Archive for the ‘Opponents’ Category

Given a choice of facing Del Ennis or Stan Musial with runners in scoring position and the game on the line, Warren Spahn did what no other big-league pitcher had done before him: He opted to pitch to Musial.

warren_spahnIt was the only time in Musial’s illustrious 22-year Cardinals career that a pitcher intentionally walked a batter in order to get to Musial.

It happened 60 years ago on a Saturday afternoon, Aug. 17, 1957, in a game between the Cardinals and Braves at Milwaukee’s County Stadium.

Pennant race

The slumping Cardinals, who had lost nine in a row, were fighting to remain in the 1957 National League pennant race when they went to Milwaukee for a four-game series in August. The Braves, riding a 10-game winning streak, were in first place, 7.5 games ahead of the Cardinals and Dodgers, who were tied for second.

St. Louis won the series opener, 6-2, behind the slugging of Ennis, who hit a three-run home run off Juan Pizarro.

Game 2 of the series matched Larry Jackson of the Cardinals against Lew Burdette.

The Cardinals jumped ahead with three runs in the first, but the Braves came back with two runs in the sixth and one in the eighth, tying the score at 3-3.

Managerial moves

Don McMahon, a rookie, relieved Burdette in the ninth. After Eddie Kasko grounded out, Jackson, the pitcher, hit a broken-bat pop fly to right that fell safely in front of Bob Hazle for a single. The next batter, Ken Boyer, reached base when shortstop Felix Mantilla booted a grounder for an error.

With Wally Moon at the plate, McMahon’s first pitch to him eluded catcher Del Crandall for a passed ball. Jackson advanced to third on the play and Boyer to second.

Braves manager Fred Haney lifted McMahon and brought in Spahn, a left-hander, to face Moon, a left-handed batter, with the count at 1-and-0.

Two nights earlier, on Aug. 15, Spahn had started against the Reds at Cincinnati and pitched a complete game in an 8-1 Braves victory. With one day of rest, the Braves ace was making his fourth and final relief appearance of the season.

Unforgettable ploy

Cardinals manager Fred Hutchinson countered by bringing in Ennis, a right-handed batter, to hit for Moon.

Ennis, batting .275 with 17 home runs, was a threat, but he was no Musial. At 36, Musial was having a sensational season. He was batting .333 and would finish the year at .351, earning his seventh NL batting crown.

Still, with first base open, Spahn issued an intentional walk to Ennis, loading the bases with one out and bringing Musial, a left-handed batter, to the plate.

In his book “Stan Musial: The Man’s Own Story,” Musial said the sight of Spahn walking Ennis to face him is one “I’ll never forget.”

Musial fared well versus Spahn in his career _ .318 batting average and .412 on-base percentage _ but on this day the Braves pitcher won the showdown of future Hall of Famers.

Musial rapped a Spahn pitch on the ground to the second baseman _ Musial’s friend and former teammate, Red Schoendienst.

Schoendienst fielded the ball and flipped it to Mantilla for the force of Ennis at second. Mantilla’s relay throw to first baseman Frank Torre was in time to retire Musial, completing the inning-ending double play.

“He’s the only pitcher ever to walk a batter to face me,” Musial confirmed.

Back and forth

The drama wasn’t over. Another future Hall of Famer, Braves center fielder Hank Aaron, had a large role to play in the outcome.

In the 11th, with Spahn pitching, Don Blasingame led off for the Cardinals and stretched a routine single into a hustling double. Kasko grounded out to second, advancing Blasingame to third.

Jackson was due up next, but Hutchinson sent Walker Cooper, 42, to hit for the pitcher. Cooper lifted a long sacrifice fly to left, scoring Blasingame and giving the Cardinals a 4-3 lead.

Billy Muffett, a rookie, was Hutchinson’s choice to pitch the bottom half of the inning. Muffett retired the first batter, Schoendienst, on a pop-up.

The next batter, Frank Torre, hit a low line drive to left. Ennis lumbered in, got a glove on the ball and dropped it. Torre, credited with a single, was replaced by pinch-runner Hawk Taylor.

