Just call him the "Wild Thing." Rick Ankiel survived five wild pitches in one inning, as the St. Louis Cardinals hung on for a 7-5 triumph over the Atlanta Braves in Game 1 of their National League Division Series on Tuesday.
Ankiel, a 21-year-old rookie southpaw and surprise starter, became the first major league pitcher in 110 years to throw five wild pitches in an inning.
Bert Cunningham set the mark with Buffalo of the Players League in the second game of a doubleheader on Sept. 15, 1890.
(The Players League lasted only one season, but was considered a major league.)
"Hey, I guess at least I set a record," said Ankiel, who eclipsed previous major league playoff marks of two wild pitches in an inning and three wild pitches in a game.
Ankiel lasted only 2 2/3 innings on Tuesday, allowing four runs, four hits and six walks, while striking out three.
"He threw some outstanding pitches and he threw some funny ones that weren't so outstanding," St. Louis manager Tony La Russa said.
La Russa replaced Ankiel with Mike James (1-0), who earned the win with 2 1/3 innings of one-hit relief.
Closer Dave Veres pitched a one-run ninth to earn the save.
"I don't care about the save," Veres said. "I wanted us to score four or five more runs in the eighth."
Not to be outdone, the Cardinals offence tied a playoff record with six runs in the first off Atlanta starter Greg Maddux (0-1).
"A crazy inning where things kind of went haywire," Atlanta pitching coach Leo Mazzone said. "I guess that's the best way to describe it."
Maddux, now 10-11 in post-season play, gave up five earned runs, nine hits and three walks, while fanning two in four innings pitched.
"I don't think we'll panic," Maddux said.
The veteran right-hander struggled from the outset, as Fernando Vina, J.D. Drew, Jim Edmonds and Will Clark opened the game with consecutive singles for a 3-0 St. Louis lead.
The Cards counted three more before the inning was out on an intentional walk, errors by Chipper Jones and Paul Bako and a two-run single from Placido Polanco.
"A couple of mistakes cost us," Brian Jordan said.
Ankiel could not keep the Braves at bay, however, as they reduced the deficit to 6-4 in the third..
That's when the 21-year-old completely lost his composure, allowing four runs on two hits and five wild pitches.
Ankiel's first four stray pitches were fastballs. The record-tying fifth was a curve that bounced five feet in front of homeplate.
He would have thrown six had beleaguered catcher Carlos Hernandez not leaped to snag another.
"A couple of them were too high," Hernandez said. "If I'm Superman, maybe. But I don't think I can fly."
Ankiel started the inning with a four-pitch walk to Maddux, who advanced to third base on two consecutive wild pitches.
A. Jones walked and scampered to second on Ankiel's third wild pitch before Andres Galarraga walked.
Maddux scored on the fourth wild pitch before Jordan singled in Jones.
A two-run single by Walt Weiss scored Galarraga and Jordan, who had moved into scoring position on the fifth wild pitch.
Ankiel was replaced by James, who retired Javy Lopez on an inning-ending pop out to second.
St. Louis increased its lead to 7-4, when Edmonds led off the bottom of the fourth with a home run to right off Maddux.
Jordan's RBI single off Veres in the ninth closed out the scoring.
Despite the dozen runs between them, the Braves went only 3-for-13 with runners in scoring position, while the Cardinals were 3-for-15.
"We didn't play good," Atlanta manager Bobby Cox said.
Of note, Mark McGwire made a pinch-hit appearance in the eighth and was intentionally walked.
St. Louis went 4-3 against Atlanta during the regular season and has yet to lose a game in a best-of-five playoff series.
It swept the Braves in 1982 and the San Diego Padres in 1996.
Darryl Kile (20-9) will attempt to extend that unbeaten streak when he opposes Tom Glavine (21-9) in Game 2 at St. Louis on Thursday afternoon (4:07 p.m., EDT).