Archive for the ‘Pitchers’ Category

Desperate for pitching, the 1943 Athletics turned to Carl Scheib, a 16-year-old with a strong arm. Eleven years later, the 1954 Cardinals, desperate for pitching, took a chance on Scheib, then a 27-year-old with a damaged arm.

Scheib, who died March 24, 2018, at 91, finished his major-league career with the Cardinals after a brief, unsuccessful stint with them.

The Cardinals’ pitching in 1954 was so bad they were willing to try just about anything to give the staff a boost. On May 7, 1954, in a creative cash transaction, the Cardinals acquired Scheib from the Athletics on a conditional basis. The Cardinals agreed to give Scheib a look in exchange for a small amount of cash to the Athletics. If the Cardinals kept Scheib for 30 days, they would increase the amount of compensation to the Athletics.

Teen-age wasteland

Scheib, born Jan. 1, 1927, became the youngest player to appear in an American League game when he debuted with the Athletics in the ninth inning of the second game of a doubleheader against the Yankees on Sept. 6, 1943. Boxscore

The 1943 Athletics had the worst pitching staff (4.05 ERA) in the league and the team, managed by Connie Mack, finished in last place at 49-105.

A year later, on June 10, 1944, Joe Nuxhall, 15, became the youngest player to appear in a major-league game when he debuted with the Reds in the ninth inning against the Cardinals.

Scheib pitched for the Athletics from 1943-45 and from 1947-54. His best season was 1948 when he had a 14-8 record and 3.94 ERA with 15 complete games. He also experienced two particularly dreadful seasons in 1950 (3-10 record, 7.22 ERA) and 1951 (1-12, 4.47).

Bargain shopping

When Scheib got to spring training in 1954, it was evident to the Athletics he was experiencing weakness in his right shoulder, according to a biography by the Society for American Baseball Research. After making his final spring training appearance, Scheib didn’t appear in another game for more than a month until given a regular-season start against the White Sox on May 3, 1954. Scheib yielded five runs in two innings and took the loss. Boxscore

Four days later, on May 7, 1954, the Cardinals made the conditional deal to land Scheib.

Cardinals pitchers gave up 34 runs in their last three games prior to acquiring Scheib. The staff would finish the 1954 season with a 4.50 ERA. Their relievers formed the worst bullpen in franchise history.

Cardinals manager Eddie Stanky said Scheib was “the best we could do because we couldn’t get a big-name pitcher without giving up too much playing strength in return.”

Two days after the deal was made, Scheib reported to the Cardinals in Cincinnati and threw pitches to coach Johnny Riddle while Stanky watched. Scheib “showed speed, a sweeping curve and promising knuckler,” the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported.

Said Reds manager Birdie Tebbetts, a former American League catcher who had faced Scheib often: “Don’t worry about his record. He was with a poor ball club over there. If waivers had been asked on him, I’d have claimed him.”

Short stay

Scheib made his first Cardinals appearance in a start against the Phillies in the second game of a doubleheader on May 16, 1954, at Philadelphia. He struck out the first two batters, but gave up five runs, including back-to-back home runs by Johnny Wyrostek and Del Ennis, in two innings and was the losing pitcher. Boxscore

Cardinals general manager Dick Meyer said catcher Del Rice “didn’t think Scheib was as bad as those five early runs would indicate.”

Scheib was used twice in relief by the Cardinals, pitching two scoreless innings against the Reds on May 22 and yielding a home run to Cubs catcher Joe Garagiola in a stint that lasted two-thirds of an inning on May 24.

By then, the Cardinals decided Scheib wasn’t effective enough to pay additional compensation to the Athletics. On May 27, they returned Scheib to the Athletics. Two days later, the Athletics asked waivers on Scheib for the purpose of giving him an unconditional release.

Unclaimed and free to make his own deal, Scheib signed with the Portland Beavers of the Pacific Coast League. He spent two years (1954-55) with Portland and two more (1956-57) with the San Antonio Missions, managed by future Cardinals coach Joe Schultz, of the Texas League before ending his playing career.

