If this thing is to keep going, we’re going to need a few hooks. One is looking at what the gap means to various players, which we’ve done with Adam Wainwright, Yadier Molina, and Alex Reyes so far. I think what we’ll do also everyone once in a while–hopefully not more than once a week–is just take a game that happened on the same date at some point in Cardinal history, look at what happened, and kinda remember some guys and look at the names.
For our first date, let’s jump back to 1996. Tony La Russa was in his first month with the Cardinals and had brought a lot of former Oakland players with him (though the big one, Mark McGwire, wouldn’t arrive until next year). On that Saturday afternoon, in a renovated Busch Stadium II, the Cards took on the Atlanta Braves. The Braves, of course, were in their heyday and the two teams would meet again that October in an NLCS that looked good until about Game 5.
On this day, though, it was a pitching mismatch on paper as Greg Maddux, a to-be Hall of Famer who was putting up sub-2 ERAs in the midst of the steroid era, went up against Donovan Osborne in one of those rare starts that happened when he wasn’t hurt. Here were the starting lineups for the two squads:
|1||Marquis Grissom CF||Royce Clayton SS|
|2||Mark Lemke 2B||Brian Jordan RF|
|3||Chipper Jones||3B||Ray Lankford CF|
|4||Fred McGriff 1B||Ron Gant LF|
|5||David Justice RF||Gary Gaetti 3B|
|6||Jerome Walton LF||John Mabry 1B|
|7||Javy Lopez C||Tom Pagnozzi C|
|8||Rafael Belliard SS||Luis Alicea 2B|
|9||Maddux P||Osborne P|
The Braves struck first in the top of the second. McGriff singled and Walton doubled with one out. Lopez then singled in both runners before being caught in a rundown. Surprisingly, the lead was shortlived. Maddux got Gant to start the bottom of the second, but then gave up three doubles in a row and the Cards knotted the game up at 2.
It stayed that way until the top of the fourth. Chipper Jones, another Hall-of-Famer, singled but was erased on a double play. With two outs, Osborne gave up a double to Justice and a single to Walton, putting the Braves on top 3-2.
Given that there were many games that Maddux didn’t allow two runs total, it’s probably not a surprise that the Cards couldn’t do anything else with him. Lopez added an insurance run in the top of the seventh when he singled in Walton, giving him three RBI on the day. The game was sealed in the eighth, when Cory Bailey–a name I really don’t remember from Cardinal history even though it appears he had a fairly good season–got the first two batters but then walked Lemke and gave up a single to Jones. Rick Honeycutt, one of those former A’s we mentioned above, relieved Bailey but gave up a three-run blast to McGriff, making the score 7-2. The Cards would put on a couple of runners in the eighth and ninth but nothing came of it.
The win took the Braves to three games over .500 while the loss dropped St. Louis to 12-13. There were only 20,757 in attendance as the swell of folks coming through the turnstiles hadn’t really started yet. Also, I think back then they counted people that actually showed up, not tickets sold, which is a reason the Cards always have close to a sellout these days.
Angel Hernandez was behind the plate in this one, so I’m sure there were some questionable calls, not that Maddux would need them.
It may have been a loss, but at least the Cards played on this day 24 years ago. I think we’d take a loss tonight against the Padres if we could just see them play ball!