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If Red Sox ace Boo Ferriss would have started Game 6 of the 1946 World Series against the Cardinals, would Boston have won the championship? In retrospect, probably not, but at the time the decision by Red Sox manager Joe Cronin to hold Ferriss for a possible Game 7 created controversy and second guessing.

boo_ferrissAfter the Red Sox won Game 5, giving them three wins in the best-of-seven Series, they needed one more victory to clinch the title. Cronin indicated he’d start Ferriss in Game 6. Ferriss had shut out the Cardinals in Game 3 and he had led the Red Sox in wins during the regular season, with 25.

At the last minute, however, Cronin changed his mind and started Mickey Harris in Game 6. The Cardinals beat Harris, evening the Series. Ferriss started the decisive Game 7, but the Cardinals won that, too, earning their third World Series crown in five years.

Cronin was criticized for not starting his best pitcher when the Red Sox had the opportunity to claim the championship with a Game 6 triumph. Few pitchers in 1946 had better credentials than Dave “Boo” Ferriss, who, 70 years later, died on Nov. 24, 2016, at 94.

Big winner

Ferriss _ he got his nickname when, as a child, he tried to say the word “brother” and it came out “boo,” according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research _ debuted with the Red Sox in 1945 and posted a 21-10 record.

In 1946, Ferriss, a right-hander, was even better. He won his first 10 decisions and finished the regular season at 25-6, including a 13-0 mark at home.

After the Red Sox and Cardinals split the first two games of the 1946 World Series at St. Louis, Ferriss got the start in Game 3 on Oct. 9 at Boston. Throwing a sinker from a three-quarters sidearm delivery, Ferriss held the Cardinals scoreless for nine innings, limiting them to six hits and a walk in a 4-0 Red Sox triumph.

Stan Musial tried to spark the Cardinals in the first inning when he walked with two outs and stole second base. Noticing Musial taking a big lead off second, Ferriss turned and caught him flat-footed. Holding the ball, Ferriss moved toward Musial, who broke for third. Ferriss threw to third baseman Pinky Higgins, who applied the tag.

In the ninth, Musial tripled with two outs, but Ferriss preserved the shutout by striking out Enos Slaughter. Boxscore

Chance to clinch

The Cardinals evened the Series with a win in Game 4 and Boston went ahead with a win in Game 5. The St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the St. Louis Star-Times reported Ferriss would start Game 6 on Oct. 13 at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis.

According to the Post-Dispatch, Cronin told reporters, “Don’t worry about any seventh game. There won’t be any.”

Post-Dispatch columnist John Wray wrote that Cronin “thinks Ferriss will turn back the Redbirds and clinch the world title in the sixth game. Ferriss is a real hurdle for the Birds.”

Dizzy Dean, retired Cardinals ace, told the Post-Dispatch on the eve of Game 6, “I reckon it’ll be Ferriss for the Sox tomorrow.”

Change of plans

Ferriss, though, would have been pitching on three days’ rest, instead of the usual four, if he had started Game 6. He also would have been matched against Harry Brecheen, who had shut out the Red Sox in Game 2 and was chosen the Cardinals’ Game 6 starter by manager Eddie Dyer.

“Ferriss was set to start,” reported the Detroit Free Press, “but at the last hour” Cronin reconsidered and opted to start Harris.

A left-hander, Harris had started and lost Game 2, though he yielded one earned run in seven innings. During the regular season, Harris had a 17-9 record.

“Cronin gambled on (Harris) because Sportsman’s Park usually has been a paradise for southpaws,” United Press reported.

This time, Harris gave up three runs in 2.2 innings and the Cardinals won Game 6, 4-1. Boxscore

Cardinals clout

After a scheduled off day on Oct. 14, Game 7 was played on Oct. 15 at St. Louis. Described by the Post-Dispatch as “a master of variable speed and control,” Ferriss, starting on five days’ rest, was opposed by Murry Dickson.