Eddie Mathews followed with a single to center. Boyer, playing center field, hesitated on his throw, enabling Taylor to reach third.

That brought Aaron to the plate.

Hank hammers

Aaron was angry. In the ninth, Jackson had moved Aaron off the plate with a high, tight pitch. Aaron, in comments to the Associated Press, accused Jackson of “trying to stick one in my ear.”

“It’s on purpose,” Aaron said. “I can tell when they’re throwing at me.

“If that’s the only way they can win a ballgame, they ought to get other jobs. I don’t mind being brushed back _ you expect that _ but I don’t like them balls aimed at my head. We don’t knock Stan Musial down, so why do they do it to me?”

Aaron hit Muffett’s first pitch to him into right-center for a double. Taylor trotted home from third, tying the score at 4-4. Racing from first, Mathews headed toward the plate and barely beat Blasingame’s relay throw, giving the Braves a 5-4 victory and making a winner of Spahn. Boxscore

The Braves went on to clinch the pennant, finishing eight games ahead of the runner-up Cardinals.

Previously: Del Ennis provided power in Cardinals lineup

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(Updated Jan. 18, 2017)

Brian Jordan produced his most important hit for the Cardinals against one of the all-time best relief pitchers.

brian_jordanFacing Trevor Hoffman in the ninth inning of Game 3 of the 1996 National League Division Series, Jordan slugged a two-run home run, breaking a 5-5 tie and lifting the Cardinals to their first postseason series championship in nine years.

Hoffman by that time had established himself as an elite reliever. With 42 saves _ the first of his nine seasons with 40 or more _ and nine wins, the right-hander had factored in 55 percent of the 92 regular-season victories achieved by the 1996 Padres.

Hoffman would go on to build a distinguished 18-year career in the big leagues. His 601 saves rank second all-time behind only the 652 by Mariano Rivera of the Yankees.

Hoffman generally is considered a strong candidate for election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame. In 2017, he received votes on 74 percent of the Baseball Writers Association of America ballots. A candidate needs to be chosen on 75 percent of the ballots to earn election.

In a career filled with successes, one of Hoffman’s earliest and most glaring stumbles was in his first postseason against the Cardinals.

Key catch

After winning the first two games at St. Louis, the Cardinals were in position to clinch the best-of-five NL Division Series with a victory against the Padres in Game 3 at San Diego on Oct. 5, 1996.

The Padres led 4-1 after five innings, but the Cardinals rallied for three runs in the sixth and one in the seventh, taking a 5-4 lead.

In the eighth, Ken Caminiti connected off Cardinals reliever Rick Honeycutt for his second home run of the game, tying the score. The Padres had a runner on second with two outs when Jody Reed launched a line drive to the gap in right-center. Jordan, the right fielder, dived and made an inning-ending catch. Video

“I think that was the most important play of the ballgame,” Jordan told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “If that ball gets by me, they’re going to score.”

Bruce Bochy, the Padres’ manager, brought in Hoffman to pitch the ninth.

Hoffman got Ozzie Smith to line out to left.

Ron Gant drew a walk.

“I was high in the zone to Gant,” Hoffman told the San Diego Union-Tribune. “That wasn’t necessarily where I wanted to be.”

Up next was Jordan.

Delivering a dagger

Jordan led the 1996 Cardinals in RBI, with 104. He hit .367 with runners on base.

As a result of his diving catch the previous inning, Jordan’s neck and left shoulder stiffened when he got back to the dugout, but a quick massage from trainer Gene Gieselmann got Jordan ready to face Hoffman in the ninth.

After working the count to 3-and-2, Jordan lined a pitch foul down the left-field line.

Jordan expected the next delivery to be a fastball. Hoffman threw a slider.

Hoffman: “I hung it right over the middle.”

Jordan: “He threw me a slider up and I kept my hands back.”

Hoffman: “It wasn’t a high hanger. Brian had to go down and get it.”

Jordan: “If I miss that, I’m throwing my hat and my helmet down.”

