Monday, May 12, 2014

Game of the Day (5/11/84)

Mariners 4, Yankees 3 (17). Why yes, this is the second consecutive game of 16 or more innings the Yankees have played. This one pits Seattle's Matt Young, who in his 10-year big-league career led the league in losses as many times as he had a winning record, against New York's Ray Fontenot, who would probably not object to swapping careers with Matt Young.

Fontenot worked a scoreless first, allowing only a walk. Willie Randolph also drew a first-inning walk but was caught stealing just before Dave Winfield homered to open the scoring. Seattle wasted an Al Cowens double in the second, while the Yankees didn't have any baserunners to squander. In the third, Bob Kearney walked but was picked off; the Mariners recovered to score anyway on singles by Spike Owen and Jack Perconte and a Phil Bradley groundout.

Young was spotless again in the third, and the Mariners got Cowens and Darnell Coles on the corners via a pair of singles in the fourth (giving them a pleasing combination of baserunner initials: AC, DC) before stranding them. Young issued walks to Don Baylor and Roy Smalley in the bottom of the fourth, but nothing else; he also stranded Randolph and Toby Harrah after they singled in the fifth. Alvin Davis's single in the top of the sixth made him the only runner to reach in either half of the inning, and he was promptly caught stealing.

Seattle took its first lead in the top of the seventh when Coles walked and Kearney doubled him home. Dave Beard relieved Young and set the Yanks down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, then worked around a leadoff error in the eighth. Jay Howell had taken over for Fontenot in the top of the eighth and allowed only a walk, then threw a 1-2-3 ninth.

Don Mattingly grounded to second to open the bottom of the ninth, but Perconte committed an error that allowed him to reach. Mattingly then moved to second on a fly ball to center (which is awesome), and took third on a wild pitch. Butch Wynegar flied to left, too shallow to score Mattingly (so apparently pretty shallow, since he'd moved to second on a flyout earlier in the inning), but Ken Griffey laced a pinch-hit single to tie the game at 2.

The Yankee bullpen was spent after the previous day's 16-inning game, so Howell stayed on the mound for the first three extra innings, and was perfect through two of them before Kearney managed a single-and-steal in the twelfth. Meanwhile, Seattle (which had the previous day off and therefore was lacking in excuses) stuck with Beard through the tenth (his fourth inning) before turning to Paul Mirabella. Steve Kemp greeted Mirabella with a single, Mattingly bunted him to second (because why would you let your best player hit?), Smalley was intentionally walked, and Wynegar hit into a double play.

Mike Stanton threw a perfect bottom of the twelfth, and Curt Brown replaced Howell and also kept the bases clear in the top of the thirteenth. Stanton issued a two-out walk in the bottom of the thirteenth, and was relieved by another pitcher who's not the most famous baseball player with his own name; Roy Thomas got Mattingly to ground out, ending the inning. Davis led off the top of the fourteenth with a double, and one out later, Cowens doubled pinch runner Dave Henderson home with the go-ahead run; the resultant lead lasted very little time at all, as Smalley homered to retie the game leading off the bottom of the inning.

Both teams threatened in the fifteenth. Spike Owen led off the top of the inning with a single and made it to third on a pair of outs before being stranded. In the bottom of the inning, Harrah led off with a single as well, and stole second. Winfield struck out, but Oscar Gamble doubled; with a runner on second, you'd figure that would end the game, but Harrah somehow made it only to third (maybe it looked like the ball might be caught and he had to hold up?) Kemp walked to load the bases with one out, and Thomas then struck out both Mattingly and Smalley to extend the contest.

Clay Christiansen, who had made his major league debut with a 3-inning outing in the previous day's marathon, was summoned for his second career appearance and retired the Mariners in order in the sixteenth. Thomas allowed a Tim Foli double and nothing else in the bottom of the inning. The top of the seventeenth began with a double by Coles, who would move to third on a Kearney bunt and score on a Perconte sac fly to take the lead; Thomas then worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning to finish the game.

The Yankees were forced to come back in their last chance twice just to keep this game going as long as it did; the fact that they failed in the third such instance may be a slight demerit to them, but certainly doesn't hurt WPL's evaluation of the game. It is not the best game the Yankees played within a two-day span, but it is better than almost every other game of 1984 so far - its WPL of 8.15 puts it in third.

Apart from the length of the game, the thing that jumps out at me about this one is the usage of the relievers. Dave Beard and Roy Thomas both had 4+ inning stints for the Mariners; not only that, but both of them returned to the mound after blowing a lead, which has since become extremely rare. Beard was the first man out of the pen, and was still strung along for 4 innings; Jay Howell was kept on the mound for 5 by the Yanks, although that's explained by everyone else having been overused in the previous game (and by the fact that Howell pitched wonderfully, allowing one hit and one walk in the five innings he spent in the game).

And yet, despite their odd-in-retrospect relief patterns, the Mariners won the game. So maybe changing things up wasn't quite as catastrophic as a current-day manager might expect.

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