Starting with a walk to Yadier Molina and culminating with a home run by John Mabry, the Cardinals completed the biggest ninth-inning comeback in franchise history.
The Cardinals sent 12 batters to the plate in that memorable inning and rallied against two relievers on a combination of four singles, two walks, two home runs and an error.
“I’ve never seen this happen,” Cardinals infielder Abraham Nunez told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I hope I don’t see it happen again either.”
The Cardinals never had rallied from six runs behind in the ninth inning. The Reds hadn’t blown a six-run lead in the ninth since June 29, 1952, when an 8-2 advantage turned into a 9-8 loss to the Cubs at Cincinnati. Boxscore
“It’s not easy to give a big-league game away, but that’s what we did,” said Reds reliever Danny Graves after yielding the game-winning home run to Mabry. “It takes 27 outs, not 26 (to win).”
Walks will haunt
With the Reds ahead, 5-3, in the eighth, Graves had begun to throw in the bullpen in preparation for pitching the ninth. When the Reds scored four in the eighth, however, manager Dave Miley decided to save his closer and instead sent David Weathers to pitch the ninth in a mop-up role, entrusting the 15-year big-league veteran with a 9-3 lead.
“The only way they could get back in the game is if we walked guys _ and I walked guys,” Weathers said to The Cincinnati Post.
Weathers walked the first two batters, Molina and Nunez. David Eckstein singled, loading the bases with none out.
“I was just all over the place,” Weathers said of his pitches.
Still, he almost escaped the jam unscathed.
Roger Cedeno struck out.
When Albert Pujols followed with a grounder to shortstop Rich Aurilia, it appeared the Reds might turn a game-ending double play.
Aurilia fielded the ball cleanly and tossed to D’Angelo Jimenez for the forceout of Eckstein at second base. Jimenez, however, couldn’t complete the turn and Pujols was safe at first. Molina scooted home from third on the play, making the score, 9-4.
The Cardinals remained alive, with Nunez on third, Pujols on first and two outs.
Reggie Sanders, the ex-Red, then singled, plating Nunez, moving Pujols to second and making the score 9-5.
Said Weathers: “It’s embarrassing … No excuses. That’s just bad pitching.”
Miley lifted Weathers and replaced him with Graves, who successfully had converted all eight of his save chances that season.
The first batter Graves faced was Jim Edmonds.
Hoping to catch the Reds by surprise, “I was thinking about bunting, honestly,” Edmonds told the Associated Press.
The slugger changed his mind, though, and decided to swing away.
Graves’ third pitch to Edmonds was a hanging breaking ball.
Edmonds belted it for a three-run home run, making the score 9-8.
The Reds were reeling, but the Cardinals still trailed with the bases empty and two outs.
“Nobody wants to make that last out,” said Mabry. “That’s what it comes down to.”
Following Edmonds was Mark Grudzielanek. He smacked a grounder directly at Sean Casey. The ball ricocheted off the first baseman’s arm for a two-base error.
That brought up Mabry, who started the game at third base in place of Scott Rolen, who was nursing a back strain.
With the tying run at second, “I was just trying to drive the run home by staying inside the ball and driving it to the big part of the ballpark,” Mabry said.
Mabry did even better. He hit the first pitch over the center-field fence, a two-run homer, giving the Cardinals a 10-9 lead.
“That’s why baseball’s a beautiful game,” Mabry said.
A rattled Graves yielded singles to Molina and Nunez before retiring Eckstein on a fly out to right.
As Graves left the mound, the crowd, estimated at fewer than 10,000 in the ninth, was “booing at the top of their lungs,” The Post reported.
“To have that happen just makes us feel really small,” Graves said to Post columnist Lonnie Wheeler.
Finish the job
With closer Jason Isringhausen unavailable, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa chose Julian Tavarez to pitch the bottom of the ninth.
The first batter, Joe Randa, singled. Aurilia tried a sacrifice bunt, but Randa was forced out at second.
Tavarez then plunked Jason LaRue with a pitch, advancing Aurilia to second.
The drama finally ended when Austin Kearns grounded into a double play. Boxscore
“We have no baseball luck, I guess,” said Graves, “and in this game you do need a lot of luck along with skill.”
Three weeks later, Graves ran out of luck with the Reds. They released him.
Previously: Jim Edmonds was dandy for Cardinals in 2004 NLCS