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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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Before he played a game for the Cardinals, Ken Boyer was hyped as their best third baseman all-time. Then, in his debut, he heightened expectations, hitting a home run against a Cardinals nemesis.

ken_boyer9Sixty years ago, on April 12, 1955, Boyer appeared in his first big-league game, playing third and batting sixth in the Cardinals’ season opener against the Cubs at Chicago’s Wrigley Field.

In the eighth inning, with two outs, Red Schoendienst on first and the Cubs ahead, 14-2, Boyer slugged a home run off starter Paul Minner. The blast launched Boyer into a productive rookie season and a standout Cardinals career.

The Natural

After hitting .319 with 42 doubles, 21 home runs, 116 RBI and 29 stolen bases for the Cardinals’ minor-league Houston affiliate in 1954, Boyer was assured a spot with the 1955 Cardinals. In December 1954, the Cardinals traded their starting third baseman, Ray Jablonski, to the Reds, making Boyer the heir apparent at that position entering spring training.

In an interview with The Sporting News, Art Routzong, Houston’s general manager, said of Boyer, “He is the best prospect I’ve seen in 17 years in baseball.”

In a preview to spring training, St. Louis writer Bob Broeg opined, “If looks didn’t deceive, the Cardinals would have their greatest third baseman ever in Kenton Lloyd Boyer. It does seem possible _ it would be daring to say ‘probable’ _ that the rookie will become the Redbirds’ best at their most vexing position.”

Broeg’s colleague, J. Roy Stockton, added that Boyer “would be the Cardinals’ first complete infielder since Red Schoendienst.”

Solid spring

In spring training, Boyer played well at both third base and shortstop. In a poll of baseball correspondents for The Sporting News, Boyer and Indians pitcher Herb Score were selected the best rookies entering the 1955 season.

Scout Tony Kaufmann compared Boyer with a Hall of Famer, saying the rookie could become “another Pie Traynor.”

“He’s deadly efficient and with no apparent weakness,” Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky said of Boyer.

Wrote Broeg: “He can run fast, throw hard, field well and hit with power.”

Quick adjustment

Boyer’s performance in his debut game affirmed his skills and his ability to adapt.

Minner, a left-hander, often baffled the Cardinals. In a 10-year career with the Dodgers and Cubs, Minner was 21-8 versus St. Louis. He was 48-76 against the rest of the National League. In 1955, when he finished 9-9, Minner was 5-0 against the Cardinals.

In his first big-league at-bat in the season opener, Boyer flied out to right. In his next two at-bats, Boyer struck out against Minner, both times with a pair of runners on base.

In the eighth, Schoendienst singled with two outs. Boyer followed with his home run. Boxscore

(A month later, May 30, 1955, Boyer hit two home runs in a game against Minner, including a two-run, two-out shot in the bottom of the ninth that tied the score.)

Strong season

Boyer had a successful rookie year. He hit .264 with 27 doubles, 18 home runs and 22 stolen bases. Boyer was one of four National League players to achieve double figures in home runs and steals in 1955. The others: Willie Mays of the Giants (51 homers, 24 steals), Sandy Amoros of the Dodgers (10 homers, 10 steals) and Boyer’s teammate, Wally Moon (19 homers, 11 steals).

Among NL third basemen in 1955, Boyer ranked second in double plays turned (24), third in assists (253) and third in fielding percentage (.952).

Yet, Boyer’s teammate, outfielder Bill Virdon, won the 1955 NL Rookie of the Year Award. Virdon hit .281 with 18 doubles and 17 home runs.

As predicted, Boyer developed into the all-time best Cardinals third baseman. In 11 years with St. Louis, he hit .293 with 255 home runs and 1,001 RBI. Boyer also won five Gold Glove awards and the 1964 NL Most Valuable Player Award with the Cardinals.

