Pitching, Then and Now
The underdog St. Louis Cardinals beat the Detroit Tigers 7-2 in the first Game 1 in World Series history to feature two rookie starters. Cardinal pitcher Anthony Reyes, who was 5-8 in the regular season, became the starter with the fewest regular season victories to win a World Series game. The previous pitcher to hold that distinction was Howard Emke of the Philadelphia Athletics, who was 7-2 in 1929, when he won a Series game against the Chicago Cubs.
Reyes gave up a run on two hits in the first inning, Curtis Granderson getting the RBI with a single, but then the right-hander set down 17 Tigers in a row on the way to his four-hit victory.
The Tigers’ second run came on a homer by Craig Monroe off the first and last pitch Reyes threw in the 9th inning, his 90th in the game. Cardinals manager Tony La Russa immediately replaced Reyes with Braden Looper, who got the last three outs, though not before Scott Rolen’s throwing error allowed Carlos Guillen to reach first.
Rolen’s error was the fifth of the game. Cardinals’ right fielder Juan Encarnacion committed an error in the first inning. Neither Cardinal error resulted in Tiger runs.
Tiger starter Justin Verlander gave up a solo homer in the second inning to Scott Rolen. Then, in the third inning, with two out and the score 2-1 Cardinals, courtesy of a Chris Duncan RBI double driving in Yadier Molina, the Tigers elected to have their fireballing right-hander pitch to Albert Pujols, albeit carefully. It wasn’t carefully enough as the man many consider to be the best hitter in baseball today put a 1-0 Verlander pitch into the left field stands. Cardinals 4 – Tigers 1.
Three Tiger errors in the 6th inning opened the door for the Redbirds to add three runs. Tigers’ fireballer Justin Verlander walked Albert Pujols, then threw the ball away on a pick-off attempt, sending Pujols to third. Edmonds then singled to drive in Pujols, Scott Rolen hit a ground rule double, sending Edmonds to third, and Tigers’ manager Jim Leyland decided he had seen enough. Verlander gave way to reliever Jason Grilli. But the Cardinals scored two more runs when Brandon Inge committed two errors, interference and throwing, in handling Juan Encarnacion’s grounder to third.
Cardinals’ post season pinch hitter extraordinare So Taguchi got the start in left field. But he went only 1-4, a single, with no RBI and no runs.
The victory by the Cardinals was the first World Series win for the National League since 2003; the Cards were swept by the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and the Chicago White Sox took four straight from the Houston Astros in 2005.
The Tigers’ Kenny Rogers, who has yet to allow a run in 2006 post-season play, looks to even the Series against the Cardinals’, whose Game 2 starter will be Jeff Weaver.
The current Cardinals-Tigers series has people looking back the 1968 Cardinals-Tigers meeting in the Fall Classic. A comparison of these two Series shows how pitching has changed.
Cardinals ace Bob Gibson, who was 22-9 in 1968 had a 1.12 ERA, threw 13 shutouts and pitched 304 innings! The Tigers’ Game 1 starter, Denny McMcLain, was 31-6 in 40 starts in 1968. No pitcher has won 30 games since. This year, in fact, no MLB pitcher won 20 games. Pitching 200 innings is uncommon. And how many starters today get decisions in 92.5% of their starts, as McLain did in ’68?
The Tigers won that series on the strength of Mickey Lolich’s three victories. Lolich pitched Game 7 on just two days’ rest. Detroit manager Mayo Smith originally wanted only 5 innings from Lolich. But then, after each inning, Smith asked Lolich if he could go one more. Lolich kept saying yes, and finished the game.
In the 9th inning of this year’s Game One, Anthony Reyes, leading 7-1, gave up a solo homer on his 90th pitch. He was immediately pulled for Braden Looper. We can’t imagine Lolich, or Gibson, or McLain, or Cardinals No. 2, Nellie Briles, ever coming out after only 90 pitches because they gave up a solo homer with a big lead. Pitchers back then were not as physically or psychologically fragile as they seem to be today.