Cardinals Clubhouse - V

3 Nights in August - Game One
Based on the 2005 book of the same name by Buzz Bissinger in conjunction with Tony La Russa.

Dusty Baker

Tony La Russa

Mark Prior

Garrett Stephenson

Kenny Lofton

Albert Pujols

Ramon Martinez

Sterling Hitchcock

Jim Edmonds

The Cardinals prepare to host the Chicago Cubs in a crucial three game series August 26-27-28, 2003.

  • The top half of the NL Central Division is separated by only a half game.
Team W L % GB
St. Louis 68 62 .523 ---
Houston 68 62 .523 ---
Chicago 67 62 .519 0.5
  • Dusty Baker starts the series with rookie sensation Mark Prior, who has com­piled a 12-5 record in his first full ML season after being drafted two years earlier out of Southern Cal. In his last four games, Prior has given up just two runs in 31 innings.
    With "thick redwood legs," Pryor throws a nasty fastball that has what hitters call "late life" - that extra pop the last few feet. Cardinals hitting coach urges his troops to lay off the high fastball. La Russa wants his bat­ters to work deep into the count to run up Prior's pitch count. The skipper explains, It's the end of August. I don't think Baker is going to let Prior throw a bunch of pitches like he would at the end of September. Make him work for every out he gets.
  • Tony La Russa counters with another righty, 6'4" Garrett Stephenson, who is only 7-12 although his other numbers indicate better effectiveness: only 148 hits in 159.1 innings, an ERA of 4.41, better than the 4.49 Garrett compiled in his breakout season in 2000 when he went 16-9 for the Redbirds.
    Pitching coach Dave Duncan, La Russa's righthand man since Tony's first year as manager of the White Sox in 1983, meets with Stephenson before the game to go over the hitters. A pioneer in charting every pitch his hurl­ers throw, Duncan has spent several hours watching a video of the Cubs' hitters in the nine games the two teams played earlier in the season. Since almost all the Chicago batters are aggressive, Stephenson must not throw the ball right down the middle to get ahead because they'll jump on his high 80s fastball. Instead, Dave instructs him to make them "inside con­scious." But will he listen to his coach's advice?
    Duncan and La Russa have long been frustrated with Stephenson, who gets careless with his location, especially with his fastball. They demoted the tall righthander to the bullpen after a July outing in which he gave up a homer and a double to Dodger P Hideo Nomo. When Garrett responded negatively, La Russa had a private meeting with him. He complimented the pitcher's fearlessness - his belief that he can get any hitter out and his re­fusal to concede the inside corner to the batter. But he chided him for his lack of concentration and his tendency to blame everyone around him for his problems.
    Since that meeting, Stephenson beat Atlanta 3-1 and Pittsburgh 4-3. But his last start was a disaster as the Bucs pounded him for seven hits and five runs in four innings.
    Which Garrett Stephenson would show up tonight?
    Duncan ends the meeting with this message. If you concentrate and really just get locked in out there, you'll pitch good against these guys. If you get careless - that's what they are - they're mistake hitters. And we need a game, so get your game face on and be ready to stick it in their ass. He also reminds Stephenson that every pitcher makes mistakes. But the best ones don't fall apart after they err.
  • 1st inning
    The Cardinals want to keep leadoff man Kenny Lofton off base with big bangers Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou batting 3rd and 4th respectively.
    Lofton came to Chicago in mid-July from the Cleveland Indians. While not as fast as in his heyday in 1996 when he led the AL with 75 steals, Kenny has already swiped nine bags for the Cubs.
    Stephenson does his part, getting a grounder to SS, but Miguel Cairo, a utility man with little experience at SS playing in place of Edgar Renteria, who is out with back spasms, pulls 1B Tino Martinez off the bag with his throw.
    But Stephenson doesn't let the miscue bother him. Throwing nothing but fast­balls to lessen the chance of Lofton stealing, he sets down 2B Ramon Martinez, Sosa (on a 3-0 pitch), and Alou.
    The Cardinal leadoff man, Kerry Robinson, also owes his spot in the lineup to an injury. RF J. D. Drew is on the disabled list yet again.
    After Robinson pops out, 2B Bo Hart, whom Cardinal fans love for his enthusi­asm and hustle, hits a nasty 0-2 curve ball through the box into CF.
    Stepping to the plate is the Redbirds' undisputed top hitter, LF Albert Pujols.
    After putting together a 30-game hitting streak earlier in the season, Al­bert's hitting a mere .362 with 34 HR and 108 RBI. His duels with Prior are already legendary. But Pujols is the victor thus far with a .556 average and two HRs against the stocky righthander.
    The Cub hurler gets two quick strikes. But Albert cracks the next delivery on a line into RF. The crowd rises to its feet, and La Russa jumps onto the dugout steps. But the hit came too far off the end of the bat and dies in Sosa's glove.
    With the count 1-2 on CF Jim Edmonds, Hart steals second as C Paul Bako eats the curve ball in the dirt. But Edmonds, expecting a fast ball, swings weakly at a curve and bounces to the mound.

