On September 30, 1964, the St. Louis Cardinals completed a three-game sweep of the Philadelphia Phillies. By doing so, they moved into sole possession of first place, as the Cincinnati Reds lost 1-0 to the Pittsburgh Pirates in 16 innings.
The Reds-Pirates game was a classic. Jim Maloney pitched 11 innings of three-hit, shutout ball for Cincinnati. Bob Veale held the Reds in check for twelve and a third. Alvin McBean pitched out of a bases loaded one-out jam he inherited from Veale in the 13th and shut out the Reds for three more innings.
The Pirates won the game in the 16th on a Donn Clendenon double and an RBI single by Jerry May. Having been blanked by Bob Friend the previous day, Cincinnati had now failed to score against Pittsburgh in 25 innings. Prior to this series, they had won nine straight games.
While Cincinnati stumbled, St. Louis continued to fly high. They came into the series against Philadelphia riding an eight game winning streak. The Phillies had lost their last seven.
To make matters worse for the Phils, St. Louis had its starting rotation perfectly aligned. Bob Gibson (17-11), Ray Sadecki (19-10), and former Phillie Curt Simmons (17-9) all were scheduled to pitch on normal rest.
Philadelphia countered with Chris Short (17-8), Dennis Bennett (12-13), and Jim Bunning (18-7). Short and Bunning would work on only two days rest, as they had on multiple occasions down the stretch.
Gibson easily bested Short, 5-1, in the first game. This was Short’s third start in seven days. Continuing a trend that plagued them throughout their September losing streak, the Phillies went 0-7 with runners in scoring position
In the second game, Bennett, who was fighting shoulder problems, failed to make it through the second inning. Excellent relief pitching from Ed Roebuck, Art Mahaffey, John Boozer, Bobby Shantz, and Jack Baldschun kept the game close. But once again Phillies hitters couldn’t deliver in the clutch, going 1-9 on this day. 38 year-old reliever Barney Schultz slammed the door on the Phillies, as the Cards prevailed 4-2.
In the third game, Mauch turned to the drastically overworked Bunning. Art Mahaffey, coming off of back-to-back strong starts, would have been a better choice, but for the fact that Mauch had used him for one inning of relief the day before. Mauch, though, must have intended to start Bunning over Mahaffey all along. Otherwise, he wouldn’t have wasted Mahaffey the previous day.
Bunning had nothing left to give. The Cards rocked him for two runs in the second inning, two in the third, and two more in the fourth. They added two in the fourth against reliever Bobby Locke.
The Philadelphia bats didn’t come alive until the seventh inning. By then it was too late. The final score: St. Louis 8, Philadelphia 5.
The Cardinals’ sweep didn’t mathematically eliminate the Phillies. If they could win their remaining two games with Cincinnati, they would edge past the Reds. But the best they could do was tie St. Louis, and that would require the last place New York Mets to sweep the Cards.
As a practical matter, then, the race was now between St. Louis and Cincinnati. Philadelphia, seemingly shoo-ins for the pennant only ten days earlier, were reduced to the role of potential spoiler.