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Dick LeMay was a pitcher who impressed Carl Hubbell, earned a complete-game win in his first major-league start against Bob Gibson and was the ace on Cardinals minor-league teams managed by Warren Spahn.

Unlike Hubbell, Gibson and Spahn, who were Hall of Fame pitchers, LeMay was a journeyman. Though he pitched in the big leagues for the Giants and Cubs, LeMay spent a significant portion of his playing career in the Cardinals’ system.

LeMay, who died March 19, 2018, at 79, pitched for Cardinals Class AAA clubs during a five-year period (1964-68) when the major-league team won three National League pennants.

Screwball specialist

A Cincinnati native, LeMay, 19, received an offer to begin his professional career with the Reds, but he chose to sign with the Giants as an amateur free agent in 1958 because they offered the most money, a $12,000 signing bonus.

LeMay was toiling in the Giants’ system when, in 1961, Hubbell, the organization’s director of player development, scouted him and filed a favorable report. Like Hubbell, who had been a Giants ace in the 1930s, LeMay was left-handed and threw an effective screwball.

“When I looked at LeMay, I discovered he had a good forkball and screwball, wasn’t too fast, but could consistently get his breaking ball over,” Hubbell told The Sporting News.

Backed by Hubbell’s endorsement, LeMay was promoted to the Giants and he made his major-league debut for them on June 13, 1961, with 2.2 innings of scoreless relief against the Dodgers. After two more scoreless relief stints, LeMay got his first big-league start on June 24, 1961, versus the Cardinals at St. Louis.

The game matched LeMay against Gibson, who was in his third big-league season and starting to emerge as a consistent winner.

LeMay shut out the Cardinals until the ninth, when he yielded a run-scoring single to Carl Warwick. Powered by home runs from Orlando Cepeda (a three-run shot off Gibson) and Willie McCovey, the Giants prevailed, 6-1. LeMay got the complete-game win. Gibson went five innings and gave up five runs. Boxscore

Bob Broeg of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported LeMay threw “soft breaking stuff with a big motion, using a screwball and forkball more than he did a fast one.”

Appearing with Cardinals broadcaster Harry Caray on a post-game radio show, LeMay said he hoped Giants manager Al Dark “lets me get back in the bullpen. You get in more games that way.”

Ups and downs

After LeMay was shelled for seven runs in 5.2 innings in a start against the Cardinals on July 8, he returned to the bullpen. He got a win against the Cardinals on July 20, with 3.1 innings in relief of starter Sam Jones. LeMay gave up a bases-loaded double to Bill White in the sixth (two of the runs were charged to Jones), but shut out the Cardinals over the last three innings. With the score tied at 6-6 in the eighth, LeMay sparked a four-run rally against Lindy McDaniel by drawing a walk on five pitches. Boxscore

LeMay posted a 3-6 record with three saves and a 3.56 ERA for the 1961 Giants.

He made nine relief appearances for the 1962 Giants and was 0-1 with a 7.71 ERA. The loss came against the Cardinals on Sept. 20 when LeMay was unable to protect a 4-3 lead in the ninth. Boxscore

Upset by the loss, Dark “knocked a box containing three dozen hardboiled eggs off a table and scattered them about the clubhouse,” the Post-Dispatch reported.

After the 1962 season, the Giants traded LeMay to the Colt .45s. Toward the end of spring training in 1963, the Colt .45s (who later became the Astros) dealt LeMay to the Cubs. The Cubs loaned LeMay to the Atlanta Crackers, a Class AAA affiliate of the Cardinals, and he was 3-3 with a 2.22 ERA for that club before being called up by the Cubs. LeMay made nine appearances, three versus the Cardinals, for the 1963 Cubs and was 0-1 with a 5.28 ERA.

Stuck in minors

The Cubs cut loose LeMay and he signed with the Cardinals, who invited him to their 1964 major-league spring training camp as a non-roster player. When the season began, LeMay was assigned to the Class AAA Jacksonville Suns and he did well for them (12-7 record, 2.81 ERA). The Cardinals rewarded LeMay by placing him on their 40-man big-league winter roster, putting him in the mix to earn a relief job in 1965.

