Oscar Taveras

Nick Punto celebrates his game-winning sacrifice fly. Photo: Chris Lee, St. Louis Post-Dispatch

September 9, 2011 – Cards walk off vs Braves

Coming into this game, the Braves’ record was 84-60 and the Cardinals’ record was 76-67. A win would put the Braves up by 8.5 games, and a loss would drop their lead to 6.5 games. This is one of many games you could look back on as a turning point.

The Braves scored two in the top of the first inning on hits by Michael Bourn, Brian McCann and Freddie Freeman.The Cardinals got one run back when they manufactured a run in the bottom of the first. A walk, a single and an RBI groundout by Matt Holliday made it 2-1.

Cardinals’ starter Edwin Jackson would settle down and not allow any runs the next five innings. Braves’ starter Randall Delgado would not allow any runs over the next four innings.

The score would stay 2-1 all the way until the ninth inning. In the top of the frame, the Braves scored a run on an RBI triple by Bourn off of Octavio Dotel. The Braves brought in Craig Kimbrel to close out the game in the bottom of the ninth.

Skip Schumaker led off with a single. Kimbrel then got Nick Punto to ground out and Gerald Laird to strikeout. Down to their final out, Rafeal Furcal drew a walk. Ryan Theriot then pinch hit, and also drew a walk. The bases were loaded for Albert Pujols.

Pujols singled to drive in two runs to tie the game. There was a bobbled throw and Ryan Theriot tried scoring all the way from first on the single. He ran through a stop sign and was thrown out at home to end the inning. The damage was done and Kimbrel’s streak of 25 consecutive saves was snapped.

Jason Motte threw a 1-2-3 inning in the top of the 10th. In the bottom of the 10th, Matt Holliday and Lance Berkman led off the inning with singles. Daniel Descalso pinch hit for David Freese and laid down a bunt. Skip Schumaker was intentionally walked, setting up Nick Punto with the bases loaded. Punto hit a sac fly to win the game, and the Cardinals celebrated by tearing off Punto’s jersey.

River Bandits Advance in Midwest League Playoffs

The night before, the Quad Cities River Bandits beat the Clinton Lumberkings 5-3 to advance to the second round of the Midwest League playoffs. They had won game one of the best-of-three series 9-5 the night before.

In game one, Oscar Taveras had three hits and three RBIs. Jonathan Rodriguez had five RBI, three of which came on a 3-run home run in the first inning.

On the mound, Boone Whiting got the win with this line: 6IP, 3R, 3ER, 2BB, 9K. Seth Maness, Aiden Lucas and Dean Kiekhefer allowed two runs over the last three innings to preserve the win.

The Bandits needed a comeback to win game two. Stefen Romero and Mike McGee each homered for the Lumberkings to give them a 3-1 lead. In the bottom of the sixth, the Bandits got a walk, two doubles and two singles to score three runs and go up 4-3. They also added an insurance run in the bottom of the 8th before Kiekhefer again closed out the game with a scoreless ninth inning.

Jake Westbrook - Photo Credit: J. Meric / Getty Images

July 1, 2011 – Cards Win Fourth Straight, Bandits Fall 5-3

The Cardinals beat the Rays 5-3 behind seven shutout innings by Jake Westbrook. Westbrook only allowed two hits, three walks and struck out seven. The Rays got three runs off of Lance Lynn in relief, but that was all. Colby Rasmus had four RBI, including a three-run home run in the top of the eighth. Fernando Salas earned his 14th save. The win was their fourth in a row and put the Cardinals’ record at 45-38, one game ahead of the Brewers.

CBS Sports – Wild eighth inning marks Cards’ win over Rays

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Colby Rasmus’ home run set off fireworks on and off the field.

Rasmus hit a three-run shot during a wild eighth inning that featured four ejections, leading the St. Louis Cardinals past the Tampa Bay Rays 5-3 on Friday night.

“Colby’s got so much talent,” Cardinals manager Tony La Russa said. “When he gets into a game, a lot of good things happen. If he can keep that up, good at-bats, what a huge asset he would be.”

Jake Westbrook gave up two hits in seven scoreless innings for St. Louis, which has won four straight.

Video Highlights:

Westbrook strikes out Brignac in the third

Rasmus’ RBI groundout

Minors: Lumberkings 5, River Bandits 3

Kolten Wong and Oscar Taveras went a combined 0 for 8 in this game. Despite that, the Bandits did rally to tie the game 3-3 in the bottom of the 8th. However, the Lumberkings got to Dean Kiekhefer in the top of the ninth for two runs and held on for the 5-3 win. The Bandits’ record dropped to 43-34.