In the fifth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Dickson doubled, scoring Harry Walker from second. Red Schoendienst followed with a single, scoring Dickson and giving the Cardinals a 3-1 lead. After Terry Moore singled, Cronin replaced Ferriss with Joe Dobson.

Ferriss’ line: 4.1 innings, 7 hits, 3 runs, 1 walk, 2 strikeouts.

The Red Sox tied the score with two runs in the eighth, but the Cardinals went ahead in the bottom half when Slaughter made a mad dash from first and scored on a Walker hit off Bob Klinger. Brecheen, who had relieved Dickson, shut down the Red Sox in the ninth, giving the Cardinals a 4-3 triumph and the championship. Boxscore

Decisions, decisions

Based on Brecheen’s performance in Game 6, Ferriss, if he had started that game, would have had to shut out the Cardinals in order to ensure the Red Sox of clinching then.

Still, Cronin caught heat for his decision-making:

_ Sid Kenner, St. Louis Star-Times: “Why didn’t Cronin pitch Ferriss in the sixth game and then, if the Red Sox lost that number, Joe Dobson was the top ace up the sleeve?”

_ Herbert Goren, New York Sun: “Cronin’s pitching strategy was questioned in the last two games. How judicious was it to save Ferriss for the seventh game when he was ready for the sixth?”

_ The Sporting News: “Some surprise was expressed over Cronin’s decision to start Harris. Many thought he would lead with Ferriss in the hope of winding up the Series.”

Keener reported Cronin “originally had Ferriss primed and ready” for Game 6, but had “a change of heart” after learning Brecheen was starting.

In defense of Cronin, Ed McAuley of the Cleveland News wrote, “Ferriss’ performance in the (seventh) game confirmed the manager’s suspicion that (Ferriss) needed more than three days’ rest.”

The 1946 season was the pinnacle of Ferriss’ pitching career. He pitched six seasons, all with the Red Sox, and had a 65-30 record.

Previously: The story of Joe DiFabio, original No. 1 pick of Cards

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Ralph Branca came close to pitching two no-hitters against the Cardinals within a span of a month. Instead, he earned a one-hit shutout in one of those games and he had another one-hitter when he departed with two outs in the ninth inning of the other game.

ralph_brancaOn July 18, 1947, Branca delivered the best performance of his career, retiring the first 21 Cardinals batters in a row and finishing with a one-hitter in the Dodgers’ 7-0 victory at Brooklyn.

A month later, on Aug. 20, 1947, Branca again held the Cardinals to one hit before he was lifted after pitching 8.2 innings. The Cardinals rallied against reliever Hugh Casey, tying the score in the ninth and winning, 3-2, with a run in the 12th at Brooklyn.

Those were among the most memorable games the Cardinals played against Branca, who died at 90 on Nov. 23, 2016.

Best known as the pitcher who yielded the ninth-inning home run to Bobby Thomson that gave the Giants a pennant-clinching victory over the Dodgers in 1951, Branca was a key figure in the National League rivalry between the Dodgers and Cardinals in the 1940s.

Branca started for the Dodgers in pivotal games against the Cardinals during the 1946 pennant stretch.

On Sept, 14, 1946, Branca pitched a three-hit shutout in a 5-0 victory against the Cardinals at Brooklyn, moving the Dodgers within a half-game of the first-place Redbirds. Boxscore

Three weeks later, on Oct. 1, 1946, after the Dodgers and Cardinals had finished the regular season tied for first place, Branca started the opener of a best-of-three series to determine the NL champion. He gave up three runs in 2.2 innings and took the loss in a 4-2 Cardinals victory at St. Louis. Boxscore The Cardinals won the next game, clinching the pennant, and then four of seven against the Red Sox in the World Series.

A year later, the Dodgers and Cardinals were battling for the 1947 pennant.

