Rewind: Great Cardinals-Cubs Games of the Past

If you’ve read here long, you know that I have been involved with the Baseball Bloggers Alliance since its inception.  Through that, I’ve gotten to know a lot of great folks that blog for other teams.  That’s been exploited in the Playing Pepper series, to be sure, but every once in a while someone asks me to write something for their site.  In 2013, a blogger named Justin, who was writing at a part Cubs/part Brewers blog named Baseblog, asked me to give him a little content while he was gone on vacation.  I wound up with this work, which he wound up splitting into four or five posts, I believe, because it was so massive.  (Occasionally, I run on a bit…..)  Justin’s blog isn’t there anymore but he reminded me indirectly of this on Twitter today, so it seemed a good time to repeat it.

Remember, this was through about the All-Star Break in 2013.  There’s been a ton of great games between these two this year, including the Jhonny Peralta walk-off and Stephen Piscotty double and the Jason Heyward almost throw-off.  There’s a strong chance as well that at least one of the next few games between these two will be added to a future list as well.

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As Justin continues to be on his summer hiatus, he made the foolish error of asking me to help out with the guest posting.  Not only is this not going to be of the quality you normally expect at this site, but he’s also asked a Cardinal fan to write on what is, at least in part, a Cubs site.  This immediately brought about some cackles and rubbing of hands.

I’m Daniel Shoptaw and you’ll find my blog C70 At The Bat at its new home under The Cardinal Conclave umbrella.  I write regularly about the Cardinals, a team that has more championship hardware than your local True Value store.

All right, that last line was a bit out of character for me.  While I’m proud to be a Cardinal fan, I don’t seriously denigrate anyone else’s fandom, including those that (for whatever reason) put themselves through the torture of rooting for the Cubs.  I think that fan bases should be able to rib and tease each other without either side getting real worked up about it.  Typically, that’s what the Cardinal/Cub rivalry has been about.  There’s not the worked up drama of New York/Boston or the vitrol that has at times come out of LA/San Francisco, but instead a good-natured competition that livens up the summer.

To that end, I thought I’d talk about a few memorable Cards-Cubs games.  Memorable means, in this situation, that I remember them, so we aren’t going deep in the archives for any of them.  There’s no Sandberg game here, partly because it was a bit before I got absorbed in baseball, partly because it was a Cubs win.

That’s the second part of memorable, a Cardinal victory.  All the games listed here save one wind up the same way.  It’s my list and I’ll make it however I want.  (Though I’m sure that there will be a number of Cub victories pointed out to me in the comments.)

Let’s do these in chronological order instead of trying to come up with some arbitrary ranking system.  I think you’ll agree that, even if they didn’t go your way, these are some pretty remarkable games in this rivalry.

September 8, 1998: Most people don’t remember much about this game.  They probably don’t remember that the Cardinals won 6-3.  They don’t remember that vaunted prospect J.D. Drew made his major league debut later in this game.  Save for one swing, there wasn’t much to remember this game by at all.

That swing, though, changed history.

Anyone that lived through the summer of 1998 remembers the excitement, the anticipation, the buildup that led into this Tuesday night game.  Mark McGwire.  Sammy Sosa.  All you have to do is say those names and you are instantly transported back to a different time in baseball, when giants–as we found out, not at all naturally–roamed the earth.  Sosa’s May still stands as a testament to concentrated home run prowess, hitting 20 in that month to vault himself into the home run race with McGwire.

Without Sosa, does McGwire get to the record?  Did he need that push, that little bit of extra motivation?  Would he have been able to relax without someone else sharing the load?  Who knows.  All we do know is that the summer of 1998 was magical at the time.  What you think about it now, that’s up to you.

McGwire went on a flurry during Labor Day weekend, hitting #60 on Saturday afternoon, #61 on Labor Day (and his father’s 61st birthday).  Somehow, the schedule knew what history demanded.  Which meant that the Cubs and Sosa came into Busch Stadium the day after the record was tied, setting the stage in a way Hollywood only dreams of.  Fox rearranged its schedule and put this Tuesday night affair on in prime time.

McGwire did nothing the first time.  The second time, facing Steve Traschel, he delivered, touching off a celebration that saw Sosa come in from the outfield and embrace his rival and McGwire going into the stands to find the Maris family.  An incredible, outstanding moment.  Perhaps it wasn’t done completely naturally, but it still was a remarkable night for baseball.

August 15, 1999: Looking this one back up, it wasn’t quite as dramatic as I remembered it, but still, any Cards/Cubs game that gets decided with two outs in the ninth is worth putting on this list.

