i can admit it: i took mark mulder for granted. only in his long absence have i come to appreciate his value. since his injury emerged in late may, the cardinals haven't been the same team. (see this post for details.) he might not have been the ace we all hoped he would be, but he did pitch pretty well pretty consistently for a season and a third. even when he reached his nadir last season, in late june, his era was only 4.75; that sounds like a pretty good figure by 2006 standards.
tonight's pitching pairing produced one of the season's best games back on may 17. cardinals won, 1-0; isringhausen pitched brilliantly to strand two of mulder's baserunners in the 9th and preserve the victory. mulder has won only once since then.
the cards have set the bar of expectation exceedingly low for his return tonight; smart move. even if mulder gives up 3 or 4 runs in a short outing, it's gonna be deemed a qualified success. here's how a few other famous DL-returnees fared in their first game back:
- august 29, 2002: woody williams rejoins the rotation after a 7-week layoff with a strained oblique and gets bombed -- 4 innings, 8 hits, 5 runs in a 7-0 loss to the reds. the loss cuts st louis' lead over the astros to 2.5 games. he wins his next 3 starts, allowing just 1 run in 19 innings, but reinjures himself on sept 20 and does not pitch again until the 2d round of the playoffs.
- august 1, 1987: john tudor makes his 1st start since breaking his leg in mid-april and lasts just 4 shaky innings against the pirates -- 7 hits, 5 runs (4 earned) -- and gets no decision. he goes 8-1 down the stretch in 13 starts.
- september 29, 1973: bob gibson comes back on the next-to-last day of the season and, in his 1st game since early august, pitches 6 quality innings vs the phillies. he beats former rotationmate steve carlton, handing ol' Lefty his 20th loss of the season. the win keeps the cards' slim postseason hopes alive.
- september 7, 1967: gibson returns from an 8-week layoff (broken leg) and turns in 5 laborious innings at shea stadium vs the mets -- 8 hits, 1 run. the cards support him with 9 runs and he gets the win, his 11th.