Nearly perfect

Branca lost each of his first three decisions against the Cardinals in 1947. Still, he had a 14-7 record entering his July 18 start against them at Ebbets Field.

The game matched Branca against Red Munger of the Cardinals. While Branca handcuffed the Cardinals, the Dodgers scored five runs off Munger in the first four innings.

After pitching seven perfect innings, Branca faced Enos Slaughter leading off the eighth. Slaughter hit Branca’s first pitch for a single to right field.

“I couldn’t help but know I was pitching a no-hitter the way they went down, one, two, three, in every inning,” Branca said to the Brooklyn Daily Eagle. “Naturally, I was disappointed when Slaughter got hold of that one in the eighth. It was my fault. I was pressing a little, being too careful. I didn’t get that high fastball … inside quite far enough.”

In its account of the game, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch opined, “The Cardinals looked at the best pitching they’ve seen all season.” Boxscore

Walks haunt

The Cardinals returned to Brooklyn in August for a four-game series with the league leaders. The Dodgers won two of the first three, opening a 5.5-game lead over second-place St. Louis.

Branca started the finale and responded with another gem, holding the Cardinals hitless again for seven innings.

Like Slaughter a month earlier, Whitey Kurowski ended the no-hit bid with a leadoff single in the eighth.

Still, Branca entered the ninth with a 2-0 lead.

Though he issued a walk to the first batter, Red Schoendienst, Branca retired Terry Moore and Stan Musial on groundouts, with Schoendienst advancing to third.

Slaughter was up next.

Branca got ahead in the count, 1-and-2. Needing a strike to complete another one-hit shutout, Branca walked Slaughter.

After Branca’s first two pitches to the next batter, Ron Northey, missed the strike zone, manager Burt Shotton yanked his ace and replaced him with Casey.

Northey greeted Casey with a single, scoring Schoendienst, moving Slaughter to third and cutting the Dodgers’ lead to 2-1.

Kurowski followed with a grounder to Spider Jorgensen. The third baseman booted the ball for an error as Slaughter streaked to the plate with the tying run.

Spike ball

In the 11th, the game took another controversial twist.

Slaughter hit a ground ball to first baseman Jackie Robinson, who that season had broken baseball’s color barrier.

Robinson fielded the ball and raced to the bag. As Slaughter arrived _ “head down in a dash for first,” according to the Post-Dispatch _ he stepped on Robinson’s right foot, spiking him.

Robinson “limped and dropped to the ground,” the Post-Dispatch reported, “but apparently, because of the thickness of his shoe and the mud on Slaughter’s spikes, Robinson suffered no cut.”

To the Dodgers and the Brooklyn crowd, it appeared Slaughter intentionally tried to injure Robinson.

“No one can read Slaughter’s North Carolina mind, but the crowd unanimously decided to believe that he was curious to see how Robinson would look with one leg,” wrote Tommy Holmes of the Brooklyn Daily Eagle.

Robinson told The Sporting News, “All I know is that I had my foot on the inside of the bag. I gave Slaughter plenty of room.”

Said Slaughter: “I’ve never deliberately spiked anyone in my life.”

Comeback complete

More drama unfolded in the 12th.

Kurowski hit Casey’s first pitch of the inning into the left-field seats for a home run, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead.

In the bottom half of the inning, Robinson led off with a single against Howie Pollet and moved to second on Pete Reiser’s sacrifice bunt.

Cardinals manager Eddie Dyer lifted Pollet, who was working his fifth inning of relief, and replaced him with Munger.

Before delivering a pitch, Munger whirled and snapped a throw to shortstop Marty Marion, who tagged a startled Robinson for the second out.

The next batter, Arky Vaughan, grounded out, ending the saga. Boxscore

Despite the setback, the Dodgers went on to win the 1947 pennant, finishing five games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals. Branca posted a 21-12 record and 2.67 ERA.

For his 12-year career in the big leagues, Branca had an 88-68 record, including 8-10 against the Cardinals.