Quad City Times – LumberKings find winning formula

After finishing 22 games below .500 during the first half, the Clinton LumberKings have taken a new approach to the second half of the Midwest League season. Manager Eddie Menchaca has his team keeping it simple.

“What we’re trying to do is win the inning, one inning at a time. We weren’t getting blown out in the first half. We had to clean up the little things and win innings,” said Menchaca, whose team is 5-3 since the all-star break.

Clinton let a two-run lead slip away in the eighth inning Friday at Modern Woodmen Park, but the LumberKings won the inning that mattered the most, scoring twice in the ninth to take home a 5-3 victory over the Quad-Cities River Bandits.

The loss was the fourth straight for Quad-Cities, equaling the team’s longest skid of the season.

Here are some photos from the game:

Chris Carpenter (AP Photo Jeff Roberson)

June 17, 2011: Cards Lose Seventh Straight, Bandits Clinch Playoff Berth

The Cardinals lost their seventh straight game on this date in 2011. This was their longest losing streak of the season. They were swept by the Brewers and Nationals on the road, and this was the first game of a three game series versus the Royals.

The Cardinals lost this game 5-4. Chris Carpenter went eight innings, allowed 10 hits, five runs (four earned), one walk and struck out seven. He took the loss in this game, dropping his record to 1-7. The Cardinals scored all four of their runs in the third inning. They loaded the bases and Matt Holliday was hit by a pitch to force in a run, and then Lance Berkman hit a bases-clearing double. This gave them a 4-3 lead. The Royals tied the game in the top of the fourth and took a lead in the top of the 8th on an error by Albert Pujols. The reeling Cardinals dropped to 38-33 on the season and were in second place.

Video recap: Royals 5, Cardinals 4

CBS Sports – Pujols error gives Royals a victory in St. Louis

ST. LOUIS — Royals shortstop Alcides Escobar is known for his fielding. Lately, he has been doing plenty of damage with his bat.

Against the St. Louis Cardinals Friday night, Escobar had two hits with a run scored in Kansas City’s 5-4 win. He also was part of the key play of the game: His hard groundball with two outs in the eighth inning eluded Albert Pujols and allowed Mike Moustakas to score the go-ahead run.

Pujols, a Gold Glover, was given an error on the play. Kansas City manager Ned Yost thought Escobar, who is 14 for 24 (.583) over his last seven games with eight runs scored, could have been credited with a hit.

“I don’t know how that’s ruled an error,” Yost said. “That’s a pretty tough hop, a pretty tough ball.”

River Bandits Clinch Playoff Berth

Down in the minors I was able to go to both the game on June 17 and 18 to see the River Bandits play the Peoria Chiefs. In the June 17 game, River Bandits pitching held the Chiefs to four hits. Jonathan Rodriguez homered and the Bandits won 4-1.

In the June 18 game, the Bandits won 6-1. They again held the Chiefs to four hits. Boone Whiting started and went seven innings, allowing only four hits and one run. He had six strikeouts and one walk. He lowered his ERA to 1.75 on the season. Dean Kiekhefer shut out the Chiefs the final two innings, allowing no hits. Ronny Gil and Nick Longmire each had two RBI, and Oscar Taveras went one for four with an RBI double.

The win on June 18 clinched a playoff berth for the Bandits, as the first half wild card team. Here is a Quad City Times article about that game:

QCTimes – River Bandits clinch playoff berth

Boone Whiting and the Quad-Cities River Bandits earned a Midwest League playoff berth Saturday night.

They had little choice.

Facing one of the most dominant pitchers in the league in Peoria’s Austin Kirk, Whiting and the River Bandits were strictly business from the start of a 6-1 victory in front of a crowd of 5,924 at Modern Woodmen Park.

“I knew I was facing a real good pitcher, somebody who wasn’t going to give up many runs,” Whiting said. “I had to be on top of my game.”

Whiting, who began the season in the Quad-Cities bullpen, picked up his first victory of the season in just his third start, striking out six and walking one batter while scattering four hits over seven innings.

“Whiting set the tone from the first inning,” River Bandits manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “He didn’t give them a chance.”

With the victory, Quad-Cities (39-29) assured itself of the chance to own home-field advantage for the opening round of postseason play as the first-half wildcard winner in the Western Division.

Oscar Taveras home run

April 9th, 2011: River Bandits Split, Taveras Goes On DL, Franklin Blows Another Save

The Snappers and River Bandits played a doubleheader on this date to make up the rainout from opening night, two nights earlier. They won the first game 8-1 and lost the second game 7-3.

