Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

To many, Jeff Weaver looked like a washed-up pitcher when he was with the 2006 Angels. To the Cardinals, Weaver looked like the answer to a need.

weaver_brothersTen years ago, on July 5, 2006, the Cardinals acquired Weaver from the Angels for minor-league outfielder Terry Evans.

After a shaky start to his Cardinals career, Weaver became an effective starter in the 2006 postseason and was integral to St. Louis winning a World Series championship.

Available assets

Since entering the majors in 1999, Weaver had pitched for the Tigers, Yankees and Dodgers before becoming a free agent and joining the 2006 Angels. He had 13 wins with the 2004 Dodgers and 14 wins with the 2005 Dodgers.

With the Angels, though, Weaver was 3-10 with a 6.29 ERA in 16 starts. Opponents hit .309 against him.

The Cardinals, looking to replace Sidney Ponson in their rotation, had dispatched two scouts to evaluate Weaver. Dave Duncan, the Cardinals’ pitching coach, watched video of the Angels’ right-hander.

On July 1, 2006, Weaver, 29, was designated for assignment by the Angels, meaning he needed to be traded or released. The Cardinals were one of eight teams to make the Angels an offer for him.

“We’ve seen the guy pitch a few times … and still feel he has the assets he’s had in the past,” Cardinals general manager Walt Jocketty told Rick Hummel of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Maybe he hasn’t been using them as best he could be.

“One of the scouts who saw him thought he was using his breaking ball too much and wasn’t using his fastball. He’s got a pretty good fastball and there might be a chance we can make a change that makes him better.”

In an interview with Joe Strauss of the Post-Dispatch, Weaver said, “Maybe I was throwing too many strikes. I was getting hurt quite a bit on 0-and-2 pitches. I could probably do a better job of expanding the strike zone.”

Championship caliber

Bernie Miklasz, Post-Dispatch columnist, liked the acquisition: “Dave Duncan’s overall success rate with fading veterans is superb. That’s why we expect to see Jeff Weaver improve in St. Louis.”

Weaver’s first Cardinals appearance was a start against the Braves at St. Louis on July 17, 2006. He didn’t impress. In four innings, Weaver yielded six runs, including a Brian McCann grand slam, and took the loss. Boxscore

Weaver made 15 regular-season starts for the 2006 Cardinals and was 5-4 with a 5.18 ERA. However, he won his last three decisions, including a Sept. 29 triumph against the Brewers that extended the Cardinals’ lead over the second-place Astros from a half-game to 1.5 games with two to play. Boxscore

Noting that Weaver had been “all but left on the shoulder of a Southern California freeway by the Angels,” Miklasz wrote of the gritty win over the Brewers, “The quality of Weaver’s determination was superior to the numbers on his final pitching line. He deserved the standing ovation that came his way as he departed the mound. In this critical final month, Weaver is 3-1 with a 4.15 ERA. He’s no longer a junker.”

Said manager Tony La Russa after that game: “Weaver was outstanding. The way he competed, you could see him working hard to get the outs. That’s one of the reasons why we like him. He’s a terrific competitor. He really did a good job for us. He did exactly what we needed.”

Weaver carried that effort into the 2006 postseason. Weaver was 1-0 vs. the Padres in the National League Division Series and 1-1 against the Mets in the NL Championship Series.

In the World Series, Weaver got the clinching win in Game 5, holding the Tigers to two runs in eight innings and striking out nine.

After that, Weaver became a free agent and signed with the Mariners.

Previously: Mike Matheny sparked Cards over Dodgers in 2004 NLDS

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An effective combination of quality and depth in the starting rotation enabled the 1941 Cardinals to win their first 12 road games. That streak remains the franchise record for most road wins in a row.

howie_kristEight different Cardinals pitchers accounted for those 12 consecutive road wins. Ten of those wins were achieved by starters, including eight complete-game efforts.

Mort Cooper earned three of the dozen road wins. Lon Warneke and Max Lanier had two apiece. Five Cardinals pitchers each got a win during the road streak: Johnny Grodzicki, Sam Nahem, Howie Krist, Hank Gornicki and Ernie White.

The streak was achieved in two parts _ from April 15-17 and from April 26-May 5 _ in five cities. Of the dozen road wins, three were accomplished at Cincinnati against the Reds, two at Chicago against the Cubs, three at New York against the Giants, two at Philadelphia against the Phillies and two at Boston against the Braves.