Previously: Jackie Robinson propelled Dodgers over 1947 Cards

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Before he became a premier reliever coveted by the Cardinals, Brett Cecil was a promising starting pitcher for the Blue Jays. In 2010, he earned 15 wins as a starter, but his path to a successful season hit a rough spot against the Cardinals.

brett_cecilOn June 22, 2010, the Cardinals unleashed an extra-hit barrage against Cecil at Toronto. Matt Holliday had a home run and RBI-double, Yadier Molina hit a home run and Ryan Ludwick contributed a RBI-double, leading the Cardinals to a 9-4 victory and handing Cecil just his fourth loss in 11 decisions.

Six years later, on Nov. 21, 2016, Cecil, a free agent, signed a four-year contract with the Cardinals worth $30.5 million. He was expected to team with Kevin Siegrist as one of St. Louis’ top two left-handers in the bullpen.

Cecil joined a 2017 Cardinals roster that had just three players left from the St. Louis club he faced in 2010: Molina and pitchers Jaime Garcia and Adam Wainwright.

Cards with clout

Cecil entered that 2010 encounter against the Cardinals having won five of his previous six starts.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa stacked his batting order with two switch-hitters and seven right-handed batters, including designated hitter Nick Stavinoha. Holliday was the only Cardinals batter in the lineup who had faced Cecil.

In the second inning, Molina broke an 0-for-19 skid with a solo home run off Cecil. Holliday followed with a solo home run in the fourth.

With two outs and the score tied 2-2 in the fifth, the Cardinals had Randy Winn on second base. Holliday drove in Winn with a double, giving St. Louis a 3-2 lead.

Cecil issued an intentional pass to Albert Pujols, choosing instead to face Ludwick with two runners on base. Ludwick responded with a double, scoring Holliday and advancing Pujols to third.

David Freese followed with a two-run single, capping a four-run inning and giving the Cardinals a 6-2 lead.

Cecil was lifted after the inning. His totals: 5 innings, 8 hits, 6 runs, 1 walk, 4 strikeouts.

“I’ve got to get back to work on keeping the ball down,” Cecil said to the Associated Press. “The whole game I was missing up.” Boxscore

Relief role

Cecil finished the 2010 season with a 15-7 record and 4.22 ERA in 28 starts.

By 2014, when he next faced the Cardinals, Cecil had been converted into a relief pitcher.

Cecil pitched against the Cardinals twice in 2014, both times in Toronto, and yielded no runs in 1.1 total innings.

On June 6, 2014, Cecil, in relief of starter Marcus Stroman, faced two Cardinals batters in the seventh inning. He walked Matt Carpenter and induced Oscar Taveras to fly out to left. The Blue Jays won, 3-1. Boxscore

Two days later, on June 8, 2014, Cecil worked a scoreless ninth in a game the Cardinals won, 5-0. Cecil struck out Tony Cruz, gave up a single to Carpenter and got Randal Grichuk to ground into a double play. Boxscore

In 66 relief appearances in 2014, Cecil posted a 2.70 ERA and struck out 76 in 53.1 innings.

Previously: How Chris Carpenter got revenge against Blue Jays

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After pitching coach Dave Duncan transformed Jeff Weaver from a consistent loser into a postseason ace with the 2006 Cardinals, the club wanted him to work similar magic with Kip Wells in 2007. Duncan and Wells were willing. The results, though, were far from the same.

kip_wellsDesperate for starting pitching just a month after winning the 2006 World Series championship, the Cardinals, with Duncan’s endorsement, signed Wells, a free agent, 10 years ago on Nov. 28, 2006.

Wells, 29, agreed to a one-year contract for $4 million. The Cardinals projected him in their 2007 rotation, even though he had produced one winning season among his last seven in the big leagues.

A significant factor in their investment was their faith in Duncan, who had a reputation for bringing out the best in pitchers who had struggled or underperformed.