  • 2nd inning
    Stephenson mows down the Cubs in order, and Prior does the same in his half.

  • 3rd inning
    Facing the 8th- and 9th-place hitters before Lofton comes up, Stephenson has a shot at an easy inning. But baseball is full of surprises.
    C Paul Bako, hitting just .213 and 0-4 against Stephenson, smacks the hurler's 30th straight fastball down the RF line for a single.
    Prior, hitting 18 points better than Bako, pops to 2B.
    Stephenson falls behind Lofton 3-0, then rallies to a full count. La Russa and Duncan preach against throwing a fastball on 3-2. Instead of giving a sign to C Chris Widger, La Russa decides to trust that his P and C have learned this les­son. But here comes another fast ball, and a high one at that. Lofton lines a double into the LF corner, Bako scoring all the way from 1B.
    Martinez hits another line drive off a fastball, this one into CF to send Lofton home.
    Stephenson finally throws something other than a fastball, shocking La Russa with a change up to Sosa. But after getting ahead 0-2, Garrett loses Sammy.
    Alou has hurt the Cards with men on base in the past, but this time he flies to CF.
    Stephenson has a chance to get out of the inning without further damage, but the obstacle in his path is 1B Randall Simon, who feasted on the hurler in his career. A wild swinger, Simon likes high fast balls. The first pitch is a low curve. The batter swings and misses badly. A foul makes it 0-2. One more strike to get out of the inning with only two runs. Simon takes two "chase" pitches, fastballs outside and inside, to even the count. When the picher shakes off the next sign, La Russa knows what that means. Garrett wants to throw a fast ball. Widger sets up inside, but the pitch comes in up and away. Simon swats it down the LF line. Pujols races over to hopefully play the carom but pulls up as the horsehide sails over the fence. Three run homer.
    Visibly upset, Stephenson fires a "first pitch pissed-off fastball" as La Russa calls it, to 3B Aramis Ramirez who rifles it four rows into the LCF bleachers.
    Duncan goes to the mound while the skipper phones the bullpen to get Sterling Hitchcock up. Stephenson has the look of a child being scolded by the teacher on the mound.
    Stephenson fans SS Alex Gonzales.
    Cubs 6 Cardinals 0
    The at-bat that will haunt La Russa the rest of the game is the first one of the inning. Baku, not hitting even two and a quarter, connected on the third straight fastball he saw.
  • Prior cruises through the 8-9-1 Cardinal hitters, all of whom hit flyballs.

  • 4th inning
    Southpaw Sterling Hitchcock takes the mound. Since the Cubs batted around in the 3rd, the 8-9 batters lead off for the second straight inning.
    Baku again gets on, this time on a walk.
    Prior sacrifices the runner to second.
    Lofton again hits to LF, this time on the ground between 3B and SS. Baku holds at third.
    Martinez lines a single to RF to plate run #7. Lofton chugs to third.
    The lefty must now face two powerful righthanded batters, Sosa and Alou.
    But he escapes further damage as Sosa hits directly to 3B Scott Rolen, who holds the runner and gets the force at second.
    Then Alou rolls into a 6-4 forceout.
    Cubs 7 Cardinals 0
    The Cards at least make Prior work.
    With one out, Pujols draws a walk.
    Edmonds grounds a single in the hole between 1B and 2B to send Albert to second.
    But Rolen fans, and Tino Martinez lines to CF.
    The scoreboard brings more bad news. Houston put up 6 in the 5th to lead the Dodgers 10-3 in Houston.

Both teams go down in order in the 5th and top of the 6th.

  • The crowd awakes from its slumber with two out in the bottom of the 6th when Pujols walks up for another war with Prior.
  • It doesn't last long. With a seven-run lead, Mark rares back and fogs one down the middle. Albert flicks his wrists and connects. He doesn't even bother to watch as he flicks the bat away and starts his trot. The ball lands on the grassy knoll 414' away in CF.
    Cubs 7 Cards 1

Hitchcock, looking to replace Stephenson in the starting rotation, mows down the Cubs in the 7th and 8th.

  • Jeff Fassero tosses a scoreless 9th. during which the Cubs pinch hit for Prior.
  • Kyle Farnsworth takes over for the last three outs.
  • After striking out Hart, Kyle walks Pujols.
  • Edmonds lofts a homer.
  • When Lofton misplays his fly, Rolen ends up on 2B.
  • Baker replaces Farnsworth with lefty Mike Remlinger to face Martinez.
  • Tino singles to LF, Rolen stopping at 3B.
  • Cairo flies to CF to send Scott home with an unearned run.
  • Widger rolls into a forceout to end the game after 2:37.

The victory is only the Cubs 5th in their last 28 games at Busch Stadium.

