Two extraordinary performances by the Cardinals bullpen in the 2011 postseason put the spotlight back on one of the greatest World Series games in franchise history.
On Oct. 2, in Game 2 of the 2011 National League Division Series at Philadelphia, Cardinals relievers Fernando Salas, Octavio Dotel, Marc Rzepczynski, Mitchell Boggs, Arthur Rhodes and Jason Motte combined to pitch six scoreless innings in St. Louis’ 5-4 victory over the Phillies. The bullpen limited the Phillies to one hit. Boxscore
In Game 3 of the 2011 NL Championship Series against the Brewers at St. Louis Oct. 12, the Cardinals got four scoreless, no-hit innings of relief from Salas, Lance Lynn, Rzepczynski and Motte in a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee. Boxscore
Those are outstanding relief efforts, but the best still may be the combined performance of right-handers Roger Craig and Ron Taylor in the crucial Game 4 of the 1964 World Series at Yankee Stadium.
Craig and Taylor pitched 8.2 innings of scoreless relief, limiting the Yankees to two hits, in the Cardinals’ 4-3 victory on Oct. 11. Boxscore The win evened the series at 2-2 and repositioned the Cardinals to clinch the championship in seven games.
Few could have predicted Craig and Taylor would shut down the Yankees. Though the Cardinals sizzled in September to overtake the Phillies and win the pennant on the final day of the regular season, Craig and Taylor stumbled to the finish.
Craig, 34, had started in eight of his last nine regular-season appearances and was 1-4 in his last six starts. Taylor, 26, had surrendered eight runs over 7.1 innings in his last five regular-season relief appearances.
Until Game 4, Craig and Taylor had made their marks in the World Series for their off-the-field antics. Before Game 2 at St. Louis, Craig and his road roommate, catcher Bob Uecker, walked out to left field, where a band was entertaining the crowd. According to The Sporting News:
Uecker borrowed a tuba and blew vigorously without too much success as Craig popped baseballs into the tuba Uecker was blowing.
Meanwhile, Taylor was collaborating with journalist Neil MacCarl on World Series articles for his hometown Toronto Star.
Ray Sadecki, a 20-game winner in 1964, started Game 4 for St. Louis but was ineffective. The Yankees scored twice against the left-hander in the first inning and had Roger Maris at third base with one out when Cardinals manager Johnny Keane lifted Sadecki for Craig.
The first batter Craig faced was Elston Howard. The catcher singled, scoring Maris from third and giving New York a 3-0 lead. Craig then struck out Tom Tresh and retired Joe Pepitone on a flyout to right.
From then on, Craig was in control. He struck out the side in the second and in the fourth. He picked off Mickey Mantle at second base. In 4.2 innings, Craig struck out eight and yielded two hits.
“I was throwing mostly breaking stuff, ” Craig told The Sporting News. “My curve was breaking so big it had the batters ducking away.”
Still, when Craig was lifted after the fifth inning, the Yankees maintained their 3-0 lead. Then, in the sixth, Cardinals third baseman Ken Boyer hit one of the biggest home runs in franchise history _ a grand slam off Al Downing.
Suddenly, Taylor entered to pitch the bottom of the sixth with a 4-3 lead.
“After I got that homer off a high changeup, I told Taylor to keep ’em fast and low. He did,” Boyer told the Associated Press.
Relying mostly on fastballs, Taylor pitched four scoreless, hitless innings to earn the save for Craig.
Said Taylor: “Kenny told me as I came out that I ought to keep the ball low and fast. I did, and I threw a few curves and sliders. But I kept it low and no changeups. It was the biggest thrill of my life to help win the game.”
Only one batter, Johnny Blanchard, who flew out to center, hit a ball out of the infield off Taylor. Eight of the 12 outs he recorded were groundouts, including all three in the ninth inning.
“We didn’t do much toward the end of the season,” Craig said to the Associated Press, referring to he and Taylor. “We wondered if we’d get a chance in the Series. Our pride was hurt. And we talked about it in the bullpen.”
Said Keane to The Sporting News about his relief pair: “I’ve never seen them better. They were absolutely great.”