On June 22, 1970, The Pittsburgh Pirates took on the St Louis Cardinals in a doubleheader at Forbes Field. The second contest was a makeup game of a rain out in mid-April. The Pirates lost the first game by a 6-1 score, dropping them to 33-35 on the season. They needed a win in the nightcap and called on 22-year-old rookie pitcher Jim Nelson to try to secure that victory. His career began with six shutout innings in relief, then he won his first start on June 15th against the Los Angeles Dodgers, allowing one earned run in seven innings. He came into this June 22nd game against the 32-32 Cardinals with an 0.59 ERA. What he didn’t know going into that day is that he would need to be even better than before if he was going to help the Pirates to victory on this day.
The Cardinals sent out young Mike Torrez for this start. He was in season four of his 18-year career, with just 17 of his 185 career wins to his credit at the time. The St Louis lineup had some firepower, with Hall of Famer Lou Brock, as well as Dick Allen and Joe Torre, two guys who should get more consideration for the Hall of Fame (Torre is in as a manager, which probably ruins his chance as a player). They also had names that are likely familiar to older fans, Vic Davilillo, Mike Shannon, Julian Javier and Dal Maxvill.
The least known name in the Pirates was already mentioned here, batting in the pitcher’s spot. The rest of the lineup (in order) started with Matty Alou in the lead-off spot, followed by Richie Hebner, Dave Cash, Al Oliver, Bob Robertson, Manny Sanguillen, Jose Pagan and Gene Alley. There are obviously three big names missing, Willie Stargell, Roberto Clemente and Bill Mazeroski, yet you probably thought that was a decent lineup until you realized how much better it could have been. Clemente started the opener and was just resting in game two that day because he had a nagging neck injury at the time. Mazeroski was slumping at the plate and got a week off from starting, so it was just odd timing that he didn’t start this game. He pinch-hit in the opener. Stargell was out with a heel injury, but he would be back within a week as well.
The first game on this day, which started at 6:05 PM, was finished in two hours and 18 minutes. This game was on pace to end quicker until the ninth inning. Nelson helped things along in the first by retiring Brock, Davilillo and Allen in order. Alou reached on a bunt to start the bottom of the first, but he only made it as far as second base. The 2-4 hitters were retired on a fly ball and two ground outs.
Mike Shannon (walk) was the only runner to reach in the second inning for both teams, and he didn’t make it to second base, so there was no scoring threat. The Cardinals went down in order in the third and the Pirates had a nice start to the bottom of the inning. Gene Alley singled to lead-off, then stole second base. Three batters later, he was still at second base and the inning was over.
The fourth inning saw Nelson run into trouble. Vic Davalillo singled, then moved to second base on a walk. With two on and no outs, Joe Torre grounded to Hebner at third base. He stepped on the bag and threw to first base for the double play. Joe Hague was intentionally walked to put two runners on again, but Mike Shannon popped out to Sanguillen to end the top of the inning.
The bottom of the fourth saw the Pirates hitters go infield pop up, single to center, infield pop up, single to center. Oliver and Sanguillen had the hits. Pagan came up with two on and grounded to second base to end the inning.
Nelson got two ground outs to start the fifth, then gave up a two-out bunt single to Torrez. That brought up the top of the order and Lou Brock singled to put two men on again for the Cardinals. Davalillo couldn’t come through, hitting one right back to Nelson for the out, ending the inning.
The Pirates had the best scoring chance in the bottom of the fifth, as Gene Alley tripled to lead-off the inning. Nelson struck out, then Matty Alou grounded out to first base. The Cardinals decided that they would rather face Cash than Hebner, so the latter was given a free pass. Just like the top of the inning, the bottom of the frame ended on a ball hit back to the mound with two runners on. They were scoreless through five innings, despite numerous scoring chances.
The sixth inning was fairly quiet for both sides. After Torre and Allen made outs, Joe Hague picked up a single. Shannon ended the frame by grounding out to shortstop. The middle of the Pirates order, Oliver, Robertson and Sanguillen, went down in order in the bottom of the inning.
Nelson retired the bottom three in the Cardinals order to send this game to the seventh inning stretch with no score. With one out in the bottom of the seventh, Gene Alley reached base again, this time via a walk. Nelson bunted him up to second base, giving Alou another shot with a runner in scoring position, but he flew out to left field. I’ll note that both pitchers hit for themselves in the seventh inning of a tie game.
In the eighth, Brock and Davalillo grounded out, then Allen walked and Torre singled. The Pirates pitched around Hague earlier in the game in a big spot, but they had to pitch to him in this spot with two men on. Nelson won the battle, getting a fly ball to right field. The Pirates got a one-out walk to Dave Cash, but he was thrown out trying to steal, so Torrez faced the minimum in the inning.
The ninth inning saw six batters come to the plate and six of them get retired, sending this fast-paced game to extra innings.
The Cardinals decided to pinch-hit for Torrez to start the tenth and Leron Lee flew out to center field. Lou Brock then reached second base on a single and an error by Nelson. Davalillo struck out, then Allen was walked to face Torre with two outs. Nelson got him to foul out to first base, getting out of another jam with no damage.
In the bottom of the tenth, veteran right-hander Frank Linzy came on to pitch. He just joined the Cardinals a month earlier after putting up a 7.01 ERA in 20 games for the San Francisco Giants. He had a 2.55 ERA in 17.2 innings with the Cardinals going into this game. Linzy gave up a single to Gene Alley, because no one was keeping Alley off base this day. The Pirates sent up Freddie Patek to hit for Nelson, but he was asked to sacrifice the runner over to second base. Matty Alou then came up for the third time with a man in scoring position and this time he came through, singling home Alley with the winning run.
Nelson pitched a ten-inning shutout, in what would turn out to be his only career shutout in the majors. He wasn’t dominant, with six hits and five walks (two intentional), but he did enough to out-battle Torrez, who gave up five hits and three walks in his nine shutout innings. Torrez didn’t get credit for a shutout that day, but he ended up throwing 15 during his career.
Here’s the boxscore and play-by-play from Baseball-Reference.