Previously: 1964 effort supports Ken Boyer Hall of Fame case

Previously: With Ron Santo in Hall, Ken Boyer should be there, too

Previously: Ken Boyer converted from infield to center

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On a gray, chilly Tuesday afternoon at Chicago’s Wrigley Field, the Cardinals opened their 1991 season with a textbook example of how playing fundamental baseball _ the George Kissell way _ can bring a positive result.

bryn_smithRelying on effective pitching, good base running, plate discipline and timely contact, the Cardinals beat the Cubs, 4-1, on April 9, 1991. Cardinals manager Joe Torre sent the game ball and lineup card to Kissell, the club’s long-time instructor. “Kissell gets this for teaching the Cardinals organization how to play baseball,” Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Twenty-four years later, on April 5, 2015, the Cardinals open a season at Wrigley Field for the first time since 1991 when they face the Cubs on Easter Sunday night. It will be the fifth time in the last 50 years that the Cardinals play a season opener at Chicago.

Smith vs. Jackson

Bryn Smith, 35, a nine-game winner for the 1990 Cardinals, was the starting pitcher for St. Louis in the 1991 opener. Torre selected a batting order of center fielder Rex Hudler, shortstop Ozzie Smith, left fielder Bernard Gilkey, first baseman Pedro Guerrero, right fielder Felix Jose, third baseman Todd Zeile, catcher Tom Pagnozzi, second baseman Jose Oquendo and Bryn Smith.

Cubs manager Don Zimmer chose Danny Jackson as his starting pitcher. Chicago’s lineup featured a pair of future Hall of Famers, second baseman Ryne Sandberg and right fielder Andre Dawson, and standouts such as first baseman Mark Grace, shortstop Shawon Dunston and left fielder George Bell.

Game time temperature was 42 degrees. Rick Hummel of the Post-Dispatch described it as a “numbing, cold, drizzling day.” His colleague, Dan O’Neill, wrote, “The grass was green, but soaking wet and bent by a wintry breeze.”

The Cardinals scored first in the fifth. With the bases loaded and two outs, Gilkey fell behind in the count 0-and-2 before drawing a walk, scoring Pagnozzi from third. The full-count pitch from Jackson to Gilkey “missed inside by a few inches,” according to the Chicago Sun-Times.

Dunston led off the bottom half of the inning with a home run, tying the score at 1-1.

Small ball

In the eighth, the Cardinals struck for three runs, using a walk and three ground balls that never left the infield as their weapons.

Here’s how it happened:

With the bases loaded and one out, Paul Assenmacher relieved Jackson. Oquendo hit a dribbler toward the left side of the infield. “I broke my bat in three pieces,” Oquendo said.

The ball eluded Assenmacher. Dunston raced in from his shortstop position, grabbed the ball and flipped it to second. Pagnozzi beat the toss. Jose streaked home from third on the fielder’s choice play, putting the Cardinals ahead, 2-1, and the bases remained loaded.

“I was panicking,” the slow-footed Pagnozzi said of his sprint from first to second. “I didn’t think I was going to get there.”

Said Oquendo: “He surprised me.”

Bunch of runts

Torre sent Craig Wilson to hit for Bryn Smith. Wilson slapped a grounder toward the mound. Assenmacher reached for it and the ball deflected off his glove toward Dunston, who had no play. Zeile scored from third, putting the Cardinals ahead, 3-1. Wilson was credited with a RBI-single. The bases still were loaded.

“We’ve got the guy (Zeile) at home if I don’t touch it, but the reflex is to go for it,” Assenmacher said.

Said Wilson: “I thnk he thought it was hit harder than it was.”

Zimmer yanked Assenmacher and replaced him with Les Lancaster. Hudler grounded to Dunston, whose spikes “stuck in the moist dirt,” the Sun-Times reported.

Instead of an inning-ending double play, Dunston settled for a force out of Wilson at second, with Pagnozzi scoring from third.

The Cardinals’ bullpen protected the 4-1 lead. Mike Perez pitched a scoreless eighth and Lee Smith earned the save with a scoreless ninth. “I’m glad I’m playing with this bunch of runts,” Lee Smith said of the Cardinals.

