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As a rookie, Carlos Villanueva almost kept the 2006 Cardinals from qualifying for the postseason and winning their first World Series title in 24 years.

carlos_villanuevaNine years later, Villanueva is competing in spring training for a spot on the pitching staff of the 2015 Cardinals.

On Oct. 1, 2006, the Cardinals entered the final day of the regular season needing a win over the Brewers at St. Louis or an Astros loss to the Braves in Atlanta to clinch outright the National League Central Division title. If the Cardinals lost and the Astros won, the Cardinals would need to win a regular-season makeup game against the Giants to clinch the division title and avoid a one-game playoff with the Astros to advance to the National League Division Series against the Padres.

Rookie starters

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa gambled and started rookie Anthony Reyes against the Brewers on only three days of rest, choosing to hold back Chris Carpenter in the hope St. Louis would clinch the division crown versus Milwaukee and have their ace available for Game 1 of the NL Division Series.

Brewers manager Ned Yost chose Villanueva as his starter. In his fourth big-league start, Villanueva had faced the Cardinals for the first time on Sept. 20 at Milwaukee and pitched seven scoreless innings in a 1-0 Brewers victory. Boxscore

Reyes flopped. The Brewers scored four in the first on a two-run home run by Prince Fielder, a solo home run by Geoff Jenkins and a RBI-single by David Bell (who is the bench coach for the 2015 Cardinals). Reyes was lifted before he could complete the opening inning.

Keep me in, coach

Given a 4-0 lead, Villanueva first faced Cardinals leadoff batter Aaron Miles. who “smacked a sharp one-hopper off Villanueva’s pitching hand,” the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported.

“It felt bad,” Villanueva said.

Yost went to the mound and asked his right-hander, “How are you doing?”

“Of course, I said, ‘I’m doing great,’ ” Villanueva said.

In truth, the hand throbbed.

Said Yost: “I came close to taking him out. He couldn’t even swing a bat. I kept an eye on him and if I noticed a drop-off in effectiveness I would have taken him out. But I didn’t see it.”

Villanueva baffled the Cardinals. With each inning, their hopes of beating the Brewers dimmed.

Bailout by Braves

Then, in the fifth, Ronnie Belliard stepped to the plate for St. Louis and a roar erupted from the Busch Stadium crowd as the final from Atlanta was posted: Braves 3, Astros 1. The Braves had prevailed behind six shutout innings from starter John Smoltz and a home run by Jeff Francoeur. Boxscore

The loss by the Astros meant the Cardinals had clinched the division title, regardless of the outcome of their game with the Brewers.

As fans cheered in appreciation, Villanueva stepped off the mound and Belliard stepped away from the plate. Derryl Cousins, the home plate umpire, motioned for the game to resume, but Villanueva lingered, letting “the celebration last a few more seconds,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

“I wanted to give them their moment,” Villanueva said. “I knew what was going on.”

Drama in ninth

Villanueva shut out the Cardinals through eight innings, extending his scoreless streak against them to 15 innings over two starts.

In the bottom of the ninth, with the Brewers ahead, 5-0, Villanueva got Miles to fly out to right. Then, the Cardinals thundered to life. Chris Duncan launched a 414-foot home run. Albert Pujols followed with a 424-foot shot.

Francisco Cordero relieved and struck out Preston Wilson, but Scott Spiezio followed with a home run, cutting the deficit to two. Cordero then ended the drama _ and the regular season _ by striking out Juan Encarnacion, preserving a 5-3 victory for Villanueva and the Brewers. Boxscore

Unfazed, the Cardinals regrouped and beat the Padres in the NL Division Series, the Mets in the NL Championship Series and the Tigers in the World Series.

Villanueva went on to pitch for nine big-league seasons with the Brewers, Blue Jays and Cubs. He never pitched a complete game and only once matched the 8.1 innings he pitched against the Cardinals.