Pitching mentor

Since joining the Cardinals in 1996, Duncan, a former catcher, had helped rejuvenate the careers of several starting pitchers, most notably right-handers, including Andy Benes, Kent Bottenfield, Garrett Stephenson, Darryl Kile, Woody Williams, Jeff Suppan, Chris Carpenter and Weaver.

In 2006, Weaver joined the Cardinals in July after posting a 3-10 record and 6.29 ERA that season with the Angels. Working with Duncan, Weaver gradually improved. He earned three wins for the Cardinals in the 2006 postseason, including the Game 5 World Series championship clincher.

After the season, Weaver and two other Cardinals starting pitchers, Suppan and Jason Marquis, became free agents. Another starter, Mark Mulder, was injured. That left Carpenter and Anthony Reyes as the Cardinals’ only experienced big-league starters.

The Cardinals planned to replenish the rotation by signing free agents. Wells was an immediate target.

Signs of brilliance

Because of a blocked artery in his right shoulder and a foot injury that required surgery, Wells was limited to nine big-league starts in 2006. He was 1-5 with a 6.69 ERA in seven starts for the Pirates before he was traded to the Rangers for pitcher Jesse Chavez on July 31, 2006. Wells made two starts for the Rangers and was 1-0 with a 5.62 ERA.

The Cardinals were familiar with Wells. With the Pirates from 2002-2006 after starting his career with the White Sox, Wells was 2-6 against the Cardinals.

Duncan saw enough skill in Wells as an opponent to determine the right-hander could be a reliable St. Louis starter.

“I always felt like he had great ability and was a very interesting guy to watch,” Duncan said to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “There were signs of brilliance and sometimes mistakes that were made that weren’t understandable.”

Said Wells: “I definitely relish the opportunity to get some insight, some wisdom (from Duncan) and further my career and my ability.”

All aboard

Reaction to the Cardinals’ signing of Wells largely was positive:

_ Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist: “He looks like another low-risk Dave Duncan specialty: a groundball machine, finally healthy and in need of a mid-career tuneup.”

_ Chris Carpenter, Cardinals pitcher: “Getting Kip Wells is a first step. That was a nice first step.”

_ Walt Jocketty, Cardinals general manager: “We got a guy everyone agrees will be very good if he stays healthy.”

_ Randy Hendricks, Wells’ agent: “If Kip does what we and the Cardinals hope, he will be worth a lot more after 2007. So we are betting on each other and the future.”

The Cardinals made aggressive bids for other free-agent starting pitchers, including Jason Schmidt, Miguel Batista and Vincente Padilla (they offered Schmidt, for instance, a three-year contract for $42 million, according to Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch), but were rejected.

So they planned to convert relievers Braden Looper and Adam Wainwright into starters to join Carpenter, Reyes and Wells in the 2007 rotation.

Hard to watch

Wells had a terrible beginning to his 2007 season, losing eight of his first nine decisions. He was 1-8 with a 6.75 ERA after an excruciating performance against the Dodgers on May 16. In that start, Wells threw 125 pitches in five innings. Boxscore

Wrote Strauss: “The Cardinals’ night in the dentist’s chair ended with a root canal gone awry.”

Wells finished with a 7-17 record and 5.70 ERA in 34 appearances, including 26 starts, for the 2007 Cardinals. He yielded 186 hits in 162.2 innings. Wells also gave up the most runs (116) and issued the most walks (78) of any pitcher on the staff.

The 17 losses by Wells are the most by a Cardinals pitcher since Jose DeLeon was 7-19 in 32 starts for the 1990 Cardinals.

By midseason, Duncan “had become frustrated by Wells’ ponderous pace, heavy pitch counts and inability to avoid huge innings,” Strauss reported. “Wells complained that the coaching staff failed to help him improve his mechanics.”