Post Game Comments

  • Stevenson: When you leave the ball up, more bad things are gonna happen than good things. And it's my fault.
  • A reporter asks La Russa his opinion of Stephenson's pitch selection. Tony, who refuses to show up a player publicly, is irritated by the question. I have no prob­lem with the way he went about it. Did you hear me say that? So why would you ask that question? I have no problem with the way he went about it. He just didn't pitch well. Why would you ask that?
  • Privately, in his office, La Russa checks with the person he calls the Cardinals' "Secret Weapon," video coordinator Chad Blair, who records every game and provides videos of each pitcher and hitter. Tony learns that Stephenson threw only 12 offspeed pitches out of 65, "an unhealthy ratio." The way he gets guys, he's got to be somewhere around even with his curve ball and his changeup. But he kept going fastball, fastball, fastball.
Continued below: Game Two of the series
3 Nights in August - Game Two
Based on the 2005 book of the same name by Buzz Bissinger in conjunction with Tony La Russa.

August 27, 2003, the Cubs took the opening game of the three-game series in St. Louis, 7-4.

  • That puts the Houston Astros in first place in the Central Division.
  • Chicago stands second, a half-game behind.
  • The Cardinals fall a full game behind the Astros.

Tony La Russa watches Edgar Renteria intently during infield practice before Game Two of the series.

  • The flashy SS missed the previous night's game because of a bad back.
  • The Cardinals need his excellent glove and strong bat in the lineup.
  • After taking his turn in the batting cage, Renteria gives his skipper the thumbs up. He'll play tonight.
    A favorite of his teammates, Edgar brings an unmatched enthusiasm to the clubhouse and field. He developed customized handshakes with each player as one of many ways to keep the team loose. But make no mistake about it - he is a serious combatant when the game is on and cemented his place as a clutch hitter with his game-winning single in Game 7 of the 1997 World Series while playing for the Florida Marlins.

RHP Woody Williams will take the mound for the Redbirds against hard-throwing Kerry Wood of the Cubs. The starters offer an interesting contrast in styles.

  • The Toronto Blue Jays selected Williams as a SS in the 28th round of the 1988 amateur draft. Quickly switched to the mound, Woody bounced around the minors with minimal appearances in the majors until '97 when he started 31 games for Toronto. St. Louis acquired his as a free agent before the current season. A plugger, Woody battles hitters by changing speeds and placing the ball where they don't want it. An apt pupil of pitching coach Dave Duncan, he throws a cutter that goes one way and a slider that goes the other. In short, he wants to baffle hitters rather than overpower them.
    Williams survived a medical scare that nearly ended his career. Pitching for the Padres early in the 2000 season, he felt a numbness in the fingers of his pitching hand. A series of tests found an aneurysm near his right armpit. If he had waited to get treatment, he might have needed to have his pitching hand amputated. But successful surgery had him back in the rotation by mid-season.
  • Picked fourth in the 1st round by the Cubs in 1995, Wood was immediately compared to two other Texas fireballing legends, Nolan Ryan and Roger Clemens. After two seasons in the minors, he struck out 20 Astros in 1998 to tie a ML record. So far in '03, he has 208 Ks in 168 innings.
  • LaRussa wonders which Wood will take the mound tonight. "Wild Wood" has no idea where his pitches are going. "Controlled Wood" tries to move the ball around the strike zone without walking batters. "Effectively Wild Wood" throws most of his pitches in the strike zone but mixes in a few where he's not sure they're going, unintentionally keeping batters off balance. Of course, he could be all three in the same game.
  • Kerry has allowed 26 earned runs in 32 innings and lost four of five decisions.

As he does before every start, Williams prepares by watching hours of video.

  • By the time he meets with Duncan before the game to go over the hitters, Woody already has an approach he wants to use against each one.
  • Dave doesn't have to formulate the pitching plan himself as he had to with Garrett Stephenson the night before.
  • The pitch-caller behind the plate, Mike Matheny, also watches video assiduously.

1st inning
Williams survives a one-out double by 2B Ramon Martinez, striking out Sammy Sosa and getting Moises Alou on a pop fly.
After dispatching the first two hitters, Wood surrenders a double to 1B Albert Pujols, then walks CF Jim Edmonds. But Kerry bears down and strikes out 3B Scott Rolen to escape any damange.

The pitching duel La Russa expected continues through five scoreless innings. The biggest threat by either team came in the bottom of the 3rd.