Said Bryn Smith: “This was our type of baseball. We’re a patient club and we have to play our game … We feel if we play our caliber of ball you’re going to have to beat us because we won’t beat ourselves.” Boxscore

The last time the Cubs beat the Cardinals in a season-opener at Wrigley Field was on April 6, 1971, when Billy Williams hit a 10th-inning home run off Bob Gibson for a 2-1 Chicago victory. Boxscore

Previously: Ernie Banks and his greatest hits against Cardinals

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

Previously: Reds-Cardinals: Easter night to remember

Previously: Tino Martinez, Mike Matheny and Cardinals’ Easter brawl

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Bob Gibson and Steve Carlton appeared together in a regular-season game as Cardinals just three times. Two of those games represented milestones for Carlton: his big-league debut and his first major-league save.

jim_landisGibson and Carlton, both elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame, played in a combined 718 regular-season games for St. Louis. In the three in which they pitched together, Gibson started and Carlton relieved. The Cardinals won just one of those.

Fit to be tied

The first time Gibson and Carlton appeared together in a Cardinals regular-season game was April 12, 1965, the season opener for the defending World Series champions against the Cubs at Chicago.

Gibson started and was lifted after yielding five runs in 3.1 innings.

In the 11th, with the score tied at 10-10, the Cubs had Ron Santo on second with one out. George Altman, a lefthanded-hitting slugger and former Cardinal, was up next.

Red Schoendienst, in his regular-season debut as Cardinals manager, lifted Barney Schultz, a right-hander, and brought in Carlton, a left-hander, to face Altman.

Carlton, 20, making his big-league debut, walked Altman.

Schoendienst then brought in Bob Purkey, who got out of the jam without allowing a run.

At that point, the game was called because of darkness, ending in a tie. All the statistics counted. Boxscore

Mopping up

Four months later, on Aug. 25, 1965, Gibson started against the Cubs at St. Louis. He gave up six runs in seven innings.

With the Cubs ahead, 6-1, Carlton relieved and pitched two scoreless innings. The Cubs won, 6-3.

Joey Amalfitano, a career .244 hitter, had a single off Gibson and a single off Carlton, becoming the first batter to get hits off both Cardinals in the same regular-season game. Boxscore

Carlton a closer

Entering the 1967 season, Schoendienst told The Sporting News, “We now have men like Dick Hughes, Steve Carlton and Nellie Briles, who can start or relieve. In fact, I’d say only Bob Gibson and Ray Washburn would have to be regarded strictly as starters.”

On April 16, 1967, Gibson started against the Astros at St. Louis against former teammate Mike Cuellar. Lou Brock hit a pair of solo home runs off Cuellar and the Cardinals built leads of 5-0 and 7-3. Gibson, though, wasn’t sharp.

“Gibson admitted he did not have anything today and that he was struggling throughout,” wrote Tom McNamara of the Edwardsville (Ill.) Intelligencer.

The Astros, paced by John Bateman’s two-run home run, scored four in the sixth off Gibson, tying the score at 7-7. The Cardinals regained the lead, 8-7, in the bottom half of the inning on an Orlando Cepeda home run off Carroll Sembera.

After Jim Landis led off the seventh with a double against Gibson, Schoendienst removed his ace and replaced him with Carlton, making his first appearance of the season.

Carlton retired Joe Morgan on a fly out and struck out Jimmy Wynn and Eddie Mathews, stranding Landis. Like Carlton, Morgan and Mathews were destined for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame.

The Cardinals scored three off Turk Farrell in the bottom of the seventh, extending their lead to 11-7.

In the eighth, Carlton struck out the first two batters, Bob Aspromonte and Aaron Pointer, giving him four consecutive strikeouts, before getting Bateman to ground out.

The Astros scored a run in the ninth off Carlton. The key hit in the inning was a Landis double.

Landis, a career .247 hitter, joined Amalfitano as the only batters to get hits off Gibson and Carlton in the same regular-season game.

Carlton earned the save for Gibson in an 11-8 Cardinals victory. Carlton’s line: 3 innings, 1 run, 1 hit, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts. Boxscore

Carlton would earn 329 big-league wins but only two saves. His second came 20 years after his first.

On April 9, 1987, in his first regular-season appearance for the Indians, Carlton, 42, got the save with four shutout innings in relief of Phil Niekro, 48, in a 14-3 Cleveland victory over the Blue Jays at Toronto. Boxscore

Previously: Lou Brock sizzled to start season much like Matt Kemp

Previously: How Chase Riddle got Steve Carlton for Cardinals

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