Sunday, May 4, 2014

Game of the Day (5/3/84)

Brewers 6, Royals 5 (10). Milwaukee started Don Sutton, who was 39 years old but still had it. KC responded with Bud Black, who was about to turn 27 and just starting to put it together.

Sutton's day did not get off to the best of starts, as Darryl Motley and Pat Sheridan began the first with back-to-back homers. The Brewer veteran settled in and retired the next three hitters he faced. In the second, the Royals got singles from Steve Balboni and UL Washington, but didn't score, and Balboni was the only Royal to reach in the next three innings when he singled again in the fourth.

Meanwhile, Black faced the minimum through four innings. He was perfect through two; Bobby Clark walked and was caught stealing in the third, and Randy Ready walked and was removed on a double play in the fourth.

Milwaukee finally broke through in the fifth, starting with a leadoff single by Mark Brouhard. One out later, Ben Oglivie and Clark also singled, bringing Brouhard around to score. Charlie Moore hit into a double play to leave the tying run in scoring position, but after the Royals wasted singles by Jorge Orta and Frank White, Ready homered in the bottom of the sixth to even the count at two runs each.

After Sutton worked a scoreless seventh, Brouhard untied the game with a leadoff homer in the bottom of the inning. However, Motley started the eighth with his second homer of the day to even things once more, this time at 3. Black threw a perfect eighth, and Pete Ladd relieved Sutton in the ninth, allowing a White single and nothing else. Black walked Brouhard in the bottom of the ninth, but stranded him at first, sending the game to extras.

Ladd remained on the mound to begin the top of the tenth, which did not go as well as the Brewers likely hoped. He walked Washington and allowed a Motley single to start the inning. Two strikeouts put him on the verge of escape, but Ladd then completely lost control of the strike zone, issuing consecutive walks to Hal McRae, White, and Balboni, the last two of which forced in runs. Tom Tellmann was hustled to the mound in Ladd's place and induced a forceout from John Wathan, which came at least two batters later than would have been ideal.

The excellent Dan Quisenberry took over for Black in the bottom of the tenth, and quickly worked his way into trouble, starting with a pinch hit double by Rick Manning. Dion James pinch hit as well and drew a walk; Jim Gantner struck out, but Roy Howell became the third successful Milwaukee pinch hitter of the inning with an RBI single, taking second on an error by Lynn Jones (who had taken over right as a defensive replacement). Jim Sundberg grounded out, Robin Yount was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Brouhard stepped in again and delivered a game-winning two-run single.

This was a game of exorbitantly unlikely heroes. The Brewers had captured the pennant two years earlier, and the Royals would go on to win the World Series the season after this game was played, so both rosters featured a good selection of talent, but this game saw little to no contribution from the teams' signature stars. Instead, the five home runs in this game were hit by four players who combined for a mere 160 career homers between them (as many as Frank White hit by himself, and fewer than fellow game participants Hal McRae, Steve Balboni, Robin Yount, Ted Simmons, and Ben Oglivie). Darryl Motley was the player who went deep twice; it would be the first of only three multi-homer games he would have in the majors.

Moreso than Motley, however, the headliner of this game was Mark Brouhard. He went 3/4 with a walk, a homer, two runs and 3 RBI. He singled and scored Milwaukee's first run in the fifth, homered to put them ahead in the seventh, and capped off the day with a come-from-behind walkoff single in the tenth. Those contributions add up to a startling WPA of +1.037, which is over five times as high as Brouhard's next-best effort in 1984, and nearly three times better than the second-best game of his career.

Baseball: The game that lets Mark Brouhard share a lineup with multiple future Hall of Famers and still be the hero of the day.

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