Sunday, June 1, 2014

Game of the Day (5/31/84)

Pirates 2, Expos 1. Montreal sent Bill Gullickson, who was young but pretty well-established, against Pittsburgh's Jose DeLeon, who was even younger and just starting out.

Both starters allowed the opposition's speedy, low-OBP leadoff man to reach in the first inning. Miguel Dilone opened the game with a double and moved to third on DeLeon's wild pitch, but the young Pirate bore down and struck out the next three Expos to leave him there. Marvell Wynne led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but was later caught stealing.

Montreal took the lead in the second on a Tim Wallach walk and singles by Terry Francona and Doug Flynn. Gullickson was flawless in the second and third, while DeLeon worked around singles in each of his next two innings; the Pirates then tied it in the fourth on a Johnny Ray single, a Bill Madlock double, and a Jason Thompson RBI groundout.

The game then continued in its firmly-established pattern as a pitcher's duel. Dilone doubled and stole third in the fifth, but was picked off, and he was the last runner to reach scoring position until the bottom of the seventh. Thompson led off that inning with a single, and was replaced by pinch runner Benny Distefano. Distefano moved to second on a bunt; Gullickson picked him off as well, but Flynn misplayed the throw, allowing the runner to advance to third. He scored the go-ahead run an out later on Lee Lacy's single. DeLeon allowed a leadoff walk to Pete Rose in the eighth, but then retired the next six Expos in a row to finish off the complete game win.

Two points about this one. First, it's got to be pretty uncommon for a game to swing on two pickoff plays, but that's what happened here; the Expos had one of their fastest players on third with one out before he was picked off, and a muffed pickoff throw two innings later set up the eventual winning run.

Second: Jose DeLeon was a promising pitcher, but he was also 23 years old and making his 21st big league start. Had this game occurred in 2014, there is absolutely no chance that he would have gone the distance, and the game would have been less enjoyable for his removal. But then, DeLeon may not be a great example to use here, because he backslid horribly over the next year and a half, going 2-19 in 1985 (yes, really) and then getting bombed off of the Pittsburgh staff entirely in '86. They ended up dumping him on the White Sox for a classic bat without a clear defensive position... who turned out to be Bobby Bonilla.

So really, this whole thing worked out pretty well for the Pirates, which obivously means that current-day teams should be far more willing to let young starters throw complete games, right?

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