Sunday, May 11, 2014

Game of the Day (5/10/84)

There were nine games on May 10, 1984; only three of them were in the AL. One of those games was decided in 9 innings; the road team trailed 5-3 going into the ninth, rallied to take a 6-5 lead, and then lost 8-6 in the bottom of the inning. One of them lasted 10 innings. In that one, the home team came from three runs down to tie the game in the eighth, both teams put the go-ahead run in scoring position early in the ninth, and after a homer put the road team in the lead, the home team got the tying run to second in the tenth before losing.

The third AL game was Yankees 7, Indians 6 (16). Unsurprisingly, it was the best of the three extraordinary AL games that day.

Cleveland sent Neal Heaton to the mound; I am completely unfamiliar with Heaton despite the fact that he started over 200 major league games and just cleared 1500 innings, and a glance at his statistical profile does not suggest that I've been missing much. Meanwhile, New York's starter was one Ron Guidry, who is quite a bit better-known, largely because he was also quite a bit better.

Guidry had a few adventures in the first inning, but the Indians largely bailed him out, as Brett Butler and Tony Bernazard were both caught stealing after hitting singles. Heaton set the Yanks down in order in the bottom of the inning, and Cleveland abandoned the baserunning follies in the top of the second, which allowed them to take the early lead. Pat Tabler and Brook Jacoby started the inning with singles, and one out later, Ron Hassey singled Tabler in. Kevin Rhomberg singled as well, loading the bases, and Butler added a sac fly for a 2-0 lead.

New York swiftly tied the score in the bottom of the second on homers by Don Baylor and Don Mattingly. Guidry settled into some approximation of his usual form with 1-2-3 innings in the third and fourth; Heaton kept the Yankees off the board in the third, partly because Andre Robertson was caught stealing after his single, but was not so fortunate an inning later, as Baylor singled, Mattingly and Steve Kemp walked to load the bases with one out, and Mike O'Berry, making his first start of the year, singled in a pair of runs to take the lead. Heaton was hurried from the mound in favor of Luis Aponte, who got an RBI groundout from Robertson and an ordinary one from Willie Randolph to end the inning.

Guidry worked around a Butler single in the fifth, while Aponte allowed a pair of walks but got a Lou Piniella double play to escape. In the sixth, Andre Thornton led off with a single and Tabler walked. Jacoby flied out, but Carmelo Castillo singled Thornton home to chase Guidry. Jay Howell entered and allowed an RBI single to Hassey, then walked pinch hitter George Vukovich to load the bases. Curt Brown supplanted Howell and allowed a game-tying sac fly to Butler before ending the inning.

The game was fully in the hands of the bullpens now, and both relief corps were more than up for the challenge. Mike Jeffcoat was spotless in the sixth, as was Brown in the seventh. Jeffcoat allowed a Robertson single in the seventh; he then recorded the first out before Ernie Camacho replaced him and finished the inning. Clay Christiansen threw a 1-2-3 eighth, while Camacho allowed a Mattingly single and nothing else. The top of the ninth brought singles from Butler and Bernazard, but Christiansen coaxed a Julio Franco double play grounder to escape the situation; Camacho permitted a Butch Wynegar single before Robertson hit into a double play of his own to help send the game into extras.

Christiansen and Camacho both finished off their lengthy outings with flawless tenth innings. Dave Righetti and Tom Waddell relieved in the eleventh and duplicated that effort. Bernazard singled with one out in the twelfth, then was balked to second and stole third before being left there. Wynegar led off the bottom of the inning with a double and was bunted to third, but Randolph fouled out and Toby Harrah popped up to strand him. Jose Rijo took the mound in the top of the thirteenth. Hassey singled with two out and was pulled for pinch runner Otis Nixon, whose presence was wasted when Vukovich grounded out. Waddell kept going for the Indians, and was spotless in each of the next three innings; meanwhile, Rijo was working into and out of trouble, allowing hits to Bernazard and Franco in the fourteenth before picking off the lead runner, then giving up a single to Tabler and walking Castillo in the fifteenth.

The Indians finally broke through in the sixteenth, as Franco singled with two outs and Thornton flied to left, where Kemp misplayed the ball into a two-base error that brought Franco in with the go-ahead run. Rijo struck out Tabler to keep his team close. In the bottom of the inning, with the Yankees trailing for the first time since the second, Baylor hit a one-out single and Griffey walked, prompting Cleveland to finally remove Waddell after five and a third innings. George Frazier relieved and immediately allowed a game-tying single to Mattingly. Kemp hit into a force that moved Griffey to third, and Wynegar singled in the winning run.

Both pitchers of record earned career firsts in this one - Rijo his first big league win, Waddell his first loss (despite pitching very well in what would be his longest outing of the year). But the real young star of this game was one of the breakout players of 1984, as Don Mattingly drove in the tying run twice, with the two instances separated by 14 innings. His 3 for 6, HR, 2 R, 2 RBI performance improved his line on the season to .350/.404/.573; he would regress only slightly from that exceptional level over the next four seasons.

Mattingly's performance (and Rijo's, and Butch Wynegar's) also secured a Yankee victory in what is the second-best game of 1984 to date, sporting a WPL of 8.43. That's still not in the same stratosphere as the 25-inning game, but this one has the benefit of providing the entirety of its still-outstanding drama in a single day, which the fans in attendance no doubt appreciated.

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