Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

In a season fraught with futility, the pitcher who epitomized the plight of the 1995 Cardinals was Danny Jackson. Expected to provide wins and hope, Jackson instead represented losses and despair.

danny_jacksonTwenty years ago, on July 2, 1995, Jackson was the losing pitcher for St. Louis against the Cubs at Chicago, dropping his season record to 0-9.

Jackson became the first Cardinals pitcher to start a season 0-9 since Art Fromme in 1907 and the first Cardinals pitcher to lose nine in a row since Bob Forsch did so from July 5 through Aug. 19 in 1978.

Tough guy

A left-hander, Jackson was signed by the Cardinals as a free agent in December 1994 after posting a 14-6 record and 3.26 ERA for the 1994 Phillies.

Jackson had pitched in three World Series for three different franchises (1985 Royals, 1990 Reds and 1993 Phillies) and had been a 23-game winner with the 1988 Reds.

Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty gave Jackson a three-year contract for a guaranteed $10.8 million.

“Danny Jackson gives us the toughness we’ve lacked in our pitching staff,” Cardinals manager Joe Torre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Troubled pitcher

Jackson, 33, who underwent thyroid surgery during the off-season, got off to a poor start with the 1995 Cardinals, yielding four runs or more in each of his first four starts. Jackson had complications with his medications. He also was hampered by an unsteady defense and erratic offense.

Still, Jackson’s ineffectiveness was his own doing. His pitching mechanics were out of synch.

His ERA after his ninth loss was 7.83. Jackson gave up three or more runs in an inning 11 times in his first 11 starts for the Cardinals. He was unable to last longer than five innings in eight of those starts.

“I don’t know what the hell is going on, but I know one thing: I’m sick and tired of losing,” Jackson said after his record fell to 0-9. “It doesn’t seem to make any difference what I do. It’s always the same.”

Said Mike Jorgensen, who had replaced Torre as manager: “We’re going to keep sending him out there until we get him smoothed out.” Boxscore

Goodbye gorilla

Five days after his loss to the Cubs, Jackson ended the streak in spectacular fashion, shutting out the Marlins on a four-hitter on July 7, 1995, at St. Louis.

“I feel like I got King Kong off my back,” Jackson said.

Said catcher Tom Pagnozzi: “That was the best he had looked as far as not muscling the ball and throwing fluidly.” Boxscore

Jackson won his next start, beating the Phillies for his second win of the season, and then lost three decisions in a row.

Bad numbers

In his last start of the season, Aug. 11 against the Padres, Jackson injured an ankle, was lifted in the second inning and didn’t pitch again in 1995.

His season record: 2-12 with a 5.90 ERA.

In 19 starts, Jackson yielded 120 hits in 100.2 innings and had almost as many walks (48) as strikeouts (52). Batters hit .303 against him.

His failures were a key factor in the Cardinals having a 62-81 record.

Jackson never recovered. In three seasons with the Cardinals, he was 4-15 with a 5.78 ERA.

On June 13, 1997, the Cardinals dealt Jackson, pitcher Rich Batchelor and outfielder Mark Sweeney to the Padres for pitcher Fernando Valenzuela, outfielder Phil Plantier and third baseman Scott Livingstone.

Previously: The day Cardinals fired Joe Torre, traded Todd Zeile

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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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The Cardinals twice have experienced back-to-back battery power.

rick_ankiel8Tom Pagnozzi and Omar Olivares in 1994 and Eli Marrero and Rick Ankiel in 2000 are the only Cardinals catcher-pitcher batteries to hit consecutive home runs, according to David Vincent of the Society for American Baseball Research.

The home run by Ankiel was the first of his big-league career.

Here is a look at those feats:

Magic in Miami

On Aug. 10, 1994, in the next-to-last Cardinals game before the players’ strike that shortened the season, Olivares and Pagnozzi led a 12-4 St. Louis rout of the Marlins in Miami.

Pagnozzi was 2-for-4 with a walk, three runs scored and two RBI. Olivares pitched seven innings and earned his third win of the season.

The highlights came in the sixth. With one on, one out and the Cardinals ahead, 4-2, Pagnozzi, batting eighth, hit a two-run home run off starter David Weathers. Olivares, batting ninth, followed with a solo shot, his third big-league homer.

“I just swing hard,” Olivares said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. Boxscore

Dream come true

Six years later, on April 20, 2000, at St. Louis, Marrero and Ankiel matched the feat in a 14-1 Cardinals triumph over the Padres.

In the fifth, with the Cardinals ahead, 10-0, Vicente Palacios was pitching in relief for the Padres. Palacios, 36, was making his first big-league appearance since June 1995 when he was with the Cardinals.

