Teetering on the brink of another letdown in their bid to end a pennant drought, the Cardinals got the matchup they sought against the Astros in Game 6 of the 2004 National League Championship Series. Jim Edmonds provided the desired result.
At the time, Edmonds joined Ozzie Smith (Game 5 of the 1985 National League Championship Series) as the only Cardinals to end postseason games with walkoff home runs. Edmonds was the first Cardinals hitter to do so in an elimination game. Since then, two others _ David Freese (Game 6 of 2011 World Series) and Kolten Wong (Game 2 of 2014 National League Championship Series) _ have produced walkoff home runs in Cardinals postseason victories.
Kept alive by Edmonds’ home run, the Cardinals won Game 7 _ helped, in part, by a diving catch by Edmonds that prevented two runs from scoring in the second inning _ and earned their first National League pennant in 17 years.
Under manager Tony La Russa, the Cardinals had gotten to the National League Championship Series three previous times (1996, 2000 and 2002) but couldn’t clinch a pennant.
It appeared for a while during Game 6 in 2004 that the Cardinals would fall short again.
Sense of dread
After scoring four runs in the first 2.1 innings off starter Peter Munro, the Cardinals were held scoreless by four Astros relievers _ Chad Harville, Chad Qualls, Dan Wheeler and Brad Lidge _ over the next 8.2 innings.
Lidge, the Astros’ closer, had been especially dominating. Bernie Miklasz, columnist for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, described Lidge as “bulletproof.”
Lidge, who entered in the ninth, retired all nine batters he faced. He struck out five, including Edmonds. Only one batter, pinch-hitter Marlon Anderson, who flied to left in the 11th, hit a ball out of the infield against Lidge.
Miklasz wrote that “a growing sense of dread spread through Busch Stadium” as Lidge mowed down the Cardinals.
Lidge, though, had been stretched to the limit with his three innings of relief. He had appeared in 80 games during the regular season and never had worked more than a two-inning stint.
In the 12th, manager Phil Garner lifted Lidge and, in so doing, lifted the spirits of the Cardinals and their fans.
High pitch, high drive
Dan Miceli, 34, a right-hander pitching for his 10th big-league team, replaced Lidge.
Miceli walked the leadoff batter, Albert Pujols. Scott Rolen then popped out to the catcher.
Edmonds stepped to the plate. This was the matchup La Russa wanted.
In the 2004 regular season, left-handed batters hit .307 versus Miceli, with seven home runs.
Edmonds, with his upper-cut swing, had hit 37 of his 42 home runs against right-handers in 2004. More than half of Edmonds’ hits (83 of 150) that season were for extra bases.
“I was yelling at him, ‘Hit a line drive. Let’s get first and third.’ That’s all I wanted,” La Russa said to the Associated Press.
On an 0-and-1 pitch, Edmonds got a high, tight fastball. He whipped the bat around and connected, sending the ball on a majestic arch over the right-field fence before it crashed against the wall behind the Cardinals’ bullpen. Check out the You Tube video.
“I got the pitch up again and they hit it out again,” said Miceli, who had yielded home runs to Pujols and Rolen in the eighth inning of Game 2.
Said Edmonds: “I wasn’t trying to go deep. I was just trying to hit the ball hard.”
La Russa, delighted Edmonds hadn’t settled for the single his manager had been urging him to hit, said, “I didn’t feel too smart. Just happy. Happy and stupid.” Boxscore