Steve Traschel started this game as well and did what Steve Traschel usually did.  (I don’t think I have to elaborate for Cub fans.)  He pitched six innings and gave up four runs.  Which, given the fact that his ERA after this outing was 6.10, perhaps counted as one of his better games.

It was also an effective outing as well given that the Cards had Jose Jimenez on the mound for their side.  Jimenez, who was just weeks beyond his career highlights of a no-hitter and a two-hitter (both against Randy Johnson), was proving that when you hit such highs, the downhill slide can be steep.  In this one, he lasted just two-plus innings, allowing five runs (including two homers by Sosa) and trailing 5-2.

The bullpen stabilized the game, as the immortal crew of Juan Acevado, Mike Mohler, and Ricky Bottalco didn’t allow any one else to cross the plate.  The Cards cut the deficit to 5-4 with single runs in the fifth and the sixth, but it looked like too little, too late.

It was almost Casey-At-The-Bat like in the ninth.  Down by one, Terry Adams came into the game for the Cubs and struck out David Howard.  He then had to face McGwire in a one-run game, but got him to ground out to short.  Still one out to go, but you have to figure Adams breathed a large sigh of relief and figured his day was done.

Great thing about baseball, though, is that you have to get all 27 outs.  Ray Lankford drew a walk from Adams, keeping the game alive, then Fernando Tatis hit a ball that Tyler Houston couldn’t quite come up with.  Tatis got an infield hit and the runners advanced to second and third on his bad throw.  Suddenly, this game looked a lot different.

Craig Paquette was the sixth-place hitter that day.  Adams got ahead of him 0-2, then left a pitch where Paquette liked it.  He lined it past the shortstop, driving in both runners and finishing off an incredible comeback.

July 28, 2002: Like the game above, this one had a ninth inning comeback.  However, this comeback put that one to shame.

Looking at the pitching matchup, you’d have expected a good game to be shown that Sunday night on ESPN.  Matt Clement was going for the Cubs while staff ace Matt Morris was going for the Cardinals.  This was just a month after the passing of Darryl Kile, though, and Morris had alternated between dominating games and complete disasters with the loss of his mentor.

This was one of the latter.  Morris threw just four innings, allowing six runs on five hits and four walks.  Clement hadn’t allowed anything on the scoreboard when Morris departed, though the Cardinals ran him out in the sixth when they combined for four runs off of him, Jeff Fassero and Kyle Farnsworth.

Farnsworth finally put an end to the damage and the Cub bats got back to work.  An RBI single by Todd Hundley and a sacrifice fly by Farnsworth off of Steve Kline pushed the Cub lead out to 8-4 in the seventh and a Bill Mueller home run to lead off the eighth versus Dave Veres seemed to put the game out of reach.

The teams went to the ninth with that 9-4 score hanging over them.  Little did they know they would again be thankful that baseball has no clock.

Tom Gordon replaced Farnsworth to start the ninth and promptly gave up a single to Fernando Vina.  Miguel Cairo pinch-hit for Veres and stroked an RBI double, making it 9-5.  Jim Edmonds followed with a single, driving in Cairo.  The crowd started to come alive.

Don Baylor went to his bullpen and brought in Alfonso Alfonseca.  Alfonseca had 13 saves at that point in the season in 17 opportunities.  So while he was effective, he wasn’t exactly someone that struck fear into the heart of the opposing bench.

Someone that did strike fear into people was Albert Pujols, who was the first batter Alfonseca faced.  Alfonseca ran the count full, then lost him.  Runners on first and second, still nobody out.  Or there wasn’t, until Alfonseca struck out J.D. Drew looking.

Next up was Tino Martinez, in his first year of trying to replace Mark McGwire.  Martinez didn’t have a lot of highlights in his tenure with the Cards, but his RBI single here was one of them.  He drove in Edmonds and pushed Pujols to third.  9-7, runners on the corners, one out.

By this time the place is in a frenzy, looking for Edgar Renteria to keep the excitement going.  Alfonseca missed with the first pitch.  Renteria turned around his second pitch for a home run, completing a six-run ninth inning rally and giving the Cards a 10-9 win.

May 17, 2003: This is the anomaly on this list.  It’s not a remarkable game that has lingered in the minds of most fans.  It’s not even a Cards win.  It makes this list for two reasons–one, it was a good game and two, it’s the only Cards/Cubs game I’ve ever attended.

Going into the game, I knew that it was going to be a difficult game for the Cards to win.  After all, they were facing Mark Prior.  Not the broken-down Mark Prior at the end of his career, but the height of his powers Mark Prior that made people wonder how soon he would lead the Chicago squad to break the curse.  It’s hard to remember that good Mark Prior now, but he was remarkable.

He didn’t disappoint, either.  He threw seven scoreless innings and never gave the Cards many chances to break through.  He scattered five hits and struck out six, fulfilling his part of the bargain.

What was unexpected was that Brett Tomko matched him for the most part.  It wasn’t until the seventh that the Cubs were able to crack his code, as he worked out of a two-on, one-out jam in the third and a bases-loaded situation with two outs in the fifth.  Notably, in both of those Prior started them with base hits.

The Cubs finally broke through in the seventh.  Prior, with his third hit of the day, laced a double to right center.  Mark Grudzielanek hit a fly ball deep enough for Prior to advance to third.  After Alex Gonzalez lined out to Scott Rolen and Troy O’Leary walked, Moises Alou hit a ground-rule double that put the Chicago team up 1-0.

It stayed that way until the bottom of the eighth.  Prior was still in the game and got Drew to line out to center field.  That brought up Pujols, in a matchup of the best hitter in the game versus possibly the best pitcher.

Prior had been successful most of the game with Pujols, striking him out in the first and getting him to pop foul in the sixth.  Pujols had led off the fourth with a single in what was Prior’s closest call yet, but was picked off of third when Renteria struck out.

Now, Pujols settled in, perhaps the last real chance the Cards had of starting a rally.  On a 1-1 count, Pujols stroked a ball down the line, tying the game and forcing the Cubs to go to their bullpen.  Things were looking up for the Cardinal faithful.

Alas, it was not to be.  The Cubs immediately took back the lead in the ninth as Steve Kline served up a leadoff home run to Mark Bellhorn.  The Cardinals had a chance in the bottom of the inning, after Renteria doubled and went to third on a groundout, but Eduardo Perez flew out to end the game.

All in all, it was a great game to be at, save the final score.  I still remember a diving play by Corey Patterson early on in the game, setting the tone for what was a great pitchers duel.

July 20, 2004:  It’s tough to pick just one game where Albert Pujols beat up on the baby bears.  There’s a three-home-run game in May of 2010.  There were back-to-back walk-off homers in June of 2011.  Before all of that, though, there was what could be termed The Pujols Game.

Matt Morris again makes an appearance on this list and, again, it’s not in a good way.  (Morris really was a good pitcher for the Cardinals, honest!)  I’m not sure you need to know much more than his final line:

1.2 IP, 6 H, 7 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 3 K, 2 HR

It was an overcast day at Wrigley Field and the wind was blowing out, but not that severely.  The Cards actually jumped out to an early lead when Pujols doubled in Tony Womack in the first, but that looked like false hope after Morris’s second inning, which started off with a walk to Moises Alou and a home run to Derrick Lee.  Two batters later, Michael Barrett hit a two-run shot.

If you ever thought home runs were rally killers, this game proved you wrong.  After those homers, the Cubs kept going.  A two-run double by Corey Patterson.  An RBI single by Alou, who came back around to hit again.  Finally Cal Eldred game in and retired the final batter, putting an end to the misery.

Pujols homered to lead off the third, but the Cubs got that one right back in the bottom of the inning off of Ramirez’s bat.  So, 8-2 after three, this one is in the books, right?  Probably would have been if this wasn’t 2004, when Pujols was at the height of his powers.

The game settled down until the sixth, when the uprising really kicked off.  Pujols started the inning with a single, and Scott Rolen and Jim Edmonds did the same, with Edmonds bringing Pujols around.  Glendon Rusch, who had started the game, was lifted for Francis Beltran, who then walked Reggie Sanders to load the bases and Mike Matheny to force in a run.  With the bases still loaded, local favorite So Taguchi moved everyone along with an single through the infield.  Beltran was done and Kent Mercker came in to get three outs, though one of them was a sacrifice fly by Ray Lankford.  After six innings, the Cubs still led, but two runs wasn’t nearly as comfortable as six.

Kyle Farnsworth started the seventh and Pujols promptly greeted him on his first pitch with his second long ball of the day.  Farnsworth got the next three outs (including two strikeouts) to preserve the lead, which was now down to one.

The Cardinal bullpen continued to be outstanding.  When Kiko Calero retired the side in order in the bottom of the seventh, it made eight straight batters set down by the bullpen, a number that would grow to twelve before it was snapped in the ninth.  More on that in a bit.