Bat man

Wells turned out to be a better hitter than he was a pitcher for the Cardinals. He batted .321 (17-for-53). He was used once as a pinch-hitter, producing a RBI-single off Astros reliever Dan Wheeler in the ninth inning of a Cardinals victory on June 1 at Houston. Boxscore

After the season, Wells became a free agent and signed with the Rockies. He was their starting pitcher in the 2008 season opener against the Cardinals at St. Louis.

Though he didn’t get a decision, Wells pitched effectively, holding the Cardinals to one run (a Yadier Molina home run) in 5.1 innings. The Rockies won, 2-1, scoring their runs in the eighth inning off reliever Ryan Franklin. Boxscore

Wells played his final big-league season in 2012 with the Padres. His career major-league record is 69-103 with a 4.71 ERA.

Previously: Why Jeff Weaver rates among clutch Cards clinchers

Previously: Why Cards took a chance on Jeff Weaver

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Three of the most memorable Cardinals World Series home runs were hit by third basemen: Ken Boyer, David Freese and Tom Lawless.

tom_lawlessIn 1964, Boyer hit a sixth-inning grand slam off Al Downing in Game 4 at New York, carrying the Cardinals to a 4-3 victory over the Yankees and evening the series at 2-2.

In 2011, Freese hit an 11th-inning walkoff home run off Mark Lowe in Game 6 at St. Louis, carrying the Cardinals to a 10-9 victory over the Rangers and evening the series at 3-3.

Boyer and Freese were established Cardinals starters in the years in which they hit their dramatic World Series home runs.

Not so for Lawless, who rarely played during the regular season for the 1987 Cardinals. After three games of the 1987 World Series, slugger Reggie Jackson, working the event for ABC television, told USA Today, “I’m still trying to find out who Tom Lawless is.”

In Game 4, on Oct. 21, 1987, Lawless introduced himself to the nation in a most unexpected manner. He hit a three-run home run off Frank Viola in the fourth inning, carrying the Cardinals to a 7-2 victory over the Twins and evening the series at 2-2.

Lawless had gotten just two hits, none a home run, and no RBI during the 1987 regular season.

Twenty-nine years later, Kyle Schwarber of the Cubs, playing in Game 2 of the 2016 World Series versus the Indians, became the first non-pitcher since Lawless to get a RBI in the Fall Classic after having had none in the regular season that year.

Schwarber, however, had sat out most of the the 2016 regular season because of an injury after appearing in two April games and going hitless in four at-bats. Lawless had been on the Cardinals’ active roster all of the 1987 season, but appeared in only 19 games, batting .080 (2-for-25).

Fat pitch

Lawless, who made just three starts (none at third base) during the regular season, got his chance to play in the World Series because of a rib-cage injury to starting third baseman Terry Pendleton.

Lawless started at third base in Game 1 and was hitless in three at-bats. Jose Oquendo started at third base for the Cardinals in Games 2 and 3.

In Game 4, manager Whitey Herzog returned Lawless to the starting lineup. He batted eighth in the order and played third base, with Oquendo moving to right field.

Pitching for the Twins was Viola, who had earned 17 wins during the regular season and had started and won Game 1 of the World Series.

In the Cardinals’ half of the fourth inning, with the score tied at 1-1, Tony Pena led off with a walk and moved to third on Oquendo’s single.

Next up: Lawless.

With the count 0-and-1, Viola threw a fastball.

“A mediocre fastball,” said Twins manager Tom Kelly.

“It was less than mediocre,” said Viola. “It was a brutal fastball.”

Flipping out

Lawless swung and lifted a high fly toward left field.

Lawless “gazed fondly as the ball headed for the facing behind the wall,” wrote Rick Hummel in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

“From the way he hit it and stood there, I thought it must be in the upper deck,” said Herzog.