In game one, Oswaldo Arcia had a triple and scored the only run for the Snappers. For the Bandits, Greg Garcia batted leadoff and went hitless in three at bats but did have a walk and a run. Nick Longmire had three hits in four at bats with two runs scored. Oscar Taveras had two hits in four at bats with a solo home run, two runs and two RBIs. Jordan Swagerty threw six shutout innings, had five dtrikeouts, no walks and allowed only four hits. In the Midwest League they only play seven inning games when they are playing a doubleheader, so Keith Butler only had to throw one inning to close out the game.

Oscar Taveras

Oscar Taveras

Game two was much closer than the score indicates. The score was 3-3 heading into the seventh and last inning. The Snappers then scored four runs off of Hector Corpas to win the game. The highlights for the River Bandits were Kyle Conley and Juan Castillo each having two hits, and Oscar Taveras was oen for two with two walks and an RBI.

In the second game of the doubleheader, Oscar Taveras left the game with a leg injury. He would not return for two months (on June 12). Here is a Quad City Times article about the two games, and it talks a lot about Taveras:

Taveras was helped off the field, and Rodriguez said that while the extent of the injury has not yet been determined, it appears he will be sidelined for an extended period of time.

“If it will be three weeks, 10 days, a month, I do not know, but it will be awhile and I do know he will be missed,” Rodriguez said. “It is a big loss. He was the best pure hitter I’ve have seen in awhile, and he brought our team some energy at the plate.”

The youngest player on the Quad-Cities roster, Taveras does not celebrate his 19th birthday until June 19.

The Bandits’ record was 2-6 after the doubleheader.

Here are a couple more pictures from the River Bandits’ games that day:

Oscar Taveras Trivia

Oscar Taveras

Oscar Taveras home run

Oscar Taveras greeted in the dugout after his home run

Jordan Swaggerty

Jordan Swagerty and Jonathan Rodriguez

Greg Garcia

Greg Garcia

Jordan Swaggerty

Jordan Swagerty

Yunier Castillo

Yunier Castillo

Michael Swinson slides into second

Michael Swinson Slides Into 2nd

Franklin Blows Another Save

As for the Cardinals, it was another tough loss. Ryan Franklin blew a save for the second straight night and the Cardinals lost to the Giants 3-2. Colby Rasmus had two hits in four at bats with a solo home run. Jaime Garcia threw six innings and only allowed one run, and had nine strikeouts and only one walk. Miguel Tejada had the game winning hit for the Giants in the bottom of the ninth inning, a two-run double.

Box Score: Cardinals @ Giants box score from April 9, 2011

Video: Tejada’s double gives Giants victory

Video: Bochy on Giants’ wild walk-off win

AP Article:

Giants rally past Cardinals 3-2 in last inning

Miguel Tejada hit a two-run double that glanced off the glove of center fielder Colby Rasmus with two outs in the ninth inning and the San Francisco Giants rallied late for the second straight day to beat the St. Louis Cardinals 3-2 on Saturday night a few hours after receiving their World Series rings.

The Giants celebrated as though they had just won the championship all over again, with ace Tim Lincecum among those who sprinted out of the dugout to hug the team’s new shortstop. Tejada skipped in jubilation after his 15th career game-winning hit.

It came against Cardinals closer Ryan Franklin (0-1), who blew his third save in four chances and second in two days. St. Louis lost 5-4 in 12 innings Friday.

Trevor Rosenthal

April 8, 2011: Rosenthal And River Bandits Combine To Strike Out 18 On Opening Day

This was Opening Night for the River Bandits. Well, Opening Night was supposed to be the night before but it got rained out. I’ve only missed two opening nights since Modern Woodmen Park was renovated in 2004, and in 2011 I had not missed one yet. So it was lucky that the game was rained out because I would not have been able to make that Thursday night game. About all I remember from this game was that it was frigid.

The River Bandits won this game 7-4. Trevor Rosenthal threw four innings, and struck out 11 batters. That’s right, 11 of the 12 outs he recorded were by strikeout. He walked one, and allowed two hits and two runs. In all, Bandits’ pitchers struck out 18 batters. Oscar Taveras went three for four and drove in three runs. He had a two-run single in the bottom of the eighth inning to cap the scoring. Justin Wright threw two innings and allowed two runs but earned the save. Here is a link to the box score. Here is a link to the Quad City Times article:

Q-C pitchers fan 18 in opening win

Trevor Rosenthal wasn’t kidding.

The Quad-Cities right-hander, who relished an opening-night start for the River Bandits, backed up his words with actions Friday.

Rosenthal overcame a few early-inning jitters, but struck out 11 Beloit batters to send Quad-Cities on its way to a season-opening 7-4 Midwest League victory at Modern Woodmen Park.

“There were some nerves, but once I fought through them, once I got to the third inning and settled down, things felt good,” Rosenthal said.