Timing it right, Jordan swung _ “It looked like he hit one-handed,” Hoffman said _ and lofted the ball over the left-field wall. Boxscore

Bob Costas, calling the game on television for NBC, described the home run as “a dagger through the heart” of the Padres. Video

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, rated Jordan’s jolt “the biggest St. Louis home run” since Jack Clark’s pennant-clinching shot against the Dodgers in the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1985 NL Championship Series.

“I’ve always wanted to play in pressure situations,” Jordan said. “… To see that ball come down, over the fence, it was satisfying.”

Said Hoffman: “On 3-and-2, he’s looking to drive the ball and I gave him a pitch to do it … It was the right pitch in that situation. Unfortunately, the execution wasn’t quite there and I got bit in the butt.”

Previously: Cardinals dealt Trevor Hoffman first defeat

Previously: How Tony Gwynn tormented Dennis Eckersley

Previously: Why Jack Clark got chance to put Cards in World Series

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(Updated Jan. 18, 2017)

In a career filled with consistent hitting versus the Cardinals, Jeff Bagwell reached a personal pinnacle when he hit for the cycle against them.

jeff_bagwellBagwell, a first baseman, produced 449 home runs and 1,529 RBI in 15 years (1991-2005) with the Astros.

He was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in balloting by the Baseball Writers Association of America on Jan. 18, 2017.

Championship contenders

Many of Bagwell’s most meaningful games came against the Cardinals, who developed into the Astros’ most intense division rival.

In nine of the last 10 seasons of Bagwell’s career, 1996-2005, either the Astros or Cardinals finished in first place in the National League Central Division. In 2001, the Cardinals and Astros tied for first with 93-69 records. In 2004 and 2005, when the Cardinals won division titles, the Astros qualified for the postseason as a wild card and faced St. Louis in the NL Championship Series. The Cardinals prevailed in 2004; Houston won in 2005.

Bagwell, a right-handed batter, had more regular-season career hits (223) versus the Cardinals than he did against any other foe.

In 192 regular-season games facing St. Louis, Bagwell hit .319, with 38 home runs, 139 RBI and a .422 on-base percentage.

In 2000, when the Cardinals were division champions, Bagwell hit .463 (19-for-41) against them, with seven home runs and 18 RBI in 11 games.

His best single-game performance versus the Cardinals came the next year.

Liftoff in Houston

The Cardinals had won four in a row, holding opponents to three runs or fewer, heading into a series opener against the Astros on July 18, 2001, at Houston.

In the first inning, Bagwell hit a run-scoring single off starter Mike Matthews. He flied out to center in the third.

The Cardinals scored six times in the fifth and led, 8-6.

Sparked by Bagwell, the Astros rallied for eight runs in the bottom half of the inning.

Bagwell led off the fifth with a double against Luther Hackman. After the Astros scored five times, Bagwell capped the inning with a three-run home run off Gene Stechschulte.

Coming through

That meant Bagwell needed a triple to complete the cycle for the only time in his big-league career. He’d tripled just once (at Chicago) at that point in the season.

In the seventh, with Craig Biggio on third base and one out, Bagwell faced Andy Benes. “My only concern was getting that run home (from third),” Bagwell told the Houston Chronicle.

Bagwell lined a deep shot to right-center field.

“That’s probably the only place you can hit a triple in this park, for a right-hander,” Biggio said.

Bagwell rounded second _ “I was kind of laboring. I wasn’t going very fast,” he said _ and beat the throw to third.

“It worked out where I got a triple and got the cycle,” said Bagwell, “but a base hit up the middle would have been nice, too.” Boxscore

Bagwell became the fourth Houston player _ and the first since Andujar Cedeno on Aug. 25, 1992, versus the Cardinals Boxscore _ to hit for the cycle. The other Astros to do so were Cesar Cedeno and Bob Watson.

“I’m jealous,” Astros outfielder Moises Alou said to the Associated Press. “I’ve never even hit for the cycle when I played softball.’

