Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Game of the Day (5/27/84)

Blue Jays 6, Indians 5. Cleveland sent Steve Comer, struggling mightily in his last big league season, against Toronto's Jim Gott, a relative youngster whose role had still not yet been established between the rotation and the bullpen.

Gott allowed a walk and a single in the top of the first, but worked around them to keep the scoreboard clear. Comer also allowed a single and walk (to Rance Mulliniks and Lloyd Moseby), then threw a wild pitch and allowed an RBI groundout to open the scoring. Toronto added another run in the second on singles by Rick Leach, Garth Iorg, and Buck Martinez, but the Indians rallied in the top of the third when Brook Jacoby singled, Brett Butler doubled, Tony Bernazard grounded out to score one run, and Mike Hargrove singled to plate Butler and tie the game.

Comer was perfect in the third and fourth, while Gott allowed a George Vukovich triple in the fourth and a Hargrove single in the fifth but stranded both runners. In the bottom of the fifth, Mulliniks tripled and Moseby homered to reclaim the lead for Toronto, 4-2. Gott was spotless in the sixth and allowed only a Jacoby single in the seventh, while Comer set the Jays down 1-2-3 in both innings.

Gott walked Andre Thornton with one out in the eighth and was lifted in favor of Jimmy Key, who coaxed a forceout from Carmelo Castillo. Roy Lee Jackson relieved Key and walked Ron Hassey, then served up a game-tying two-run triple to Julio Franco and a go-ahead RBI single to Vukovich. Mike Jeffcoat took over for Comer in the bottom of the inning and allowed singles to Moseby and Willie Upshaw before being yanked; Ernie Camacho induced a popup and a double play ball to preserve the one-run lead. Jackson permitted a two-out Hargrove triple in the ninth, but stranded the runner at third, giving his team a final chance in the bottom of the ninth.

The Jays took that chance and ran with it. Leach led off the inning with a single, and pinch hitter Dave Collins doubled him home to tie the game. Ernie Whitt singled, moving pinch runner Alfredo Griffin to third, and Tony Fernandez greeted Tom Waddell with a fly ball that brought Griffin home to end the game.

There were a number of big plays in this game - Lloyd Moseby's go-ahead homer, Julio Franco's go-ahead triple, and Dave Collins's game-tying double, to name three. But the most noteworthy one to my mind has a comparatively slight impact by WPA, since it came in a situation where victory was already overwhelmingly likely: Tony Fernandez's walkoff sac fly.

Fernandez had played 15 games in the 1983 season, then began '84 in the minors; this was his second game back in the big leagues, and his first start of the year. Even though he went 0 for 4, the addition of his third career RBI in the form of his first career walkoff was a notable achievement, one of the first of what would prove to be a highly distinguished (and very underrated) career.

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