The Cardinals opened the playoffs with a wild win, beating the bumbling Atlanta Braves despite the most out-of-control pitching in the major leagues in more than a century.
Rick Ankiel, a surprise Game 1 starter for St. Louis, became the first pitcher in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in one inning, but St. Louis held on to a six-run, first-inning lead and beat the Braves 7-5 today.
With the help of two errors and a fly ball center fielder Andruw Jones apparently lost in the sun, St. Louis got its first five batters on in the first. against Greg Maddux, who dropped to 10-11 in postseason play.
Record for Runs in Opening Inning
Placido Polanco, who went 3-for-4, hit a two-run single as the Cardinals tied a postseason record for runs in the opening inning. Jim Edmonds added a home run in the fourth.
Atlanta made three errors in all, contributing to two unearned runs, just two days after Chipper Jones’ ninth-inning error cost the defending NL champions home-field advantage in the first round.
Mike James relieved Ankiel and got the final out of the third, then pitched two more innings for the win. Dave Veres worked the ninth for the save, allowing an RBI single to Brian Jordan, who had three hits.
After a day off Wednesday, the series resumes with Darryl Kile pitching for St. Louis against Tom Glavine in a matchup of the NL’s only 20-game winners, then travels to Atlanta for the weekend.
Ankiel, a 21-year-old rookie, originally was to pitch later in the series, but Cardinals Manager Tony La Russa made the switch Monday.
Given the 6-0 lead, he stumbled in the third and became only the second pitcher in major league history to throw five wild pitches in an inning. On Sept. 15, 1890, Bert Cunningham did it for Buffalo of the Players League in the first inning of the second game of a doubleheader.
All but one of Ankiel’s wild pitches were fastballs, most of them high over the head of catcher Carlos Hernandez. The fifth was a curve that bounced about five feet in front of the plate.
Hernandez also made a leaping grab to prevent what would have been another.
Ankiel, scheduled to pitch again in Game 4 on Sunday, threw 12 wild pitches in 175 regular-season innings. More than half (34) of his 66 pitches Tuesday were balls.
Maddux lasted four innings, giving up seven runs — five earned — and nine hits.
Atlanta was just 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, while St. Louis was 3-for-15.
Mark McGwire, limited to one plate appearance per game because of knee pain, pinch hit in the eighth and was intentionally walked by Kerry Ligtenberg.
St. Louis, which took a 3-1 lead against Atlanta in the 1996 NL championship series and then lost three straight, quickly got ahead.
Fernando Vina reached on an infield single leading off, J.D. Drew singled and Edmonds’ fly ball dropped next to Andruw Jones as the game’s first run scored.
Will Clark’s single made it 2-0 and Ray Lankford reached when his grounder bounced off the glove of third baseman Chipper Jones, allowing another run to score.
After a sacrifice and an intentional walk, Placido Polanco hit a two-run single to center and advanced to second when Andruw Jones’ throw home hit the mound.
Catcher Paul Bako allowed another run to score when he threw wildly to second, trying to catch Polanco going for the extra base.
Third Inning Gets Crazy
The third was even wilder.
Ankiel opened the inning with a four-pitch walk to Maddux, then threw a fifth ball before getting a visit from pitching coach Dave Duncan.
La Russa didn’t start warming up a reliever until Brian Jordan, the sixth batter of the inning, hit an RBI single.
Andruw Jones scored on the first wild pitch, Jordan hit an RBI single, and Walt Weiss had a two-run single.
Cardinals rookie Britt Reames, an unexpected member of the postseason staff, escaped a bases-loaded jam in the seventh when he got Reggie Sanders on a popout and pinch-hitter Bobby Bonilla on a groundout.