Thursday, April 24, 2014

Game of the Day (4/23/84)

White Sox 7, Orioles 6 (10).

There are times that it can be difficult to come up with the right approach with which to present a Game of the Day. It's often fun trying to dig through the box score and play by play account to unearth the nugget of interesting information that brings the story of the game together and (hopefully) makes it resonate 30 years later.

Then, there are times that the day's best game is also the first-ever pitching matchup between Jim Palmer and Tom Seaver, a pair of future Hall of Famers who had half a dozen Cy Young trophies between them. In cases like that, it becomes slightly easier to select an angle.

Neither veteran starter got off on a particularly good foot. Seaver started the game by allowing singles to Gary Roenicke and John Shelby, and Cal Ripken followed with a double to score Roenicke with the game's first run. Seaver recovered to strike out Eddie Murray and John Lowenstein, intentionally walked Ken Singleton, and induced an inning-ending bases-loaded flyout from Todd Cruz.

Chicago rallied to tie against Palmer in the bottom of the first when Rudy Law walked, took second on a passed ball, and came the rest of the way around on a pair of groundouts. Seaver cancelled a single with a double play in the second, and the Sox then took the lead on an unusual sequence: Tom Paciorek led off with a single, then went from first to third on a Vance Law 5-3 groundout. (Presumably, nobody covered third while Cruz was fielding the ball.) That enabled Paciorek to come home on a bunt single by Scott Fletcher.

Baltimore turned the game around again in the third when Shelby tripled and Ripken homered for a 3-2 advantage, but Carlton Fisk took Palmer deep leading off the bottom of the third to tie it at 3. Seaver threw a perfect fourth, and the Sox struck again in the home half of the inning. Palmer walked Paciorek to start it, and two outs (one of them a force, so it was Vance Law on base), he walked #9 hitter Julio Cruz as well. That spelled the end of his day, and Dennis Martinez was summoned in his place. Martinez quickly served up a Rudy Law RBI single and a two-run double by Fisk, making the score 6-3 in favor of Chicago.

The Orioles drew closer in the fifth, as Shelby walked, moved to third on Ripken's double, and scored on Lowenstein's sac fly. Martinez allowed a single in the bottom of the fifth, as did Seaver in the top of the sixth, but neither permitted the runner to cross the plate; Martinez didn't allow so much as a baserunner in the bottom of the sixth.

Ron Reed took over for Seaver in the top of the seventh and retired the Orioles in order. The bottom of the inning was noticeably more eventful, starting when Martinez hit Fisk with a pitch. One out later, Greg Luzinski drew a walk, prompting Baltimore to replace one Martinez with another, as Tippy Martinez relieved Dennis. The new hurler issued a two-out walk to Paciorek, loading the bases, but got a flyout from Vance Law to end the inning.

Baltimore evened the score in the eighth. Lowenstein drew a leadoff walk, and Singleton singled him to third. Pinch hitter Joe Nolan singled as well, scoring Lowenstein and sending pinch runner Al Bumbry to third. Britt Burns relieved Reed, forcing the Orioles to burn pinch hitter Jim Dwyer and use pinch hitter Benny Ayala instead; Ayala then struck out, but Rick Dempsey tied the game with a sacrifice fly. Roenicke walked to put the go-ahead run in scoring position before Shelby struck out to end the inning.

Martinez worked around a Dave Stegman single to throw a scoreless eighth. Burns was spotless in the ninth, while Martinez allowed a single to Luzinski, who was lifted for a pinch runner who did not go on to score. Burns allowed a single in the top of the tenth, but Ayala was thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. Martinez walked both Law and Fletcher to start the bottom of the tenth, and was pulled for Sammy Stewart, who yielded a walkoff RBI single to Cruz.

The game had its moments at the end, but most of the fireworks came from the Hall of Fame showdown early - not just Seaver vs. Palmer, but Seaver vs. Ripken and Palmer vs. Fisk, as the two Cooperstown-bound hitters amassed a homer and three RBI apiece.

The two aging lions of the mound had both clearly seen better days; as of the conclusion of their appearances in this game, Seaver had a 7.04 ERA, while Palmer sported an 8.53 mark. But their paths after April 23 were quite different. Seaver recovered to have a productive 1984 season, and posted a legitimately excellent 1985 before retiring a year later.

Palmer? His first matchup against Seaver doubled as the last start of his career. (He did have two relief appearances remaining - but that's another story for another post.)

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