It was about this time ten years ago, August 27th 2006, to be precise that Gary Bennett supplied a walk-off grand slam to help the St. Louis Cardinals defeat the Chicago Cubs 10-6.
“I certainly do remember it–I remember it well,” shared Bennett on the latest edition of St. Louis Baseball Weekly. “The amazing part is it’s ten years ago. That hasn’t sunk in yet that it’s already been ten years.”
The 2006 season was the first for Bennett with the Cardinals and the first playoff run of his big league career.
“I played on quite a few teams, a couple came close but never made it to the postseason,” said Bennett. “That opening week. Just the energy in St. Louis, one, and the way that team–just the talent out there and the way they were going about their business, it just felt for me, it was different. That was a legitimate, playoff contending, hope-for-the-World Series team. Everyone says that, but in the back of your mind you’re thinking, well everything’s got to fall into place perfectly. With that team, all the pieces were there.”
“I remember making that comment to him, ‘man, this is a good team’ and you say that about some other teams, but it just sunk in how talented and how professional everyone was at going about their business. You could say the World Series is our goal, but they showed it. And it stuck out, it hit me quickly–not only in Spring Training, but the first two weeks of the season it was very clear.”
The grand slam was actually the fourth home run Bennett hit during a six game stretch the end of August that season. He hit .611 and had 9 RBIs during that stretch and he finished the year with 22 total runs driven in.
These days the former catcher is involved in a variety of business ventures and youth sports, but Bennett made it to St. Louis earlier this season for the ’06 reunion and still follows the Cardinals closely. So he wasn’t completely surprised that Mike Matheny made the decision to bring Jaime Garcia back into the rotation for Monday’s start.
“Obviously, Mike and his coaching staff, and the front office are a lot more dialed in and a lot more intelligent on these decisions than I am,” qualified Bennett. “I would think you have to fall back on Jaime and the guys you’ve had there and have a realistic idea of what to expect. Younger players, there’s highs and lows. There’s definitely some growing pains. So, me personally, I’d go with what I’d have a better idea of what the outcome’s going to be or a better idea of what to expect from the players.”
As for what the Cardinals need down the stretch to capture the NL Wild Card?
“Well, Waino’s gotta get back–I’m sure that’s stating the obvious,” said Bennett. “He’s gotta work out of that little lull, that little funk he had and be the number one guy. Get out there and carry the load in a big way.”
Noting that Garcia and Michael Wacha could also play big parts, Bennett also brought up a couple of key bats.
“Piscotty to stay hot, stay with what he’s been doing what he’s been doing all year,” he said. “Gyorko’s been swinging the bat–they’re going to need his power to continue, but I think the biggest thing is you’ve gotta pitch. You have to pitch in the playoffs, you have to play good defense to give yourself a shot. And that being said, Waino’s got to shoulder the load.”
photo credit: Associated Press, Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports