2008 Cardinals-Phillies weirdness

Even before the Philadelphia Phillies were crowned the world champions of baseball for 2008, I had been thinking about the number of unusual occurrences during the very few games in which they played the St. Louis Cardinals last season.

Here are some of the milestone events that were marked as the two clubs were on the field together during 2008:

  • June 13: Mark Worrell‘s last Cardinals appearance
  • July 8: Joel Pineiro‘s first win in over two months
  • July 9: Mark Mulder‘s first and last 2008 start
  • August 1: Jason Isringhausen’s last Cardinals save

During Spring Training 2008, the odds the Phillies would win the World Series were 20/1 (the Cardinals were 40/1). Seven months later, the Phils captured their first World Championship since 1980.

Along the way, the St. Louis and Philadelphia clubs faced off in three series totaling nine games, six at Busch and three at Citizens Bank Park. The Phils took the season series five games to four.

In each of the three series, there turned out to be one or more defining event for the 2008 Cardinals.

Worrell goes down and out – Series one, game one – June 13 – Phils 20, Cards 2

The December 4 trade of disgruntled reliever Mark Worrell to San Diego in the Khalil Greene deal means that the 25-year-old pitched in his fourth and final contest wearing the birds on the bat uniform on June 13.

The previous evening, in the closing game of the prior series in Cincinnati on June 12, Worrell had his first bad outing after his initial two scoreless outings as a major leaguer. Still, it seemed trouble was on the horizon as the right hander had allowed two runners per inning pitched.

In the sixth, with two Ron Villone runners on base, Worrell was brought in to get the final out and he did. With one out in the seventh though, Worrell gave up a double and a walk. Randy Flores came in and allowed both his inherited runners to score, charged to Worrell.

Moving on to June 13th game, the first of the nine between the Cards and Phils, starter Todd Wellemeyer had served up three consecutive home runs in the first. By the fourth, Wellemeyer and Villone had the Cardinals down 13-1.

Worrell entered in the sixth with the score 14-1 and gave up three more runs. As part of a 3-for-5 day with two home runs and five runs batted in, Ryan Howard launched a three-run shot. In his defense, Worrell remained in the game to complete a total of two innings on the mound, striking out three.

Some bad blood ensued when reliever Russ Springer hit Howard with a pitch the next time up, in the eighth. The reliever and his skipper, Tony La Russa were ejected from the game. When the Phils dusted Brendan Ryan in the bottom of the frame, acting manager Jose Oquendo was also sent to an early exit.

Following the game, Worrell was sent packing, too – back to Memphis. While not defending his results, I do want to note that Worrell didn’t pitch as badly as the box score indicates. He was actually only the third least-effective pitcher for the Cardinals that evening. In his worst outing of the season, Wellemeyer was charged with eight runs and Villone six. Springer and Ryan Franklin yielded three more between them.

In the final weird occurrence that night, infielder Aaron Miles became the only St. Louis “pitcher” that day to escape unscathed when he tossed a scoreless ninth.

Pineiro’s first win in over two months – Series two, game one – July 8 – Cards 2, Phils 0

Former general manager Walt Jocketty rightfully earned his reputation as the master of the trade. This one didn’t rank highly among them. At the July, 2007 deadline, he picked pitcher Joel Pineiro off Boston’s scrap heap for minor league outfielder Sean Danielson.

After Pineiro finished the 2007 season with his best 11 games in at least the last four years, Walt’s successor and his former right-hand man John Mozeliak awarded Pineiro with a two-year, $13 million contract. Mo, still acting GM at the time, completed his first deal which both then and now looks to be one year too long and a million or two per year too high.

Fast forward to July 8, 2008. Pineiro, making $5.5 million that season, had not won a game in well over two months, since April 29. After yielding just five hits and three walks in 6 1-3 innings, he finally earned the decision.

Again, it wasn’t all the pitcher’s fault as he had gone 0-2 with seven no-decisions in his previous nine starts. Pineiro allowed three runs or fewer five times in that span, but couldn’t get a victory. Needless to say, the Cardinals’ shaky pen had a lot to do with that long, dry spell.

Mulder’s end of the line – Series two, game two – July 9 – Phils 4, Cards 3

The next afternoon ended quickly in what would be Mark Mulder’s final start of an extremely disappointing four-year stretch as a Cardinal. Trying to return from shoulder problems, the lefty had not looked especially good in his rehab outings, but it seemed time to find out if Mulder had anything left.

He didn’t.

The now-31-year-old had not made a major league start in over two years. On this day, two walks preceded by a strikeout ended Mulder’s start, his season and his tenure with St. Louis. Coming in with a supposed new release point, the results were pretty much the same, as the lefty complained he could not get his arm up into the proper slot.

In a bad continuance of one of Jocketty’s worst deals ever, Mulder signed a two-year extension for $13 million (what is it about those numbers?) prior to the 2007 season. In return, the Cardinals received 12 2/3 innings with an ERA well over ten.

Perhaps Jocketty was pressing in resigning Mulder after giving Oakland three players, Dan Haren, Kiko Calero and Daric Barton, for the lefty prior to the 2005 season. But for whatever reason, the Mulder era in St. Louis has to be considered a colossal failure.

After working with a celebrity trainer and a yoga master, Mulder is supposedly ready to go for the 2009 season, according to recent press reports offered by his agent. Mulder is currently unsigned.

Izzy’s last cheers – Series three, game one – August 1 – Cards 6, Phils 3

No one can take away the fact that Jason Isringhausen is the Cardinals’ career save leader. However, his disastrous early 2008 led to his loss of his job, an embarrassing banishment to the minors (rehabbing an injury, of course) and ultimately, his return as a general arm out of the bullpen.

Not receiving save opportunities was one downstream result from Izzy’s problems, as he was only given two chances after his June 17 return. He blew the first, on June 25. In fact since his last previous save, Izzy had blown four, taking three losses.

Upon saving Kyle Lohse’s 13th win in getting the final four outs on August 1st, Izzy still may have seen the handwriting on the wall through his post-game comments. “It’s not over yet. I’ve got to keep going out there and getting the job done or I won’t be in that role. It could be on borrowed time, so I’ve got to go out and give it my all every time,” he told the AP.

That Busch Stadium save not only represented Izzy’s first one in almost three months, it would also prove to be his last. His final 2008 appearance would occur two weeks later. Elbow surgery ensued in September, followed by free agency.

August 1 was notable for another reason. It was the last time the 2008 Cardinals were as close as four games away from the National League Central lead as they eventually fell as far back as 15 ½ games before settling in at 11 ½ games behind the Cubs to end the season.

Earlier speculation that Izzy might be offered a chance later in the off-season to return to St. Louis in 2009 has pretty much been quashed. At this point, it seems more likely that this August 1 save will forever be his last wearing the Cardinals uniform.

It was Izzy’s 12th of the season, 217th as a Cardinal and 293rd as a major leaguer.

By the way, in case you want to mark your calendars, the Cardinals and Phillies will meet only five times in 2009: two games in early May in St. Louis and three in late July in Philly. All things considered, perhaps that is for the better.