Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of the Day (4/13/84)

Twins 4, Mariners 3. Seattle started Mike Moore, who was kicking off one of the worst seasons of a long and mostly productive career. Minnesota hurler John Butcher's career was both shorter and less productive, but his 1984 season was significantly better.

Seattle leadoff man Jack Perconte got the game off to about the most exciting start possible - he led off with a triple, only to be caught in a rundown and thrown out on Barry Bonnell's grounder to third. A two-out hit by Pat Putnam moved Bonnell to third before Al Cowens flied out to strand both runners. Darrell Brown led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and Kent Hrbek hit one as well with one out. Moore coaxed a forceout from Tom Brunansky, but Mickey Hatcher followed with a double to score Hrbek with the game's initial run.

Butcher and Moore calmed things considerably in the ensuing innings, combining to allow only a solitary walk through the next two and a half frames. The bottom of the fourth brought a Jim Eisenreich single and a Gary Gaetti walk, but they came with two outs, allowing Moore to escape danger with just a flyout. Phil Bradley singled and Bob Kearney walked in the top of the fifth, but Bradley was caught stealing during Kearney's plate appearance, so no substantial threat materialized.

Minnesota broke the scoring drought in the bottom of the fifth on singles by Lenny Faedo, Brown, and Hrbek; Seattle got on the board in the sixth with a walk by Gorman Thomas and a Cowens RBI double. After an Alvin Davis walk, Butcher was pulled for Mike Walters, who got a groundout from pinch hitter Ricky Nelson to end the inning.

Moore was perfect in the sixth, and worked around a Tim Teufel walk and a Hrbek single in the seventh. Walters, meanwhile, was spotless in the seventh; he allowed a two-out Putnam double in the eighth and was yanked for Ron Davis. The new pitcher got Cowens to pop up to second and end the inning with Minnesota still clinging to a one-run lead, which remained present as Moore retired the Twins in order in the eighth.

The lead vanished immediately in the top of the ninth, as Alvin Davis led off with a game-tying homer. It reappeared facing the other direction when Nelson made it a back-to-back. Ron Davis recovered without allowing anything else beyond a two-out walk, but the Mariners had finally taken their first lead.

The Twins were not destined to have the last blown save of the day, however. Mike Stanton (no, not the one who wasn't drafted for three more years or the one who wasn't born for 5 more years; this one) entered for the bottom of the ninth as part of a Byzantine series of adjustments by Seattle which, among other things, cost them the DH: Dave Henderson had pinch run for Putnam in the seventh, and they wanted him in center for the ninth, Cowens moved from center to right, and Stanton technically replaced right fielder Nelson in the lineup. You'd think that would be all, but the M's also put Domingo Ramos in at third, with Bonnell moving from third to left and Thomas coming out. So the entire outfield was changed, the DH was gone, and a new pitcher was on the mound.

Pinch hitter Randy Bush led off the inning with a single, and was replaced by pinch runner Ron Washington. (How hard is it to hold a one-run lead with an entirely new defense playing behind you, Wash?) Faedo struck out, but Brown walked and Teufel singled Washington home with the tying run. Ed Vande Berg replaced Stanton and walked Hrbek to load the bases. Dave Beard relieved Vande Berg and promptly allowed a game-ending single to Brunansky.

One of the primary traits of the WPL system is that great games (or even really good games, like this one) are made in the late innings, not the early ones. So if you're going to have a non-extra-inning game with exactly two lead changes, it's hard to do better than having them both occur in the ninth. It's even better if the first involves the second career homer by Alvin Davis - in his second career game, no less - along with what would turn out to be the last of Ricky Nelson's six MLB longballs. It adds up to the best game in several days (since the remarkable events of April 8, to be precise).

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