Keeping his eye on the ball, Lawless, bat in hand, began a slow walk toward first base. When he saw the ball carry just beyond the wall and the umpire signal home run, Lawless flipped the bat into the air and began his jubilant home run trot. Video

On the ABC telecast, broadcaster Al Michaels exclaimed, “Did we really see that?”

Regarding the bat flip, Lawless said, “I just must have blanked out there for a second. This never happened to me before.”

Divine intervention

The home run gave the Cardinals a 4-1 lead and stunned the Twins.

In the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Doug Grow described it as “a sporting miracle” and “a swing that will forever become a part of World Series lore.”

Paul McEnroe of the Star Tribune called the Lawless stunner “as important as any homer hit by a Cardinal in the 15 World Series the team has played in.”

Lawless said he walked slowly to first while watching the ball because he thought he had hit a sacrifice fly and didn’t want to pass Oquendo on the basepath.

“It’s a big stadium, especially for a little guy like me,” Lawless told Kevin Horrigan of the Post-Dispatch. “I’ve hit balls that good before, but they haven’t gone out.” Boxscore

On the rare side

Until then, Lawless had hit only one home run in the big leagues. It occurred on April 25, 1984, for the Reds against Ken Dayley of the Braves at Atlanta. Dayley was a teammate of Lawless on the 1987 Cardinals.

Lawless became the third Cardinals player to hit a World Series home run after having hit none during the regular season that year. The others were pitchers: Jesse Haines in 1926 and Bob Gibson, who did it twice, in 1967 and in 1968.

Before Lawless, the last non-pitcher to hit a World Series home run after having hit none during the regular season that year was outfielder Marv Rickert of the 1948 Braves, according to the Post-Dispatch.

Acknowledging the dreamlike status of his achievement, Lawless said, “I may sleep in my uniform tonight.”

Previously: Les Bell to David Freese: Cardinals 3rd base champions

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Of the 10 pitchers who have accounted for the 11 championship-clinching World Series wins for the Cardinals, Jeff Weaver is the most improbable of the group.

jeff_weaverTen years ago, on Oct. 27, 2006, Weaver delivered the performance of his career, limiting the Tigers to two runs in eight innings and striking out nine in the Cardinals’ 4-2 victory in the decisive Game 5 of the World Series at St. Louis.

The triumph, sealed by Adam Wainwright’s scoreless relief in the ninth inning, gave the Cardinals the 10th of their 11 World Series titles and capped an unexpected comeback for Weaver, whose pitching career appeared to be in shambles three months earlier.

During the 2006 regular season, Weaver had a combined 8-14 record and 5.76 ERA for the Angels and Cardinals. He was 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA for the Angels. For the Cardinals, who acquired him July 5 in a trade that sent minor-league outfielder Terry Evans to the Angels, Weaver was 5-4 with a 5.18 ERA.

In comparison, the other nine pitchers who won decisive games of World Series for the Cardinals had glowing season statistics. Weaver is the only one who had a regular-season ERA higher than 3.65 and who failed to achieve double-digit wins.

The other nine (Bob Gibson achieved the feat twice) include four pitchers who would be elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame: Jesse Haines, Burleigh Grimes, Dizzy Dean and Gibson. Eight won as starters and one, Harry Brecheen, won as a reliever.

Pressure pitchers

Here are the pitchers who won clinching games for the Cardinals in the World Series:

_ Jesse Haines, Game 7, 1926. Regular-season record: 13-4, 3.25 ERA.

_ Burleigh Grimes, Game 7, 1931. Regular-season record: 17-9, 3.65 ERA.

_ Dizzy Dean, Game 7, 1934. Regular-season record: 30-7, 2.66 ERA.

_ Johnny Beazley, Game 5, 1942. Regular-season record: 21-6, 2.13 ERA.

_ Max Lanier, Game 6, 1944. Regular-season record: 17-12, 2.65 ERA.

_ Harry Brecheen, Game 7, 1946. Regular-season record: 15-15, 2.49 ERA.