  • With one out, Kerry Robinson, after swinging weakly through a slider, slaps an outside fastball past 3B for a single.
    Robinson was a heralded three-sport athlete in St. Louis who set school records in 1991 for highest batting average (.557) and most goals scored in hockey (29). 2001, his rookie year with the Cardinals, was the first time he had ever sat on the bench. In the lineup because of J. D. Drew's injury, Kerry wants to use the opportunity to prove that he can be another Juan Pierre, a slap hitter with the speed to ring up a number of doubles and triples.
  • That brings 2B Bo Hart to the plate. La Russa must decide whether to go with the hit-and-run.
    The hit-and-run ranks as one of baseball's most controversial plays. Some managers avoid it because the swing with the runner moving may cost a precious out and the payoff, moving the runner to 2nd, may not result in a run. Other managers, like the Cards skipper, use the strategy because they think it's worth giving up an out to move a runner into scoring position. And, if executed properly, you have a first-and-third opportunity.
    Tony believes in the hit-and-run so much that he has his players work on it extensively in spring training and throughout the season during batting practice. He instructs the batter to hit the ball on the ground as hard as he can.
    He also goes to great lengths to avoid detection when he signals the hit-and-run from the dugout. Sometimes, before the inning starts, he tells the second batter that he wants the hit-and-run on the first pitch if the leadoff man reaches first. If that happens, the 1B coach conveys the intention to the runner in seemingly casual conversation at the bag.
    Hart swings through a slider as Robinson stays put. 0-1 is a tough hit-and-run count but Baker may go with a pitchout thinking that La Russa will make the call now just because it isn't expected. Hart takes a fastball to even the count. Nothing was on from either side. La Russa continues to flash signs to 3B coach Jose Oquendo as the Cubs brain trust tries to decipher what might be happening. On the 1-1 pitch, Kerry sets sail. Hart tomahawks the high fast ball through the hole between 1st and 2nd to send Robinson easily to 3rd.
  • Wood pitches around Pujols to load the bases.
  • With a chance to break open the game, Edmonds takes two straight sliders to fall into an 0-2 hole. Kerry finishes off the CF on the next pitch, a chest-hight fastball.
  • Next up is Rolen, who swings and misses a low slider.
    La Russa winces at his 3B waving at a bad pitch but can't complain because he teaches aggressiveness to his hitters in RBI situations.
    It takes four more pitches but records his 6th K in the first nine outs.

The Cubs finally break through in the 6th.

  • Speedy leadoff man Kenny Lofton swings at a 2-2 slider in on his hands - right where the Cards like to pitch him - and bloops the ball down the RF line just fair. When Robinson doesn't help his case for more playing time by failing to get to the ball quickly, Lofton ends up on 2nd.
  • The first pitch to 2B Ramon Martinez sails above Matheny to the backstop, effectively converting the leadoff double into a triple.
    La Russa must answer the question, How much will this run hurt us? in order to decide how to deploy his infield. Considering how well Wood is pitching, he decides to play the infield in.
    Martinez hits a grounder up the middle. Hart dives for it and snares it on the infield grass. He holds the runner at 3rd and throws the batter out at 1st.
  • That brings Sosa to the plate.
    As usual, Sammy is more decked out than any other hitter. He wears two blue batting gloves and a guard to protect his right shin. Most unique of all is the knob on his bat, which looks like a hollowed out baseball. He also has a wad of something in his mouth, gum or tobacco. How can you argue with the approach of a man who has pounded 529 HRs to date?
    Williams throws four straight fast balls to fall behind 3-1. When he comes with a curve, Sammy lines a single to LCF to break the ice. LF Pujols, bothered by a sore right elbow, fields the ball and tosses it to Edmonds, who throws to 2nd to keep the batter at 1st.
    Woody gets out of the inning without further damage.
    Cubs 1 Cards 0

Wood mows down the Cards in the 6th and 7th.

