PHILADELPHIA -- The greatest game of Skip Schumaker’s life changed everything.
For the Cardinals, who won the World Series.
For the Phillies, who would not play another postseason game for 11 years.
For Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter, who were never the same pitchers.
Schumaker’s Marlins will play the Phillies tonight in Game 1 of the best-of-three National League Wild Card Series at Citizens Bank Park. Miami won the season series against Philadelphia, 7-6, but it enters the series as underdogs. Almost nobody outside South Florida expects them to win, just like almost nobody outside St. Louis expected the Cardinals to beat the Phils in the 2011 NL Division Series.
But the Cardinals beat the Phillies in an epic Game 5, 1-0, with Carpenter outdueling his best friend Halladay. Rafael Furcal started the game with a triple. Schumaker followed, finishing an epic 10-pitch at-bat with a double to score the game’s only run.
“I think what you take away is just get in and you have a shot,” Schumaker said Monday afternoon. “All we wanted was a chance, and we have it. We have the ability to play in the postseason. We’re in the tournament now and now we have a shot. That’s all you can ask for. Because you just never know what happens in the postseason. And that's really the message is just take your best shot.”
The 2011 Phillies won a franchise-record 102 games. The Cardinals needed the Phils to beat the Braves on the final day of the season to give them the NL Wild Card. Philadelphia won Games 1 and 3 of the series. St. Louis won Games 2 and 4 to send the series back to Philly for Game 5.
“The night before, Tony [La Russa] told me I was starting in center, and I didn’t start in center too often,” Schumaker said. “But we tried to get as many lefties as we could get [against] Doc, who was good against everybody. [La Russa] hit me second. I didn’t hit second too often either.”
Halladay quickly got ahead of Schumaker, 0-2, when he fouled off a changeup and a cutter to stay alive.
“Doc was throwing everything at me,” Schumaker said. “I was fouling balls off all parts of my body. I just tried to do anything I could to put the ball in play.”
Halladay threw a curveball for a ball to make it 1-2. Schumaker fouled off another cutter. Halladay missed on a changeup to make it 2-2.
Schumaker fouled off another curveball and another changeup. Then he drilled a curveball into the right-field corner for a double.
“Selfishly, it was the biggest at-bat of my career,” Schumaker said. “That game in general was the best game I’ve ever been a part of. Game 6 with Davie Freese and incredible come-from-behind wins, but that game, the way it was played, the way it was pitched by Chris Carpenter and Doc, and the defense and Yadi [Molina] throwing guys out and Chase [Utley] throwing me out at third in the first inning. I watch that game all the time. Not because I hit the double. It’s because it was so well played.”
The Cardinals won the World Series, while the Phillies’ run of five consecutive postseason appearances, which included two NL pennants and one World Series title, ended. Carpenter pitched only three more regular-season games in his career because of injuries. Halladay had a 5.15 ERA in 38 starts over the next two years as his body betrayed him.
“It just felt like honestly, both of them, they gave it everything they had and that was it,” Schumaker said. “That series -- and that World Series run for Chris and that run that Doc had also -- I think they gave everything they had. I don’t think they were the same after that.”
There’s another lesson there: take advantage of every opportunity you have, because you never know when another will come along.
“I always tell [the team] how he was the hero of that game,” said Marlins first-base coach Jon Jay, who was Schumaker’s teammate that season. “He got the big double to knock in the only run of the game, so I'm constantly reminding him of that every time we come here.”