Sweeping the champs

The 1941 Cardinals opened the season on April 15 at Cincinnati against the defending World Series champion Reds. Ernie Koy, Enos Slaughter and Johnny Mize each hit a home run and the Cardinals won, 7-3. Warneke, who pitched a complete game, yielded 10 hits, but walked none and was helped by a defense that turned three double plays. Boxscore

In the second game of the series on April 16, Cooper pitched a five-hitter and the Cardinals won, 4-2. With the score tied at 2-2 in the ninth, Jimmy Brown hit a two-run, two-out double off Johnny Vander Meer. Boxscore

Another ninth-inning rally enabled the Cardinals to complete the series sweep on April 17. With the Reds ahead 6-5, Slaughter scored from third base with the tying run on a Bob Logan wild pitch. Marty Marion walked and scored the go-ahead run on a triple by Frank “Creepy” Crespi.

In the bottom of the ninth, reliever Hersh Lyons, making his debut in what would be his only big-league appearance, loaded the bases with one out. Lanier replaced him, induced two groundouts without allowing a run to score and was credited with the win in a 7-6 Cardinals triumph. Boxscore

The Sporting News hailed the Cardinals for a “sensational three-in-a-row start in Cincinnati.”

From there, the Cardinals went to St. Louis for a six-game homestand with the Cubs, Pirates and Reds. The Cardinals won three of those games, giving them a 6-3 record as they embarked on a 14-game road trip to six cities.

Rolling along

The journey began on April 26 at Chicago with a 6-2 Cardinals victory over the Cubs. Lanier started and pitched a two-hitter for the win. Mize and Marion each drove in two runs for the Cardinals. Boxscore

The Cardinals completed the two-game series and earned their fifth consecutive road win with an 8-5 victory over the Cubs on April 27. Cooper got the win, even though he yielded four walks and eight hits, including a three-run home run by Bill “Swish” Nicholson. Slaughter had three RBI and the Cardinals compiled 13 hits. Boxscore

After a day off, the Cardinals began a three-game series at the Polo Grounds in New York.

In the opener on April 29, the Giants scored three runs in the first two innings off Bill McGee. Johnny Grodzicki, making his fourth big-league appearance, relieved, pitched six innings and limited the Giants to a run on three hits. He got the win when the Cardinals rallied and prevailed, 5-4. Boxscore

On April 30, Sam Nahem, acquired a year earlier in the trade that sent slugger Joe Medwick to the Dodgers, made his second Cardinals start, pitched eight innings and got the win in a 6-4 Cardinals triumph over the Giants. Slaughter and Mize each hit a home run. Boxscore

The Cardinals extended their road win streak to eight with a 5-0 victory over the Giants on May 1. Warneke pitched the shutout, even though he surrendered nine hits and a walk. The Giants stranded nine. Brown and Marion each hit a two-run home run for the Cardinals. Boxscore

Fine fiber

Warneke’s gem was the start of a dominant stretch for Cardinals pitchers. In the last five road wins of the streak, the Cardinals yielded a total of four runs.

On May 2 at Philadelphia, the Cardinals beat the Phillies, 4-2. Howie Krist, in his first start of the season, pitched a five-hitter for the win. He held the Phillies scoreless for the first eight innings. Boxscore

The Cardinals got their 10th consecutive road win in a most unexpected manner. Hank Gornicki, 30, made his first big-league start and pitched a one-hitter in a 6-0 Cardinals triumph over the Phillies on May 3. Stan Benjamin broke up the no-hit bid with a single in the sixth. Boxscore

Boston was the next stop for the Cardinals.

On May 4,  the Cardinals beat the Braves, 3-1. Cooper got the win, shutting out the Braves over the last six innings. The Cardinals scored all of their runs in the eighth, with Cooper’s brother and batterymate, Walker, contributing one of the RBI. Boxscore

The 12th consecutive road win for the Cardinals was a 5-1 victory over the Braves on May 5. Ernie White, making his first start of the season, pitched a five-hitter. Slaughter hit a two-run home run for St. Louis. Boxscore

In The Sporting News, Dick Farrington wrote, “When a team can win away from the friendly surroundings of its home playgrounds, it is always considered a rather definite sign of class and fiber.”

Second best

On May 6, the road win streak ended at Boston. The Braves scored all of their runs in the fifth off Grodzicki, making his final appearance of the season for St. Louis, and won, 5-4. The Cardinals had 11 hits and received seven walks, but stranded 13. Boxscore

The 1941 Cardinals finished in second place in the National League at 97-56, 2.5 games behind the Dodgers. The Cardinals were 44-32 on the road and 53-24 at home.

Previously: Who is Shelby Miller like? How about Hank Gornicki?

