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Memories of Memorial Day 2009: the Gallardo-Carpenter Duel

Memorial Day is a time to reflect and be grateful for the heroic actions taken in the name of making our lives better.  As a Brewers fan, I can think of few actions more heroic than beating the goddamn Cardinals.  It on this day five years ago that one of the great Brewers win of the last decade took place.  I’ve still seen this game every so often on the “Brewers Classics” broadcasts that run during the off-season.

May 25, 2009: the Gallardo-Carpenter Duel.

The Brewers and Cardinals were both 26-18, tied for first place.  The Brewers were still relatively hot after their first playoff appearance in 2008, and had swept their first series against St. Louis a couple weeks earlier.  This was obviously all before the recent Cardinals dominance since late 2011, but even in 2009 everyone knew you had to beat St. Louis if you wanted to hang in this division.

In 2009, Chris Carpenter and Adam Wainwright seemed all but untouchable at the top of the Cardinals’ rotation.  By the time Carpenter retired, the Brewers had gotten their licks in, but he was an imposing presence.  Although Yovani Gallardo has never been in the same class as Carpenter or Wainwright, he’s a very-good-to-great starter with moments of brilliance, and in 2009 he was definitely the best Milwaukee had to offer.  On paper it looked like a solid pitching duel, and for once the paper was right.

Gallardo walked two in the first inning, but settled down.  Carpenter didn’t even allow a base runner early on.  For the first five innings neither allowed a hit.  Gallardo eventually gave up a single to lead off the sixth inning, but put up a scoreless frame.  Meanwhile, Carpenter kept rolling and you had that sinking feeling that maybe the Brewers were going to be victimized by a perfecto.

Craig Counsell spoiled it by leading off the seventh inning with a single, which at that point felt like a seven-run homer the way Carpenter was dealing.  Counsell was promptly caught stealing, but at least there would be no history made at the Brewers’ expense that day.

The duel continued through the eighth.  In the top half, Gallardo allowed a one-out single, but stuck out Colby Rasmus and Albert Pujos (I seem to recall Pujos looking really bad, chasing a slider down and away).  Carpenter gave up a ground ball single to Mike Cameron, but that was it.  Both pitchers exited after eight innings, having given up two hits apiece.

The scoreless game continued into the tenth.  Casey McGehee reached on an error to lead off.  Two outs later, McGehee at 3B, and your Memorial Day 2009 hero stepped to the plate.

Brewers win, 1-0.  Time of game: 2:26.

As you might imagine, the St. Louis Post-Dispatch story of the game is a joy to read:

The Cardinals took something controlled, something dominant, something that even teased at history Monday and dropped it into a bin filled with wasted opportunities. […]

For a 13th straight game, the Cardinals failed to score more than five runs.

For the second time in nine days, they allowed a starting pitcher to pour his soul into a game, only to have the Brewers take a 1-0 win, this time behind Yovani Gallardo and two relievers. Milwaukee’s Jeff Suppan bettered Adam Wainwright 1-0 at Busch Stadium on May 16. […]

Neither pitcher received a decision, but Carpenter absorbed the greater injustice, as he struck out 10 without a walk and never allowed a runner past first base.

The Cardinals went on the win the division, and the Brewers ended up finishing third, behind the Cubs.  2009 was a different world.  But even in disappointing seasons, some games stand out, and Memorial Day 2009 holds up pretty well after all these years.