_ Bob Gibson, Game 7, 1964. Regular-season record: 19-12, 3.01 ERA.

_ Bob Gibson, Game 7, 1967. Regular-season record: 13-7, 2.98 ERA.

_ Joaquin Andujar, Game 7, 1982. Regular-season record: 15-10, 2.47 ERA.

_ Jeff Weaver, Game 5, 2006. Regular-season record for Cardinals: 5-4, 5.18 ERA.

_ Chris Carpenter, Game 7, 2011. Regular-season record: 11-9, 3.45 ERA.

Duncan delivers

Weaver is the only winner of a Cardinals World Series clincher who pitched for a big-league team other than St. Louis during the regular season. He also is the only one of the 10 who defeated his former team in the World Series finale. Weaver debuted with the 1999 Tigers and had a 39-51 record in four years with Detroit before he was traded to the Yankees in July 2002.

Helped by the mentoring of Cardinals pitching coach Dave Duncan, Weaver was much more effective in the 2006 postseason than he had been in the regular season. Weaver was 1-0 with a 0.00 ERA in the National League Division Series versus the Padres, 1-1 with a 3.09 ERA in the NL Championship Series against the Mets and 1-1 with a 2.77 ERA in the World Series. (Weaver started Game 2, a 3-1 Tigers victory.)

In the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Derrick Goold wrote, “Weaver points to the confidence the Cardinals gave him as why he was able to pull out of his early-season struggles. That’s how he was able to execute.”

Citing the influence of Duncan, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty said, “Dave has a way of working with guys and getting the most out of them. (Weaver) wanted to get better.”

Wrote columnist Bernie Miklasz: “Dave Duncan’s work in reviving Weaver was the latest of many such success stories in Duncan’s career as a pitching coach. Whatever the Cardinals are paying Duncan, it isn’t enough.”

Tigers tumble

In Game 5 of the World Series, the Tigers led, 2-1, in the fourth. In the bottom half of the inning, the Cardinals had Yadier Molina on second base, So Taguchi on first and one out with Weaver at the plate.

Attempting to sacrifice, Weaver bunted the ball to Justin Verlander, the Tigers’ starting pitcher. Verlander fielded the ball cleanly but threw wildly past third baseman Brandon Inge.

“He didn’t throw the ball,” analyst and former Cardinals catcher Tim McCarver said of Verlander on the Game 5 telecast. “He goosed it to third base. He just tried to push it over there.”

Molina rounded third and scored the tying run. Taguchi scooted from first to third and Weaver got to second. The next batter, David Eckstein, grounded out to shortstop Carlos Guillen and Taguchi raced home with the go-ahead run, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. World Series Game 5 video, with bottom of the fourth inning at about the 53-minute mark.

The Tigers committed eight errors _ five by pitchers and three by Inge _ in the five World Series games.

Winning hand

In the sixth, with two outs and the bases empty, Sean Casey doubled over the head of right fielder Chris Duncan (son of Dave). With the tying run in scoring position, a composed, determined Weaver struck out Ivan Rodriguez on three pitches, ending the threat.

Weaver retired the Tigers in order in the seventh and eighth innings. The Cardinals added a run in the seventh on Scott Rolen’s RBI-single. Boxscore

Weaver retired 14 of the last 16 batters he faced. His nine strikeouts were the most in a World Series game since Josh Beckett had nine for the Marlins in Game 6 versus the Yankees in 2003.

After Wainwright struck out Inge for the final out, Weaver celebrated on the field and in the clubhouse with his brother, Jered, who had replaced him in the Angels’ rotation. “Weaver wept as he embraced his younger brother,” Joe Strauss reported in the Post-Dispatch.

In summarizing the performance of a Cardinals pitching staff that posted a 2.05 ERA in the World Series, Miklasz wrote, “The wild card in this deck of aces was Jeff Weaver.”

Previously: Why Cardinals took a chance on Jeff Weaver

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