Marrero, batting eighth, connected off Palacios for his second home run of the game, a 412-foot shot off the Stadium Club at Busch Stadium II. Ankiel, 20, followed with a 380-foot home run into the bullpen.

“That’s all I’ve got,” Ankiel said of his power stroke. “I didn’t know it was gone when I hit it … It was great. As a little kid, that’s what you dream of.”

Ankiel was 3-for-3 with a RBI and two runs scored. He pitched five shutout innings and earned his second win of the season, yielding two hits and seven walks and striking out four.

“None of those hits were accidents,” said Cardinals manager Tony La Russa. “He’s almost as good a hitter as he is a pitcher.”

Said Cardinals hitting coach Mike Easler of Ankiel: “What it took me 10 years in the minors leagues to learn, he’s learned at 20 years old.” Boxscore

Unable to control his pitches and set back by injuries, Ankiel quit pitching in spring training 2005, learned to play outfield in the minors and returned to the Cardinals as an outfielder in 2007. He hit 76 career home runs in the big leagues, with two as a pitcher and the rest as an outfielder or pinch-hitter.

Previously: How Rick Ankiel made happy return to St. Louis as pitcher

Previously: Rick Ankiel and the decision that altered his career

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In his final career win as a starter, Bob Gibson achieved a milestone.

bob_gibson19Forty years ago, on June 27, 1975, Gibson earned his 250th career win, pitching six innings in a 6-4 Cardinals victory over the Expos in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Montreal.

The win was significant for several reasons, including:

_ Gibson became the first and only Cardinals pitcher to achieve 250 wins. No one else has come close. The pitchers with the next-best career wins totals as Cardinals are Jesse Haines (210) and Bob Forsch (163).

_ Gibson was the career wins leader among all active big-league pitchers in 1975.

_ The win was the first for Gibson since May 5, 1975.

“No. 250 doesn’t mean any more than 249,” Gibson said to the Associated Press. “It feels good to be able to win a game and help the ball club. I want to be part of a winning ball club. I haven’t lost that.”

Breaking stuff

Gibson, 39, shut out the Expos through six innings.

“I was getting my breaking ball over,” Gibson said. “If you don’t have the breaking stuff. you just have the fastball. It’s tough to pitch with just the fastball.”

Gibson also contributed a RBI-single in the fifth off Expos starter Steve Rogers and scored on a Ted Sizemore two-run double.

In the seventh, with the Cardinals ahead, 4-0, the first two Expos batters reached base and Gibson was lifted by manager Red Schoendienst. Ron Bryant relieved and yielded a RBI-double to Barry Foote. Rookie Greg Terlecky replaced Bryant and gave up a two-run single to Bob Bailey. Two of the runs were charged to Gibson.

Gibson’s line for the game: 6 innings, 5 hits, 2 runs, 6 walks, 1 strikeout.

In The Sporting News, columnist Jerome Holtzman wrote, “Bob Gibson has not only lost a foot off his fastball, but he isn’t hitting the corners the way he used to.” Boxscore

One more win

Gibson made two more starts, the last of his career, against the Phillies and Giants, and lost both, dropping his season record to 2-8.

His 251st and final win of his career came in relief on July 27, 1975, against the Phillies at St. Louis.

Relieving rookie starter John Denny in the fourth, Gibson pitched four shutout innings in a 9-6 Cardinals triumph. Gibson struck out Larry Bowa and Mike Schmidt to end the sixth and struck out Greg Luzinski to start the seventh.

Gibson’s line for the game: 4 innings, 3 hits, 0 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts. Boxscore

It was Gibson’s first win in relief since beating the Mets on the final day of the 1964 season, clinching the National League pennant for St. Louis.

Gibson made six more relief stints for the 1975 Cardinals and lost two, finishing his final season at 3-10 with a 5.04 ERA.

In 17 seasons (1959-75) with St. Louis, Gibson was 251-174 with a 2.91 ERA. Among his accomplishments: two NL Cy Young awards, two World Series Most Valuable Player awards, a NL MVP Award and nine Gold Glove awards. He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1981.

Previously: Bob Gibson and his final Opening Day with Cardinals

Previously: How Ron Reed replaced Bob Gibson in Cardinals rotation

Previously: Bob Gibson and his last Cardinals game

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Determined to reconstruct their bullpen, the 1965 Cardinals acquired the closer they needed, but gave up an ace to get him.

mike_cuellarFifty years ago, on June 15, 1965, the defending World Series champions traded pitchers Mike Cuellar and Ron Taylor to the Astros for pitchers Hal Woodeshick and Chuck Taylor.

Woodeshick became the closer for the 1965 Cardinals and pitched effectively.

Cuellar developed into an all-star for the Astros, mastering the screwball and curve and paving his way to becoming a Cy Young Award winner with the Orioles.

