Mike Leake faced Cubs Kyle Hendricks in Game One of the three game series.
Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
In baseball, I have my favorite players; but, pitchers being at the helm - the cog of a nine player wheel - can literally be beauty throwing the leather 60' 6" with total command and control. My all time favorite, being a St. Louis Cardinals fan, was Bob Gibson. He owned, not only the mound; but, the plate. He allowed no hitter the luxury of hugging his dish and would move them back quickly with his fastball. And at times, would issue a warning before firing in a missile. He had issued his disclosure should they happen to be HBP and follow with complaint. Not much chatter in the current day MLB from the mound. But, we do have some excellent pitchers. I hold high respect for those who display excellence. For seventeen seasons, Hall of Fame Bob "Hoot" Gibson worked his magic.
FAST FORWARD TO TODAY
Cardinals hosting the Chicago Cubs for three games. Game One last night, Mike Leake faced Cubs Kyle Hendricks. Leake made his second start since returning from the DL (shingles). His first game he only saw 4.1 IP, giving up three earned runs. Last night he was able to complete six innings, but once again gave up three earned runs to the Cubs. Not a number that the Cardinals couldn't overcome. They would have to read Hendricks well to do so. However, he stopped in their tracks, save one.
EXCELLENCE ON THE MOUND
Prior to the All Star break, Hendricks held a 2.55 ERA. Post All Star, he has brought that down to a 1.33 ERA. He was superb on the hill facing the Cardinals and no one, Cubs fans included, were expecting what was to transpire as one of his best games this season. He was calm, in control and definitely had command. He took down the side in eight innings pitched, and through those eight innings not only held the Cardinals scoreless, but no hits. He only issued two free passes and had seven strikeouts. He was looking at his first no-no complete game. He was three outs away from the perfect game.
Bob Gibson had one such game, August 14, 1971, with three walks and ten strikeouts in nine innings for the 11-0 win over the Pittsburgh Pirates. It had been 110 years since the Cardinals were victim to a perfect game pitched by Mel Eason of the Brooklyn Superbas at Robinson Field in St. Louis, on July 20, 1906. Hendricks was on the verge of breaking that record. Even though against my team, such a performance can not go without acknowledgement.
Hendricks returned to the mound in his ninth. Cubs with a 4-0 lead. Top-of-the-order Jeremy Hazelbaker to the plate and Hendricks has an 0-2 count on the board, one more strike to see his first out. The first pitch of his night that stays up in the zone, Hazelbaker sends the two-seamer out over the right wall to retire his no-hitter with a solo shot for his 12 home run this season.
Hendricks was retired from the mound, only spending 96 pitches (64 ST) for his night, to a standing ovation by all for his performance. So close to a perfect game; but, it sure was through eight very impressive innings for his 15 win. Leake is handed his 10 loss.
I congratulate Kyle Hendricks for his great stand. Even though his teammate, Jake Arrietta has logged two such games, I feel Hendricks performance will be remembered for quite some time by the Cubs hurler, especially being against arch rivals, the Cardinals. The one that got away.
CARDINALS HIGHLIGHT, ALONG WITH HAZELBAKER'S SOLO
I do have to admit, home plate umpire Joe West intervening after Hendricks no-hitter was lost to get control back on the field; and, MadDog Joe Maddon rushing out of the dugout to pursuing further discussion, I thought typical. Then, Maddon, only to be ejected was a moment of enjoyment. Leave it to the two "Joe's" to take away Hendrick's moment in the limelight.
GAME TWO - FIRST PITCH 7:15 CST
Cardinals Jaime Garcia (10-12/4.58 ERA) will face Cubs Jason Hammel (14-8/3.50 ERA). Both pitchers have seen better stands than they have recently. Both have been hammered facing the Milwaukee Brewers in their last starts. J Garcia, September 8, only went 3.2 IP/2 HR/5 ER/3 SO in the Cardinals loss 12-5. Hammel, September 6, 5.2 IP/2 HR with nine runs - eight earned and five strikeouts in the Cubs 12-5 loss. At home, J Garcia is 6-8/4.19 ERA. However, he is 1-1/3.09 ERA against the Cubs. In his 11.2 IP, against the Chicago northenders, he's only given up four earned runs with 13 strikeouts. Hammel is 5-7 in his road games with a 5.26 ERA. He is 2-1 facing the Cardinals with a 2.84; but, at Busch Stadium, April 19 and May 24, he held a 1.35. His last stand against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field, June 21, 5.2 IP/2 HR/4 ER on six hits, with three strikeouts.