Previously: 2006 was critical to Tony La Russa earning Hall of Fame status

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With the 2015 Cardinals, John Lackey is hoping to become the 16th big-leaguer to play for three different franchises in World Series championship seasons.

john_lackeyLackey pitched for the 2002 Angels and 2013 Red Sox clubs that won World Series titles.

Only three players _ pitchers Lew Burdette and Steve Carlton and outfielder Lonnie Smith _ can count the Cardinals as one of three franchises they played for in World Series championship years.

Lackey, entering his first full season with St. Louis after being acquired from the Red Sox on July 31, 2014, would join them if the Cardinals win the 2015 World Series title.

After posting a 3-3 record and 4.30 ERA in 10 starts for the 2014 Cardinals, Lackey, 36, is expected to be one of the five starters for the 2015 Cardinals.

As a rookie with the 2002 Angels, Lackey was 9-4 with a 3.66 ERA in 18 starts. He was the starting and winning pitcher in Game 7 of the 2002 World Series versus the Giants. Boxscore

Eleven years later, Lackey was 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts for the 2013 Red Sox. He was the starting and winning pitcher in the decisive Game 6 of the 2013 World Series versus the Cardinals. Boxscore (The Cardinals beat him in Game 2.)

A look at the trio that played for three different franchises, including the Cardinals, in World Series championship years:

Lew Burdette

_ 1950 Yankees: As a rookie, Burdette, 23, pitched in two games for the 1950 Yankees but didn’t play in the World Series. The Yankees swept the Phillies.

_ 1957 Braves: Burdette was 17-9 with a 3.72 ERA for the 1957 Braves. In the World Series against the Yankees, he was 3-0 with an 0.67 ERA, yielding two earned runs in 27 innings. Burdette pitched shutouts in Games 5 and 7.

_ 1964 Cardinals: Burdette, 37, made eight relief appearances for St. Louis, posting a 1-0 record and 1.80 ERA, before being dealt to the Cubs for pitcher Glen Hobbie on June 2, 1964. Burdette’s lone win was important to the Cardinals, who finished a game ahead of both the Phillies and Reds before winning the World Series championship in seven games against the Yankees.

Steve Carlton

_ 1967 Cardinals: In his first full Cardinals season, Carlton, 22, was 14-9 with a 2.98 ERA. In his only appearance in the 1967 World Series versus the Red Sox, he was the losing pitcher in Game 5, even though he yielded just three hits and an unearned run in six innings. The Cardinals won the championship in seven games.

_ 1980 Phillies: Carlton won the 1980 Cy Young Award, with a 24-9 record and 2.34 ERA. In the 1980 World Series versus the Royals, Carlton was 2-0 with a 2.40 ERA. He won Game 2 and the decisive Game 6.

_ 1987 Twins: On July 31, 1987, Carlton, 42, was traded by the Indians to the Twins for minor-league pitcher and former Cardinals prospect Jeff Perry. Carlton was 1-5 with a 6.70 ERA for the Twins and didn’t pitch in the postseason. Still, he earned a World Series ring when the Twins beat the Cardinals in seven games.

Lonnie Smith

_ 1980 Phillies: In his first full big-league season, Smith hit .339 and had 33 stolen bases in 100 games for the 1980 Phillies. He batted .263 in the World Series. The Phillies won in six games versus the Royals.

_ 1982 Cardinals: Traded by the Phillies to the Cardinals as part of a three-way deal with the Indians on Nov. 20, 1981 (St. Louis sent pitchers Lary Sorensen and Silvio Martinez to Cleveland), Smith ignited the Cardinals’ offense in 1982, batting .307 with 182 hits in 156 games, scoring 120 runs and stealing 68 bases.

In the 1982 World Series versus the Brewers, Smith hit .321 (9-for-28) with four doubles and six runs scored. The Cardinals won the title in seven games.

_ 1985 Royals: To make room for rookie Vince Coleman in left field, the Cardinals traded Smith to the Royals for outfielder John Morris on May 17, 1985. Smith hit .257 with 40 stolen bases for the Royals.

In the 1985 World Series against the Cardinals, Smith batted .333 (9-for-27) and had four RBI. The Royals beat the Cardinals in seven games.

