Friday, July 21, 1978 at Dodger Stadium
Game 1246 – 9/1/12

In the first game of a three-game set, the Dodgers clawed back from a 3-0 deficit—scoring the deciding run in the last of the ninth—to defeat the Cardinals 4-3 in front of a sold-out ‘Dodgers T-Shirt Night’ crowd at Los Angeles.

In a matchup of struggling pitchers, Cards ace John Denny squared off against LA’s Doug Rau, with both pitching satisfactorily for three innings before Rau allowed four hits in the fourth, good for one run and a 1-0 Cardinals lead.

The Cards struck again in the top of the sixth as a tiring Rau permitted the first six batters of the inning to reach base; after Keith Hernandez walked to open the frame, Tony Scott singled to right, allowing Hernandez to advance to third, with Scott moving to second on the throw. Steve Swisher followed with a base hit, again to right, scoring Hernandez, but outfielder Vic Davalillo—subbing for an injured Reggie Smith—made a perfect peg to the plate to nail Scott trying to score from second. Dane Iorg then doubled to the wall in left, but it wasn’t enough to send the slug-footed Swisher home, as the swift relay back to the infield held him at third.

With one out and both runners in scoring position, Ken Reitz drilled another base hit to right field, scoring Swisher, but for the second time in the inning, Davalillo made a highlight throw to the plate to nail Iorg. With Reitz now standing on second base on the advance, outfielder Lou Brock sent yet another single between first and second, but by this time Cardinals third base coach Jack Krol had seen enough of the now-dangerous arm of Davalillo and stopped Reitz at third. Mike Tyson then flew out to end the inning, but the Cardinals had built a comfortable 3-0 lead after six.

Unfortunately, the Dodgers wasted no time in deadlocking the score at 3-3 in the bottom half of the frame, as Davalillo proved his offensive worth in Smith’s absence by leading off with a solo home run, cutting the deficit to two. Ron Cey followed with a line-drive double to the right-center gap, and after Dusty Baker ticked a short grounder in front of the plate for the second out, Rick Monday tied the contest by drilling his 13th HR of the season into the left field bleacher seats at Dodger Stadium, creating a sea of white as thousands of youngsters waved their free t-shirts in a festive display of home town exuberance.

The game would remain tied 3-3 until the last of the ninth. With Cards reliever Aurelio Lopez (1-2) taking over for rookie Roy Thomas, Monday opened the inning with a sharp ground ball that eluded Hernandez and bounded into right field for a single, Monday’s second hit of the game. Fleet-footed Billy North was called on to pinch-run, and immediately stole second base; with backup catcher Jerry Grote stepping to the plate, St Louis manager Vern Rapp elected to pitch to Grote, who was 0-for-2 on the night and batting .167 for the month.

Ignoring his own statistics, Grote sighted on a two-strike offering and slapped a sharp base hit up the middle that sent North scampering home with the game-winning run, lifting the Dodgers to a sudden 4-3 victory and propelling the squad back into first place in the NL West, mere percentage points ahead of the Padres. Lance Rautzhan (2-5) picked up the win in relief for LA.

The two teams will continue their series tomorrow night in Los Angeles.

LA - Jerry Grote pose

Game Notes

• The game was played in the afternoon at site AZ8 in Peoria, Arizona, on the living room table while I listened to Shake It Up by The Cars.

• This was the 120th game played at site AZ8, good for 4th place on the all-time games hosted list.

• This was the sixth game ever played on this date, and the first since 1988.

• With their loss tonight, the Cardinals became the National League’s first 60-game losers; the White Sox were the first overall to reach this negative plateau, doing so on July 14th.

• This is the second time this season that LA outfielder Reggie Smith has been out with injuries; for this stint, he’s been out since July 17th, and has missed a total of 17 games so far this season. Smith isn’t scheduled to return to the Dodgers lineup until July 26th.

• Sorry, I don’t have a sample of the Dodgers t-shirts that were given away at tonight’s game!

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