In Game Two of the 2011 World Series, Jason Motte was called on to protect a teeny tiny one run lead in the ninth. Jaime Garcia had pitched a gem of a game through the first seven innings, and Tony La Russa had worked the matchups brilliantly to keep the Texas Rangers scoreless in the eighth. Then the unthinkable – the Rangers clustered some hits, aggressively stole a base, and a defensive miscue led to a heartbreaking loss for the Cardinals (or a thrilling win for the Rangers).
The most absurd comment after the game, and about Motte in particular, came from new Fox commentator, AJ Pierzynski, who suggested that La Russa’s decision to remove him from the game could alter his effectiveness for the next game, the series and maybe even next year. With all due respect to Mr. Pierzynski, I think he should stick to catching.
Well of course there is a historical perspective to all of this. This time you didn’t have to ask. Let me taken you back to the 1982 World Series and Hall of Famer, Bruce Sutter.
Game Two – Steady
Tony La Russa would have loved this game. So many buttons to push, and nearly every one of them would impact the outcome of the game. Neither starter, Don Sutton for the Brewers nor John Stuper for the Cardinals, were effective. Stuper would be gone in the fifth inning, Sutton would last six. The game would be tied at four runs each and it would be up to the respective bullpens to win or lose.
Whitey Herzog called on three relievers to get the final 15 outs. Lefty Jim Kaat was first in, inheriting Robin Yount in scoring position. Cecil Cooper greeted Kaat with a single, scoring Yount. That would be the Brewers fourth and final run. Kaat retired the next two batters and Herzog again went to his bullpen for Doug Bair.
Bair retired six Brewers in a row before giving up a 2 out double to Cecil Cooper (man, that guy could hit) in the seventh inning. Three of those outs were by way of the strikeout. With the game now tied, Herzog went to his pen for Bruce Sutter.
Sutter pitched the last 2 1/3 innings, allowing just three base runners – an intentional walk in the seventh, a two out single in the eighth and a bunt single to lead off the ninth. Paul Molitor, who bunted his way on, would be erased when he was caught stealing.
Bruce Sutter got the win in relief, and there was great applause.
Game Three – Wobbly but Effective
Game Three should have been the turning point for the Brewers in the series. Joaquin Andujar had been totally dominating the Brewers big bats, until Ted Simmons hit a rocket off his leg. Andujar left the game with a big lead, but his return did not look promising, particular after seeing him later in the series on crutches.
Again, Herzog went with his trio of Kaat, Bair and Sutter. This time the results weren’t quite as impressive. Kaat faced just two batters and gave up a hit. Doug Bair walked the only man he faced, and that loaded the bases. Sutter managed to work out of the jam, but –
Sutter got into trouble of his own making in the eighth inning. After getting two quick outs, a walk to Robin Yount brought Cecil Cooper to the plate. Cooper hits a long home run to cut the Cardinals lead to 5-2. Sutter did manage to close out the game in the ninth, without any additional drama – but, the Brewers were starting to get to him.
There was polite clapping, like when a unknown golfer sinks a putt.
Game Five – I Fell Down and went Boom
Game Five, the last one in Milwaukee, had more ups and downs than a brand new roller coaster. The Brewers got out to a quick lead on Cardinals starter, Bob Forsch. Then the Cardinals would tie the game. The Brewers regained the lead, and later extended it to 3-1.
In the bottom of the seventh, a two out single by George Hendrick (who didn’t talk to the media either) pulled the Cardinals to within a run, at 3-2. That would only be for the moment though as Bob Forsch gave up a solo home run to Robin Yount in the home half of the inning.
Bruce Sutter took over for Forsch in the eighth, and his job was to keep the score at 4-2. The big bats of the Cardinals were due up in the ninth, and if he could hold the score, the Cardinals had a chance. Slim, but still a chance.
Ben Oglivie would reach base with a one out single. After striking out Gorman Thomas, a two out walk to Don Money proved to be the turning point in this game. Charlie Moore and Jim Gantner would follow that with singles and the Brewers would increase their lead to 6-2.
Remember those big bats in the Cardinals ninth ? Well, they did their job. Keith Hernandez and George Hendrick each drove in a run, but the Cardinals lost the game 6-4. Those two runs Sutter allowed turned out to be the difference in the game. Forsch would take the loss, but it was Sutter who really lost the game. More important, the Brewers just took a 3 games to 2 lead in the series.
There was silence. Even the crickets refused to make a sound.
But, and this was important, nobody questioned Sutter’s ability to pitch in the next game, if needed.
Game Seven – Perfect Ending
Thanks to an other worldly performance by John Stuper in Game Six, there would be a Game Seven. And it would be the next time we would see the bearded one in relief.
After going as long as he could, starter Joaquin Andujar turned this decisive game over to Bruce Sutter in the eighth inning. Sutter would only face six batters, the minimum. To say Sutter was good is an understatement of galactic proportion. He was mesmerizing. The only batter to even challenge Sutter was Gorman Thomas with two outs in the bottom of the ninth. He ran the count to 3-2 and fouled off pitch after pitch. Eventually, Sutter won the contest with a fastball up in zone that Gorman couldn’t lay off, but at the same time couldn’t reach. Darrell Porter jumped up, threw off his mask and ran to the pitcher’s mount to hug Sutter.
There was much applause, and some of it continues to this very day. In fact, a little bit of it found it’s way back into Busch Stadium when Bruce Sutter joined Adam Wainwright and Bob Gibson in throwing out the ceremonial first pitch a few days ago.
Don’t worry Mr. Motte. Even the great ones had a bad day. With all due respect to AJ Pierzynski, you will be just fine tomorrow, the next day and for many years to come. . In fact, we expect to be seeing a lot of this in the future.