Previously: How Joe Medwick got traded by Cardinals to Dodgers

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Two years after they joined Bob Gibson in forming the foundation of the World Series champion Cardinals’ starting rotation, left-handers Curt Simmons and Ray Sadecki were St. Louis outcasts.

curt_simmons3At least the Cardinals got a significant return, first baseman Orlando Cepeda, for Sadecki, 25, when they traded him to the Giants on May 8, 1966. All the Cardinals got for Simmons was cash.

Fifty years ago, on June 22, 1966, Simmons, 37, was purchased by the Cubs from the Cardinals for $20,000.

Simmons, unhappy with the way he was being utilized by the Cardinals, looked forward to joining the Cubs’ starting rotation.

The Cardinals, who had tried to get a player in return for Simmons, were willing to move him to open room in their rotation for a pair of promising left-handers, Larry Jaster, 22, and Steve Carlton, 21.

Arm for hire

In 1964, when they won their first World Series title in 18 years, the Cardinals’ top three starters were Gibson (19 wins), Sadecki (20 wins) and Simmons (18 wins). The next year, Gibson won 20, but the win totals of Sadecki (6) and Simmons (9) declined significantly.

During 1966 spring training, the Cardinals tried to trade Simmons.

Initially, Simmons “was available at a modest price in players or cash,” The Sporting News reported.

When Simmons sparkled in spring training, yielding no walks in 25 innings, the Cardinals increased the price for him.

The Orioles showed interest, but “the Cardinals want a promising, young player in return and the Orioles are reluctant to give up anything more precious than cash,” The Sporting News reported.

Seeking starts

The 1966 Cardinals entered the season with more starters than spots in the rotation. Joining Gibson, Sadecki and Simmons were left-handers Jaster and Al Jackson and right-handers Ray Washburn, Tracy Stallard, Art Mahaffey and Nelson Briles.

Sadecki got three starts before he was traded. Simmons also was used sparingly.

Simmons got his first 1966 start on April 13 against the Phillies at St. Louis.

He didn’t get another start until more than a month later, May 17, at Philadelphia. In that game, Simmons yielded three runs and was lifted after three innings. “I had nothing out there,” Simmons said. “You’ve got to pitch guys in rotation. You can’t play checkers with pitchers.”

Simmons waited nearly three more weeks before getting his third start of the season on June 4 versus the Braves.

“It’s frustrating,” Simmons said of the limited number of starts he and other veterans were getting with the Cardinals. “We’re rusting and our market value is going down. If they’re going with the young guys, they ought to hurry up and make up their minds and let us go.”

Referring to Cardinals general manager Bob Howsam, Simmons said, “He’s burying too many good pitchers.”

Few suitors

A St. Louis newspaper reported the Braves were discussing the possibility of trading outfielder Rico Carty to the Cardinals for Simmons. Braves manager Bobby Bragan nixed the deal, telling The Sporting News he was concerned about Simmons’ long-term effectiveness.

In 10 appearances, including five starts, for the 1966 Cardinals, Simmons was 1-1 with a 4.59 ERA. As Simmons had predicted, his market value was diminishing.

With their options dwindling, the Cardinals sent Simmons to the last-place Cubs, who put him in a rotation that included Dick Ellsworth, Ken Holtzman and Bill Hands.

In seven years (1960-66) with the Cardinals, Simmons posted a 69-58 record, 3.25 ERA and 16 shutouts.

On June 26, four days after he was acquired, Simmons made his Cubs debut and pitched a five-hit shutout against the Mets at Chicago. Boxscore

Two weeks later, still desperate for pitching, the Cubs signed Robin Roberts, 39, who first had become a teammate of Simmons with the 1948 Phillies, and put him in the starting rotation as well.

Simmons was 4-7 with a 4.07 ERA for the 1966 Cubs. He spent the next season with the Cubs and Angels before retiring as a player.

Previously: Cardinals rolled out welcome mat for Orlando Cepeda

Previously: Art Mahaffey and his short, shaky stint with Cardinals

Previously: Final home opener at Busch I was bust for Cardinals

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In his fourth major-league start for the Cardinals, Anthony Reyes delivered a performance that was both brilliant and frustrating.

anthony_reyes2Ten years ago, on June 22, 2006, Reyes pitched a one-hitter for the Cardinals against the White Sox in Chicago, but lost. The hit he surrendered, a home run by Jim Thome in the seventh inning, carried the White Sox to a 1-0 victory.

“There is no justice that he is the losing pitcher,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

White Sox coach Joey Cora, who was filling in for suspended manager Ozzie Guillen, said of Reyes’ pitching: “Hall of Fame stuff.”