Smith played for a fourth franchise, the Braves, in the 1991 and 1992 World Series, but the Twins and Blue Jays won the championships in those years.

3 rings, 3 franchises

Here, in alphabetical order, are the 12 others joining Burdette, Carlton and Smith in playing for three different franchises in World Series championship years:

_ Nick Altrock, pitcher: 1903 Red Sox, 1906 White Sox, 1924 Senators.

_ George Burns, first baseman: 1920 Indians, 1928 Yankees, 1929 Athletics.

_ Joe Bush, pitcher: 1913 Athletics, 1918 Red Sox, 1923 Yankees.

_ Jay Johnstone, outfielder: 1973 Athletics, 1978 Yankees, 1981 Dodgers.

_ Mike Lowell, third baseman: 1998 Yankees, 2003 Marlins, 2007 Red Sox.

_ Dolf Luque, pitcher: 1914 Braves, 1919 Reds, 1933 Giants.

_ Stuffy McInnis, first baseman: 1910-11-13 Athletics, 1918 Red Sox, 1925 Pirates.

_ Jack Morris, pitcher: 1984 Tigers, 1991 Twins, 1992-93 Blue Jays.

_ Herb Pennock, pitcher: 1913 Athletics, 1915-16 Red Sox, 1923-27-28-32 Yankees.

_ Luis Polonia, outfielder: 1989 Athletics, 1995 Braves, 2000 Yankees.

_ Wally Schang, catcher: 1913-30 Athletics, 1918 Red Sox, 1923 Yankees.

_ Dave Stewart, pitcher: 1981 Dodgers, 1989 Athletics, 1993 Blue Jays.

Previously: How Lonnie Smith came clean with the Cardinals

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With the 2015 Cardinals, Matt Belisle becomes teammates with a manager and a run producer who once hit significant home runs off him.

matt_belisleA free agent who signed with the Cardinals on Dec. 2, 2014, Belisle, 34, is expected to join Trevor Rosenthal, Jordan Walden and Seth Maness as the key right-handed relievers for St. Louis.

In 11 seasons with the Reds and Rockies, Belisle has a 48-54 record, 4.41 ERA and five saves. He has made more than 65 appearances in each of the last five seasons.

The first and last home runs he yielded to Cardinals were hit by Mike Matheny and Matt Holliday. Matheny is the manager of the 2015 Cardinals and Holliday is their top RBI threat.

MLB debut

On Sept. 7, 2003, Belisle made his big-league debut for the Reds against the Cardinals at St. Louis. He entered the game in the sixth inning with the Cardinals ahead, 5-0.

After pitching a scoreless sixth and retiring the first batter in the seventh, Belisle faced Matheny, the Cardinals’ catcher. Matheny welcomed the rookie to the big leagues with a home run into the left-field seats.

“He’s a tiger,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said of Matheny. “Other coaches and managers talk to me and they just admire how consistent he is, how hard he works.” Boxscore

Misplaced heater

Nine years later, on Aug. 1, 2012, Belisle was brought in to face Holliday with the Rockies leading the Cardinals, 5-3, in the seventh inning at Denver. The Cardinals had two runners on base with one out.

Holliday, who broke into the majors with the Rockies, had hit a two-run home run off Drew Pomeranz in the first inning.

On a 1-and-0 pitch, Belisle threw a fastball that caught too much of the inner part of the plate. Holliday crushed a home run that traveled 452 feet, giving the Cardinals a 6-5 lead and propelling them to a 9-6 victory. Video

“If I had to do it over again, I still feel real confident with going inside with a heater, but just maybe stay inside a little more,” Belisle said to the Associated Press. “I just pride myself in preparing for big pitches in big situations. This one is extremely hard to swallow and I take it completely on my shoulders for this loss.”

Said Holliday: “I was looking to hit the ball through the middle. We had runners in scoring position and I was trying to get something to hit hard.” Boxscore

Milestone homer

Belisle also is the pitcher who yielded career home run No. 200 to the Cardinals’ Albert Pujols.

