Friday, April 11, 2014

Game of the Day (4/10/84)

Giants 4, Pirates 3. The Giants pitched Mike Krukow, a pitcher who would go on to a poor 1984 and was about average over the sum of his 14-year career. The Pirates countered with Larry McWilliams, who was slightly worse than Krukow over a slightly shorter career (which also included quite a bit more bullpen time), but who did have a significantly better '84 season.

Marvell Wynne drew a leadoff walk from Krukow in the top of the first, then stole second. Johnny Ray walked as well to put two on with nobody out. Bill Madlock then came to the plate. Madlock was a four time batting champion, with his most recent title having been clinched all of one season previous. Which brings us to a shining example of how Things Sure Were Different Back Then: The Pirates had their #3 hitter and batting champ bunt the runners over. Jason Thompson was intentionally walked to load the bases, Amos Otis struck out, and Tony Pena hit into a force to end the inning with no scoring.

McWilliams was apparently unperturbed by the failings of his teammates (and dubious strategies of his manager), as he worked a 1-2-3 first inning, then reached on an error by Johnnie LeMaster (the shortstop's third in six team games) in the top of the second. Wynne singled to put the pitcher in scoring position before Ray grounded out to end the inning. San Francisco then opened the scoring in the bottom of the second, as Jeffrey Leonard walked, Chili Davis doubled him to third, and Joel Youngblood grounded out to bring him home.

Otis walked in the top of the third, and Manny Trillo singled in the bottom, but neither player moved past first. The fourth went somewhat similarly, as McWilliams reached on an error for the second time in the game (this one by Trillo, the other half of the San Francisco double play combo). Leonard hit a one-out double in the bottom of the fourth and was eventually left at third. Thompson singled in the fifth, but Krukow kept him from advancing. McWilliams was perfect in the bottom of the inning, keeping his team within a run.

That single-run advantage vanished immediately in the top of the sixth when Pena led off with a home run. It was restored nearly as quickly in the bottom of the inning, however, when McWilliams issued a leadoff walk to Trillo and Clark proceeded to ground to Madlock at third; Madlock misplayed the ball into a run-scoring three-base error that gave the Giants a 2-1 lead.

Wynne led off the top of the seventh with a single, but quickly tried and failed to steal second. Ray drew a walk, Madlock flied out, and Thompson doubled, putting the tying run at third. Otis then singled both runners home to give the Pirates their first lead of the day. Pena singled as well, but Doug Frobel flied out to leave them both on. Still, McWilliams was perfect in the seventh, so the lead looked like it might hold up, even after Krukow threw a 1-2-3 eighth to keep his team close.

LeMaster started the bottom of the eighth with a single, moving to second on Madlock's second error of the day. Trillo grounded back to the mound for the first out, bringing Clark to the plate; Clark proceeded to homer, putting the Giants in front 4-3. McWilliams retired the next two hitters, but Greg Minton relieved in the ninth and got Pittsburgh's 2-3-4 hitters in order.

This game is actually quite similar to the April 9 selection - an unlikely pitcher's duel that turned into a see-saw battle in the late innings. This one has the bonus of another Things Sure Were Different moment, as McWilliams pitched an 8-inning, 4-run complete game. There are a few pitchers you can imagine throwing a game like that in 2014, and just about all of them are quite a bit better than Larry McWilliams. It's especially noteworthy he gave up the game's last runs; even after putting the tying run at second in the eighth, he remained on the mound to allow the crushing homer.

In wider news, this was the last multi-RBI game of Amos Otis's career and the highest WPA he managed in his last season (which is understandable, given that in this final campaign, he played 40 games, slugged .206, and drove in 10 runs total). One of the things I enjoy about doing a full past season in this format is seeing guys like Otis pop up on teams you don't expect - his partial season in Pittsburgh looks like a footnote tacked onto the end of his exemplary Royals tenure when you look at his Baseball Reference page, but when you pick over the entire '84 season day by day, you don't see him play anywhere else. (The equivalent mind-bender when I went through 1977 last year was Boog Powell, Los Angeles Dodger.)

Otis, McWilliams, and the slightly more expected performances all combine to make this into a very solid game, with a WPL of 3.74. That's different from the April 9 headliner by .007; both of them round to 3.74, and they are adjacent in the year-to-date standings. Keep this in mind when we get to the April 11 game.

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