Changing speeds

Reyes, 24, had been called up to the Cardinals from Class AAA Memphis before the game to replace injured Mark Mulder in the rotation. Reyes had debuted with the Cardinals in August 2005 and had made two starts for them in May 2006 before being sent to Memphis.

A right-hander, Reyes was facing a White Sox lineup that had pummeled Cardinals pitching in the first two games of the series. The White Sox won those games by scores of 20-6 and 13-5.

Using a mix of fastballs, changeups and curves, Reyes kept White Sox batters off balance.

“He changed speeds, moved the ball in and out,” Cora said to the Chicago Sun-Times. “He was outstanding.”

Good wood

With one out in the seventh and the score at 0-0, Reyes hadn’t yielded a hit. Asked later whether he was aware at that point he had a chance for a no-hitter, Reyes told the Associated Press, “I never thought about it.”

Then, Thome, the designated hitter for the White Sox, came to the plate.

“He had been throwing me the fastball early on, and I just wanted to make sure I was ready for that,” Thome said.

Reyes’ first pitch to Thome was a fastball. The slugger swung and launched a shot into the bleachers.

“I was fortunate that I got a pitch to hit and I put good wood on it,” Thome said to MLB.com.

Said Reyes of the pitch Thome walloped: ‘I just missed a little bit over the plate and you can’t really do that up in this league.”

Series star

Reyes pitched the 23rd one-hitter in Cardinals franchise history.

His line for the game: 8 innings, 1 hit, 1 run, 0 walks, 6 strikeouts.

The Cardinals, meanwhile, were kept in check by White Sox starter Freddy Garcia. He limited the Cardinals to four hits _ a David Eckstein double and singles by Scott Rolen, Juan Encarnacion and Aaron Miles _ over eight innings. Bobby Jenks pitched a hitless ninth.

“This was a very tough game to lose,” La Russa said. “We had a chance to win and we didn’t win it.” Boxscore

Reyes made 17 starts for the 2006 Cardinals and was 5-8 with a 5.06 ERA. His gem against the White Sox was his only complete game that season.

In the 2006 World Series, Reyes delivered another surprise. He started and won Game 1 for the Cardinals, holding the Tigers to four hits and two runs in eight innings in a 7-2 St. Louis triumph at Detroit.

Previously: Jim Thome: 18 homers, .430 batting mark vs. Cards

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Ninety years ago, the Cubs unwittingly did the Cardinals a favor and helped them achieve their first championship season.

grover_alexanderOn June 22, 1926, the Cubs, at the urging of manager Joe McCarthy, placed pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander on waivers.

Alexander, 39 and on the back end of a Hall of Fame career, still was effective, but McCarthy had become fed up with the pitcher’s drinking.

Claimed for the waiver price of $4,000, Alexander landed with the Cardinals and played a prominent role in stabilizing their pitching staff and lifting them to their first National League pennant and World Series championship.

Bottoms up

In June 1926, the Cubs were in Philadelphia when Alexander “appeared at the Phillies’ park apparently the worse for wear,” The Sporting News reported.

Said McCarthy: “This isn’t the first time. This is the sixth time in the last 10 days … I absolutely refuse to allow him to disrupt our team and will not have him around in that condition.”

Alexander, who had a 3-3 record and 3.46 ERA in seven starts for the 1926 Cubs, was suspended by McCarthy and sent back to Chicago.

“It’s all right to drink while you can win, but it’s not for losers,” McCarthy said.

When the Cubs placed Alexander on waivers, he was claimed by the Cardinals, Pirates and Reds. At the time, the Reds were in first place and the Pirates in second in the National League. The Cardinals, in third place, got Alexander because they were lowest in the standings among the three teams that made claims.

Cubs fans were stunned and disappointed by the move because Alexander “has become almost an institution in Chicago,” according to International News Service.

Old pals

In joining the Cardinals, Alexander was reunited with his friend, Bill Killefer, a coach under manager Rogers Hornsby. Killefer was Alexander’s catcher with the Phillies from 1911-17. In December 1917, the Phillies traded Alexander and Killefer to the Cubs. Killefer was the Cubs’ manager from 1921-25.

“They are a couple of Peter Pans who never have taken life very seriously,” The Sporting News wrote of Alexander and Killefer.

Alexander enhanced a Cardinals rotation that included Flint Rhem, Bill Sherdel and Jesse Haines.

Harry Nelly of the Chicago American wrote, “Before Alexander went to the Cardinals, that team was shy of pitchers. It is a run-making outfit, but often found itself without a proper person to prevent the other side from scoring frequently.”

In The Sporting News, columnist John B. Sheridan suggested Alexander had a lot to offer the Cardinals: “He can lose nine-tenths of his skills and still be a greater pitcher than most of the ice-cream kids that come along in these degenerate days.”

