Mark Grudzielanek

April 27, 2005: Mark Grudzielanek hits for the cycle

On the day that Cardinals ace Chris Carpenter celebrated his 30th birthday, it was Mark Grudzielanek who stole the show.

In the Cardinals’ 6-3 victory over the Brewers on April 27, 2005, Grudzielanek joined Lou Brock and Ray Lankford as the only Cardinals to hit for the cycle at Busch Stadium.

The veteran of 11 previous seasons with the Expos, Dodgers, and Cubs, Grudzielanek had seen his batting average dip as low as .224 on April 22. Now that he was back in St. Louis, however, his fiancé Danielle and 23-month-old son Bryce were visiting from San Diego and helping to place his mind at ease as he adjusted to a new team.

“I see my little guy and everything just falls off – the pressure, the ton of bricks on your shoulders just fall off,” he said. “I walk out the clubhouse door and just get to be his hero.

“Everything was building up and building up and I was pressing, and they get here and it’s like, ‘Hey, relax. Relax. Things will come around.’”[1]

They certainly did.

Grudzielanek and the Cardinals set the tone early after Carpenter struck out Brady Clark, Jeff Cirillo, and Geoff Jenkins to open the game. Batting leadoff in place of David Eckstein, who had the day off, Grudzielanek opened the bottom of the first with a home run to left field, his first as a Cardinal.

It was just the beginning of a very rough inning for Brewers starting pitcher Victor Santos. Larry Walker doubled and Albert Pujols singled before Jim Edmonds hit an RBI double. Scott Rolen drew a walk to load the bases before Santos retired his first batter, and Abraham Nunez scored Pujols on a ground ball to give St. Louis a 3-0 lead after one inning.

In the second, Grudzielanek struck again with a one-out single to left. Two batters later, Pujols singled to score Grudzielanek and give the Cardinals a 4-0 lead.

The lead stayed four runs until the fourth, and Grudzielanek was again in the middle of things. Yadier Molina walked to lead off the inning and Carpenter laid down a sacrifice bunt to advance him to second. On a 2-1 pitch, Santos gave Grudzielanek a waist-high fastball on the outside half of the plate and the Cardinals second baseman smacked it into the right-field gap, where it one-hopped the fence to score Molina.

“I didn’t think about (the cycle) really until Pujols was yelling at me a little bit after I hit the double, saying ‘You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to do it. You’ve got to go for the cycle,’” Grudzielanek said. “I didn’t think the opportunity would come, but it sure did. … It doesn’t happen often, just one of those days.”[2]

In the fifth, the Brewers finally caught up to Carpenter. After the 6-foot-6 right-hander struck out Russell Branyan and Junior Spivey, Bill Hall doubled into the right-field gap and Chad Moeller hit an RBI single up the middle to make the score 5-1.

Branyan hit a two-run homer in the sixth to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 5-3, but Grudzielanek once again sparked St. Louis. Brewers reliever Jorge De La Rosa opened the at-bat with two consecutive strikes before he tried to sneak an outside breaking ball past Grudzielanek.

It didn’t work. The Cardinals’ second baseman slapped the ball into the right-field corner. It looked like Grudzielanek would have to settle for a double, but as the ball bounced around the corner it skipped past Jenkins. Grudzielanek raced around second and slid safely into third without a throw to become the first Cardinal to hit for the cycle since John Mabry accomplished the feat in Colorado in 1996.

“I saw (Jenkins) try and cut it off and saw it squeeze by and I thought, ‘Gotta go, gotta go,’” Grudzielanek said. “It’s just weird how it worked out. Pujols yelling at me that you’ve got to go for it, and sure enough it happened where I had a chance to go for it.”[3]

Edmonds hit a two-out single to left to score Grudzielanek and make the score 6-3.

Carpenter pitched into the eighth. With Jenkins on first with a single, he struck out Carlos Lee for his final out of the game. With the left-handed-hitting Russell Branyan up next, Cardinals manager Tony La Russa called on Ray King to get the final out of the inning. Julian Tavarez, filling in for injured closer Jason Isringhausen, struck out three of the four batters he faced in the ninth for his first save of the season.

Carpenter’s day consisted of three earned runs in 7 2/3 innings. He tied a career high with 12 strikeouts without walking a batter.

“Right now, I feel I can throw my curveball for strikes or down or whatever I want to do with it,” Carpenter said. “That was, I think, a key factor today.”[4]

That curveball would remain a factor throughout the season, as he went 21-5 en route to winning the National League Cy Young Award.

Santos took the loss after allowing five earned runs over four innings. Three of the seven hits he allowed came off Grudzielanek’s bat.

“It’s like everything I threw him, he was right on it,” Santos said. “I would make a mistake and then – boom!”[5]

Grudzielanek finished the season with a .294 batting average to go along with 30 doubles, eight homers, and 59 RBIs. After his lone season in St. Louis, he signed a one-year, $4 million contract with the Royals with a $3 million player option for 2007.[6]

Grudzielanek played three seasons in Kansas City, then played his final season in Cleveland in 2010 at age 40. He finished his career with a .289 batting average and 2,040 career hits.

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[1] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[2] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[3] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[4] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[5] Derrick Goold, “Cards ride Grudzielanek cycle to win,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, April 28, 2005.

[6] Derrick Goold, “Grudzielanek tires of waiting, crosses state to join Royals,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, December 17, 2005.

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