On Sept. 30, 2005, Pujols hit a grand slam off Belisle in the Cardinals’ 12-6 victory over the Reds at St. Louis. Video

“The best swing I took in two weeks,” Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

It was Pujols’ 40th home run of the 2005 season and his fourth career grand slam. Only Mel Ott and Eddie Mathews reached 200 home runs at ages younger than Pujols. Boxscore

Previously: Mike Matheny sparked Cards over Dodgers in 2004 NLDS

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In the last 85 years, only three pitchers have achieved 30 wins in a season: Denny McLain (31 with 1968 Tigers), Dizzy Dean (30 with 1934 Cardinals) and Lefty Grove (31 with 1931 Athletics).

gibson_mclainI met McLain on Jan. 31, 2015, at a sports card show at the American Legion Hall in Sebastian, Fla. Richard Stone, who produces the show the last Saturday of each month, was kind in introducing me to McLain and arranging the interview.

McLain, 70, was friendly, talkative, outspoken.

The pitcher, who used to drink a case of Pepsi a day, said he has dropped 180 pounds, crediting a procedure called bariatric surgery, which removed a portion of his stomach.

In 1968, when he won both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, McLain had a 31-6 record, 1.96 ERA and 28 complete games.

He won a second Cy Young Award in 1969, with a 24-9 record, 2.80 ERA and 23 complete games.

McLain was suspended by baseball commissioner Bowie Kuhn for part of the 1970 season because of his association with bookmakers. After his playing career, he twice went to prison: the first time on a conviction for racketeering and the second time on a conviction for embezzlement.

Today he is involved in a sports merchandising and memorabilia business at http://www.dennymclain31-6.com.

Here are excerpts from my tape-recorded interview with Denny McLain:

Q.: You are the last pitcher with 30 wins in a season. Do you think the achievement gets the credit it deserves?

Denny McLain: “As time goes by, the stories about it become greater, but the appreciation becomes a little less. Will anyone win 30 again? Obviously not. The game has changed. No else is going to do it.”

Q.: Do you think today’s major leaguers appreciate the feat?

Denny McLain: “A lot of players today don’t know historically what happened 30, 40 years ago. There are some, but they are the exceptions. Very few know or actually care. It’s about the paycheck. Despite how the current guys treat them, the former players still respect the players today. That’s the difference.

“Of course, we’re all a little jealous of the money. The guys today don’t understand what we did to get them to the place where they are today. We walked out (on strike) when we were making $20,000, $30,000 a year. I wonder if they were making $20,000, $30,000 a year today how many guys would walk out. Guys today win 15 games and make $30 million a year.”

Q.: Insane?

Denny McLain: “Insane is a kind word. They should be committed.”

Q.: You and Dizzy Dean are the last two pitchers to win 30 in a season. You both are considered to be free spirits. Do you see similarities to him?

Denny McLain: “Dizzy and I both had the same personalities. We got along super well because he was as nuts as I was.”

Q.: You got to meet him?

Denny McLain: “I met both Dizzy Dean and Lefty Grove.”

Q.: What was Dizzy Dean like?

Denny McLain: “He wanted to have a good time all the time. He was a big-time gambler. On the night before I won my 30th in 1968, Dizzy says to me, ‘How you feeling? Anything bothering you? Think you’re going to win tomorrow?’ At the time, I didn’t know he was a big-time gambler. Dizzy was soliciting information.”

Q.: What was Lefty Grove like?

Denny McLain: “Lefty Grove was the nicest man I ever met in my life. He was a class act. He was articulate. He knew the game.”

Q.: In 1966, at age 22, you were the starting pitcher for the American League in the All-Star Game at St. Louis and retired all 9 batters you faced …

Denny McLain: “Six of them are in the Hall of Fame.”

