September 1, 2011: Pujols homers twice, Holliday hits his 200th career home run, and the Cardinals call on a rookie pitcher to sweep Brewers

With four weeks remaining and a sizeable gap between the Cardinals and a playoff berth, Tony La Russa wanted to line up his pitching rotation for the home stretch of the regular season.

To make it happen, he called upon Brandon Dickson, a rookie right-hander who had spent almost the entire season in Memphis, to make his first major league start against the National League Central Division-leading Brewers on September 1, 2011. Dickson had pitched for the Cardinals twice in July, throwing a combined four innings of scoreless relief.

“Our backs are against the wall,” left fielder Matt Holliday said. “We’ve got to win the rest of our games, pretty much, and hope they lose some. It’s really the only choice we have.”[1]

The Cardinals were seeking to complete a three-game sweep of the Brewers and extend their win streak to four games overall. St. Louis trailed Milwaukee and the wild-card leading Braves by 8 ½ games.

Despite the game’s obvious importance, La Russa wanted to give Chris Carpenter an extra day of rest and create better match-ups for the final month of the season.

“What I’ve tried to explain is when you look at the rotation and who pitches when, in my opinion, that gives us our best shot to win the most games from here to the end of the season,” La Russa said.[2]

The Brewers countered with their ace, 25-year-old Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo won 14 games and appeared in the all-star game in 2010, and had built upon that success in 2011. Heading into his start against the Cardinals, Gallardo was 15-8 with a 3.37 ERA.

The match-up clearly favored the Brewers, but someone forgot to tell the Cardinals.

Rafael Furcal, acquired in a deal with the Dodgers at the trading deadline, led off the game with a line-drive home run to right field. Two batters later, Pujols homered to left, giving the Cardinals a 2-0 lead before Dickson threw a pitch.

Dickson retired the Brewers in order in the first and worked around a Casey McGehee double in the second. In the third, Pujols broke the game open with a grand slam over the right-field wall. It marked the first time in his career that Gallardo had allowed more than two home runs in a game.[3]

Jonathan Lucroy and Corey Hart each hit solo home runs in the bottom of the third to cut the Cardinals’ lead to 6-2.

“They were balls over the middle of the plate,” Dickson said.[4]

After Dickson walked McGehee and Brewers second baseman Jerry Hairston singled, La Russa turned to his bullpen. Octavio Dotel, another July trade acquisition, struck out Lucroy and Gallardo to end the Brewers’ threat.

Holliday hit the Cardinals’ fourth home run of the day – a two-run shot off Gallardo – to make the score 8-3 in the fifth. It marked Holliday’s 20th home run of the season and the 200th of his career.

“If you told me in the minor leagues I’d get to 200 in the major leagues, I would have said that’s pretty nice,” he said. “It’s not something you really anticipate for yourself. I’d like to do a lot more of it.”[5]

Dotel threw two more scoreless innings and Fernando Salas pitched two more, allowing just a solo home run by Prince Fielder, before Jason Motte pitched a scoreless ninth to finish the game.

With the win, the Cardinals cut the Brewers’ lead to 7 ½ games while Atlanta, which beat the Nationals, stayed 8 ½ games ahead in the wild-card race.

“There’s a lot of games left,” said Pujols, who finished the game with four hits and five RBIs. “We’re not out for sure. Nothing is over. I’m pretty sure that’s the same way they look at it.”[6]

“In baseball, nobody knows,” Dotel said. “This is my 13th year in the big leagues and I’m always learning something. I always see something different.”[7]

Meanwhile, the Brewers remained confident.

“Even today, we had plenty of chances late in the game,” Hart said. “During the (hot) stretch we capitalized on every opportunity. We didn’t do that this series. There’s not a lot of games left, so we feel pretty good about ourselves.”[8]

The Brewers won the National League Central by six games with a 96-66, while the Cardinals rallied to beat the Braves by a game for the wild-card berth. After toppling the Phillies in the NLDS, the Cardinals beat the Brewers in a six-game NLCS.

The Cardinals went on to win a seven-game World Series over the Rangers, including an extra-inning classic in Game 6. It marked the 11th world championship in franchise history.

The Cardinals’ September 1 win over the Brewers proved to be the only start of Dickson’s major league career. He made one more relief appearance that season, then pitched four times for the Cardinals in 2012. In 2013, Dickson signed with the Orix Buffaloes of the Japan Pacific League. In 2021, he returned to the United States and pitched for the Cardinals’ Triple-A affiliate in Memphis.


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[1] Todd Rosiak, “It’s business as usual for the Cardinals,” https://archive.jsonline.com/sports/breewers/128962898.html.

[2] Joe Strauss, “Holliday reaches 200 career HRs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

[3] Joe Strauss, “Cards keep hits coming in sweep of Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

[4] Joe Strauss, “Holliday reaches 200 career HRs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

[5] Joe Strauss, “Holliday reaches 200 career HRs,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

[6] Joe Strauss, “Cards keep hits coming in sweep of Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

[7] Joe Strauss, “Cards keep hits coming in sweep of Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

[8] Joe Strauss, “Cards keep hits coming in sweep of Brewers,” St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 2, 2011.

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