The Day Whitey Herzog Broke Tommy Lasorda

Side Note:  My latest I-70 post is up, a review of Roger Maris:  Baseball’s Reluctant Hero.  I believe you will enjoy this book.

2010 is the 25th anniversary of the 1985 National League Champion Cardinals, and this week we pass through the dates of that year’s NLCS.  This particular series is burned into my memory, much more so than the World Series that followed it.  For one, I was 15 and had developed into a big Cardinals fan.  Two, I was living in Los Angeles.  Three, I loved the fact this team did things differently from all the other teams in the NL – lots of speed, lots of defense, always struggling as a team to best Roger Maris’ 1961 season total, and they had a junk-balling left hander in John Tudor no one could hit.  Twenty-five years later I can still name most of the roster from memory. 

Anyway, Bob Netherton put up a post yesterday about Game 4 of that NLCS which got me thinking about it all over again.  I remembered the big 9-run inning, and cackling in our living room as it unfolded, although I had forgotten about the key role Tudor’s bunt played in that inning.  But I never considered that to be the key play in the series.  I remembered that happening the next day – October 14 – in Game 5.

I should set the stage a little bit.  It is difficult today to describe how badly St Louis played in Games 1 and 2, and the box score only tells part of the tale.  Dodger Stadium had been a house of horrors for the Cardinals for years.  My Dad and I would go out there to see them play every year; I only saw the Cardinals win once  in 10 years.  In 1985 St Louis had the best record in the National League, and lost 4 of 6 in LA.  The reversal of the series in St Louis was pretty dramatic.  Danny Cox pitched brilliantly to give the team a win, and then the Game 4 outburst drew them even, but that wasn’t enough.  Most felt if the Cardinals went back to LA down 3-2 they were doomed.  Many felt even if they went back up 3-2 it would be difficult.  Everyone agreed the Cardinals had to win Game 5.

Lasorda brought back Fernando Valenzuela, and Herzog went with Bob Forsch.  It was a bit of a gamble.  Forsch had not started against the Dodgers since 1984 and hadn’t beaten them since 1982.  He had been very good down the stretch for the Cardinals, starting 7 games (of which St Louis won 6) with a 3.38 ERA.  For the second time in three games the Cardinals jumped ahead in the first inning, on a 2-run double from Tommy Herr.  Valenzuela would stiffen, allowing only 3 more hits (although walking 6 more men) through the next 8 innings.

Forsch worked three shutout innings allowing only 2 hits, but in the fourth the wheels started coming off.  Ken Landreaux led off with a single, and one hitter later Bill Madlock sent a 1-0 pitch into the seats to tie the game.  After Mike Marshall walked, and Mike Scioscia reached on catcher’s interference, Herzog pulled Forsch and replaced him… with Ken Dayley.

Baseball in 2010 is played differently than it was in 1985.  Today we have much more specialization out of the bullpen; pitchers have defined roles, like 8th inning guy, 7th inning guy, LOOGY, long man, etc.  Herzog used a ‘bullpen by committee’ in 1985.  By today’s standards, Ken Dayley was a LOOGY, and he was a good one.  Herzog usually used him in late inning situations.  Herzog had Ricky Horton, another lefty, in the pen who was the definition of a long man and also made the occasional spot start.  Instead Herzog chose to bring his best lefty into the game in the fourth inning to snuff out this rally.

Lasorda countered with Enos Cabell.  At this point in his career, Cabell was 2 for 5 with a double off Dayley.  On a 1-1 pitch Cabell hit into a 5-4-3 double play to end the inning.  Advantage Herzog.

Dayley got the Cardinals to the seventh.  After the first two Dodgers reached to start that inning Herzog went to Todd Worrell.  Worrell struck out Steve Sax, bringing Fernando to the plate.  Seems a perfect time to pinch-hit Fernando, or at least have him sacrifice, no?  Lasorda didn’t do either.  Fernando did move the runners over on a ground out to Worrell, but Mariano Duncan popped out to catcher Darrell Porter ending the threat.  Advantage Herzog again, squared; he aggressively changed pitchers, and Lasorda didn’t try to win the game with the bottom of his order up.

 The Dodgers would not get another baserunner.

You know how this game ends – it’s the ‘Go Crazy, Folks!’ game.  For most fans that’s the only part of this game they remember.   However, for my money, Herzog’s early aggressiveness changing pitchers is what finally turned this series for the Cardinals, assisted by Lasorda’s reluctance to take Fernando out of the game when he had a chance to go for the win.

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