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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Cardinals pitchers log best three-game series since 1972

Most serious baseball fans with an eye toward the rich history of the game are well aware of the impact on starting pitchers of the increased specialization and deployment of the bullpen in recent decades. Another factor in the resultant reduction in workload for starters is the relatively-new focus on pitch counts.

Put that together and what results is the increasing rarity of long outings or in its most extreme form, complete games. Going one step further, getting a three-game series of such performances with impressive results is almost unheard-of these days.

Yet that is what happened at Busch Stadium this past weekend.

When St. Louis Cardinals right-handed starting pitcher Kyle McClellan pitched one batter into the ninth inning during Sunday afternoon’s series finale versus Milwaukee, it concluded a weekend trifecta of Cardinals starters having gone at least eight innings each while allowing no more than one run.

Prior to the season, it would have seemed unimaginable for the 2011 Cardinals to accomplish this without either Adam Wainwright or Chris Carpenter contributing. Yet that is exactly what fans witnessed on Friday, Saturday and Sunday in St. Louis.

Along with McClellan, the standout pitchers are Jaime Garcia and Kyle Lohse.

Lohse was a hard-luck loser on Saturday despite yielding just one run over eight innings. He had the misfortune to be matched up against Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo’s no-hit bid. The lefty Garcia was arguably the most impressive of all, spinning a two-hit complete game on Friday during which he carried a perfect game one out into the eighth inning.

Fortunately, to help put this into a historical perspective, we have researcher Tom Orf, who painstakingly combed the records for similar series since 1920.

The last time three such games were thrown by Cardinals pitchers was 39 years ago, in 1972. Further, this is just the fifth occurrence in the last 60 years.

Other than a bulge in the 1940’s, a series of three games pitched this well was only a once-or-twice in a decade occurrence – even in the pre-pitch count and pre-closer days.

Three consecutive starts of 8+ IP and 0 or 1 run allowed vs. same team (in series), St. Louis Cardinals, by decade since 1920

Decade 2010′s 2000′s 1990′s 1980′s 1970′s 1960′s 1950′s 1940′s 1930′s 1920′s Total
Times 1 0 0 0 1 2 1 8 3 2 18

In fact, Bob Gibson participated in just two of these series during his long Hall of Fame career. That is the same number in which Dizzy and Paul Dean contributed. Mort Cooper was a part of five of the eight three-start performances during the wartime 1940′s.

Lohse’s Saturday gem was only the second of the 54 individual contests in which the Cardinals lost. The other was a Nelson Briles start in July 1968.

The complete list of 17 prior three-game occurrences follows.

Three consecutive starts of 8+ IP and 0 or 1 run allowed vs. same team (in series), St. Louis Cardinals, since 1920