Seeking a stopper

Barney Schultz and Ron Taylor had been the top relievers for the World Series champion 1964 Cardinals. Schultz had a team-high 14 saves and a win, all after his call-up from the minors in August 1964. Taylor had eight saves and eight relief wins.

Cuellar also had been a useful reliever for the 1964 Cardinals. Overall, his record that season was 5-5 with a 4.50 ERA. As a reliever, though, Cuellar was 3-0 with four saves and a 2.53 ERA in 25 appearances.

Red Schoendienst, who replaced Johnny Keane as Cardinals manager, went into the 1965 season with Schultz and Taylor as his top two relievers. Cuellar was sent to Class AAA Jacksonville and placed in the starting rotation.

Schultz and Taylor struggled early with the 1965 Cardinals. Schultz gave up runs in five of his first six outings. Taylor yielded runs in three of his first four appearances. The Cardinals lost five of their first six games.

Through June 14, 1965, the Cardinals were in seventh place at 28-30. The bullpen had accounted for only five saves: two apiece by Schultz and Bob Purkey; one by Taylor.

Also, the Cardinals had only one left-handed reliever, 20-year-old rookie Steve Carlton.

Saves leader

The experienced left-handed relievers sought by Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam were Ron Perranoski of the Dodgers and Woodeshick. Perranoski had led the NL in appearances in 1962 and 1963 and had posted 14 saves or more each season from 1962-64. Woodeshick had led the NL in saves in 1964, with 23.

Promoting Cuellar from the minors was an option the Cardinals rejected, even though the left-hander had compiled a 9-1 record and 2.41 ERA in 15 games.

Instead, Howsam offered Cuellar in trade talks. The Astros wanted him, but insisted on Taylor, too.

“Ron Taylor was in demand,” Schoendienst told The Sporting News. “Houston wouldn’t make the trade without him.”

Said Taylor: “I had no hint of a trade.”

Howsam agreed to send Cuellar, 28, and Taylor, 27, to the Astros for Woodeshick, 32, and Chuck Taylor, 23. The Cardinals assigned Chuck Taylor to Jacksonville, where he began his second stint in the St. Louis system. Signed by the Cardinals as an amateur free agent in 1961, Chuck Taylor and outfielder Jim Beauchamp were dealt to Houston in February 1964 for outfielder Carl Warwick.

After acquiring Woodeshick, the Cardinals called up rookie right-hander Don Dennis from Jacksonville. Woodeshick and Dennis replaced Schultz and Taylor as the top Cardinals relievers. Schultz remained on the team, but in a low-profile role.

“This deal makes our staff well-balanced,” Howsam said.

Good start

Initially, the trade appeared to favor the Cardinals.

hal_woodeshickWoodeshick was as good as expected. He had seven saves and a win in July when the Cardinals had a NL-best 17-10 record. Overall, Woodeshick was 3-2 with 15 saves and a 1.81 ERA for the 1965 Cardinals. Left-handed batters hit .154 (10-for-65) against him, with no home runs.

Dennis helped, too, with six saves and a 2.29 ERA.

For the 1965 Astros, Cuellar was 1-4 and Taylor was 1-5.

By 1967, the trade looked a lot different.

Orioles, Mets benefit

Woodeshick was 2-1 with two saves and a 5.18 ERA for the 1967 NL champion Cardinals. He pitched a scoreless inning in the 1967 World Series and was released after the Cardinals won the championship. In three seasons with St. Louis, Woodeshick was 7-4 with 21 saves and a 2.67 ERA.

Cuellar was 16-11 for the 1967 Astros. He pitched two scoreless innings for the NL in the All-Star Game. After the 1968 season, Cuellar was traded to the Orioles. He won the 1969 American League Cy Young Award, compiling 23 wins, a 2.38 ERA and five shutouts. He helped the Orioles win three consecutive pennants (1969-71) and a World Series title (1970) and four times won 20 or more in a season.

Ron Taylor was traded to the Mets before the 1967 season and revived his career, with eight saves and a 2.34 ERA that season. Like in 1964 for the Cardinals, Taylor was a stellar reliever for the 1969 Mets, helping them win their first World Series championship versus Cuellar and the Orioles.

Chuck Taylor made his big-league debut with the 1969 Cardinals. In three seasons with St. Louis (1969-71), he was 16-13 with 11 saves and a 2.99 ERA.

Previously: The top 5 Cubans to play for the Cardinals

Previously: Roger Craig, Ron Taylor: Great relief for Cardinals

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Joe DiFabio had the credentials one would expect from an elite Cardinals prospect.

joe_difabioIn high school, he was mentored by a coach who would become one of the best in his profession. In college, DiFabio sharpened his skills playing for a coach who had excelled as a pitcher in the big leagues.

