Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Game of the Day (5/13/84)

Braves 9, Pirates 8 (10). Pete Falcone, rapidly approaching the end of a mediocre career, began the game on the mound for the Braves. The Pirates opposed him with John Tudor, the same age as Falcone but on an opposite career trajectory. Tudor is making his fourth start in a Game of the Day and we're not even halfway through May yet.

The starters got the game off to a brisk start, as Bill Madlock's single in the top of the first made him the only player to reach base through three half-innings. Atlanta opened the scoring in the bottom of the second, as Chris Chambliss led off with a single, Glenn Hubbard doubled him to third, and Randy Johnson singled him home. Paul Runge then walked to load the bases, but Tudor struck out Falcone and got Claudell Washington to pop up, ending the inning.

Pittsburgh put a pair of runners on in the third, as Tudor singled and Marvell Wynne walked, but couldn't score either of them. The Braves extended their edge in the bottom of the inning when doubly-defending NL MVP Dale Murphy homered. The Pirate lineup finally struck in the fourth, starting when Tony Pena reached on a one-out Johnson error. Brian Harper walked, and Eddie Vargas doubled Pena home to score his team's first run. Dale Berra grounded to third, with Harper getting thrown out at home on the play, but Tudor singled Vargas in to tie the game, and Wynne singled as well to bring Berra around and put Pittsburgh in front. Tudor then worked a perfect fourth, and a Madlock single and a Pena homer extended the Pirate advantage to 5-2. Rick Camp replaced Falcone a batter later and brought the inning to a close without further damage.

Tudor worked around an Alex Trevino double in the fifth, then led off the sixth with his third hit of the day. Madlock would single as well with two outs, but pinch hitter Johnny Ray flied out to leave the pair of runners on. Tudor yielded another double in the sixth, this one to Hubbard, and again stranded the runner. In the top of the seventh, Pena reached on an error for the second time in the game, this misplay coming courtesy of Hubbard. Doug Frobel and Jason Thompson both singled, bringing him around to score. Berra sacrificed the runners over (which is an odd choice with the pitcher due up), Tudor grounded back to the mound to get Frobel thrown out at home (see - odd choice), and Wynne struck out. Still, the 6-2 lead seemed secure.

Of course, if the lead had been secure, it wouldn't have been the Game of the Day. Runge led off the seventh with a single, and pinch hitter Albert Hall doubled him to third. Tudor was relived by Lee Tunnell, who retired the next two hitters on grounders - but each of the two outs scored a run, bringing the Braves within 6-4. Gene Garber and Tunnell both allowed two singles in the eighth; Garber stranded both runners, while Tunnell induced a double play from Hubbard in between the two hits, rendering them ineffective. Garber threw a spotless ninth, keeping his team within 2 runs for their final chance.

Pinch hitter Gerald Perry led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk. Tunnell was pulled for Rod Scurry, who struck out Washington; Kent Tekulve then supplanted Scurry on the mound. Perry stole second base, Trevino singled him to third, and Murphy singled to score him and send Trevino to third, 90 feet from tying the game. Don Robinson relieved Tekulve, becoming the fourth Pirate pitcher of the inning, and got Chambliss to fly out, but the ball carried deep enough to plate Trevino and even the score at 6.

The Pirates recovered from the Atlanta comeback with admirable swiftness. Facing Jeff Dedmon in the top of the tenth, Lee Lacy and Madlock both hit one-out singles. After Ray flied out, Pena singled as well, scoring Lacy with the go-ahead run; Madlock moved to third, Pena took second, and Madlock then scored on the throw. (Since no outs were gained on the play, the exact sequence of throwing is not recorded, which is unfortunate as it would be useful information.)

For the second consecutive inning, the Braves were trailing by 2 and on the brink of defeat. This time, Robinson cut through their first two hitters immediately. Jerry Royster walked and took second on a wild pitch, and Perry walked as well. The Pirates then replaced Robinson with longtime excellent starter John Candelaria, and the game suddenly vanished from within their grasp as Washington doubled in a run, then Trevino doubled as well to score the tying and winning tallies in one go.

Tony Pena had a whale of a game in this one - 3 for 6 with a homer, 3 runs, and 3 RBI, which is almost enough to upstage John Tudor's career-high 3 hits (remarkably, though, this was not Tudor's only 3-hit game). Moreover, the impressive raw numbers somehow understate Pena's performance, because two of the three "outs" were actually errors on which he reached base, going on to score both times, and one of the RBI singles actually led to two runs thanks to a bit of throw-carousel baserunning. Given his two-run homer in the early going and his sort-of-two-run single to take the lead in the tenth, Pena ended up with +.663, the second-highest total of his long and productive MLB career.

It was also the second-highest total for a catcher in this game. Like Pena, Alex Trevino was also 3 for 6 with 3 RBI. His run-scoring groundout in the seventh helped make the game manageable, his single in the ninth put the Braves in position to tie the score (which he eventually did, scoring on a sac fly), and most importantly, his two-run double in the tenth was a come-from-behind walkoff, that favorite play of WPA. Trevino ended the day with a WPA of +.835, the best game of his long and mediocre career of mostly-backup catching. Which once again reinforces the ever-present lesson that, in baseball, anyone can be the hero for a day.

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