Saturday, May 3, 2014

Game of the Day (5/2/84)

Indians 9, Orioles 7 (16). Tough to go wrong with a score like that. We've seen both starters already this season, with Baltimore sending Scott McGregor (who would be an Oriole for his entire career) and Cleveland answering with Rick Sutcliffe (who would be an Indian for another month and change).

For a game that would eventually feature 16 total runs, this one started very slowly; through the first five half-innings, there was only one total baserunner (Andre Thornton, who led off the top of the second with a walk). That changed remarkably quickly in the bottom of the third when Wayne Gross led off with a triple and Floyd Rayford followed with a two-run homer. Baltimore piled on as Rich Dauer and Al Bumbry singled, Jim Dwyer bunted the runners over, Cal Ripken walked to load the bases, and Eddie Murray doubled in two runs. John Lowenstein and Ken Singleton were retired to strand the remaining pair of runners in scoring position, but the Orioles had still seized a 4-0 lead.

After McGregor retired the first two Indians in the fourth, Thornton drew his second walk of the day, and Pat Tabler followed with a double. Brook Jacoby then grounded to third, where Gross committed an error that allowed both runners to score, cutting the lead in half. However, Baltimore restored it to the original margin by picking up one run in the fourth on a Gross walk, Rayford reaching on a Sutcliffe error, and a Bumbry single, and another on a Murray homer in the fifth. The ensuing single by Lowenstein drove Sutcliffe from the mound in favor of Mike Jeffcoat, who ended the inning without further incident.

McGregor walked Thornton again in the sixth, but cruised apart from that, while Jeffcoat allowed a John Shelby single, then balked him to second before escaping the bottom of the inning. Cleveland picked up a run in the seventh when Jacoby and Ron Hassey singled to put runners at the corners and George Vukovich grounded into an RBI forceout, and Jeffcoat worked around a Murray single in the bottom of the inning.

The top of the eighth proved to be a rather significant inning. Julio Franco led off by reaching on a Murray error, and Tabler walked one out later. Sammy Stewart relieved McGregor, and immediately served up a game-tying three-run homer to Jacoby.

Tippy Martinez supplanted Stewart immediately and got the final two outs, and Baltimore recaptured the lead in the bottom of the inning when Gross led off with a homer against Luis Aponte. But Carmelo Castillo led off the ninth with a double, moved to third on a Brett Butler bunt, and then scored on another bunt, this one by Tony Bernazard, to tie the game at 7. Franco doubled, Thornton was intentionally walked, and Tabler flied out to keep the tie intact; Tom Waddell then retired the Orioles in order, and the game went to extras.

Tom Underwood permitted only a Hassey single in the top of the tenth; Waddell didn't allow even that much in the bottom. Butler drew a leadoff walk in the eleventh, and advanced to third on a pair of outs. Underwood then intentionally passed Thornton before inducing a popup from Mike Hargrove. Ernie Camacho relieved in the bottom of the eleventh and allowed a single to Dauer, but erased him on a double play. Underwood was spotless in the twelfth, while Camacho walked and stranded Benny Ayala. In the thirteenth, Underwood walked Castillo, and saw him advance to third (partly thanks to a balk) before being stranded. Camacho responded by retiring the Orioles in order.

That brought the game to the fourteenth inning, in which Baltimore relieved Underwood. The replacement was one Jim Palmer, who had made his last career start just over a week earlier, but who was still on the roster, albeit apparently under break-in-case-of-emergency glass.

Palmer's appearance began with a Thornton walk, but after a bunt advanced the runner to second, he progressed no further. George Frazier relieved Camacho in the bottom of the inning and set the Orioles down 1-2-3. Palmer escaped the fifteenth with some help; he walked Vukovich and Butler, but Vukovich was eliminated on a double play and Butler was caught stealing. Singleton singled in the bottom of the inning, but didn't move past first.

The sixteenth, like each of Palmer's two previous innings, opened with a walk, this one issued to Bernazard. Pinch runner Mike Fischlin then advanced to second on Franco's single, and Thornton flied out deep enough to advance the runners to second and third. Hargrove was intentionally walked to load the bases, Jacoby brought in the go-ahead run with a sac fly, and Hassey followed with an RBI single to pad the lead to 9-7. Frazier once again went through the Orioles routinely in the bottom of the inning to finish the game.

There are two things that separate this game from your garden variety high-scoring 16-inning affair. One is the grim specter of Jim Palmer making his second-to-last career appearance; he was pretty clearly the last arm in the bullpen at this point (his final outing would come 10 days later at the tail end of a blowout loss), and pitched like it, allowing 2 runs in 3 innings of work, walking 5 hitters and striking out none. This brought his seasonal ERA down (down!) to 8.04. This is the way a Hall of Fame pitching career ends (repeat twice): Not with a bang, etc.

The other? In all the 16-inning, 16-run excitement, the most interesting hitter of the day went 0/2 with one run and no RBI. That's because Andre Thornton was busy drawing 6 walks, which, if Baseball Almanac is correct, tied the major league record (also shared by Jimmie Foxx, Jeff Bagwell, and this guy, which is an eclectic group). Out of the not-quite-13,000 fans in attendance that day, I'd guess that less than 1% of them were aware that they saw a record-tying performance (unless it was announced in some way, in which case, kudos to the Memorial Stadium staff).

The game may have been historic in depressing or dull ways, but at least it was historic! Oh, and it lasted 16 innings and had all manner of normal baseball drama, if you like that sort of thing.

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