Q.: They would be Willie Mays, Roberto Clemente, Hank Aaron, Willie McCovey, Ron Santo and Joe Torre. Mays led off and struck out …

Denny McLain: “I had him 3-and-2. Bill Freehan, my catcher, called for a curve. In an All-Star Game, to call a curve on 3-and-2 is pretty drastic. I was so pumped up. I threw a curve that was one of the greatest I’ve ever thrown in my life. They call it a 6 o’clocker.” Boxscore

Q.: Then Clemente flied out and Aaron struck out …

Denny McLain: “In winter ball in 1964 in Puerto Rico, I played against Santurce. That team had Clemente and (Orlando) Cepeda. First time I pitched against them, I struck them out each four times. That’s when Clemente came up to me and said, ‘Why aren’t you in the big leagues?’ I said, ‘I am.’ ”

Q.: The story is that before the 1968 World Series you said you wanted not only for the Tigers to beat the Cardinals, you wanted to humiliate them. True?

Denny McLain: “I wanted us to beat them in four. I got tired of hearing about Bob Gibson’s (1.12) ERA. I kept saying, ‘If he’s that good, why didn’t he win some more games?’ I know one of the quotes I said was, ‘He won 22 games. I won 21 by the end of July.’ That really got everybody ticked off.”

Q.: Then in Game 1 of the World Series, Gibson strikes out 17, pitches a shutout and you get lifted after five innings …

Denny McLain: “There’s nothing you could do. We got beat 4-0. One of us was going to win and one of us was going to lose. I lost.” Boxscore

Q.: You and Gibson were matched again in Game 4. Again, he won …

Denny McLain: “We shouldn’t have played the game. It was played in a downpour. I was never a mudder.” Boxscore

Q.: In Game 6, you start against Ray Washburn, pitch a complete game and win …

Denny McLain: “That was my day. If we lose that game …”

Q.: The World Series is over …

Denny McLain: “It would have killed me.”

Q.: You received a cortisone shot for your right shoulder before that game. How much did that help?

Denny McLain: “I got the injection about an hour before the game. I got another touch to it about 20 minutes before I went to warm up. Took some kind of pill. I didn’t have any pain until the fifth or sixth inning.” Boxscore

Q.: You struck out seven, walked none, the Tigers win, 13-1 …

Denny McLain: “The thing that made me mad about that ballgame is there were two outs in the ninth and I had a shutout. Julian Javier got a base hit with a man on second. Boy, was I mad. It was just a lousy ground ball that went through the hole.”

Q.: Did you feel the win was redemption after two losses to Gibson?

Denny McLain: “They only had one pitcher. That was Gibson. The rest of them weren’t very good. We were surprised at how bad their pitching was. But what St. Louis did is much like what we did: Play fundamentally sound baseball. If you play the game soundly, you will win.”

Previously: Should Curt Flood have caught Jim Northrup’s drive?

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Four years after impressing the Angels as rookie sensations, reliever Jordan Walden and outfielder Peter Bourjos are being reunited on the 2015 Cardinals. If they produce for the Cardinals like they did for the 2011 Angels, it would help St. Louis remain an elite contender in the National League.

jordan_waldenWalden and Bourjos both made their major-league debuts with the Angels in August 2010. In their first full big-league seasons, Walden was the closer and Bourjos was the regular center fielder for a 2011 Angels team that achieved 86 wins.

The Cardinals acquired Walden and outfielder Jason Heyward from the Braves on Nov. 17, 2014, for pitchers Shelby Miller and Tyrell Jenkins. Walden is expected to excel in a setup role in the 2015 Cardinals bullpen. He also serves as insurance in case closer Trevor Rosenthal is hurt or ineffective.

Bourjos, acquired by the Cardinals with outfielder Randal Grichuk from the Angels for third baseman David Freese and reliever Fernando Salas on Nov. 22, 2013, hit .231 with nine doubles and five triples in 119 games for the 2014 Cardinals.

The 2015 Cardinals would like to see Bourjos perform like he did in 2011 when he hit .271 with 26 doubles and 11 triples in 147 games for the Angels.