Tony La Russa, realizing that this could be something special, pulled out the stops and pinch-hit for Matheny in the top of the eighth with Marlon Anderson, trying to get something going.  Anderson struck out, but next up was Taguchi, who hit one of the three home runs he would hit all year to tie it up.  (That might have been Taguchi’s most memorable career home run had it not been for his home run off of Billy Wagner in Game 2 of the 2006 NLCS.)

Farnsworth composed himself (as much as he was able) and got pinch-hitting John Mabry to fly out.  Tony Womack then singled, but was caught trying to steal during Edgar Renteria’s at bat.  When the Cubs did nothing in the bottom of the frame, this game went to the ninth all tied up.

Renteria got back in the box, this time facing LaTroy Hawkins.  He wasted no time there, stroking the first pitch he saw through the shortstop hole.  That brought up the man of the day.

Pujols was 4-4 with a double and two home runs.  He had driven in three of the Cardinals’ eight runs and scored another.  There had to be a limit to the damage one man could do in nine innings, didn’t there?

If there was, Pujols hadn’t reached it yet.  He crushed a 1-0 pitch over the wall to give the Cards their first lead since his RBI double back in the first.  Reggie Sanders hit one out later in the inning to give St. Louis a three-run lead.  They needed every bit of that as Jason Isringhausen did what Jason Isringhausen was prone to do: walk the tightrope in the ninth.  Izzy loaded the bases with two outs before Ramirez’s drive to center came up just short and the Cardinals escaped with a comeback for the ages.

August 27, 2006: While this game also ended in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the ninth (at Busch on ESPN’s Sunday Night Baseball), the fact that it had to end this way was due to a Cubs comeback instead of the typical Cards-come-back-from-way-down story that we’ve seen in most of these recaps.

That’s not to say the Cubs didn’t start off strong.  Jeff Weaver was on the mound for the Cardinals, and while Redbird fans remember Weaver fondly for what he did in September and October, the fact is that it took him quite a while to find his feet.  Going into this game, he had a 5.74 ERA for the club in eight games and opponents had a .890 OPS against him.  So when the Cubs struck for two in the top of the first off of two singles, a walk, a wild pitch and a groundout, it looked like more of the same.

However, the Cubs weren’t exactly running out Greg Maddux in this one.  Les Walrond had been in the Cards organization before being waived back in 2003.  He got only two starts with the Cubs in ‘06, the only two starts he ever made in the major leagues.  

So the fact that he immediately gave the two runs back in the bottom of the first wasn’t surprising, but it had less to do with him than the porous Cub defense.  Preston Wilson opened the inning with a single, but didn’t move until he stole second with two outs.  Scott Rolen then singled him home, but Jacque Jones misplayed the ball so badly that Rolen was able to complete the circuit of bases and tie the game up.

Weaver allowed a run in the second to put the Cubs up 3-2 and it stayed that way until the bottom of the third, when Walrond got the first two outs (sandwiched around an Albert Pujols single) and then the bottom fell out.  Juan Encarnacion singled and Ronnie Belliard walked, bringing up the bottom third of the lineup with the bases loaded.  If Walrond had wanted an easier way to get out of things, he couldn’t have scripted it.  Instead, he allowed an RBI single to Aaron Miles then, after intentionally walking Gary Bennett after a run-scoring passed ball by Michael Barrett, a two-run single by Weaver.  That was it for Walrond and the Cards had a comfortable four-run lead.

Weaver, though, struggled to hold it.  He gave up a home run to Jones in the fifth, making it 6-4, then the Cubs tied it up in the seventh with a single by Juan Pierre that knocked Weaver from the game and brought in rookie reliever Adam Wainwright, who had yet to ascend to the closer role.  Waino allowed Pierre to steal second before walking Freddy Bynum.  Both runners then advanced on a wild pitch before Aramis Ramirez grounded out, making the second out of the inning but bringing in a run while doing it.  Wainwright was pulled and Tyler Johnson came in to face the left-handed Jones, but allowed an RBI single to him that tied up the game.

Neither team had many opportunities the rest of the game until the Cards batted in the bottom of the ninth.  Bob Howry came in to try to send the game to extra innings, but he had to face the heart of the order.  Pujols didn’t make it any easier on him when he singled to right field to begin the action.  Rolen grounded out, but it moved Pujols 90 feet closer to home.  Encarnacion singled and Belliard walked, loading the bases.  Miles tried to end it, but his grounder to shortstop was sharp enough that Ronny Cedano went home, forcing Pujols there.

