Perhaps one of the most underrated feats achieved by the 2012 Cardinals is their consecutive shutouts of the Cubs at St. Louis in July.
Those were the Cardinals’ first back-to-back shutouts of the Cubs in 23 years, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
Spurred by an explosion of power hitting, the 2012 Cardinals beat the Cubs, 12-0, on July 21 (all 12 runs were scored in the seventh inning, when St. Louis hit seven of its nine doubles) and won again, 7-0, on July 22 (when left fielder Matt Holliday and right fielder Carlos Beltran crushed back-to-back fifth-inning home runs.)
Overshadowed by the bats that weekend was the pitching of starters Jake Westbrook and Lance Lynn, along with an effective bullpen. Westbrook pitched seven scoreless innings July 21 and relievers Barret Browning, Victor Marte and Trevor Rosenthal completed the shutout. Lynn pitched six scoreless innings July 22 and combined with relievers Fernando Salas and Marc Rzepczynski for the second consecutive shutout.
When the Cardinals went to Chicago in June 1989, back-to-back shutouts seemed unlikely. The hard-hitting Cubs were in first place in the National League East and had scored five runs or more in seven consecutive games. In a three-game series at St. Louis the previous weekend, the Cubs had raked Cardinals pitching for 21 total runs.
But on Friday afternoon, June 9, 1989, a 15-mph wind came out of the northwest at Wrigley Field, meaning it was blowing toward the batters. The Cardinals scored in the first inning on back-to-back two-out doubles by shortstop Ozzie Smith and first baseman Pedro Guerrero off Scott Sanderson.
Cardinals right-hander Jose DeLeon made the run hold up. He held the Cubs to three hits and struck out 10 in eight innings. In the ninth, Ken Dayley relieved, recorded an out and yielded a single to catcher Damon Berryhill. Todd Worrell, making his first appearance since coming off the 15-day disabled list, came in and retired the two batters he faced for the save in the Cardinals’ 1-0 victory. Boxscore
“It makes a big difference when the wind is blowing in,” DeLeon said to the Associated Press. “My breaking ball is a lot better when the wind is blowing in.”
Said Cubs manager Don Zimmer about DeLeon: “He was outstanding. Over the last two years, he’s the most improved pitcher I’ve seen in the big leagues.”
The next day, Saturday, June 10, Cardinals left-hander Joe Magrane was paired against the Cubs’ Greg Maddux. Magrane had lost three decisions in a row. Maddux had won his last four in a row.
Again, the unexpected happened. Magrane pitched a complete-game shutout, catcher Tony Pena drove in three runs against Maddux and St. Louis won, 6-0. Magrane struck out nine, including second baseman Ryne Sandberg twice. Boxscore
“It’s a special feeling to start a game, then go out in the ninth and feel as good as when you started,” Magrane said to the Chicago Sun-Times.
Magrane, who was 5-9 in 1988, boosted his 1989 record to 4-5 with the shutout.
“His stuff is too good not to win,” Cardinals manager Whitey Herzog said to the Associated Press. “Part of it is our fault. We haven’t gotten the runs for him. If we had three runs a game for him last year, he could have been 20-4.”
Said Zimmer about Magrane: “If he gets everything together, he could be one of the best pitchers in the game.”
Speaking to The Sporting News, Herzog went even further. “I wouldn’t trade (Magrane) for any pitcher in the league, except maybe (Doc) Gooden,” Herzog said.
DeLeon (16-12, 3.05 ERA, three shutouts) and Magrane (18-9, 2.91 ERA, three shutouts) went on to have successful seasons for the ’89 Cardinals. But the Cubs won the division title, finishing seven games ahead of the third-place Cardinals.