Before the start of spring training in 1965, The Sporting News said of the defending World Series champion Cardinals, “The bullpen shapes up pretty well, with Barney Schultz and Ron Taylor as the bellwethers and such men as Bob Humphreys, Mike Cuellar, Fritz Ackley and Dick LeMay available.”

The Cardinals, however, returned LeMay to Jacksonville for the 1965 season and he again did well (17-11, 3.19) for the Suns.

Though he was excelling at the highest level of their farm system, LeMay wasn’t prominent in the Cardinals’ plans. Left-handers such as Steve Carlton and Larry Jaster surpassed LeMay as premier prospects. LeMay, who turned 28 in 1966, spent that season with the Tulsa Oilers, a Cardinals Class AAA club, and was 14-13 with a 4.35 ERA.

In 1967, Spahn, who retired as the all-time leader in wins among left-handed pitchers, became manager of the Oilers. LeMay was Spahn’s most durable starter in 1967 (13-18, 3.48) and 1968 (16-10, 3.29).

After that, LeMay went back to the Cubs organization, pitched two more seasons at the Class AAA level, retired from playing and managed the Class A Quincy (Ill.) Cubs of the Midwest League in 1971 and 1972.

LeMay pitched in 45 major-league games, nine versus the Cardinals. He was 2-1 with a 5.13 ERA against St. Louis. His overall career mark in the big leagues is 3-8 with a 4.17 ERA.

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Greg Holland will be trying to do better for the Cardinals than he did against them.

Holland, a relief pitcher who became a free agent and signed a one-year contract with St. Louis on March 31, 2018, experienced some of his roughest outings when he pitched against the Cardinals.

In 10 career appearances versus St. Louis, Holland, a right-hander, has a 4.82 ERA. Though he earned three saves against the Cardinals and struck out 17 in 9.1 innings, he also yielded three home runs.

Big hit

With the Royals in 2011, Holland was 5-1 with a 1.80 ERA. The lone loss came against the Cardinals.

On June 18, 2011, at St. Louis, the Royals led, 4-3, when Colby Rasmus led off the bottom half of the eighth inning for the Cardinals with a single against Tim Collins. Royals manager Ned Yost brought in Holland to face the Cardinals’ power hitters, Albert Pujols and Matt Holliday. Holland had yielded one earned run in 14.1 innings over his previous 10 appearances.

Pujols grounded out, moving Rasmus to second. After getting a strike on Holliday, Holland tried to jam him with a 96 mph fastball. “I knew it was a bad pitch before he hit it,” Holland said to the Kansas City Star. “Then, when he hit it, I knew it was a really bad pitch.”

Holliday hit the ball 422 feet over the center field wall for a two-run home run, giving the Cardinals a 5-4 lead. Video

“Everybody in their bullpen throws 95 or 96 (mph), so you better be ready for the fastball,” Holliday said.

Said Holland: “I tried to get the ball in and it leaked back over the plate. It was up. Boom! Bad combination.”

The Cardinals won, breaking a seven-game losing streak. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called Holliday’s home run “as big a hit as we’ve had all year.”

Yost said of Holland, “He’s been lights out and he was lights out tonight with the exception of one pitch. He didn’t execute a pitch to Holliday. I mean, he threw it right down the middle.” Boxscore

Command issues

A year later, on June 16, 2012, Holliday again got to Holland.

With the Royals ahead, 7-6, in the seventh inning at St. Louis, Holland yielded a RBI-single to Holliday and a two-run single to Yadier Molina. The Cardinals won, 10-7. Boxscore

Holland had given up one run in 15.2 innings since returning from the disabled list before his smackdown in St. Louis. “Holly struggled with his command and it just wasn’t good for us,” Yost said.

A week later, on June 23, 2012, at Kansas City, Holland permitted a double by Holliday and a two-run home run by Allen Craig during an 8-4 Cardinals victory. Boxscore 

Holliday has three hits in four career at-bats versus Holland. Yost said of Holliday, “We try to get him on breaking balls and he hits the curveball. We try to stay hard on him with fastballs and he hits the fastball. We’ve got to make a pitch in a good location and hope he hits it hard at somebody.”