Dazzler of a debut

On June 27, 1926, Alexander made his Cardinals debut in the first game of a doubleheader against the Cubs at Sportsman’s Park in St. Louis. A crowd of 37,196 squeezed into the ballpark that seated about 34,000.

“It was the greatest throng that had ever paid to witness a baseball attraction in this city,” The Sporting News reported.

Alexander pitched a complete-game four-hitter and got the win in a 3-2 Cardinals triumph in 10 innings.

Wrote The Sporting News of Alexander: “He had his old half sidearm delivery. He had a fast-breaking curve and he had a fast one.”

Said Alexander: “Don’t let anybody tell you that this arm hasn’t a few more good ones left in it. I’m tickled to be with the team and Hornsby and Killefer. All Rog has to do is nod his head and I’ll jump through a hoop for him.” Boxscore

Title run

Alexander won nine of his first 14 decisions with the Cardinals before losing his last two. In 23 appearances, including 16 starts for the Cardinals, Alexander was 9-7 with a 2.91 ERA. He pitched 11 complete games and two shutouts.

In the 1926 World Series against the Yankees, Alexander started and won Game 2 and Game 6. He relieved in Game 7, struck out Tony Lazzeri with the bases loaded in the seventh and earned the save by pitching 2.1 hitless innings to clinch the championship for the Cardinals.

Without Alexander, the Cubs finished in fourth place, seven games behind the Cardinals.

Previously: Stan Musial and the Cardinals’ most iconic moment

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Adam Wainwright turned a special at-bat into a special feat.

Ten years ago, on May 24, 2006, Wainwright swung at the first pitch in his first major-league plate appearance and hit a home run for the Cardinals against the Giants at San Francisco.

adam_wainwright9Leading off the fifth inning, with the Giants ahead, 4-2, Wainwright hit a Noah Lowry pitch over the left field wall.

Wainwright, 24, had appeared in three games for the 2005 Cardinals and 14 games for the 2006 Cardinals before getting his first plate appearance. He hadn’t taken any batting practice since spring training.

Asked by Joe Strauss of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch what he was thinking once he realized he had hit a home run, Wainwright said, “I wasn’t thinking anything until I hit third (base). I was wandering around the bases, making sure I was going the right way. I hit third (base) and I said, ‘Oh, my goodness. I just hit a home run in my first at-bat.’ It was crazy.”

A win and a blast

Chris Carpenter had been scheduled to start for the Cardinals, but he developed bursitis under his right shoulder and was scratched.

Brad Thompson got the start and pitched two innings. After Tyler Johnson pitched the third inning, Wainwright relieved.

With the score tied at 2-2, Wainwright yielded two runs in the fourth.

Before Wainwright went to bat in the fifth, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa approached him.

“Tony told me to have a good at-bat, so I made sure I swung at the first pitch,” Wainwright told the San Jose Mercury News.

Lowry, a left-hander, threw a fastball. “One of the few fastballs Noah threw for strike one,” Giants manager Felipe Alou said to the Alameda Times-Star.

Said Lowry of Wainwright: “He just jumped out there early and connected.” Video of home run

Wainwright pitched a scoreless fifth. In the sixth, the Cardinals scored twice, taking a 5-4 lead. Wainwright held the Giants scoreless again in the sixth.

For his three innings of relief, Wainwright earned the win in the Cardinals’ 10-4 triumph. “I think that’s just a lucky day,” Wainwright told the Associated Press. Boxscore

Wainwright was one of three Cardinals pitchers to get an extra-base hit in the game. Jason Marquis tripled. Braden Looper doubled.

Sweet swings

Wainwright is one of eight Cardinals to hit a home run in his first plate appearance in the major leagues.

The list:

_ Eddie Morgan, pinch-hitter, April 14, 1936, vs. Cubs.

_ Wally Moon, center fielder, April 13, 1954, vs. Cubs.

_ Keith McDonald, pinch-hitter, July 4, 2000, vs. Reds.

_ Chris Richard, left fielder, July 17, 2000, vs. Twins.

_ Gene Stechschulte, pinch-hitter, April 17, 2001, vs. Diamondbacks.

_ Hector Luna, second baseman, April 8, 2004, vs. Brewers.

_ Adam Wainwright, pitcher, May 24, 2006, vs. Giants.

_ Mark Worrell, pitcher, June 5, 2008, vs. Nationals.

Previously: Oscar Taveras, Eddie Morgan: Flashy starts to Cards careers

Previously: How Keith McDonald gained spot in Cards record book

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