This day in baseball history: The Reds hang in there against Koufax

The Cincinnati Reds didn’t win the National League pennant in 1964; they finished a game behind the St. Louis Cardinals. Judged by run differential, however, they were the best team in the NL.

The Los Angeles Dodgers struggled in 1964, a season in which they lost Sandy Koufax for a month and a half. However, they were the champion’s of baseball in 1963.

Thus, it wasn’t surprising that, as they began a three game series in Los Angeles on July 26, 1965, the Dodgers and the Reds were 1-2 in the National League standings. The Dodgers were one game ahead.

The Dodgers won the first two games of the series. In the opener, they jumped to a 5-1 lead in the second inning against Reds starter Jim Maloney, thanks mainly to home runs by Willie Davis and Wes Parker.

The Reds fought back to make it 5-4 in the eighth. But reliever Ron Perranoski slammed the door to preserve the win.

In the second game, the Dodgers again jumped on Cincinnati earlier. They took a 6-3 lead in the second inning, this time at the expense of Joey Jay. Jim Gilliam knocked in three of the runs with a home run and a double.

But in the top of the third inning, the Reds closed the gap to 6-5 and chased the great Don Drysdale. Deron Johnson produced both runs with a two-run homer.

The Dodgers held a 9-6 lead going into the top of the eighth inning. But Bob Miller walked Tommy Harper and Pete Rose to start the inning. With stars Vada Pinson and Frank Robinson up next, Walter Alston called again on Perranoski.

The lefty ace proceeded to fan Pinson and Robinson. However, he also delivered a wild pitch to bring home Harper, who had stolen third base.

With Rose in scoring position, Perronoski retired Tony Perez (pinch-hitting for Gordie Coleman) to end the eighth. With the score 9-7, Perronoski set down the Reds in the ninth.

The Dodgers now led the Reds by 3 games. And with Sandy Koufax due to pitch the series finale, their chances of stretching the lead to 4 looked good.

As Joaquin Andujar once said, however,” youneverknow.” In his previous start, Koufax (ERA 2.02) had faced Ray Sadecki of the Cardinals (ERA 6.15). The Dodgers lost that game 3-2 in ten innings.

This time, Koufax was facing Sammy Ellis (13-6 with a 3.54 ERA). Ellis was in top form on the night, allowing just one run on four hits with 12 strikeouts and two walks.

Koufax was only so-so. The Reds scored two against him in the third. Leo Cardenas led off the inning with a home run and Rose singled in Harper who had walked and stolen second base.

The Reds added two more in the fourth inning on singles by Deron Johnson, Charlie James, and Jimmie Coker, and error by Ron Fairly. James and Coker weren’t regulars but, as right-handed hitters, had been inserted into the lineup instead of Pinson and Johnny Edwards to face Koufax, the great southpaw.

The Dodgers mustered three of their four hits in the bottom of the fifth, including one by Koufax, but scored just one run. Ellis coasted the rest of the way. Final score: 4-1.

The Reds had avoided a sweep. They remained within easy striking distance of the Dodgers, just 2 games out of first place. Milwaukee (3 games out) and San Francisco (3.5 out) were also very much in contention.