Relying heavily on a fastball which topped out at 97 mph, Rosenthal surrendered a pair of hits in the first inning and hit a pair of batters in the second before stranding two Snappers in scoring position with consecutive strikeouts.

“He struggled a bit with his command, but he got people out with his fastball,” Quad-Cities manager Johnny Rodriguez said. “He dialed it up and took it to another level to get those last two outs in the second, and he was in control after that.”

Giants 5, Cardinals 4

On this date in the big leagues, the Cardinals lost to the Giants. It’s easy to forget how rough the start to the season was. Ryan Theriot and Colby Rasmus each had two hits. The Cardinals took a 4-3 lead in the top of the 9th when Ryan Theriot hit a two-run single off of Brian Wilson. In the bottom of the ninth Pablo Sandoval singled off of Ryan Franklin to tie the game. Aaron Rowand hit an RBI single off of Brian Tallet in the bottom of the twelfth to win the game for the Giants. Here is the MLB.com video recap for this game. The Cardinals’ record was 2-5 after this loss. Here is the AP article about the game:

Giants outlast Cardinals 5-4 in 12 innings

Aaron Rowand hit a game-winning single off the left-field wall with the bases loaded in the 12th inning and the San Francisco Giants celebrated raising the World Series flag with a 5-4 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday.

First baseman Albert Pujols dropped what would have been an inning-ending grounder by Andres Torres with two outs in the 12th.

Torres reached on the error and advanced to second on defensive indifference.

Brian Tallet (0-1), the sixth Cardinals pitcher, intentionally walked Freddy Sanchez to load the bases.

Rowand then drove a pitch to deep left-center, capping a long, festive home opener that lasted 4 hours, 24 minutes.

Oscar Taveras Quad Cities River Bandits

Oscar Taveras: June 19, 1992 to October 26, 2014

Oscar Taveras River Bandits

Oscar Taveras greeted by teammates after hitting a HR

I’ve had 24 hours to process the death of Oscar Taveras, and it still doesn’t seem real. I saw another blogger apologize for being “late” with their reaction. Only in today’s world is 20 hours a “late” reaction. Take all the time you need. We’ll be talking about this for years.

Oscar played the entire 2011 season here in Davenport with the Quad Cities River Bandits. I got to meet Oscar very briefly twice that season. Once, he came over and signed two pictures I took. I thanked him and he said no problem. Then on the last day of the regular season, I won his jersey in a jersey auction. I got to go on the field, and he gave me the jersey himself, and signed it. I just told him he had a great season and I was a big fan, and that I hoped he made it to the big leagues. He thanked me and that was about it. So for the past 4 seasons I’ve been closely following his career.

The River Bandits won the Midwest League championship that year, and there were 7 players that made it to MLB from that team. They are: Kolten Wong, Greg Garcia, Trevor Rosenthal, Kevin Siegrist, Seth Maness, Carlos Martinez and Oscar. I think of all the rooms these guys shared, all the bus trips they went on, and championships they won together in the minors. It had to be a joy for them to see their longtime teammates finally get the callup. They have to be a tight knit group. And don’t forget they also played on other teams, and touched other lives, like Jaun Perez.

Oscar Taveras River Bandits Autograph

One of the pictures Oscar autographed

The “knock” on Oscar was that he was not a hard worker. I think his laid back personality masked his work ethic. You don’t get as far as he did without hard work. I found his personality to be a breath of fresh air. So many of these guys take baseball too seriously, or show little emotion. Coming from his background, it would have been easy for him to do that as well. That wasn’t his style. He got a lot of his teammates to relax and have fun, and it showed. I hope all of these guys ask themselves “What would Oscar do?” when they are slumping or pressing too hard.

Our loss as baseball fans is not the same as his family, friends, or teammates of course. Few of us get to know them personally or become friends with them. We only know their story, and see their talent. We know Oscar came from a poor background. We know he worked at baseball for years. We know that, in the minors at least, he didn’t make a lot of money. We know he and his teammates were extremely close. As fans, we can have an appreciation for all of those things.

It’s a cliche, but it rings true here: Baseball is Life. The ups and downs of the long season,. The lucky and unlucky bounces. The good calls and bad calls. Being called up or sent down. The good days and bad days. And it is the one sport where they play virtually every day. Being a fan of baseball is a lot like being a fan of life. Neither is always easy.

Oscar did wear that jersey I won at the game on that last day of the 2011 regular season, but he was on the bench that day. The manager gave him an extra day of rest before the playoffs. So the jersey is basically brand new, not a spec of dirt or sign of wear on it anywhere. Which is very ironic because it is just like Oscar’s career and life.

River Bandits Midwest League Champions

9/17/2011: Johnny Rodriguez grabs the Midwest League Championship trophy as the players get ready to mob him