On May 28, 2017, at Denver, Paul DeJong, in his first major-league at-bat, hit a home run for the Cardinals against Holland, who was in his lone season with the Rockies. Video

It was the first home run Holland allowed that season. Said DeJong of the ball he hit, “I kept watching where it would go, and it kept going.” Boxscore

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Rusty Staub, who did his best hitting versus right-handed pitchers, and Bob Gibson were matched against one another often. Though Staub didn’t hit Gibson as well as he did most right-handers, he had a couple of significant games while facing the Cardinals’ ace.

Staub, who died March 29, 2018, at 73, had more plate appearances (162) and more at-bats (143) versus Gibson than he did against any other pitcher in his major-league career.

A left-handed batter, Staub played 23 seasons in the big leagues, starting in 1963, when he was 19, with the Houston Colt .45s before they were renamed the Astros. An outfielder and first baseman, Staub also played for the Expos, Mets, Tigers and Rangers.

Staub had career totals of 2,716 hits and 1,466 RBI, with a .279 batting average. Against right-handed pitching, he hit .291. Gibson was among the few right-handers who fared well against Staub, limiting him to a .224 batting average, but Staub was a respected adversary, compiling 32 hits, 16 walks and 15 RBI against him.

Cardinals nemesis

In 256 games against the Cardinals, Staub batted .273, with 226 hits, 109 walks and 102 RBI. He hit .300 or better versus the Cardinals every year from 1966 to 1973. Some of his performances against St. Louis were dominant: .484 batting average and 13 RBI in 1966; .328 and 15 RBI in 1967; and .343 and 15 RBI in 1975.

Staub was tough on Cardinals right-handers such as Nelson Briles (.384 batting average against) and Ray Washburn (.327), and one of the left-handers he solved was Steve Carlton (.308). Staub had more RBI (25) versus Carlton than he did against any other pitcher. All four of his career home runs off Carlton came while the pitcher was with the Cardinals.

Staub was 20 when he hit his first home run against a Cardinals pitcher, left-hander Curt Simmons, 35, in 1964.

Another longtime Cardinals left-hander, Ray Sadecki, struck out Staub more times (21) than any other major-league pitcher.

Perfect at plate

On May 1, 1968, Gibson pitched 12 innings, yielding seven hits and no earned runs, in a 3-1 Cardinals victory over the Astros at Houston. Staub gave him the most trouble, with four hits and a sacrifice bunt in five plate appearances.

“You can’t trick Staub,” Gibson said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

Said Cardinals center fielder Curt Flood: “Staub has a good, short stride and he seems to know what kind of pitch is coming.”

Staub, batting in the cleanup spot, produced three singles and a double.

Explaining how Gibson relied on fastballs and sliders, Cardinals catcher Johnny Edwards said, “I think Gibby threw two curves all night and the only changeup was the one Rusty Staub hit up the middle (in the fourth) for a single.”

In the Astros’ half of the 11th, with the score tied at 1-1, Jimmy Wynn drew a leadoff walk. Staub was up next, and even though he was perfect at the plate against Gibson, Astros manager Grady Hatton instructed him to bunt. Staub executed, moving Wynn into scoring position at second base.

After Doug Rader struck out, Cardinals manager Red Schoendienst ordered Gibson to walk John Bateman to get to Denis Menke, a career .184 batter versus Gibson. Menke grounded into a forceout. Boxscore

Sweet swing

Seven years later, on April 23, 1975, Gibson was matched against Mets ace Tom Seaver in a game at New York. Staub was with the Mets then.

In the fifth, with the Cardinals ahead, 1-0, Jack Heidemann singled against Gibson and moved to second on Jerry Grote’s single. With Seaver at the plate, Gibson made a pickoff throw to second baseman Ted Sizemore. Sizemore applied a tag, but umpire Tom Gorman ruled Heidemann safe.

“He never got to the bag,” Sizemore said of Heidemann. Cardinals outfielder Lou Brock added, “He’s still reaching for that base.”

After Seaver grounded out, Wayne Garrett walked, loading the bases, and Felix Millan hit a two-run double. After an intentional walk to Del Unser, reloading the bases, Staub stepped to the plate.