As a professional, though, DiFabio wasn’t quite good enough to pitch for the Cardinals.

Fifty years ago, on June 8, 1965, in the first amateur draft held by big-league baseball, the Cardinals made DiFabio their original No. 1 pick.

A right-handed pitcher, DiFabio achieved success at multiple levels of the Cardinals’ minor-league system, but never pitched a game in the majors.

Impressive resume

DiFabio developed into a standout pitcher at Cranford High School in New Jersey. His coach was Hubie Brown, who also was the assistant basketball coach. After leaving Cranford, Brown built a long career in basketball. He twice was named NBA Coach of the Year and was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

After graduating from high school, DiFabio continued his baseball career at Delta State in Mississippi. Boo Ferriss was the baseball coach there. Ferriss had pitched for the Red Sox. In 1946, he had a 25-6 record for Boston and was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the World Series against the Cardinals.

In 1965, his junior year at Delta State, DiFabio was 7-0 with an 0.55 ERA. He struck out 97 in 65 innings. He pitched three one-hitters and yielded 28 hits all season.

Buddy Lewis, a former third baseman and outfielder for the Senators, scouted DiFabio for the Cardinals. Lewis knew what it took to play in the majors. He recommended DiFabio to the Cardinals.

First choice

Until 1965, an amateur player could sign with any big-league organization that made an offer. That changed when Major League Baseball started a draft of amateur players.

As defending champions, the Cardinals chose last among the 20 big-league clubs in the first round. Several teams had shown interest in DiFabio. When he was available at the end of the first round, the Cardinals took him.

Signed at the end of June, DiFabio, 20, was sent by the Cardinals to their Class AA Tulsa team in the Texas League. Playing for manager Vern Rapp, DiFabio made seven appearances and was 0-2 with a 7.88 ERA. The Cardinals ordered him to improve his physical conditioning before the 1966 season.

“He’s about 5-foot-10 and weighed over 220,” Chief Bender, the Cardinals’ farm director, told The Sporting News.

DiFabio got his weight down to about 197 pounds in 1966, Bender said. Pitching for Class A Cedar Rapids of the Midwest League, DiFabio was 11-3 with a 1.86 ERA in 17 starts for manager Ron Plaza.

“He had a good year at Cedar Rapids after he was unable to get in shape in 1965,” Bender said.

In 1968, DiFabio had another good year. At Class AA Arkansas of the Texas League, he was 13-6 with a 2.17 ERA in 24 starts for Rapp.

At a crossroads

Meanwhile, pitchers such as Steve Carlton, Nellie Briles and Larry Jaster _ all of whom had been signed by the Cardinals as amateur free agents in the years before a draft  _ were advancing through the organization and receiving promotions to St. Louis.

Major League Baseball expanded from 20 to 24 teams in 1969, opening opportunities for more players to get into the big leagues, but no one chose DiFabio.

Entering the 1970 season, his sixth in the Cardinals’ system, DiFabio, 25, told The Sporting News, “I know I can win in the Texas League, but I’ve got to find out if I can pitch in the majors … I’ll have to make it to the big leagues soon or get out of baseball.”

Assigned to Arkansas in 1970, DiFabio was 10-7 with a 3.26 ERA in 26 games for manager Ken Boyer. Still, the Cardinals didn’t call.

After the 1970 season, DiFabio and the Cardinals parted ways. He signed with the Reds organization. In 1971, pitching for Rapp at Class AAA Indianapolis, DiFabio was 0-2 with a 15.00 ERA in two starts. He was finished as a professional ballplayer.

In seven minor-league seasons (1965-71), DiFabio was 45-34 with a 3.28 ERA.

Impressively, DiFabio had continued his education in the off-seasons, earning a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree from Delta State.

Dandies and duds

Of the 20 selections in the first round of the 1965 draft, seven didn’t play in the major leagues.

The Cardinals chose 60 players in the 1965 draft. Six reached the major leagues and just one of those _ pitcher Harry Parker, a fourth-round pick _ played for the Cardinals.

The other five Cardinals 1965 draft picks who got to the big leagues: pitcher Dan McGinn, 21st round; pitcher Jerry Robertson, 27th round; shortstop Rich Hacker, 39th round; pitcher Pete Hamm, 41st round; and second baseman John Sipin, 55th round. Hacker also was a Cardinals coach on the staff of manager Whitey Herzog from 1986-90.

Like DiFabio, neither the Cardinals’ 1965 second-round choice, first baseman Terry Milani, nor their third-round selection, outfielder Billy Wolff, played in the big leagues.

Previously: Harry Parker: Best selection of Cardinals first draft

Previously: The story of how Ted Simmons became a Cardinal

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