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?
Before we jump into today's edition, make sure you're caught up on the other volumes of Cards Capsules!
Previous Cards Capsules
For the first time in the Cards Capsules series, today we dive into a Cardinals postseason game. And while there were other games from the 2004 season worthy of consideration for Volume 5, there was no chance I was passing up the opportunity to talk about this game. Let’s get right to it.
2004: Edmonds walks off NLCS Game 6 in the 12th
Before David Freese made Game 6 a self-explanatory phrase in St. Louis, Jim Edmonds had a memorable October night of his own in a different Game 6. The Cardinals trailed the Astros three games to two in the 2004 National League Championship Series. With a trip to the World Series on the line, it was win or go home for St. Louis.
Except, the Cardinals were already at home for this game. And after an intense battle saw the Cardinals ahead 4-3 after eight innings, the sea of red at Busch Stadium was forced to watch as Houston star Jeff Bagwell scratched a game-tying RBI single off closer Jason Isringhausen to put the Astros on the brink of the World Series in the ninth. The floodgates held, though and imagine this: Game 6 was onto extra innings.
You know how this one ends. How it got there, is pretty interesting, too.
For some reason, the Astros had journeyman right-hander Peter Munro start the game that could have sent them to their first World Series appearance in franchise history. Albert Pujols wasn’t complaining, as he hit a bomb into the left field bullpen in the first inning off Munro. The homer gave the Cardinals a 2-1 lead after Carlos Beltran—whose Astros career consisted of a few months in 2004 and a sign-stealing saga in 2017—helped Houston manufacture a run in the top half of the first.
Munro had, at best, mediocre numbers in 21 regular season games that year for the Astros (4-7, 5.15 ERA) and he wasn’t long for this game—or baseball in general. The last pitch of Peter Munro’s major-league career came in the third inning of this game—an 87-mph sinker, middle-middle. Edgar Renteria whacked it into center field for a two-run single, and Astros manager Phil Garner pulled the righty right then and there. Munro allowed eight hits and four runs in 2.1 innings; he never pitched in the big leagues again and he didn’t pitch in the minors after 2006.
Would things have been different if Garner had chosen to use Roger Clemens on three days rest in Game 6 instead of saving him for Game 7? Who knows whether it would have made a difference in the result of the series; it definitely would have changed the complexion of this game, though.
Cardinals starter Matt Morris gritted through five innings with arguably less than his best stuff on the mound in Game 6. He gave up the run scored by Beltran in the first and then allowed another on two blistered hits by Beltran and Bagwell in the third. Beltran roped one off the wall in right field, but was held to a single as Larry Walker played it perfectly off the wall. It didn’t matter, though, as Bagwell cranked one past Scott Rolen at third and saw it ricochet off the angled wall down the left field line.
Because the ball bounced off the concrete portion at the base of the side wall instead of the padding that covers majority of it, it kicked back all the way into left-center field, allowing the speedy Beltran to score from first. There was nothing Reggie Sanders could do.
Mike Lamb then added a solo shot to the Astros' tally, making the score 4-3 Cardinals in the fourth. The Cardinals nearly got the run back in the bottom half when Albert Pujols ran through a Jose Oquendo stop sign.
On a play similar to the one on which Beltran scored from first base in the third, Pujols tried to do the same in the fourth when Rolen roped a double down the third base line. This ball, though, hit off the padding a little further up the side wall, so it didn't bounce quite as far. Shortstop Jose Vizcaino recognized the carom before fielding and firing the ball to Brad Ausmus at the plate.
The throw tailed up the line, which Pujols was probably counting on. Still, he never had Beltran's speed; it took an athletic play from Ausmus, but Pujols was tagged out at home to end the fourth.
As his last stand in the game, Morris bore down on some 'Killer B's' in the fifth, retiring Beltran, Bagwell and Lance Berkman on just seven pitches before turning things over to the St. Louis bullpen.
From there, things were sailing along for the Cardinals until the ninth. Ray King, Kiko Calero and Jason Isringhausen had thrown three scoreless frames to get there, but Izzy had some trouble closing things down. After allowing a hit and an intentional walk to Beltran, Isringhausen surrendered the game-tying hit to Bagwell.
The Cardinals couldn't score in the bottom of the ninth, but the half inning wasn't without its drama. Astros closer Brad Lidge missed with a 93-mph heater up near the head of Jim Edmonds, prompting Tony La Russa to come out and have an impassioned discussion with the home plate umpire.
This moment was colored by the events of a game earlier in the series: the blow up by Cardinals reliever Julian Tavarez in Game 4. Tavarez allowed a home run to Beltran and threw a 3-2 pitch over the head of Jeff Bagwell, prompting a shouting match between the two. After the inning, Tavarez exploded in the dugout, breaking bones in his non-pitching hand when he assaulted the bullpen phone. MLB fined Tavarez $10,000.
Shortly after TLR's chat with the HPU, Lidge struck out Edmonds. This elimination game for the Cardinals was heading to extra innings.
Perhaps forgotten in the grand scheme of this game, Isringhausen went back out to the mound in the 10th for his third inning of work; he only required five pitches to execute a flawless frame. Though he blew the save in the ninth, Isringhausen's three innings of one-run baseball helped keep the Cardinals alive.
Then, it was Julian Tavarez's turn. How fun!
In his first appearance since the meltdown in Game 4 (the Game 6 broadcast replayed it, find it around the 2:37:00 mark in this video from the MLB Vault YouTube channel), the eccentric right-hander set down six consecutive Astros in the 11th and 12th to set up one of the more memorable highlights in Cardinals history. Unsurprisingly, he was pretty exited about it. Check out his final out of the game just after the 2:57:00 mark of the broadcast.
Lidge had already thrown three innings of relief for Houston. He wouldn't get a fourth. The Astros called upon Dan Miceli, who had only pitched once in the NLCS prior to this game. He allowed home runs to Pujols and Rolen in that game. He also allowed a home run to the Braves' Rafael Furcal in the NLDS earlier that postseason. Dan Miceli, it's fair to say, was not on his game that October.
The Astros went back to him, anyway. The Cardinals weren't complaining.
After hitting the majestic walk-off blast against Miceli in the bottom of the 12th, Jim Edmonds told Fox's Chris Myers, at first, that he didn't even remember what pitch he hit. It was a true breakthrough moment for the Cardinals great.
"It was a fastball up," Edmonds then recalled, catching his breath. "I was just trying to be short and quick and finally get the barrel after about two weeks of struggling. I'm just trying to put the ball in play, man."
He did more than that, sending the NLCS to a decisive Game 7, where the Cardinals captured their first NL pennant since 1987.
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