Saturday, May 10, 2014

Game of the Day (5/9/84)

Reds 6, Expos 4. Montreal started Bill Gullickson, a competent young pitcher who was off to a dreadful start but would recover to post a decent season overall. Cincinnati opposed him with Bruce Berenyi, who I had never heard of before now, but who did once lead the league in losses and fewest home runs per 9 innings in the same season, which seems like a fairly unorthodox combination.

Gullickson fell well behind before recording a single out, as Eddie Milner and Ron Oester started the game with singles and Duane Walker followed with a three-run homer. Montreal mounted a serious rally in the bottom of the second as Gary Carter, Tim Wallach, and Terry Francona singled to load the bases with nobody out, but Berenyi worked through Angel Salazar, Gullickson, and Miguel Dilone without allowing a run to score. That preserved the shutout for only one more inning, as the bottom of the third brought a Bryan Little walk, a Tim Raines single and steal that put runners at second and third, and a two-run double by Andre Dawson to bring the Expos within a run.

Montreal would threaten in the fourth on walks by Dilone and Little, but Berenyi retired Raines and Dawson to leave the tying run in scoring position. Berenyi also allowed a one-out triple to Wallach in the fifth, but Francona then flied to center and Wallach was thrown out at the plate. Meanwhile, Gullickson had recovered nicely from his rough start, allowing only three Reds to reach base in innings two through six (and one of those runners came on an error, albeit one committed by Gullickson himself).

Berenyi was removed at the beginning of the sixth, with Bill Scherrer taking his place. Scherrer allowed a leadoff double to Salazar, and after Gullickson struck out, Dilone cracked an unlikely go-ahead two-run homer. Despite the longball from the punchless leadoff man, it still took a single by Little to convince the Reds to pull Scherrer, and Ted Power promptly induced a double play from Raines as soon as he took the mound.

Gullickson worked around an error in the seventh, while Tom Hume threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning. Gullickson then returned to the mound for the top of the eighth, which proved to be one inning too long. With two outs, Walker singled, and Dave Parker homered to give Cincinnati a 5-4 lead. A Dan Driessen single spelled the end of Gullickson's outing, and Jeff Reardon got a flyout from Dave Concepcion.

Hume allowed a pinch double to Jim Wohlford in the eighth, but Dilone grounded out to leave him at second. Gary Lucas allowed an insurance run in the top of the ninth on a single by Cesar Cedeno and a single-and-error off the bat of Milner, and John Franco saw Little reach on an error and move to second on a wild pitch, but retired Montreal's outstanding 3-4-5 hitters (Raines, Dawson, and Carter) to secure the save.

There's a bit of the circle of baseball life peeking through in this game. Franco's save was the second of the 424 he would earn in his long and distinguished career, and given the quality of the three hitters he faced, it seems likely that it also ranks among his more impressive ones (in the one-inning category, at least).

Meanwhile, the go-ahead homer by Dilone was the only one he would hit all season in 1984. Moreover, it turned out to be the last home run of his career, and the only one he would hit in his last 264 major league games (spanning from June of 1982 to the end of the 1985 season). The fact that a game with multiple semi-late lead changes also featured the last oasis in a nearly Kuiper-caliber home run desert serves as fairly tasty icing on a perfectly respectable cake.

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