Walden also was stellar that season, producing a 5-5 record with 32 saves and a 2.98 ERA for the 2011 Angels. He broke the Angels’ rookie record for saves (22) set by Ken Tatum in 1969.

Walden, 27, is 12-13 with 38 saves and a 3.10 ERA in five big-league seasons with the Angels and Braves.

Here are 5 key items Cardinals fans should know about Jordan Walden:

1. Dazzling debut

With the Twins leading the Angels, 4-0, on Aug. 22, 2010, at Minneapolis, Walden was brought in to pitch the bottom of the eighth in his big-league debut.

He threw a fastball clocked at 99 mph to the first batter he faced, Joe Mauer.

Mauer walked and Jason Kubel singled, putting runners on first and third with no outs.

Walden then struck out Michael Cuddyer and Jim Thome before getting Delmon Young on a ground out, stranding the runners.

Asked afterward how Walden ranked among Angels pitching prospects, manager Mike Scioscia told the Orange County Register, “Jordan is a guy who has the most upside of the guys we were looking at.” Boxscore

2. Cardinals connections

On June 17, 2011, Walden and Bourjos combined to help Angels starting pitcher Joel Pineiro, a former Cardinal, earn his 100th win in the majors.

Facing the Mets at New York, Bourjos hit a RBI-double off starter Chris Capuano in the top of the sixth, giving the Angels a 3-2 lead. In the bottom half of the inning, Bourjos made a leaping grab of a Ronny Paulino drive off Pineiro before crashing into the center field wall.

In the ninth, with the Angels ahead, 4-3, Walden came in for the save. He walked the first two batters, Jose Reyes and Justin Turner. He then struck out Carlos Beltran, Daniel Murphy and Angel Pagan on sliders.

“He threw some terrific breaking balls,” Scioscia said of Walden. Boxscore

3. Replacing Rivera

Walden was named to the 2011 American League all-star team as a replacement for the Yankees’ Mariano Rivera, who had a triceps injury. “Even being mentioned in the same sentence with him is pretty awesome,” Walden said.

Walden, who had 19 saves, a 2.95 ERA and 39 strikeouts in 36.2 innings at the time of his selection, was the sixth Angels rookie to make an AL all-star team and the first since pitcher Jason Dickson in 1997.

4. Change of pace

Walden, a right-hander, has held left-handed batters to a .199 average in his career in the majors. Right-handed batters have hit .232 against him.

One reason for his success against left-handed batters is his changeup, which darts down when thrown well. “I like to show it to lefties because it fades away from them,” Walden said.

5. Angels angst

With the signing of free agent Albert Pujols from the Cardinals, the 2012 Angels were considered a certain pennant contender. Instead, despite the addition of a second wild-card team, the Angels failed to qualify for the postseason.

Part of the blame was placed on Bourjos, who slumped to a .220 batting mark with 37 hits in 101 games, and on Walden, who had an 8.31 ERA after his first six appearances.

Walden was replaced as the closer by Ernesto Frieri.

So desperate for relief help were the 2012 Angels that 40-year-old Jason Isringhausen, the former Cardinals closer, made 50 appearances for them.

Walden did recover and finished the 2012 season at 3-2 with a 3.46 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 39 innings. Still, the Angels traded him to the Braves for pitcher Tommy Hanson on Nov. 30, 2012.

In two seasons with the Braves in a setup role for closer Craig Kimbrel, Walden was 4-5 with a 3.15 ERA, four saves and 116 strikeouts in 97 innings.

Previously: How Jason Heyward, Hank Aaron made powerful connection

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For Cardinals pinch-hitter Gerald Perry, a controversial feat against a future ace salvaged an afternoon that began with a gaffe.

pedro_martinezOn April 13, 1993, Perry hit the first big-league home run yielded by Pedro Martinez, then a Dodgers rookie.

Twenty-two years later, on Jan. 6, 2015, Martinez was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in his first year on the ballot. In 18 seasons with the Dodgers, Expos, Red Sox, Mets and Phillies, Martinez produced a 219-100 record and 2.93 ERA with 3,154 strikeouts. He ranks sixth all-time in winning percentage.