Pitcher Date Opp Rslt IP H R ER BB SO HR
Scipio Spinks 1972-06-25 (1) NYM W 7-1 9 6 1 1 6 13 0
Rick Wise 1972-06-25 (2) NYM W 2-1 9 4 1 1 3 4 0
Reggie Cleveland 6/24/1972 NYM W 11-0 9 6 0 0 3 8 0
Bob Gibson 1968-07-21 (1) NYM W 2-0 9 7 0 0 0 13 0
Nelson Briles 1968-07-21 (2) NYM L 0-1 8 7 1 1 5 5 0
Ray Washburn 7/20/1968 NYM W 2-0 9 8 0 0 0 6 0
Bob Gibson 6/20/1968 CHC W 1-0 9 5 0 0 1 6 0
Steve Carlton 6/19/1968 CHC W 4-0 9 1 0 0 0 9 0
Nelson Briles 6/18/1968 CHC W 1-0 9 8 0 0 0 3 0
Luis Arroyo 5/16/1955 PIT W 6-0 9 6 0 0 0 3 0
Gordon Jones 5/15/1955 PIT W 5-1 8 3 1 1 4 9 1
Brooks Lawrence 5/14/1955 PIT W 6-0 9 4 0 0 1 5 0
Howie Pollet 6/9/1949 NYG W 4-1 9 6 1 1 1 3 0
Gerry Staley 6/8/1949 NYG W 2-0 9 3 0 0 3 1 0
Harry Brecheen 6/7/1949 NYG W 3-0 9 5 0 0 3 2 0
Red Barrett 8/26/1945 CHC W 5-1 9 5 1 1 1 1 1
Ken Burkhart 8/25/1945 CHC W 3-1 9 10 1 1 2 3 0
Harry Brecheen 8/24/1945 CHC W 1-0 9 4 0 0 5 4 0
Red Barrett 6/29/1945 PHI W 9-1 9 7 1 1 2 0 0
Ken Burkhart 6/28/1945 PHI W 6-1 9 6 1 1 3 2 0
Blix Donnelly 1945-06-27 (2) PHI W 6-0 9 1 0 0 1 3 0
Mort Cooper 1944-07-09 (1) BSN W 1-0 9 5 0 0 3 6 0
Harry Brecheen 1944-07-09 (2) BSN W 9-0 9 5 0 0 0 0 0
Ted Wilks 7/8/1944 BSN W 4-0 9 6 0 0 3 5 0
Red Munger 1944-06-11 (1) CIN W 3-1 9 6 1 1 1 1 0
Harry Gumbert 1944-06-11 (2) CIN W 4-1 9 6 1 1 2 0 0
Mort Cooper 6/10/1944 CIN W 18-0 9 5 0 0 2 2 0
Max Lanier 1943-09-18 (1) CHC W 2-1 9 7 1 1 3 5 0
Al Brazle 1943-09-18 (2) CHC W 5-0 9 4 0 0 1 5 0
Mort Cooper 9/17/1943 CHC W 2-1 10 5 1 1 1 4 0
Harry Gumbert 1943-07-11 (1) BSN W 3-0 9 6 0 0 0 2 0
Howie Pollet 7/10/1943 BSN W 6-0 9 4 0 0 2 7 0
Mort Cooper 7/9/1943 BSN W 7-0 9 3 0 0 0 4 0
Johnny Beazley 8/26/1942 BRO W 2-1 10 9 1 1 2 1 0
Mort Cooper 8/25/1942 BRO W 2-1 14 10 1 1 1 4 0
Max Lanier 8/24/1942 BRO W 7-1 9 4 1 1 0 4 0
Paul Dean 1935-07-14 (1) PHI W 5-1 9 7 1 1 0 6 0
Bill Walker 1935-07-14 (2) PHI W 10-1 9 10 1 1 3 9 0
Bill Hallahan 7/13/1935 PHI W 4-0 9 2 0 0 2 6 0
Dizzy Dean 9/30/1934 CIN W 9-0 9 7 0 0 3 7 0
Paul Dean 9/29/1934 CIN W 6-1 9 11 1 1 1 6 1
Dizzy Dean 9/28/1934 CIN W 4-0 9 7 0 0 0 7 0
Flint Rhem 5/4/1932 CIN W 7-0 9 6 0 0 2 4 0
Dizzy Dean 5/3/1932 CIN W 9-0 9 8 0 0 6 4 0
Syl Johnson 5/2/1932 CIN W 2-1 9 4 1 1 2 4 0
Pete Alexander 5/21/1929 CIN W 12-1 9 7 1 1 0 1 1
Jesse Haines 5/20/1929 CIN W 5-1 9 8 1 1 3 1 0
Syl Johnson 5/19/1929 CIN W 2-1 11 7 1 0 1 2 0
Bill Sherdel 8/26/1928 PHI W 6-1 9 8 1 1 3 4 0
Pete Alexander 8/25/1928 PHI W 2-1 10 3 1 0 1 2 0
Jesse Haines 8/24/1928 PHI W 1-0 9 5 0 0 4 3 0

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