On This Date in Sports: October 16, 1985: Clark Clobbers Dodgers

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The St. Louis Cardinals punch their ticket to the World Series, beating the Los Angeles Dodgers in Game 6 of the NLCS 7-5 powered by a three-run home run by Jack Clark in the top of the ninth inning at Dodger Stadium. It is the second straight game in which Tom Niedenfuer gave up a home run in the ninth inning, as Ozzie Smith had a walk-off home run in Game 5, on the way to winning NLCS MVP. 

The St. Louis Cardinals managed by Whitey Herzog finished the 1985 season as the best team in baseball. They battled the New York Mets to the end of the season, posting a record of 101-61 to win the division by three games. The Cardinals used team speed to win games, as Vince Coleman stole 110 bases and won the National League Rookie of the Year, while Willie McGee won the batting title with a .353 average, taking home the National League MVP. 

Pitching was the key to success for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1985, as Fernando Valenzuela started the season with a record 41 innings without allowing an earned run. Orel Hershiser had a breakout season, winning 19 games as the Dodgers won the National League West for the third time in five years with a record of 95-67. 

The 1985 NLCS was the first season it was a best of seven after being a best-of-five from 1969-1984. The series began at Dodger Stadium with Fernando Valenzuela facing John Tudor in Game 1. The Dodgers broke a scoreless tie in the fourth inning as Pedro Guerrero singled home, Bill Madlock. The Dodgers added three more runs in the sixth as Mike Scioscia, Candy Maldonado, and Steve Sax each had two-out RBI. Tito Landrum drove in a run for the Cardinals in the seventh but it was all the Dodgers would allow, taking the opener 4-1.

In Game 2, Orel Hershiser faced the often enigmatic Joaquin Andujar. St. Louis got a run in the third inning thanks to a Hershiser wild pitch. The Dodgers quickly answered as Orel Hershiser aided his own cause with an RBI single, Kenny Landreaux followed with a double, he later scored on a single by Bill Madlock. Greg Brock homered in the fourth inning to stretch the Dodger lead to 5-1, while Mike Marshall made it 6-1 with an RBI in the fifth. The Dodgers eventually built an 8-1 lead as Madlock and Guerrero had RBI singles in the sixth inning. The Cardinals would get a run in the eighth as Orel Hershiser went the distance in an 8-2 win that had Los Angeles doing the Baseball Boogie. 

Due to the series format change, the Dodgers needed two wins when the series shifted to St. Louis for Game 3. Danny Cox started for the Cardinals in Game 3, as Bob Welch looked to give the Dodgers a 3-0 lead. The Cardinals roughed up Welch, scoring two runs in first and two runs in the second as Vince Coleman’s speed took the first run as he stole second and later scored on an errant pickoff throw, while Tommy Herr’s home run was the key blow in the second. The Dodgers got a run in the fourth on a Mike Marshall double and another run in the seventh on an RBI by Landreaux. However, the Cardinals bullpen stiffened as the Cardinals held on to a 4-2 win.

Prior to the start of Game 4, the Cardinals suffered a key injury as Vince Coleman got his foot caught in the automatic tarp machine during a pregame shower. Coleman would be lost for the remainder of the postseason with a broken ankle. John Tudor made the start for St. Louis on short rest, while Jerry Reuss started for the Dodgers. The Cardinals responded to the loss of their leadoff hitter in a big way, scoring nine runs in the second on the way to a 12-2 win. The Cardinals' second inning was a parade of singles, as a John Tudor’s squeeze bunt sent the Dodgers reeling. 

Rain again delayed the start of Game 5, as the series was now even at two games apiece. The Dodgers were getting tight as Steve Sax tried to go after a fan that shoved water off the dugout roof into his face when he was going back to the dugout. With Fernando Valenzuela opposing Bob Forsch it was clear that this was a critical game for both teams. The Cardinals got two runs on a double by Herr in the first inning, while Bill Madlock hit a two-run homer in the fifth to tie the game. The game was tied 2-2 in the ninth, with Jeff Lahti on in relief for St. Louis while Tom Nidenfuer was on the hill for LA. With one out in the ninth, Ozzie Smith who had never hit a home run as a left-hander before muscled the ball out to right, causing the crowd at Busch Stadium to go crazy as the Cardinals 3-2 win gave them a 3-2 series lead. 

Back in Los Angeles for Game 6, the Dodgers now faced desperation with Orel Hershiser on the mount. Joaquin Andujar made the start for St. Louis seeking to reach the World Series for the first time in three years. The Dodgers got runs in the first and second innings as Madlock and Mariano Duncan each had RBI singles. Tommy Herr drove in a run in the third, but the Dodgers added two runs in the fifth with Madlock hitting a home run. The Cardinals rallied to tie the game in the seventh, as Wilie McGee stroked a two-run single and scored on a triple by Ozzie Smith. After an intentional walk to Herr, Tom Nidenfuer came in to strike out Jack Clark and Andy Van Slyke. The Dodgers retook the lead on a home run by Mike Marshall against Todd Worrell. Nidenfuer was on the mound in the ninth looking to finish the game when McGee singled and Ozzie Smith walked. After a ground out by Tommy Herr, the Cardinals had runners on second and third with two outs. Tommy Lasorda was caught in between walking Clark to face the struggling Van Slyke. However, he decided to allow Niedenfuer to face Jack Clark, who hit a three-run bomb that gave the Cardinals a 7-5 lead. Ken Daley came on in the ninth and retired the Dodgers in order, to send St. Louis to the World Series.