Saturday, October 19, 2013

October 19, 2006: Yadi Punches a Ticket To The Fall Classic

On October 19, 2006, Yadier Molina's 2-run homer in the top of the ninth gave the Cardinals a 3-1 lead
over the Mets and proved to be the game winner in Game 7 of the NLCS at Shea Stadium in New York. The game was a classic battle from the start. The Cardinals sent Jeff Suppan to the mound while the Mets countered with Oliver Perez, both pitchers turned in stellar performances as they each wanted to get a chance to play for the top prize. The teams had to deal with the elements, it was raining lightly from the beginning and it got worse as the game progressed.  The Mets got on the board in the bottom of the first on an RBI from David Wright, then the Birds answered right back in the top of the second when Jim Edmonds came into score on a sacrifice bunt by Ronnie Belliard. From there it was a pitching duel that would stay tied until that fateful ninth. The highlight of the Mets day came in the sixth inning, with the Cardinals up to bat, Perez issued a one out walk to Jim Edmonds, the next man up was Scott Rolen and he gave a Perez pitch a ride to left that was almost sure to leave the yard only to have Endy Chavez make an absolutely spectacular catch that not only robbed Rolen of his homer, the alert Chavez then relayed the ball into second baseman Jose Valentin who doubled off Edmonds at first base. It was a huge play in the game as it kept the Cardinals from taking the lead in the well pitched contest. The sixth was the last inning of work for Perez who did an outstanding job of keeping his team in it by allowing just one run on four hits. The Cardinals starter, Suppan was a step above Perez, he allowed just two hits and the one run in 7 innings of work. The game would come down to bullpens as each starter exited with the game deadlocked at 1. Chad Bradford pitched a scoreless frame for the Mets in the seventh then handed the ball over to Aaron Heilman following that inning. On the Cardinals side Randy Flores took over for Suppan after the starter issued a walk to lead off the eighth, Flores set the next three men down and the 1-1 score was still intact. Then came the ninth inning that I'll never forget. In his second inning of work, Heilman struck out Edmonds to begin the inning. Scott Rolen stepped to the dish with hopes of redemption on his mind, he had not only been robbed of a home run, he had also given up a costly error in the sixth that helped load the bases with one out. Luckily for Rolen, Suppan was on his way to being named MVP of the series and worked his way around the jam. When he stepped up in the ninth his misfortunes were forgotten when he dropped a single into left, then came Molina. The 23 year old catcher had hit just 6 home runs in the regular season, delivered a postseason blow that flew over the left field wall to put the Cards up 3-1. The crowd in New York was stunned by the long ball, however, the Cardinals needed three more out to make it stand. Tony LaRussa sent rookie Adam Wainwright to the mound to close it out. The only reason Waino was on the hill was an injury had sidelined Jason Isringhausen in mid September. The inexperienced Wainwright gave up back-to-back hits to start off the bottom of the ninth, then retired the next two batters before walking the bases full. All the Birds needed was one out to go to the series but they had a guy by the name of Carlos Beltran stepping to the plate. As most of us surely remember, Beltran was a Cardinal killer, he had homered three times in this series and had hit 4 home runs and carried .417 against the Birds  in the postseason while he was with the Astros. Today was not the day that Beltran would be the hero, Wainwright got ahead of him quickly then fired in a knee buckler that caught Beltran looking for the the final out of the game. It was an epic moment as Molina and Wainwright celebrated at the mound. The Cardinals were on the way to the World Series.

The home run by Molina is by far my favorite Yadi moment. I'll never forget that grin that came across his face within moments of making contact with the ball. Watch it here:

Here's the box score:

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