Juan Pierre has collected more infield hits than anyone else in the game since arriving in the majors in 2000, but he had never won a game with one until now.
Pierre beat out a grounder to deep short in the bottom of the 11th inning to score Jimmy Rollins and give the Phillies an 8-7 win over the Cardinals on Sunday.
It was Pierre’s sixth career game-winning hit. Half of them came in the Marlins’ championship year in 2003. He also had one for Florida in 2005, one for the White Sox last year and now today’s. All six hits were singles, but the first five all went to the outfield.
The Phillies were in a position to win it today because journeyman catcher Erik Kratz came up big with a three-run homer in the eighth. The 33-year-old Kratz entered the 2012 season with 40 at-bats and one RBI as a major leaguer. Filling in for Brian Schneider earlier and Carlos Ruiz currently, he has five homers, five doubles and 12 RBI in 45 at-bats this year.
The victory went to Jeremy Horst, his first in 27 appearances as a major leaguer. Left-hander Barret Browning took his second loss in three days for the Cardinals.
Following the Astros’ decisive 4-0 shutout over the Yankees on Saturday night, Justin Verlander was named the Most Valuable Player of the American League Championship Series. Hall of Fame outfielder and former MLB manager Frank Robinson handed the award to Verlander, who was beaming as he thanked his teammates and members of the Astros’ organization.
“I’ve got to say, it came down to the wire, and one thing kept going off in my head was Dallas,” Verlander told the crowd gathered at Minute Maid Park. “When he called me, he said that I won’t regret my decision to join the Houston Astros. And here we are right now, it’s the best feeling in the world. We’ve got four more wins to win a World Series, and I do not regret my decision to come here. This is the best feeling a player can have. So, thank you.”
Among a cast that boasted the likes of Jose Altuve, Carlos Correa and Dallas Keuchel, among others, Verlander was spectacular. He locked down a complete game win in Game 2, holding the Yankees to one run on five hits and a walk and striking out a postseason-high 13 batters. In Game 6, he saved the Astros from elimination with seven scoreless innings, helping propel the club to their eventual 7-1 finish that set up their series-clinching finale on Saturday.
The 34-year-old righty also took his place among some postseason greats. Thanks to an eight-strikeout outing on Friday night, his collective 136 postseason strikeouts are good for sixth-most in MLB playoff history, just a smidgen shy of Tom Glavine (143), Mike Mussina (145), Roger Clemens (173), Andy Pettitte (183) and John Smoltz (199). He also joined Bob Gibson, Curt Schilling and Sandy Koufax as one of just four hurlers to strike out 20+ Yankees in a postseason series.