Monday, May 26, 2014

Game of the Day (5/25/84)

A's 10, Yankees 7. There was a time when Ron Guidry vs. Steve McCatty would have been a marquee pitching matchup; the two men combined for three of the four AL ERA titles handed out between 1978 and 1981. But in 1984, Guidry was on the way to his worst full-season ERA, and McCatty was in his last full season, period.

McCatty got off to a rough start, allowing a walk to Toby Harrah, a double to Dave Winfield, a base-loading walk to Don Baylor, and an RBI forceout to Don Mattingly in the top of the first. Guidry allowed a Rickey Henderson single-and-steal in the bottom of the inning before stranding the great leadoff man at second. Roy Smalley singled and Willie Randolph walked in the top of the second, while Mike Heath doubled in the bottom of the inning, but none of the runners made it as far as third.

New York loaded the bases again in the third on singles by Winfield and Steve Kemp and a walk to Smalley, but Butch Wynegar grounded out to strand all three runners. A Tony Phillips single and a Joe Morgan double put a pair of A's in scoring position in the bottom of the third, but Carney Lansford grounded into an out at home and Dave Kingman flied out to waste the opportunity. The Yanks stranded Randolph and Winfield in the fourth, and Oakland did the same to Heath. None of the runners in the next three half-innings made it past first base, but that changed abruptly in the bottom of the sixth.

In that inning, Kingman drew a one-out walk, and was swiftly tripled home by Dwayne Murphy. Heath followed with a go-ahead RBI single, and after the second out, Bruce Bochte doubled Heath around, moving to third on an error. Phillips followed with an RBI hit of his own to complete the transformation of a 1-0 deficit into a 4-1 lead.

McCatty allowed a Baylor single in the seventh and was pulled in favor of Tim Conroy. Conroy promptly walked Mattingly, but then retired the next two Yankees. Unfortunately for the A's, he had entered with nobody out, which meant that he still had to face Wynegar, and the veteran catcher launched a 3-run homer to tie the game at 4.

Guidry worked around a single in the bottom of the seventh, and Keith Atherton did the same in the eighth. Heath led off the bottom of the eighth with his third hit of the day, and two outs later, Phillips singled him to second and chased Guidry from the mound. New York replaced their starter with Jay Howell, who allowed a go-ahead RBI hit to Henderson, then walked Morgan and Lansford to force in another run. That was deemed to be enough of Howell, so Curt Brown took the mound, and immediately served up a grand slam to Kingman.

Despite a sudden six-run deficit, the Yanks managed to make it interesting in the ninth. Mattingly singled, Kemp doubled, and pinch hitter Oscar Gamble hammered a 3-run homer to make it 10-7 and drive Atherton from the mound. Bill Caudill permitted singles to Wynegar and Omar Moreno, bringing both the tying run and the top of the order to the plate, but Randolph struck out and Harrah and Winfield both flied out to end the game.

With the benefit of hindsight, it is an easy thing to say that the A's pulled Steve McCatty too early, and the Yankees left Ron Guidry in too long. As the game was happening, however, it would not necessarily have been a simple matter to make either of those statements - especially since Guidry was, overall, the superior pitcher at the time the contest took place.

That is to say, while managing a baseball team may not be the world's toughest job, it certainly has its thorny spots, and I do not necessarily envy the people who get to deal with them.

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