Staub swung at Gibson’s first pitch to him, a fastball, and walloped it off the scoreboard in right for a grand slam. The Mets won, 7-1.

“I’ve always said the key to hitting is to have men on base,” Staub said to The (White Plains, N.Y.) Journal News. “It doesn’t matter who bats behind you in the batting order. It matters only if men are on base in front of you and you can get a pitch to hit.”

Said Gibson: “I was having control problems and when you have control problems you don’t throw the same.” Boxscore

The grand slam was the sixth of nine Staub hit in the big leagues. Like Gibson, two other future Hall of Fame pitchers, Rollie Fingers and Dennis Eckersley, yielded grand slams to Staub.

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Lance Lynn was a prolific winner, a strikeout artist and a durable starter for the Cardinals, but, for all his attributes, the feat he struggled most to accomplish was pitching a complete-game shutout.

Before becoming a free agent and signing with the Twins on March 12, 2018, Lynn posted a regular-season career record of 72-47 (a .605 winning percentage) for the Cardinals, struck out 919 batters in 977.2 innings and pitched 175 innings or more in each of his last five active seasons with the club.

Though he made 161 regular-season starts for St. Louis, Lynn pitched only one complete-game shutout. That occurred on May 27, 2014, against the Yankees at St. Louis.

Sink or swim

Lynn, a right-hander who reached the major leagues with the Cardinals in 2011, won Game 3 of the 2011 World Series, became a full-fledged member of the starting rotation the following season and posted records of 18-7 in 2012 and 15-10 in 2013.

In 2014, he took a 5-2 record into his start against the Yankees at Busch Stadium.

Facing the Yankees for the only time in his big-league career, Lynn got them to hit into 15 groundouts. “They were caught off guard by the sinker and didn’t expect me to use it as much as you can,” Lynn said to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “I elevated later in the game to get fly balls when I needed it.”

The Yankees got five hits and three walks, but were 0-for-9 with runners in scoring position. “We squared some balls up,” Yankees manager Joe Girardi said to Newsday. “We had some chances to score a few runs.”

Cardinals hitters supported Lynn with four runs in the third and a run each in the fifth and seventh. Allen Craig and Matt Holliday each hit a solo home run.

Elusive goal

Lynn threw 116 pitches in eight innings. Manager Mike Matheny usually would relieve a pitcher at that point, but, knowing how much Lynn wanted a chance at a shutout, Matheny and Lynn reached a compromise. Matheny let Lynn start the ninth, but told him he would be lifted if a batter reached base.

Lynn retired the Yankees in order on 10 pitches, getting Yangervis Solarte and Alfonso Soriano to ground out and Brian Roberts to fly out. Boxscore

“Since my first day in the major leagues, that’s your goal, always to throw a complete-game shutout,” Lynn said. “Every time you go out there, that’s your goal _ not give up any runs and finish it. Took me way too long.”

Matheny told The Sports Xchange, “Everyone on the bench knew how much this meant to him. You could tell how long and hard he’d worked to make this happen. You could see the reaction of his teammates.”

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(Updated March 29, 2018)

The Cardinals in 2018 opened a season in March for the fifth time. The March 29 game against the Mets at New York was the earliest date for a Cardinals regular-season opener.

The Cardinals won three of their five Opening Day games played in March. Here is a look at each:

March 31, 1998

Todd Stottlemyre pitched seven scoreless innings and Mark McGwire hit a grand slam in the fifth, carrying the Cardinals to a 6-0 victory over the Dodgers at St. Louis.

Stottlemyre limited the Dodgers to three hits, including two by rookie first baseman Paul Konerko. “I was trying to stay away from all the nervousness and the other things that go into Opening Day,” Stottlemyre told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… Your gut is going all different directions.”

McGwire’s home run was the first grand slam hit by a Cardinals player in an Opening Day game. He connected on a changeup from Ramon Martinez, breaking a scoreless tie. “I was juiced up,” McGwire said. “I don’t know my own strength. I hope I don’t hurt anybody.”

