ST. LOUIS (KMOV.com) — Welcome back to Cards Capsules, the series in which we take a look back at memorable Cardinals games from the last 20 years in St. Louis baseball history. Without any baseball to watch in the present due to the spread of coronavirus, what better way to fill the time, eh?
2003: Edmonds hits a dagger over the Green Monster, Cardinals down Red Sox in 13 innings
The 2003 Cardinals season is one of the more forgettable of the last 20 years if for no other reason than it was a year in which St. Louis did not reach the postseason. There have only been seven such seasons for the Cardinals since 2000, and three of them came more recently in the Mike Matheny era in St. Louis. Beginning in 2000, Tony La Russa’s Cardinals reached the playoffs in eight of 12 seasons. 2003 was one of the outliers.
The Cardinals still won 85 games, but that was only good enough for third in the NL Central behind the Astros and the division champion Cubs (2003 was the year of the Steve Bartman Game, for reference). Still, 2003 featured some memorable moments for the Cardinals.
Full disclosure, the game I wanted to cover in today’s edition of Cards Capsules was the Cardinals win over the San Diego Padres back on July 12, 2003. My interest in that game was primarily related to the fact that the game ended upon the first walk-off home run of Albert Pujols’ MLB career. That would have been cool to see!
The problem with a breakdown of that game: there’s not much video of it anywhere online, at least that I could successfully track down. The upside? You can at least go watch the majestic walk-off blast from that win.
But in Cards Capsules, I’m scouring the internet for games that feature as much footage as possible available for present-day consumption. We’re all quasi-quarantined right now; the point of this exercise is to watch some baseball.
So instead of letting Pujols take all the credit (though he deserves a tremendous amount of it for what he did for a decade in St. Louis. Seriously, if you’re looking for something to do, just scroll through his stats from those years. Unbelievable.), we chose a game where Pujols didn’t record a hit. An anomaly, I realize.
That’s not to say Albert didn’t reach base in the Cardinals 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox on June 12, 2003. He was walked twice, including once intentionally in the inning that saw the Cardinals go ahead for good.
The real damage in this 13-inning extravaganza—which had a little bit of everything you could hope to find in a baseball game—came from Jim Edmonds. Of course, had the Cardinals bullpen not endured a serious case of the hiccups on this night at Fenway Park, Edmonds’ contributions really wouldn’t have been necessary. More on that in a bit.
By the time the 2014 inductee into the Cardinals Hall of Fame launched his first homer of the game in the eighth inning, the Cardinals were already in the lead. Garrett Stephenson twirled a gem, allowing just three hits across seven scoreless innings. That’s a tall feat against the potent Boston lineup—the Red Sox won 95 games in 2003, and of course swept the Cardinals in the World Series with many of the same players the next year—so it’s understandable that Stephenson walked six batters in his seven frames.
But he did his job; he kept the Sox off the scoreboard and departed the game with a 2-0 lead. The Cardinals had scored their runs on a Pujols groundout in the third—even when he’s not getting hits, he’s contributing—and a passed ball in the fourth. The Boston starter was knuckleballer Tim Wakefield, another reason to watch this game. He was certainly a tough pitcher to square up in his prime and this game was no different. Wakefield pitched six innings, allowing two runs (one earned) for a quality start.
The Edmonds blast in the eighth extended the Cardinals' lead to 3-0; it's a good thing, too, because three is the number of runs Cal Eldred would allow in the ninth in order to send this game to extra innings. Unfortunately, that wouldn't be the last time on the night that the St. Louis 'pen would cough up a lead.
He didn't get the start, but J.D. Drew contributed in a major way with a clutch pinch-hit appearance in the 10th. After an Edgar Renteria single, Drew launched a home run off the bench to give the Cardinals a 5-3 lead. It looked for a moment like the Cardinals had a memorable win in their pocket.
In came the bullpen to give it right back.
Jeff Fassero surrendered RBI hits to David Ortiz and Nomar Garciaparra, allowing Boston to tie the game once again. It took a few more innings before the Cardinals offense would strike back, but Edmonds made it happen with an opposite field drive in the 13th, his second homer of the game.
As though things weren't intense enough by then, Esteban Yan nearly let Boston come back and walk it off in the bottom of the 13th. It's worth your time to click the link to watch a condensed version of this game just for the replay of Tony La Russa's reaction after the final out was secured. Because, well, Kerry Robinson almost dropped it near the right field line. TLR probably still has nightmares about that one.
Heck, if that ball had dropped, they might still be playing.
A fun note, you can skip to 1:08:30 in the video to see a young Andy Fletcher, still an active MLB umpire, inadvertently show up the crew chief and home plate umpire Joe Brinkman. On a fourth-inning check swing at the plate, Cardinals catcher Mike Matheny immediately gestures to Fletcher down the third base line to ask whether batter Jeremy Giambi went around on his swing. Fletcher extends his arm to indicate no swing, but as that's happening, Brinkman punches out Giambi at the plate, indicating the opposite. That made for a comedic clip of video as the Cardinals broadcast broke it all down.
Another fun note: This game features an incredible line by commentator Al Hrabosky. Start the video at around 35:20, or even a bit earlier if you’d like the full context. In the bottom of the second inning, Cardinals broadcaster Dan McLaughlin mentions that Yankees manager Joe Torre had chastised his team the previous night after the Bronx Bombers fell victim to a combined no-hitter against the Astros. Torre had called it “one of the worst games I’ve ever been involved in.”
Without missing a beat, Hrabosky replied, “Well you know, one time in a game, Joe hit into four double plays. I wonder if he remembered that performance by himself.”
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