Bagwell, who drew a walk while facing Dave Veres in the eighth, finished the game 4-for-5 with five RBI and four runs scored.

“It’s cool,” Bagwell said, “but it’s not something I put much stock in.”

Previously: Could Craig Biggio have made Hall of Fame as Cardinal?

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(Updated Jan. 18, 2017)

Tim Raines played like a Hall of Famer against the Cardinals.

In January 2017, Raines earned election to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in voting by the Baseball Writers Association of America.

tim_rainesThe switch-hitting outfielder, who played 23 seasons in the big leagues, primarily with the Expos and White Sox, performed well against most teams, though he was especially good versus the Cardinals.

Raines had more career triples (12), walks (107) and RBI (70) against the Cardinals than he did versus any other team. Raines batted .324 against the Cardinals, with 187 hits, 105 runs scored, 68 stolen bases and a .424 on-base percentage.

Overall for his career, Raines batted .294 with 2,605 hits, 808 stolen bases and a .385 on-base percentage. Raines ranks fifth all-time in steals. Rickey Henderson (1,406), Lou Brock (938), 19th century player Billy Hamilton (914) and Ty Cobb (897) are ahead of him.

Deadly speed

Raines showed consistent excellence versus the Cardinals from 1982-85. During that stretch, his batting average against the Cardinals was .314 or better every year and his on-base percentage each season was .417 or higher. In 1982, when the Cardinals won the World Series championship, Raines batted .391 (27-for-69) against them, with an on-base percentage of .494.

One of Raines’ most significant games against the Cardinals occurred during a 7-4 Expos victory on Sept. 18, 1984, at St. Louis. Raines had four stolen bases, giving him 70 for the season. Raines became the first player to have 70 steals or more in four consecutive seasons.

“Coming from a small town (Sanford, Fla.) which nobody has ever heard of and then coming to the major leagues, it makes me proud to be able to do what I’ve done,” Raines said after the game to Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Raines would finish the 1984 season with 75 stolen bases, leading the National League for the fourth year in a row. He had 71 steals in strike-shortened 1981, 78 in 1982 and 90 in 1983.

(Though Raines also achieved 70 steals in both 1985 and 1986, the Cardinals’ Vince Coleman surpassed him as the NL stolen base leader in those seasons.)

In his book “You’re Missin’ a Great Game,” Whitey Herzog, who managed the Cardinals from 1980-90, called Raines “a great hitter with deadly speed.”

“If you don’t keep him off base, you’re going to get beat, especially when you can’t hold him on,” Herzog told Hummel.

Hard to stop

With Joaquin Andujar pitching and Darrell Porter catching, Raines swiped second base three times and third base once in his four-steals game against the Cardinals.

Raines “took advantage of Andujar’s slow release toward home plate,” Hummel reported.

“He’s got a quick move to first, but he’s got that high leg kick when he comes to the plate,” Raines said of Andujar. “He comes to the plate slow all the time. I’ve always felt that when he’s pitching, I can run.”

Said Andujar: “That guy just flies. It doesn’t matter whether you throw 100 times to first, he will still steal the base.”

After Andujar was relieved by Kevin Hagen, Raines attempted to steal his fifth base of the game but was caught by Porter.

Porter was one of just four catchers to throw out Raines attempting to steal up to that point in the season, according to the Post-Dispatch. The others: Steve Lake (Cubs), Mike Scioscia (Dodgers) and Ozzie Virgil (Phillies). Boxscore

Raines also had a standout season against the Cardinals in 1990, batting .373 (19-for-51) with 13 RBI and a .469 on-base percentage. On Oct. 1, 1990, Raines had five RBI, including a grand slam off Frank DiPino, in a 15-9 Expos triumph over the Cardinals at Montreal. Boxscore

Previously: In measuring greatness, Lou Brock beats Tim Raines

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Of the eight career home runs Dexter Fowler has hit against the Cardinals, including one in the postseason, the most dramatic helped the Rockies to a second consecutive late-inning comeback.

dexter_fowlerOn July 7, 2010, Fowler crushed a three-run home run in the eighth inning off Cardinals reliever Jason Motte, tying the score at 7-7 and positioning the Rockies for a win in the ninth.