  • Righty Mike DeJean takes over the mound chores in the top of the 8th after La Russa lifts Williams for a pinch-hitter in the bottom of the 7th.
    The Cards manager goes with DeJean over Cal Eldred, who had also been warming up, because he feels DeJean's out pitches - a running fastball on the 3B edge of the plate and a forkball - will be more effective against the upcoming batters than Eldred's cutter to the 1B side.
  • Chicago pounces on the reliever. Martinez lines a single to CF. Then Sosa smacks a fastball that stays in the center of the plate to the LCF wall for a double. Cubs 2 Cards 0
Even with the extra run, Dusty Baker decides to pull Wood after 125 pitches and send out Antonio Alfonseca to preserve the lead in the 8th against the Cards' 3-4-5 batters..
The 6'5" 250 lb. righty from the Dominican Republic is remembered in baseball history for having an extra digit on each hand and each foot.
  • Pujols, who has gone only 1 for 6 against Alfonseca, hits the first pitch on the ground up the middle for the single.
  • It will be Antonio's only pitch of the evening as Baker brings in 37-year-old southpaw Mark Guthrie to face the left-hand-hitting Edmonds.
    The 15-year veteran Guthrie was one of the first of Skip Bertman's major leaguers out of LSU. It is easy to see why Baker brings him in here because Edmonds is only 2 for 11 against him. This late in his career, Mark is living off chase pitches. Although he's not as strong as he once was, he's smarter.
  • Guthrie jumps ahead of Edmonds 1-2, then throws a nasty forkball. Jim holds up but the pitch moves into the strike zone. Or at least that's what everyone thinks except the home plate umpire. After an outside curve runs the count full, Edmonds fights off a curve on his hands and drops it over the infield for a single, Pujols stopping at 2nd.
  • Baker makes another move, calling on righty Kyle Farnsworth to handle Rolen. When Kyle falls behind 3-0, La Russa gives Scott the go ahead but he swings and misses. Then he does the same on the next delivery to run the count full.
    Pacing in the dugout, Tony considers a double steal to foil the double play that might result if Rolen hits the ball on the ground. But he worries that the runner breaking to 3rd might distract Scott and upset his timing or cause him to swing at a bad pitch.
    The runners don't go as Farnsworth's fifth straight fastball sails high to load the bases.
  • The Cards' alternation of right-left continues but Baker leaves Farnsworth in against Tino Martinez.
    Signed for $21M over three years after the 2001 season as a replacement for Mark McGwire, Martinez has been struggling lately, to the point of being booed by Cardinal fans - a rarity. That may be why Baker stays with Farnsworth although Tino is hitting just .225 against left-handed pitching. Martinez felt humiliated when La Russa pinch hit for him against a lefty in the prior series and became snappish in the clubhouse, telling others that his problems at the plate were the result of La Russa's incessant tinckering. But the first sacker has four World Series rings from his days as a Yankee and has shown he can hit in the clutch. His two-run HR in the bottom of the 9th off reliever Byung-Hyun Kim to tie Game 4 of the 2001 World Series will long be remembered in the Big Apple.
  • Tino grounds a seeing-eye single between first and second to send home Pujols and Edmonds and allow Rolen, displaying excellent baserunning skills, to avoid the grounder and move to 3rd. Martinez basks in the applause of the fans as he stands on 1st. Cubs 2 Cards 2
    Martinez afterwards: It's always great to come up in those situations. That's what you play for.
  • With Renteria at the dish, Farnsworth uncorks a fast ball in the dirt that bounces off C Damian Miller's chest and allows Rolen to cross the plate with the go-ahead marker. Cards 3 Cubs 2
  • On the third 3-2 count of the inning, Edgar walks. La Russa sends Miguel Cairo out to run for Martinez.
    Tony makes the move because he has already decided to bunt in this situation.
  • Matheny sacrifices the runners to 2nd and 3rd.
  • Wearing a trench between the dugout and the mound, Cubs, certain a pinch-hitter is coming up in the P's spot, calls on his fourth pitcher of the inning, lefty Mike Remlinger.
  • Knowing that Remlinger is an "inverse" southpaw who gets out righthanded batters better than lefties, La Russa selects Orlando Palmeiro as his pinch hitter.
    Tony also figures that, if he sent up righty Eduardo Perez, Baker would probably walk him intentionally.
  • Remlinger can't find the strike zone and walks Palmeiro to fill the sacks again.
  • Righty Joe Borowski, the Cubs closer, replaces Remlinger.
    Baker has now used five pitcher in the inning, an NL record.
  • La Russa, strangely, replaces the left-handed Robinson with righty Eduardo Perez.
    As usual, there's method in Tony's madness. Perez spends time before each game studying prospective relievers. So he knows what Borowski likes to throw. Joe's main pitch to a right-handed batter is his out-and-over-the-plate slider, which matches Perez's hitting strength.
  • This time Baker wins the battle of chess moves as Eddie hits a DP grounder to Martinez. However, the 2B fumbles the ball and has to throw to 1st as Cairo scores an insurance run. Cards 4 Cubs 2
  • The carnage finally ends when Hart flies out.
    La Russa seems calm on the outside. But his head throbs, and his throat is so dry, he can't swallow. His stomach is queasy to the point where he feels he's going to vomit but knows he can't because of the dryness in his throat. These are the times when he asks himself, Why am I doing this for a living? But if the Redbirds seal the deal in the 9th, he'll think, What a great way to make a living!

La Russa does the predictable and brings in closer Jason Isringhausen, who is back in the groove after not starting his season until June because of an injury.

  • Izzy allows a one-out single to Alex Gonzalez.
    La Russa orders a no-doubles defense, with all three outfielders playing deep to cut off balls in the gaps. 1B Pujols plays deep to provide more range. With no one holding him on, Gonzalez can get a good jump to steal 2nd, but Baker doesn't order it.
  • Pinch-hitter Troy O'Leary chops a grounder over Izzy's head that Renteria fields, steps on the bag, and fires to 1st to complete the DP and end the game.
  • The save is Jason's 15th.
    CARDS 4 CUBS 2

Post Game Comments

  • La Russa: You had to keep playing. That's one thing we have done over and over again this year. That's the trademark of our club; even after a tough loss we play nine innings.
  • Williams, who failed in his sixth attempt at winning his 15th game: I know I did my job. Games like this and series like this is why I play the game.
  • Wood, who allowed only four hits and struck out 11: I got in some jams early, and I walked a couple of guys. I was able to pitch out of them and continue to go at it, but it probably prevented me from going deeper in the game.
  • Sosa: We should have won, no question about it.
  • Guthrie on the bullpen woes: I don't think we were that horrible. The results were horrible.
Next: Game Three of the series

Edgar Renteria

Woody Williams

Dave Duncan

Kerry Wood

Moises Alou

Kerry Robinson

Scott Rolen

Sammy Sosa and his odd Bat Knob

Mike DeJean

Antonio Alfonseca

Mark Guthrie

Kyle Farnsworth

Tino Martinez

Joe Borowski

Jason Isringhausen

3 Nights in August - Game Three

Based on the 2005 book of the same name by Buzz Bissinger in conjunction with Tony La Russa.

