Thursday, May 22, 2014

Game of the Day (5/21/84)

Astros 3, Cardinals 2. St. Louis started Bob Forsch, a veteran right-hander well on his way to a terrible (and abbreviated) season. Houston responded with a hard-throwing fellow you may have heard of - one Nolan Ryan.

The Astros jumped on Forsch immediately. Terry Puhl led off the game with a single, and scored on a triple by Craig Reynolds. Reynolds, in turn, scored on a wild pitch. Houston then gifted the Cards with a pair of outs - Jose Cruz hit a triple but was thrown out trying to make it into an inside-the-park homer, and Jerry Mumphrey singled and was caught stealing. Enos Cabell drew a walk, but Ray Knight flied out to end the inning. The Cardinals trailed by two runs, and they were very lucky it wasn't more.

Ryan allowed a single to Lonnie Smith and a walk to George Hendrick in the second before ending the inning with both men still on base. In the top of the second, Mark Bailey singled, Bill Doran walked, and Ryan (a terrible hitter) singled in a run; that was the last indignity that Forsch would be allowed to suffer. Ricky Horton supplanted Forsch on the mound and induced a force at second from Puhl, a fielder's choice at home from Reynolds, and a groundout from Cruz to prevent any additional scoring.

Ryan was perfect in the bottom of the second, and the Astros tried again in the third, with a walk to Mumphrey and singles by Knight and Bailey, but a double play in the middle of the inning thwarted another potential rally. Horton led off the third with a single before being left on, and Ryan did the same in the fourth. Knight and Bailey both singled in the fifth and were both stranded; Andy Van Slyke and Tom Herr both walked in the bottom of the inning and also ended the inning still on base. Horton walked Ryan to open the sixth, but Reynolds hit into a delayed double play, forcing Ryan at second and then getting caught stealing.

The Astros turned to their bullpen in the bottom of the sixth, with Vern Ruhle taking the mound. With one out, Hendrick walked and Ken Oberkfell and Darrell Porter singled to load the bases. Ruhle was pulled for Frank DiPino, who allowed a two-run single to pinch hitter Tito Landrum; Ozzie Smith flied out, and pinch hitter Art Howe struck out to leave the tying run at second.

Dave Rucker relieved in the top of the seventh and threw two scoreless innings, a perfect seventh and an eighth than included a Bailey ROE and a Doran single. Meanwhile, DiPino worked around a Smith walk in the seventh and tossed a 1-2-3 eighth. Bruce Sutter hurled a spotless ninth, while DiPino allowed a Smith leadoff single; the Cardinal shortstop would then be caught stealing to all but clinch the game for Houston.

This game has to feature just about the fewest runs a team has ever allowed after pulling its starter with nobody out in the second for non-injury reasons. The Cardinals kept getting themselves out of jams, but the Astros made just enough out of their early opportunities for Nolan Ryan and Frank DiPino to hold the lead. Part of that limited offensive success came from what's arguably the best day of hitting in Ryan's career; he went 2 for 2 with a walk and an RBI, which I believe makes this the only game in which he reached base three times. (Arguments on behalf of either of the two games in which he homered will also be accepted.)

On the pitching side, DiPino was especially impressive, as he threw 3.2 innings (2 hits, 1 walk, 7 K's), thereby recording what I believe is the second-longest save you can have (anything longer than 4 innings and the starter didn't last 5, so you probably get the win). And DiPino didn't even have the longest scoreless relief appearance of the day; that went to Ricky Horton's 5-inning stint after Forsch was yanked.

None of that is enough to make this a great game - but it's good enough to be the best of a day that only had four games played. And when a game includes the sequence "triple, wild pitch, triple that the batter tries to stretch into a homer and fails" in the first inning, everything is pretty much gravy from there anyway.

1 comment:

  1. A correction, via Baseball Think Factory's Dugout thread:

    DiPino's save in this game was not the second-longest possible, because I neglected to consider the case in which the starter gets knocked out early and another reliever is awarded the win. In fact, there are three known cases of pitchers recording 8-inning saves, which is actually the longest you can have:

    1 Dick Hall 1961-06-18(2) BAL CLE W 8-5 8.0 2 0 0 0 6 0
    2 Guy Morton 1920-09-01 CLE WSH W 9-5 8.0 5 2 1 3 4 0
    3 Jim Shaw 1920-05-18 WSH SLB W 17-8 8.0 16 5 5 0 2 0