Chicago Cubs Versus the St. Louis Cardinals in NL North Play-in Game


Unassociated Press

CHICAGO – Cubs shortstop Ernie Banks erased a disappointing season with an unforgettable three-run home run that lifted Chicago to a 6-1 victory over St. Louis, delivering the National League North title and an Eternal Baseball playoff berth to the Cubs.

The one-game playoff at Wrigley Field was triggered by the Cubs’ loss to the Dodgers and the Cardinals win over San Francisco, tying the archrival teams with identical 102-60 records on the season’s final day. Chicago hosted the game due to their 12-6 head-to-head record against St. Louis.

A pitcher’s duel between Mordecai Brown and Bob Gibson kept both teams scoreless until the fifth inning. Chicago broke through behind Gabby Hartnett’s leadoff home run and Aramis Ramirez’s RBI double that plated Hack Wilson and staked the Cubs to a 2-0 lead.

In the top of the seventh inning, Jack Clark pinch hit for Cardinals starter Bob Gibson and ripped a leadoff triple down the line in left field. Usual starter Adam Wainwright was ready in the St. Louis bullpen, and pinch-ran for Clark. After a walk to Rogers Hornsby and a strikeout by Johnny Mize, Albert Pujols stepped to the plate. The Cardinals slugger ripped a hard grounder to shortstop, and Ernie Banks flipped to Ryne Sandberg at second for the force. Pujols was safe at first, and Wainwright scored on the play – but his cleat slipped on home plate and he landed awkwardly. Wainwright was helped from the field in obvious pain and Max Lanier started throwing in the Cardinal bullpen. Stan Musial’s single to right moved Pujols to third base and chased Mordecai Brown from the game. Cubs reliever Bruce Sutter came into the game and retired Yadi Molina on a groundout to second to end the St. Louis threat.

With Wainwright suddenly unavailable, Cardinals lefty Max Lanier started the seventh inning. He yielded back-to-back singles to Gabby Hartnett and Anthony Rizzo and was replaced by Trevor Rosenthal. Hack Wilson drilled a sacrifice fly to left field to score Hartnett and give the Cubs a 3-1 lead after seven innings. John Tudor took over to pitch the eighth inning and was greeted with a leadoff triple from Milt Cuyler. Al Hrabosky relieved Tudor and surrendered a single to Ryne Sandberg to bring up Ernie Banks.

Banks delivered a subpar season by his standards – hitting .231 with 21 homers and 71 RBI, but he seized the opportunity today, crushing a 2-0 fastball from Hrabosky into the left field bleachers for a three-run home run to extend Chicago’s lead to 6-1. The Wrigley faithful exploded into monstrous cheers and Hrabosky stormed off the mound, replaced by Slim Sallee, who retired the next three Cubs in order to send the game to the ninth inning.

Cubs closer Lee Smith entered the game and had a shaky start, allowing singles Albert Pujols and Ken Boyer plus a walk to Stan Musial to load the bases with two outs. With the bases loaded and two outs, Joe Medick hit a drive to center field. Hack Wilson made the catch just shy of the warning track to end the game and seal the National League North division title for the Cubs.

Mordecai Brown (20-11) earned the win for Chicago, allowing one run over 6 2/3 innings. Bob Gibson (17-13) took the loss for St. Louis, with two earned runs over six innings of work.

Chicago will start the playoffs this Friday, August 27th hosting the National League East champion Philadelphia Phillies in a best-of-seven National League Division Series.


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