Matt Morris

Darryl Kile

Carlos Zambrano

Sammy Sosa

Albert Pujols

Edgar Renteria

Mike Matheny

Aramis Ramirez

Randall Simon

Paul Bako

Kenny Lofton

Kerry Robinson

Steve Kline

Mike DeJean

Mike Remlinger

The Cubs and Cardinals prepared for the rubber game August 28, 2003, of their three-game series in St. Louis.
  • The Redbirds trailed the Astros by one game in the NL Central, with the Cubs 1.5 behind in 3rd place.
  • Tony La Russa and Dave Duncan had set up the Cardinals' pitching rotation several weeks earlier so that Matt Morris would hurl the third game of the Cubs series.
  • But Matt had slipped on the stairs and turned his ankle in Philadelphia ten days earlier. Morris had made his next start but lasted only five innings.
  • With his ankle not fully healed, Tony and Dave weren't sure what they would get from the righthander with an 8-6 record.
    Morris had been affected as much or more than any of the Cardinals hur­ler when his mentor, Darryl Kile, died of a heart attack in a Chicago hotel June 18, 2002. Darryl had talked to Matt not only about pitching but also about the challenges of the grueling baseball life. Morris had probably been the last teammate that saw Darryl alive. Returning from dinner at midnight, Matt had invited Darryl to have a drink in the hotel bar. But Darryl declined. I feel a little tired. I just feel a little tired. When Kile didn't report to Wrigley Field the next day, the head of security at the hotel found him dead in his bed.

Dusty Baker countered with the Carlos Zambrano (12-9).

  • Overshadowed by the Cubs Big Two (Mark Prior and Kerry Wood), the volatile Venezuelan righthander had been at times the Cubs best pitcher that season.
  • Carlos threw both a four-seam and two-seam fastball as well as a splitter and a hard slider.
  • When he was on, his pitches had the coveted "late movement" that caused hit­ters to miss or hit weak groundballs.
  • His ratio of grounballs to fly balls was 3 to 1, best in baseball. La Russa consid­ered Zambrano the best "unknown" pitcher in the game.

The Cubs strike first.

1st inning
Morris retires the first two batters, then faces Sammy Sosa. After taking two sliders for a 1-1 count, Sammy likes the third one, low and inside, but misses with his usual whiplash swing. After a "waste pitch" up and away, Morris tries his fifth straight sinker but leaves it up and out over the plate. La Russa winches from the dugout a moment before Sosa smashes the ball high over Jim Edmonds' head in CF over the 402' sign onto the berm. Sosa tours the bases at a moderate pace, then gives his little kiss to the heavens right after touching the plate. Chicago 1 St. Louis 0
In the bottom half, LF Albert Pujols singles with two outs - his eighth straight plate appearance in which he has reached base. But Edmonds strikes out. Zambrano has thrown 12 pitches, nine of them strikes. At that rate, one run may be enough.

2nd inning
Matt dispatches the Cubs 1-2-3 on just six pitches, a blessing for someone with a history of high pitch counts and now with a fragile ankle to boot.
After two groundouts, the Cards get two line drive singles, the first from SS Edgar Renteria, the second from C Mike Matheny, his first hit of the series. But Morris, not a bad hitting P, sends a slow chopper to the left side. His ankle hurting like hell, Matt busts his butt trying to beat the throw, but 3B Aramis Ramirez barely gets him thanks to a long stretch by 1B Randall Simon.

The Cubs add to their lead in the 3rd.

3rd inning
C Paul Bako doubles down the RF line. Then Zambrano, also a good-hitting P, slaps a hanging curve into LF to put runners at the corners.
La Russa worries that Morris's throbbing ankle is causing him to get the ball up.
Matt gets a break when Kenny Lofton scorches a liner up the middle right at 2B Bo Hart.
Morris jams 2B Ramon Martinez with a sinker, but the 2B gets enough wood on the ball to send a sac fly to Edmonds.
Sosa has a chance to add to the damage but hits a down and away pitch weakly on the ground to SS.
Chicago 2 St. Louis 0

The Cardinals have scored only one run off the Cubs starters in the series and that trend continues as Zambrano mows down the Redbirds in the 3rd and 4th.