In 1993, Martinez was 21, a relief pitcher in his first full big-league season with the Dodgers.

Perry, 32, was an 11-year big-league veteran, an established professional.

On this Tuesday afternoon in Los Angeles, he made a rookie mistake.

Room service, please

Perry thought the Cardinals and Dodgers were playing a night game. Instead, it was a rare weekday afternoon starting time because the game was the Dodgers’ home opener.

According to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Perry “was resting at the Century Plaza Hotel, having room service and watching a movie (“The Bodyguard”) on television” when he got a call from Cardinals equipment manager Buddy Bates, informing him he was about 90 minutes late.

Perry took a cab to Dodger Stadium and arrived in the clubhouse about 45 minutes before the start of the game. “I was very embarrassed walking in,” Perry said.

The Dodgers led, 7-5, after six innings. Martinez, the Dodgers’ third pitcher of the game, had held St. Louis scoreless in the fifth and sixth. The right-hander was making his second appearance of the season and his fourth overall in the big leagues.

In the seventh, the Cardinals had two runners on base with two outs when manager Joe Torre called on Perry, a left-handed batter, to pinch-hit for reliever Les Lancaster.

Tom Lasorda, the Dodgers’ manager, stuck with Martinez.

Trouble if it’s fair

Perry swung at a high changeup and lined a deep drive down the right-field line.

As the ball carried toward the foul pole, Darryl Strawberry, the 6-foot-6 right fielder, “leaned over the waist-high wall” and reached for the ball, Hummel reported.

On KMOX radio, Cardinals broadcaster Mike Shannon told his audience, “Swing and a long one down the right-field line. It’s trouble if it stays fair … Well, we can’t tell.”

A fan with a glove caught the ball.

It landed just inside the foul line _ a three-run home run, giving the Cardinals an 8-7 lead.

Strawberry claimed the fan interfered.

“I would have had it,” said Strawberry. “I had it all the way. He just took it away.”

An inning after the home run, ushers escorted the fan from his seat. “Perhaps for his own safety,” Hummel wrote.

Cardinals catcher Hector Villanueva, who was in the bullpen, witnessed the fan being harassed by fellow spectators. “They were throwing stuff at him,” Villanueva said.

After viewing a video replay of Perry’s home run, Cardinals catcher Tom Pagnozzi opined, “There’s no way Strawberry would have caught that ball because the ball was already by him. What’s he whining about?”

Said Perry to the Orange County Register: “I was hoping and praying (Strawberry) wouldn’t catch it. Thanks to the fan, too.”

Martinez was lifted after completing the seventh. In the ninth, Pagnozzi hit a solo home run off Ricky Trlicek, extending the St. Louis lead to 9-7, and Lee Smith shut down the Dodgers in their half of the inning, earning his 358th save, then a major league record. Boxscore

When Perry got back to the clubhouse, he found a sign, created by his teammates, taped over his locker that informed him of the next Cardinals-Dodgers game. It read: “Night game, Rookie.”

Redbirds vs. Pedro

Martinez took the loss. Against the Cardinals in his career, he would finish 4-4 with a 3.62 ERA in 16 regular-season appearances, including 11 starts. He also earned a win against them with seven shutout innings in Game 3 of the 2004 World Series. Boxscore

Martinez gave up 10 career home runs versus the Cardinals. Six of those 10 occurred in three games.

_ John Mabry and Gary Gaetti connected for home runs against Martinez on July 28, 1996, in a 6-4 Cardinals victory over the Expos at St. Louis. Boxscore

_ Mark Grudzielanek and Abraham Nunez homered for the Cardinals against Martinez in a 7-6 St. Louis victory over the Mets on May 14, 2005, at New York. Boxscore

_ Troy Glaus and Rick Ankiel hit home runs off Martinez in an 8-7 Cardinals triumph over the Mets at St. Louis on July 2, 2008. Boxscore

Previously: How Joe Girardi became a member of Cardinals’ family

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