Two outs, bases loaded and Bennett up.  Regardless of what he’d done earlier in the game, this didn’t seem to be a situation in the Cardinals’ favor.  Extra innings seemed almost assured.  However, on Howry’s second pitch, Bennett got one up in the air and snuck it over the wall for a game-ending and immensely improbable grand slam.

September 24, 2011:  If you’ll bear with me a moment (and, if you are still reading, I’ve taxed you quite a bit), this one needs a little setup.

A month prior, the Cardinals had hosted their first Social Media Night.  At the time, it appeared that the season was over and the Cards were just playing out the string.  As part of the festivities, there was a panel of three players who answered questions posed to them–David Freese, Jon Jay and Daniel Descalso.  One of the questions was something to the effect of “who has the most underrated pitch in the big leagues”.  Each answered, but Descalso’s answer stuck with me.

“Carlos Marmol’s slider, because you never know where it’s going to go.”

I turned to a fellow blogger who was beside me and snidely whispered, “Marmol doesn’t know where it’s going either!”

Fast forward to our game.  The Cards have risen from the ashes and made the wild-card race a real competition.  The Braves are scuffling and, even though the odds are still firmly against St. Louis, the Redbirds have the momentum.

The Cubs had won the matchup the night before, putting St. Louis three games behind the Braves with seven games to play.  The Cardinals could not afford any other losses, it didn’t appear.  The wire was as thin as it could be.

So when the Cubs came out and scored a run in the first inning off of Kyle Lohse, it wasn’t exactly the most auspicious way to start the game.  Lohse gave up one-out singles to Darwin Barney and Brian LaHair before striking out Carlos Pena.  However, on a 1-0 pitch Alfonso Soriano got a base hit to left and the Cubs were up 1-0.

That’s where it stayed inning after inning.  The Cards didn’t get a hit until the third, when Lohse broke up any thoughts of a no-hitter, but he never moved off first.  And while the Cubs would occasionally get a runner on, Lohse wasn’t allowing any movement of his own.

Zero after zero went up.  The Redbirds looked to break through in the sixth when a one-out walk to Albert Pujols and a single by Lance Berkman put runners at the corners, but Pujols went on contact when Matt Holliday grounded to third and was caught in a rundown.  Freese followed with a flyout and Rodrigo Lopez had a shutout through six.

Neither team put another runner on until the ninth inning.  Down by one, mustering just four hits, the Cardinals’ season hung in the balance.  Carlos Marmol was coming in to try for his 35th save in 44 tries.  Which Marmol would it be, the dominant one or the shaky one?

It took a bit to determine that.  Berkman flew out to left, meaning there were just two more outs to work with, but Holliday followed with a single.  Tyler Greene pinch-ran and, in one of his few highlight moments in St. Louis, stole second base, going to third when the throw got past the second baseman.  All of the sudden there was life in the Cardinal dugout.

That flame flickered as Freese struck out, meaning Marmol was just one out away from putting away the hated rivals.  Yadier Molina was patient in his at-bat, though, and drew a full count walk before leaving for Adron Chambers, a much swifter runner.  Skip Schumaker also walked, but in just five pitches.  The bases were loaded with two outs for former Cub Ryan Theriot, who tied the game up by laying off some very borderline pitches to get the count to full before drawing the walk.  1-1.

The stadium is going bonkers as the Cards look to again snatch victory from the jaws of defeat.  Rafael Furcal came up and the fans knew that, even if he couldn’t it done, at least there were extra innings with the heart of the lineup coming up.  Furcal took strike one, then waited.

Marmol’s slider is devastating–when it’s controlled.  However, the one he unleashed to Furcal had a mind of its own.  It bounced to the right of the plate and skittered off, far enough that there was no way Geovanny Soto could corral it before Chambers raced across the plate, clapping his hands and touching off a wild celebration.  With the Braves also losing that day, the Cards went from out of contention to just two games behind in the span of four batters.  They won the next day and, as everyone knows, completed their run to October.

I hope you’ve enjoyed a look back at some of the exciting recent moments in this rivalry.  (Granted, if you are a regular reader here, perhaps enjoy isn’t quite the right word.)  I didn’t expect this to be such an endeavor when I came up with the idea for a guest post, but I’ve enjoyed seeing some names I’ve not thought about in a long while and some games that were so exciting to watch and discuss.  I expect there are some games that Cub fans might remember more fondly than we Cardinal fans–put them in the comments to even things out!

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