Wednesday, October 19, 2011
Freese continues keystone corner tradition
By Mark Simon
When people think of the St. Louis Cardinals, their first thoughts tend to go to Stan Musial and Albert Pujols, and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson.
But the Cardinals have a history of third basemen who have come up huge in their long and storied postseason history. Let’s run through a few of them.
Whitey Kurowski, 1942. Kurowski, a rookie, had five RBIs in the Cardinals' five-game World Series win over the Yankees, none bigger than a two-run home run against future Hall of Famer Red Ruffing in the ninth inning of the clinching Game 5. Kurowski would be the third baseman on three Cardinals World Series-winning teams. Kurowski played at an All-Star level even after players returned from World War II service, but his career was eventually derailed by the end of the decade due to an arm injury.
Ken Boyer, 1964. Boyer hit .222 in the 1964 World Series, but hit a very noteworthy home run. In Game 4, with the Cardinals trailing in the series 2-1, and down 3-0 in the sixth inning, Boyer hit a grand slam to give the Cardinals all the scoring they would need in a 4-3 win. The Cardinals would win the series in seven games, with Boyer homering in the seventh game as well.
Terry Pendleton, 1985. With the Cardinals trailing the Royals 2-1 and the bases loaded with two outs in the top of the ninth inning of Game 2 of the World Series, Pendleton lined a three-run double down the left-field line to give the Cardinals the win and a 2-0 World Series lead. Had the Cardinals won the World Series (they blew a 3-1 series lead to the Royals), Pendleton’s clutch hit might be better remembered.
Miguel Cairo, 2002. Filling in at third base in the 2002 playoffs, Cairo did everything he could possibly do to help the Cardinals advance. He had the game-winning hit in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the NLDS against the Diamondbacks, then in a five-game loss to the Giants in the NLCS, Cairo had hits in his first seven at-bats, and finished the series 9-for-17 with a home run and five RBIs.
Scott Rolen, 2004 and 2006. Rolen was an integral part of two Cardinals teams that played into October. In Game 7 of the 2004 NLCS, Rolen hit the go-ahead home run against Roger Clemens to help the Cardinals into the World Series. Rolen was 0-for-15 in that year’s World Series, but made up for it in 2006, hitting .421 with a home run and four doubles in a five-game win over the Tigers.
Scott Spiezio, 2006. Spiezio would play only one game at third base in a seven-game NLCS against the Mets, but his contribution was vital to the Cardinals' victory in the series. With the Cardinals down two runs in the seventh inning to the Mets in Game 2, Spiezio hit a game-tying two-run triple. The Cardinals would go on to win the game on a ninth-inning homer by So Taguchi and eventually win the series in seven games.
David Freese, 2011. Freese is in the midst of an amazing postseason. In the NLCS he hit .545 with three home runs and nine RBIs. Only one other player has met those benchmarks in a postseason series -- Lou Gehrig for the 1928 Yankees.
A baseball research specialist for ESPN Stats & Information, Mark also contributes to the Mets blog at ESPNNewYork.