A short while ago, I took a look back at Todd Worrell’s first blown save in 1986. The Cardinals had started the season on fire, and looked as if they would repeat the success they had the previous season. After recovering from Worrell’s inability to close out the ninth inning in New York, the Cardinals went on to win the first two games in Montreal, including a thrilling 17 inning marathon.
Then the wheels came off, and nothing went right for Whitey Herzog’s team. They would lose 13 of the next 14 games and fall 8 games out of first place. A five and six game losing streak would follow that and bury the Cardinals before the month of May was over.
Even though the season was now lost doesn’t mean there wasn’t some exciting baseball to be played – oh, there was. And this series was one of the best.
Thanks to two rainouts in early April, the teams decided to make them up as two double headers to be played on the first and last days of a four game series when the Cardinals returned to New York. That’s right, six games in just four days. With the Mets and Cardinals, you knew that something unexpected would happen, and it did. Two of these six games would go into extra innings. For a rivalry this good, 54 innings was just not enough.
August 14 – Game 1
Even though the season has been a disappointment, a good showing in these six games against the Mets would be a victory of sorts – something to remember until next year.
For the first game of this double header, the Mets would send Ron Darling to the mound. The Cardinals would counter with a left-hander, Tim Conroy. If there was any weakness to the Mets batting order, and it was tiny at best, it would be against a left handed pitcher who could neutralize some of their power from the port side. We would have felt a lot more comfortable if it was Rick Horton, rookie phenom Greg Mathews or John Tudor, but they were already scheduled to pitch games later in the series. In fact, the Mets would only face two right handers in this series: Danny Cox and Bob Forsch.
Each team would score a run in the second inning. The Cardinals run came off the bat of Terry Pendleton, who hit a one out solo home run. The Mets run was much more fun to watch. With one out, Ray Knight would single. Tim Teufel would follow that with a double, putting runners at second and third, still with one out. Rafeal Santana would ground out to Ozzie Smith, catching Teufel in a rundown as he tried to advance to third base on the play. Teufel anticipated either the throw home or a throw to first. He was running on contact, and got hung up. Ray Knight did score the tying run, but the Cardinals were able to prevent a big inning from developing.
A bit of wildness from Ron Darling cost the Mets a run when he starts off the fifth inning with a pair of walks. Poor execution would cost the Cardinals a big inning when Tim Conroy failed to sacrifice the runners up a base. His bunt was too hard, and the Mets were able to get the lead runner at third. The Cardinals did salvage a run out of it when Vince Coleman blooped a single over the infield for an RBI.
The Mets would take the lead in the bottom of the seventh inning when a tiring Tim Conroy would give up a 2 run homer to Kevin Mitchell. The next batter would single, and Herzog had seen enough and went to his bullpen for Ray Soff. Soff had made his major league debut a month earlier, and had been a fixture as a setup man out of the bullpen ever since.
Soff got Gary Carter to ground out to third base, ending the Mets threat in the seventh. He would also retire the side in order in the eighth, giving his team one more chance to steal a win.
Down by one run in the ninth inning, against one of the better left handed relievers in the National League, the Cardinals rallied to tie the game. With one out, Tito Landrum hits a bloop over the infield for a single. He moves to into scoring position when Jesse Orosco walks pinch hitter Andy Knicely. Tom Lawless follows that with a sharp line drive single to right field. Even though Landrum had good speed, he was not going to test Darryl Strawberry’s arm with only one out.
Cardinals fans held their breath when when Vince Coleman hits a ground ball to the Rafael Santana, and then collectively exhaled when he failed to make the play, allowing Landrum to score and leaving the bases still loaded.
Davey Johnson goes to his bullpen for Roger McDowell, and the first man he would face is the switch hitting Ozzie Smith. Everybody knew what was coming next. It was only a matter of which pitch the White Rat would call for the squeeze. When it works, it is a thing of beauty. When it doesn’t, the runner coming down the 3rd base line is done. In this case, it went 2-5-1 as McDowell applied the tag, retiring Andy van Slyke, who was running for Knicely.
Ozzie Smith grounds out to end the Cardinals rally, but the game is tied with the soon-to-be Rookie of the Year about to take the mound.
The last time the Cardinals were in this situation was back in April, and things did not go well for Worrell. They wouldn’t go any better tonight.
The first man Worrell would face is Mets shortstop, Rafael Santana. It was Santana’s miscue that allowed the Cardinals tying run to score, so it would be only proper if he did something to help the Mets win. That something was a rocket down the right field line for a double. Wally Backman would try to bunt him over to third, but that would backfire when he hit the ball a little bit too sharply and the Cardinals were able to look Santana back to second base before throwing out Backman. The huge Mets crowd were all standing, and a huge cheer erupted when Mookie Wilson singled to center field. The ball was hit right at Vince Coleman who came up firing, throwing out Santana at the plate. The crowd was momentarily stunned as the momentum shifted in favor of the Cardinals.
That would be short lived when Kevin Mitchell singles in the gap, and Wilson would score the game winning run.
With six games to play over four days, and a decimated pitching staff, this was not the way the Cardinals had hoped to start this emotional series. On the other hand, it is exactly how the Mets had been playing all season long, and a big reason that they were running away in the National League East.
August 14 – Game 2
In the nightcap, Rick Horton of the Cardinals would face Rick Anderson of the Mets. Anderson was a right-hander who had made his major league debut in June, with one spot start. He would be recalled again in late July, working as a long reliever and spot starter. This would be his fourth major league start.
If the Cardinals were reeling from the disappointment of the first game, they left that in the clubhouse when they came up to bat. They jumped all over Rick Anderson in every way imaginable. Vince Coleman would push a bunt all the way through the infield for a lead-off single. John Morris would follow that with a single to left field. Mookie Wilson would throw out Coleman trying to advance to third on the play. If the Mets thought they were getting out of trouble, Tommy Herr cut that off abruptly with a shot down into the right field corner for a triple, giving the Cardinals a 1-0 lead. Andy van Slyke would follow that with a home run to give extend the lead to 3-0. If Rick Horton brought his A game, that might just be enough to earn a split in the double header.
An A game is exactly what Horton brought to New York, and he made quick work of the Mets, confounding their power hitters with that dipping change-up of his.
Anderson would also settle down and start pitching well.
The Cardinals would extend their lead to 4-0 when Andy van Slyke hit a ball in the right field gap that went all the way to the wall. With van Slyke’s speed, he turned that into an easy triple. Terry Pendleton would ground out, scoring van Slyke.
Doug Sisk would take over for Rick Anderson in the seventh inning, and would be greeted rather rudely. Jose Oquendo, the Secret Weapon, would hit a one-out double and score on a single by Steve Lake. One characteristic of a Whitey Herzog team is that they keep putting pressure on the opposition, and extended leads whenever they could.
The Mets would finally get to Horton in their half of the seventh inning. A one out double by Kevin Mitchell would turn into a run when Tim Teufel singled him home, making the score 5-1 in favor of the Cardinals. Horton would finish the inning without any further damage. 5-1 would be the final score as Pat Perry came in and shut down the Mets in the eighth and ninth innings.
The Cardinals had earned a split in the open double header. It could have gone better, but it was certainly something they could build on for the next three days.