Six years later, on Dec. 9, 2016, Fowler, a free agent, got a five-year contract to play center field and bat leadoff for the Cardinals after helping the Cubs win their first World Series title in 108 years.

Clutch performer

Fowler was in his second full season with the Rockies in 2010 when the Cardinals came to Denver for a three-game series.

In the opener, on July 6, 2010, the Rockies erased a 9-3 Cardinals lead when they scored nine runs in the ninth and won, 12-9. Seth Smith broke a 9-9 tie with a three-run walkoff home run off Ryan Franklin. Fowler doubled and scored in that inning. Boxscore

The next night, the Cardinals led 7-4 in the eighth. The Rockies had runners on first and second, one out, when Cardinals manager Tony La Russa brought in Motte to relieve Trever Miller and face Fowler.

A switch hitter, Fowler batted from the left side against the hard-throwing Cardinals right-hander.

Fastball hitter

After missing the strike zone with his first two pitches, Motte delivered a 97 mph fastball. Fowler swung and missed.

The next pitch was a ball, running the count to 3-and-1.

Motte threw another 97 mph heater. This time, Fowler fouled off the pitch.

“You’re just trying to get a hit and keep the train going,” Fowler said to the Associated Press.

Motte’s payoff pitch was a 98 mph fastball. “That’s his best pitch, so that’s what I was looking for,” Fowler told the Denver Post.

Fowler connected and the ball sailed over the wall for a three-run home run. Audio of home run call at about 3:07 mark

It was Fowler’s first home run since April 28.

“That one to Fowler was right down the middle … and he got the barrel on it,” Motte said to Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “You fall behind (in the count) and you’ve got to throw strikes. You throw strikes, they hit the ball.”

Rocky Mountain high

Fowler’s home run set the stage for a Rockies walkoff win in the ninth.

With his bullpen depleted, La Russa chose Evan MacLane, making his major-league debut, to pitch the ninth.

MacLane, a left-hander, worked the count to 3-and-2 against the leadoff batter, Chris Iannetta. MacLane’s next pitch, a changeup, was drilled for a home run, giving the Rockies an 8-7 walkoff win. Boxscore

Previously: Jason Motte ran table on Cardinals saves in 2012

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Barry Bonds might have broken Hank Aaron’s career home run record as a member of the Cardinals, not the Giants, if he and the Redbirds had been able to agree on a compensation package.

barry_bondsTen years ago, in December 2006, the Cardinals and Bonds, a free agent, expressed mutual interest in exploring a deal.

Cardinals manager Tony La Russa, who urged the front office to pursue discussions, was fascinated by the possibility of having Bonds and Albert Pujols in the same batting order.

“I was intrigued by the idea,” La Russa said to St. Louis Post-Dispatch reporter Joe Strauss. “… I’m thinking it might be there for (Bonds) in St. Louis … We have an opportunity if he thinks he fits with us.”

For Bonds, who had been with the Giants since 1993, the Cardinals looked appealing for at least two reasons:

_ La Russa had a track record of successfully managing, and protecting, sluggers (Mark McGwire, Jose Canseco) whose reputations had been tainted by suspicion of performance-enhancing drug use.

_ Bonds, 42, never had played on a World Series championship team and he knew his time for doing so was running short. The Cardinals, who won the 2006 World Series title, had qualified for the postseason in six of the previous seven years. The Giants had losing records in each of the previous two seasons.

Bonds “has thought seriously about playing alongside Albert Pujols in St. Louis,” the San Jose Mercury News reported.

La Russa envisioned a 2007 Cardinals batting order of David Eckstein at shortstop, Jim Edmonds in center field, Pujols at first base, Bonds in left field, Scott Rolen at third base, Juan Encarnacion (or Chris Duncan) in right field, Yadier Molina at catcher and Aaron Miles at second base.