Gary Gaetti and Willie McGee each produced a RBI-single in the eighth.

Braden Looper, making his major-league debut for the Cardinals, pitched the ninth and struck out Todd Zeile, Raul Mondesi and Konerko. “It’s amazing to see the command of his pitches,” McGwire said of Looper. “He basically doesn’t throw anything over the belt.” Boxscore

March 31, 2003

Scott Rolen hit a three-run home run, capping a six-run eighth inning, and the Cardinals held on for an 11-9 triumph over the Brewers at St. Louis.

Trailing 7-5 in the eighth, the Cardinals got a RBI-triple from Orlando Palmeiro and a RBI-double from Fernando Vina, tying the score. Kerry Robinson put the Cardinals ahead, 8-7, with a bunt single that scored Vina from third. After Robinson swiped second and Albert Pujols was walked intentionally, Rolen, playing in his first Cardinals season opener, hit a home run against Mike DeJean, giving the Cardinals an 11-7 lead.

The Cardinals needed the cushion Rolen provided. In the ninth, Richie Sexson hit a two-run home run against Cal Eldred. After Keith Ginter singled with one out, Steve Kline relieved and retired Jeffrey Hammonds and Wes Helms, sealing the win for St. Louis. Boxscore

“That was an ugly game,” Rolen said. “That’s not a game that you’re going to come out on top all the time.”

March 31, 2011

Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin blew a ninth-inning save opportunity and the Padres went on to win, 5-3, in 11 innings at St. Louis. It was the Cardinals’ first extra-inning opener since 1992.

Matt Holliday hit a home run in the eighth against Mike Adams, giving the Cardinals a 3-2 lead. Manager Tony La Russa brought in Franklin to pitch the ninth. Franklin retired the first two batters, Ryan Ludwick and Chase Headley, but Cameron Maybin swung at Franklin’s first pitch to him, a curveball, and launched it over the wall for a home run, tying the score.

Franklin described his pitch to Maybin as “a good, first-pitch strike.”

Said Maybin: “I got a pitch I recognized early out of his hand. If it’s in my zone, I’m going to attack it.”

In the 11th, Bryan Augenstein, making his Cardinals debut, gave up two runs after retiring the first two batters. The Cardinals were retired in order by Heath Bell in the bottom half of the inning.

“It was 11 innings of baseball that seemed like 111,” wrote columnist Bernie Miklasz. Boxscore

March 31, 2014

Adam Wainwright pitched seven shutout innings, the bullpen escaped an eighth-inning jam and Yadier Molina delivered the lone run, a home run against Johnny Cueto, lifting the Cardinals to a 1-0 victory over the Reds at Cincinnati.

Wainwright held the Reds to three hits, struck out nine and earned the first Opening Day win of his career. “I’ve never had this much fun pitching,” he said. “I’ve never felt as good about where I’m at.”

Molina hit a cutter from Cueto over the left field wall in the seventh inning. He also made several stellar defensive plays and clicked with Wainwright on calling pitches. “We were on the same page from the very first pitch of the game,” Wainwright said. “… I really think he’s the best I’ve ever seen at that position.”

The Cincinnati Enquirer declared, “Yadier Molina is Public Enemy No. 1 in Cincinnati and the Cardinals’ all-star catcher further endeared himself to Reds fans by ruining their 2014 Opening Day.”

In the eighth, after Wainwright departed, the Reds put runners on first and third, with no one out, but Kevin Siegrist and Carlos Martinez kept the Reds from scoring. Trevor Rosenthal pitched a perfect ninth, marking the first time the Reds had been shut out on Opening Day since 1953 against the Braves. Boxscore

March 29, 2018, at New York

Cardinals pitchers yielded nine walks, Cardinals batters struck out 15 times and the Mets won, 9-4. Yoenis Cespedes had three RBI for the Mets.

Yadier Molina hit a two-run home run for the Cardinals and his teammate, Jose Martinez, contributed three hits, including a home run, and two RBI.

The Cardinals outfield of Marcell Ozuna, Tommy Pham and Dexter Fowler went hitless in 12 at-bats, with eight strikeouts. Boxscore

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