.”

On June 18, in his sixth game for the Dodgers, Medwick faced the Cardinals at Brooklyn. In the first inning, a fastball from Bob Bowman struck Medwick behind the left ear, knocking him unconscious. As Medwick was carried on a stretcher to the clubhouse, MacPhail “stormed over to the Cardinals dugout and challenged the players, individually and collectively,” The Sporting News reported.

All of the Cardinals stood but none made a move. “Take it easy,” Cardinals outfielder Pepper Martin said to MacPhail.

Medwick was taken to a hospital and diagnosed with a concussion.

Bowman said he didn’t intend to hit him. “Medwick was looking for a curveball, expecting the ball to break,” Bowman said.

After the game, Bowman was being escorted from the ballpark by two detectives when MacPhail approached and “sent a wild swing at him,” according to The Sporting News.

The Cardinals visited Medwick in the hospital. Manager Billy Southworth, the only member of the contingent admitted to the room, expressed regrets for the injury. Medwick absolved the Cardinals, calling the incident “just one of those things.” Boxscore

Medwick was released from the hospital on June 21. He hit .300 in 106 games for the 1940 Dodgers. In 1941, he helped them win the pennant, hitting .318 with 18 home runs and 88 RBI.

Medwick returned to the Cardinals in 1947 and finished his playing career with them in 1948. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1968.

Previously: Joe Medwick set a doubles pace that is hard to beat

Previously: Joe Medwick, Stan Musial: Double trouble for pitchers

 

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With one swing, Tim McCarver lifted the Cardinals to a victory and propelled Fred Gladding toward a long, productive coaching career.

fred_gladdingOn June 2, 1973, McCarver hit a pinch-hit grand slam against Gladding in the eighth inning, giving the Cardinals a 6-2 victory over the Astros at St. Louis.

It would be the last major-league appearance for Gladding. He was sent to the minors soon afterward and served that summer as a player-coach at Class AAA Denver. That experience launched him the following season into a 22-year career as a coach in the Tigers, Astros and Indians organizations, including three seasons as Detroit’s pitching coach.

The encounter with McCarver is recalled here in memory of Gladding, who died May 21, 2015, at age 78 in Columbia, S.C.

Fading veterans

In June 1973, McCarver, 31, and Gladding, 36, were relegated to support roles after ranking among the best at their positions.

McCarver was the starting catcher on Cardinals clubs that won three National League pennants and two World Series championships in the 1960s. He twice was an all-star with St. Louis (1966-67).

After he was traded to the Phillies in October 1969, McCarver was reacquired by the Cardinals from the Expos in November 1972 and given roles as backup to Ted Simmons at catcher and Joe Torre at first base.

Gladding had been a stellar reliever. He was 6-4 with 12 saves and a 1.99 ERA in 42 games for the 1967 Tigers. In November 1967, the right-hander was dealt to the Astros, completing the trade that sent third baseman Eddie Mathews to Detroit.

In 1969, Gladding had a NL-leading 29 saves for Houston. He followed that with 18 saves for the 1970 Astros.

McCarver magic

On June 2, 1973, a Saturday night in St. Louis, the Astros led, 2-1, when the Cardinals batted in the bottom of the eighth against reliever Jim York. With two outs, Simmons doubled, scoring Dwain Anderson from first, tying the score at 2-2.

The next batter, Jose Cruz, was walked intentionally, putting runners at first and second and setting up a potential forceout. Luis Melendez followed with an infield single, loading the bases.

With Ken Reitz due to bat next, Astros manager Leo Durocher lifted York and replaced him with Gladding. Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst countered by calling on McCarver to bat for Reitz.

Gladding had a 4.11 ERA. McCarver, a left-handed batter, had no home runs.

McCarver swung at the first pitch from Gladding and hit it over the right-field wall for his fifth grand slam of his career.

“I said when we got him back last winter we could use his bat _ and I meant it,” Schoendienst told the Associated Press. “Tim is a tough out. I don’t care who is pitching.”

Rick Wise, the Cardinals’ starter, retired the Astros in the ninth, securing the win. Boxscore

New chapter

Deemed ineffective, Gladding was sent to the minor leagues for the first time since 1964. He went 0-2 with a 4.74 ERA and one save in 20 appearances for the Astros’ Class AAA Denver farm team. The Astros released him in October 1973.

Then, his coaching career began.

The Tigers named Gladding the pitching coach for their 1974 Evansville farm club. Among the pitchers Gladding worked with were future major-leaguers Vern Ruhle and Steve Grilli.

In 1975, Gladding was again at Evansville when he got the chance to mentor a phenom, Mark Fidrych.

Fidrych had started the 1975 season with Class A Lakeland and skyrocketed through the Tigers system, going to Class AA Montgomery and then Class AAA Evansville. With Gladding as his pitching coach, Fidrych, 20, was 4-1 with a 1.58 ERA in six starts for Evansville.

