Ozzie Smith, generally recognized as the best fielding shortstop in the game, did something that nobody could remember seeing him do before. The Wizard of Oz made two errors in one game Saturday at Chicago.
However, Smith made up for the rarity. He had a perfect day at bat, 2 for 2 plus two walks, and doubled in the winning run in a 5-4 victory over the Cubs that put the St. Louis Cardinals back in first place in the National League East. With the New York Mets losing, the Cardinals lead by half a game.
Eyebrows went up this season when the Cardinals signed Smith, a career .238 hitter, to a long-term contract for about $2 million a year. Nobody, it was said, pays that much money to a player with the tag of "good field, no hit," although in Smith's case it is probably "great field."
But Smith has been an important part of the Cardinal attack that has produced more runs than any other team in the league.
In his best season as a hitter, Smith is batting .272, has scored 58 runs and has driven in 41. That is good production from the No. 8 man in the lineup. His best hitting season was his first, 1978 at San Diego, when he batted .258.
The Cardinals, who fell behind, 2-0, when starter Kurt Kepshire walked the first three batters, still trailed, 4-3, going into the sixth inning.
Cesar Cedeno, a solid replacement for injured Jack Clark, walked to open the sixth. Lary Sorensen replaced Cub starter Ray Fontenot and promptly balked. Terry Pendleton singled home Cedeno to tie the score. Then Smith ripped a double into the left-field corner to score Pendleton with the winning run.
Bill Campbell pitched three shutout innings to gain the victory, and Jeff Lahti, making his first appearance in 11 days after a leg injury, pitched two scoreless innings to earn his 17th save.
"I've never seen Oz make two errors in a game before," Cardinal Manager Whitey Herzog told the Associated Press. "But he's a better offensive player than people give him credit for.
"First place doesn't make any difference now. It only counts on the last day of the season."
Smith, who had only 10 errors all season going into the game, bobbled a ball hit by Ron Cey in the third and let a shot by Cey go through his legs in the eighth. Neither error proved costly.
"At least I was aggressive on the second one," Smith said. "We were able to win, that's the bottom line."
Smith also stole two bases, giving him 25 for the season. In the third inning, he singled, stole second and scored on Vince Coleman's single. Coleman stole his 95th base but was stranded.
Ryne Sandberg hit his 23rd home run for the Cubs in the third and also had a single and stole his 46th base. He is one of the few Cubs having a good season.
Montreal 5, New York 1--David Palmer, making his first start in seven weeks, said it felt as if he was pitching for the first time this year.
On a chilly day in Montreal, the Mets thought the injury-plagued right-hander showed midseason form. Palmer, who has been on the disabled list because of elbow or shoulder problems six times since July, 1980, gave up a run and five hits in five innings.
With the help of three relievers--Tim Burke, Gary Lucas and Jeff Reardon--Palmer improved his record to 7-9. Reardon pitched two shutout innings to earn his 35th save and his second in two days.
Tim Raines led the Expo offense, which accounted for three runs against loser Sid Fernandez (6-9) in 4 innings. Raines doubled and scored in the first inning. In the third, he beat out an infield hit and, when third baseman Howard Johnson threw the ball into right field, went all the way to third. He scored what proved to be the winning run on Vance Law's sacrifice fly.
The Mets made four errors, two on throws by catcher Gary Carter.
San Francisco 3, Atlanta 1--Jeff Leonard doubled home Dan Driessen in the top of the ninth at Atlanta to break a 1-1 tie, and Greg Adams doubled Leonard home.
The bright spot for the Braves was the pitching of Pascual Perez, who entered the game with a 1-10 record and an earned-run average of 6.49. Perez blanked the Giants on three hits through seven innings, then gave up two hits and a run in the eighth. Gene Garber pitched the ninth for the Braves.
Houston 4, San Diego 3--Dickie Thon hit a two-run home run at Houston to give the Astros their 15th win in the last 18 games, putting them above .500 for the first time in two months and moving them into a tie with the Padres for third place in the West.
Bob Knepper (14-10) gave up seven hits in seven innings to win his fourth in a row.
Pittsburgh 6, Philadelphia 3--Steve Carlton (1-8) faltered again in his comeback attempt. In this game at Pittsburgh, Carlton gave up five hits, five runs and four walks before leaving with nobody out in the sixth inning.
The Pirates' Tony Pena went 3 for 4, drove in two runs and scored two.