5th inning
Morris zips through the bottom of the order 1-2-3.
Then he helps his own cause by leading off the 5th with a double down the RF line. Zambrano must be talking to himself because his opposing moundsman hit a nasty low and outside sinker. Matt limps noticeably as he moves into 2B.
Leadoff man Kerry Robinson needs to advance the runner to 3rd anyway possible. But Zambrano knows that and refuses to give the lefthanded batter a low inside sinker he can pull. Robinson tries to pull a sinker away but pops the ball into short LF, where Moises Alou records the first out.
The Cardinals manager takes it personally when his charges don't play the game the right way. He imagines a veteran fan in the stands saying to himself in disgust, That's bad baseball. Robinson sinks deeper into La Russa's doghouse. Tony tells his 3B coach Jose Oquendo at the end of the inning, If that son of a bitch starts another game this year, I'll kiss your ass.
Hart takes a called 3rd strike.
That gives Zambrano the chance to pitch around Pujols, which he does. Albert has now reached base safely eight times in a row.
But the Cubs P also loses Edmonds to load the bases.
That brings up 3B Scott Rolen. Recall his manager's maxim to be aggressive in RBI situations like this, Scott swings at the first pitch and lifts a high foul toward the seats past 1B. Simon runs over as far as he can, leans way in, and comes up with the ball amid a sea of hands. End of threat.
Will the Cards, who've left eight runners on in five innings, get a better chance than that the rest of the way?
6th inning
Morris continues in the groove, retiring his 10th, 11th, and 12th batters in succession. The last pitch is a sweet 12-to-6 curve that Sosa whiffs on.
The home team finally gets on the board thanks to a crucial error.
With two outs and Renteria on 1st via a single, La Russa has a decision to make with Morris up next. He has Cal Eldred warming in the bullpen and lefty Orlando Palmeiro ready to pinch hit. Hasn't Morris given his skipper more than he could have expected? A quality start (six innings with fewer than three runs allowed) on a bad ankle. But Tony decides to stick with Matt, figuring he has the best chance of shutting down the Cubs in the 7th based on the way he's been pitching. Also, he may need Palmiero, his only pinch-hitter from the port side, in a later inning.
Sometimes you get more than you bargained for from a choice you make. That happens here. With the count 0-2, Baker calls for a pitchout, but Renteria isn't moving. Matt then barely gets a piece of a wicked low outside slider to stay alive. Zambrano's next slider comes in low and inside. In a repeat of his first AB, Morris taps a slow roller to the left side. He slips as a tries to move out of the box, and everyone can see the pain in his awkward run to 1st. Zambrano fields the ball and, with so much time, takes something off the throw to 1st. It bounces in front Simon, who can't handle it. Morris is safe, Renteria moving to 2nd.
That brings up, of all people, Mr. Robinson. He pisses off his manager even more by taking a first pitch strike right down the middle. So much for aggressiveness in the clutch. He won't get a better pitch than that, thinks La Russa. And he doesn't, the next delivery sinking away at the knees. But Kerry gets his bat on the ball and slaps it down the LF line for a double. Renteria easily scores, but Morris is leaking oil as he reaches 3rd.
La Russa and trainer Barry Weinberg head out. Asked how sore it is, Morris replies that pitching is the part of the game that hurts the least. The running hurts much more. So Tony leaves him in.
La Russa second-guesses himself as he trots back to the dugout. Morris might be his best bet on the mound in the 7th, but Matt has to escape this half inning as a baserunner. Suppose there's a wild pitch, and he has to chug home to score the tying run?
Hart grounds out. Cubs 2 Cardinals 1

7th inning
Simon lines a one out single, and Ramirez walks.
Duncan runs out to go over the scouting report on the next batter, Gonzalez. Whatever he tells Morris works as the Cubs SS hits into a 5-4-3 DP.
Everyone knows that the exhausted Morris has delivered his last pitch on this humid evening. Just four hits allowed in seven innings - not a bad night for one with two good ankles.
Pujols' streak finally ends when he bounces to 3rd.
Then Edmonds becomes Zambrano's fifth K victim. Carlos looks just as good as he did in the 1st.
But baseball fortunes can change in an instant. Rolen, his back and neck hurting and badly in need of a day off, hasn't managed a hit in the series. He's been chasing high fastballs and hasn't clouted a homer in more than two weeks. That changes when he deposits a 2-1 delivery into the RF stands.
Cubs 2 Cardinals 2

8th inning
To the great delight of the fans, southpaw Steve Kline toes the slab for the Cardinals.
The epitome of the offbeat lefty, Kline liked to lounge around nude in the clubhouse before games. Fans loved Steve for his lack of pretense. Kids adored him because he came across as a kid playing an adult game. He lets them smell the peak of his sweaty cap, which he insists on wearing for the entire season.
Kline's herky-jerk windup is particularly effective against lefthander batters. However, Steve's personal nemesis, Lofton, smacks a ground rule double that sends Doug Glanville, the pinch hitter for Zambrano who reached on Hart's error, to 3rd. The Cards get a break when the drive bounces off the warning track and into the stands in RCF. Glanville has to stop at 3rd and Lofton gets only two bases instead of a strandup triple.
With Martinez due up, La Russa makes a double switch. P Mike DeJean replaces 1B Tino Martinez, who made the last out in the bottom of the 7th, while So Taguchi moves to LF and bats ninth. Pujols trades his LF glove for a 1B mitt.
Baker decides to stay with Martinez as La Russa signals the infield to play in. With the count 1-1, DeJean throws a fork ball that doesn't fork. Martinez lines it to CF. Edmonds likes to play shallow since he is as good as anyone at going back for balls. That propensity comes in handy as he takes two steps in and grabs the horsehide on the fly. His momentum going forward, he fires home as Glanville tags and races toward the plate. La Russa, Morris, and other Cardinals jump off the bench and the Cubs do the same as Matheny takes the throw two steps up the 3rd base line and crouches to withstand the collision. Sosa, the on-deck batter, is signaling Get down! Get down! Doug crashes into Mike, spinning him around and making his glove fly off. But the ball remains in the backstop's right hand. Out! Double play! Inning over! High fives all around in the dugout when Edmonds arrives.
However, the momentum of this great play doesn't carry over to the bottom of the inning. Lefty Mike Remlinger sets down Renteria, Matheny, and Taguchi on seven pitches.
9th inning
DeJean has no problem with Sosa, Alou, and Simon.
That sets the stage for a potential walkoff win in the bottom of the frame.
With Remlinger returning to the hill, La Russa goes to Miguel Cairo and tells him to get ready to pinch hit. Robinson, due to leadoff the inning, assumes Cairo will bat for him. No, no, no, counters Tony. You go ahead and hit.
Tony hopes that Robinson can use his speed to get on base. He's already thinking about what he will do if Kerry reaches 1st. If Hart (or Cairo) bunts him over, the Cubs will walk Pujols. That would set up a confrontation of lefties: Remlinger vs Edmonds.
The Cubs play in at the corners to blunt the bunt threat and give Robinson the RF line. Kerry shows bunt on the first pitch but takes a strike. He fouls off the next delivery to dig himself into an 0-2 hole immediately.
La Russa, figuring Kerry won't make it out of the batter's box, starts plotting his one-out-no-one-on strategy.
Mike throws a curve that breaks a little low, then a fastball too high to even the count. Another high fastball runs the count full. Bako calls for a changeup but, not wanting to take a chance on walking Robinson, Remlinger shakes off to a fastball.
Robinson makes contact and does what he should have done in the 5th inning with Morris on 2B. The ball sails on a line deep into RF. The Redbirds jump up in the dugout and watch along with the crowd of 37,370 as the drive is caught - not by RF Sosa in his glove but by P Jason Simontacchi in his cap in the St. Louis bullpen in RCF. Game over. Series over. St. Louis 3 Chicago 2

La Russa hugs Robinson when Kerry finally escapes the jubilant welcoming party at home plate. When the hero hurries off to do the postgame interview, Oquendo whispers to Tony, When are you gonna kiss my ass?

K-Rob's first HR of the season gives the Redbirds their 13th victory in 16 games against Chicago in Busch Stadium this season. The Cardinals have not lost a home series to the Cubs since the final series of the 1999 season.

Post Game Comments

  • Robinson: It's my best moment in sports. I grew up a Cardinals fan (in St. Louis), so when you hit a home run to beat the Cubs, it's great. ... I was just trying to get on base and do something. When I hit it, I knew I hit it good, and there was a chance it would go out of the park. But I'm not a power hitter, so i didn't know if it would go out. ... One of my favorite movies is "The Natural," and there's no better ending than when he (Roy Hobbs) hits a home run to win the game. I thought, "If I could do that once, it would be great." ... I think I got mugged when I reached home plate, but it's the best way. All I remember is jumping up and touching home plate.
  • La Russa: Kerry got the first RBI and the last one. That's clutch hitting. I'm sure he (Remlinger) didn't want to walk him because Kerry can do so many things. He can beat you with his legs, his bat, and his glove. On Edmunds' clutch throw in the top of the 8th: I'm not surprised they sent the runner because it took a perfect throw to get him. But I didn't think there's anybody in baseball who throws more accurately and with as much strength as Jim does.
  • Edmonds: Those three guys they threw at us, that's a joke. Carlos Zambrano is maybe not as famous and well known as the other two guys (Wood and Prior), but he has every bit of the stuff those other two guys have, if not more.


The victory, coupled with a Houston loss, propelled the Cardinals into a first-place tie with the Astros.

  • But September was not kind to the Redbirds, who lost ten of their first 14 games that month to fall behind by 5.5 games.
  • They finished in third place, two games behind the Astros and three behind the Cubs.