Back in the bigs

In 1976, Gladding returned to the major leagues as pitching coach for Tigers manager Ralph Houk. Fidrych earned a spot in the Tigers’ starting rotation. The combination produced sensational results.

Nicknamed “The Bird,” Fidrych was 19-9 for the 1976 Tigers. He led the American League in ERA (2.34) and complete games (24), started the All-Star Game and was named winner of the Rookie of the Year Award.

In the book “The Bird: The Life and Legacy of Mark Fidrych,” Gladding said of his star pupil, “He was very easy to coach. He would listen to you and do what you suggested.”

Gladding remained Tigers pitching coach in 1977 and ’78, mentoring, among others, Jack Morris, who developed into Detroit’s ace. After the 1978 season, Houk retired and his successor, Les Moss, replaced Gladding with former Cardinals pitcher Johnny Grodzicki.

Gladding spent the remainder of his coaching career in the minor-league systems of the Astros and Indians.

In an interview with MLB.com, Steve Kline, the former Cardinals reliever, cited Gladding as a positive influence while Kline was in the Indians organization.

Jim Hickey, pitching coach of the Rays, told ESPN.com he had no intention of becoming a coach until Gladding encouraged him to do so.

In his last season as a minor-league player, Hickey was with the 1989 Columbus Mudcats, an Astros farm team. Gladding was the pitching coach. Gladding believed Hickey “had the smarts and, more importantly, the people skills to excel at coaching.” Inspired, Hickey became one of the best pitching instructors in the game.

In a roundabout way, Hickey can thank Tim McCarver for sending Fred Gladding his way.

Previously: Tim McCarver, Terry Pendleton share grand feat as Cardinals

Previously: Leaving the Cardinals was twice as hard for Tim McCarver

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No Cardinals pitcher has achieved perfection. Danny Cox came close.

danny_cox2Thirty years ago, on May 31, 1985, Cox retired the first 23 Reds batters in order through 7.2 innings at St. Louis.

Cox, 25, was fully aware of the drama his performance was creating. Asked about the ovation he received when batting in the seventh, Cox said, “I knew it wasn’t for my hitting.”

In the eighth, Cox retired the first two batters, Alan Knicely and Gary Redus, giving him 23 consecutive outs and putting him within four outs of the perfect game.

All about location

The next batter was Dave Concepcion. At 36, the shortstop was in his 16th season with the Reds and his last as an everyday player.

The first pitch from Cox to Concepcion was a strike. The second was grounded into left field for a single.

“It was a fastball,” Cox told the Associated Press. “I tried to get it inside, but I left it out over the plate.”

Said Concepcion: “He was pitching me up and in. He got (the pitch) down a little.”

Ron Oester followed with a single, moving Concepcion to second. Protecting a 5-0 lead, Cox got Wayne Krenchicki to ground out to first, ending the inning.

Praise from Pete

In the ninth, Cox set down the Reds in order. Pete Rose, player-manager of the Reds, flied out to left, ending the game. Rose, who four months later would become baseball’s career hits leader, had grounded out in each of his previous three at-bats.

Said Rose of Cox: “He changes speeds well and he throws a lot of strikes.”

Cox used an effective combination of fastballs and changeups. “He throws his fastball so hard, he can freeze you with his changeup,” Cardinals first baseman Jack Clark told The Sporting News.

The line for Cox: 9 innings, 2 hits, 0 runs, 0 walks, 3 strikeouts, 96 pitches, 29 batters faced. Boxscore

Rare feat

Cox was attempting to become the first National League pitcher to achieve a perfect game since Sandy Koufax of the Dodgers did it versus the Cubs on Sept. 9, 1965. Koufax was just the fourth NL starter to pitch a perfect game.

Since then, five NL pitchers have achieved perfect games: Tom Browning of the 1988 Reds, Dennis Martinez of the 1991 Expos, Randy Johnson of the 2004 Diamondbacks, Roy Halladay of the 2010 Phillies and Matt Cain of the 2012 Giants.

In all, 23 perfect games have been pitched in the big leagues: 14 in the American League and nine in the NL.

A perfect game is defined as one in which a pitcher earns a win, pitches a minimum of nine innings and no opposing player reaches base by any means.

Games less than nine innings don’t qualify as perfect games. Nor do games in which an opposing player reaches base only in extra innings.

The Cardinals never have been involved in an official perfect game. They were involved in two unofficial ones.

On Aug. 11, 1907, in the second game of a doubleheader versus the Braves, Cardinals starter Ed Karger retired all 21 batters he faced. The game was called by mutual agreement after seven innings, with the Cardinals winning, 4-0. In those days, teams were allowed to shorten the second game of a doubleheader if both sides agreed.

Seventy-seven years later, on April 21, 1984, in the second game of a doubleheader versus the Cardinals, Expos starter David Palmer retired all 15 batters he faced. The game was called because of rain after five innings, with the Expos winning, 4-0.

Previously: Danny Cox vs. Mike Aldrete: Duel of 1987 Cardinals, Giants

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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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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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