For seven seasons, Dusty Baker penciled Kirk Rueter's name in as his starting pitcher of the San Francisco Giants.
The two formed a bond and Rueter put up fantastic numbers for Baker after being traded from the Montreal Expos during the 1996 season for Mark Leiter. In 10 seasons with the Giants, Rueter compiled a record of 105-80 -- the most wins by a lefty in San Francisco history -- with a 4.32 ERA.
Along the way, Baker believes Rueter is the luckiest player he's ever coached in his 21-year managerial career. So when Rueter drove down from his Illinois home to see Baker's Washington Nationals play the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis, Baker put his lucky charm in action.
After getting swept by the Phillies, Baker brought Rueter into the Nationals' dugout and proceeded to have players rub his ears for good luck.
The result proved Baker's theory to be true: Washington swept St. Louis on the road for the first time since 1986, when the franchise was then the Expos. Washington's offense exploded for 17 runs in three games after scoring only three in their three losses to the Phillies.
"I’m just ecstatic Dusty is back in the game," Rueter told USA TODAY Sports. "I know this is what he wanted. It’s a great team, with a lot of talent, and they can do some special things."
While their friendship continues, there's still one memory that burns for Rueter.
"I feel bad that we didn’t win him the World Series in ‘02," said Rueter.
The Giants lost the 2002 World Series to the Anaheim Angels in seven games. Rueter made two appearances in the Fall Classic, going 0-0 with a 2.70 ERA.
"If he can win the World Series, it would be great for him, and really, great for baseball, too."
And if the Nationals do make it to the World Series, Baker knows exactly where Mr. Lucky will be.
"You’ll have tickets right behind home plate," Baker said to Rueter. “You better believe it."
Baker, in his first season as the Nationals' head coach, has led the team to an 18-7 record heading into Tuesday night. They are currently 1.5 games ahead of the New York Mets in the NL East.