Bonds still could produce. In 2006, he had 23 doubles, 26 home runs, 115 walks and 77 RBI in 130 games. With 734 career home runs, Bonds needed 22 more to break Aaron’s record of 755.

Though negotiations didn’t get much beyond a preliminary stage _ the Cardinals wanted Bonds to agree to a deeply discounted salary _ the flirtation between the two parties appeared sincere while it lasted.

Let’s talk

Shortly after he had surgery to remove bone chips from his left elbow, Bonds became a free agent in October 2006. Though many expected him to stay with the Giants, other teams, most publicly the Athletics, were interested.

In a Nov. 11, 2006, column in the Post-Dispatch, Bernie Miklasz scoffed, “Scratch the ridiculous rumors of the Cardinals having an interest in signing Barry Bonds. There’s nothing to it. If the Cardinals make a run at any prominent free-agent hitter, it will be Alfonso Soriano.”

However, a month later, during the baseball winter meetings in Orlando in December 2006, La Russa became convinced Bonds was available and he encouraged the Cardinals to meet with Bonds’ representatives, the Post-Dispatch reported.

The Cardinals met with the Bonds group, including Jeff Borris, the slugger’s agent, and then had internal meetings to discuss the matter. La Russa requested a meeting with Bonds, though it was unclear whether that session occurred.

However, Bonds did meet with Tigers manager Jim Leyland in Orlando. Leyland, who was Bonds’ manager with the Pirates from 1986-1992, “wasn’t acting on behalf of the Tigers,” the Mercury News reported.

“Leyland and La Russa are very close and it’s thought that Leyland might have been gathering a read on Bonds for his good friend,” wrote Andrew Baggarly of the Mercury News.

The interest was serious enough that Cardinals officials considered polling their key players to get their take on the notion of Bonds joining the club, the Post-Dispatch reported.

“Barry Bonds and Albert Pujols, back to back? It’s more than a fantasy league lineup _ and more than a rumor,” the Mercury News told its readers.

Show me the money

When the discussions between the Cardinals and Bonds’ representatives turned to money, it became evident a deal wouldn’t occur.

The Cardinals had offered another veteran free-agent hitter, Luis Gonzalez, a one-year deal at $7.3 million, the Post-Dispatch reported. Bonds was seeking more than $10 million a year.

“It’s not realistic,” La Russa said to Strauss, “because if he comes with us he would only be making pennies.”

“We couldn’t pay him,” La Russa concluded.

Wrote the Mercury News: “Barry Bonds is intrigued with playing under the St. Louis arch, but the money is pointing him someplace else. Bonds isn’t known for leaving cash on the table.”

The San Jose newspaper predicted Bonds “would return to San Francisco if the Cardinals cannot approach the Giants’ offer.”

Pressed by reporters, Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty snapped, “There’s nothing on with Bonds. I’m sick and tired of people asking that. We don’t have money for Bonds.”

On Dec. 7, 2006, Bonds and the Giants agreed on financial terms. Bonds would receive a $15.8 million base salary in 2007, plus bonus incentives that could increase the package to $20 million.

Messy affair

Naturally, just the idea the Cardinals would consider signing Bonds created controversy among Cardinals fans and media.

Bryan Burwell of the Post-Dispatch opined, “The Cardinals’ brief but unrequited dalliance with Barry Bonds turned out to be just like every other naughty romance: loaded with provocative attraction, potentially perilous consequences, a tinge of remorse, a hint of shame and a ton of relieved hindsight.”

Burwell asked, “Would the most despised man in all of sports suddenly have found a safe and welcome haven in the bosom of Cardinal Nation?”

Miklasz’s take: “The Cardinals and their fans have a history of embracing Mark McGwire and baseball’s steroids culture, so why draw the line at Bonds?”

In his final season, Bonds hit 28 home runs for the 2007 Giants. On Aug. 7, 2007, he hit career home run No. 756 off Mike Bacsik of the Nationals, breaking Aaron’s record. Bonds finished with 762 career home runs.

Previously: Albert Pujols and the start of his NL MVP run

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