Monday, June 2, 2014

Game of the Day (6/1/84)

Cardinals 5, Mets 1. There weren't an enormous number of pitchers who could be considered clearly favored over St. Louis's Joaquin Andujar in 1984, as he was on his way to a 20-win season including league leads in innings and shutouts. But one of those pitchers was making his tenth major league start in this game - Dwight Gooden, whose own version of Fernandomania was beginning to coalesce (he already had four starts in his first nine in which he struck out ten or more hitters while allowing one run or fewer).

Unsurprisingly, the game began as a pitching-dominated contest. Lonnie Smith drew a walk in the top of the first, stole second and was bunted to third, but Gooden struck out Andy Van Slyke and George Hendrick to leave him there. The starters exchanged perfect innings, and Andujar permitted a George Foster single in the second but kept him at first.

St. Louis continued its pattern of running at every opportunity in the third. Ozzie Smith singled and stole second; one out later, Lonnie Smith walked, and the Smiths then stole third and second, respectively (the play-by-play does not list the steals as occurring on the same pitch, which would be unusual if accurate). Tom Herr followed with a sacrifice fly to open the scoring before Gooden was able to end the inning.

Gooden himself singled in the bottom of the third, but was erased on a double play. His teammates tied the score an inning later, however, when Mookie Wilson and Keith Hernandez singled to put runners at the corners and Darryl Strawberry hit into a double play that brought Wilson home.

The zeroes resumed in the fifth, as neither starter permitted a baserunner in the inning. Van Slyke singled and stole second in the sixth, but Gooden stranded him; in the bottom of the inning, Andujar allowed a single-and-steal to Wally Backman, intentionally walked Hernandez, and unintentionally walked Strawberry to load the bases with two outs before Foster grounded out to end the inning.

The Cards threatened again in the seventh, as singles by Willie McGee and Ken Oberkfell put runners on the corners with nobody out. Ozzie Smith fouled out, Oberkfell stole second, Andujar struck out and Lonnie Smith grounded out to leave the go-ahead run at third. Hubie Brooks led off the bottom of the inning with a single and was bunted to second; Andujar intentionally walked pinch hitter Rusty Staub, then coaxed a double play out of pinch hitter Danny Heep, who was replacing Gooden.

Jesse Orosco relieved in the top of the eighth and walked Herr, then allowed a hit to Darrell Porter two outs later before McGee hit into a force. Andujar was spotless in the bottom of the inning, and the Cards finally scored again in the top of the ninth. Art Howe led off with a pinch hit double, Ozzie Smith bunted him to third, and pinch hitter Tito Landrum singled to bring in the go-ahead run. Lonnie Smith reached on an Orosco error, Herr was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Van Slyke singled in a pair of runs. Hendrick walked, re-loading the bases, and Porter added a sac fly for a 5-1 lead. Jeff Lahti walked Strawberry to start the bottom of the ninth, but got the next three Mets to end the game.

This is the kind of pitcher's duel that WPL is relatively fond of - there weren't a ton of baserunners, but they mostly came in groups, giving each team a couple of serious scoring threats to keep the outcome in doubt.

It's also the kind of pitcher's duel that baseball fans typically enjoy quite a bit, given that it featured 7 excellent innings from one of the great pitching prodigies in modern history. Also, it offered a bit of a blueprint on beating Dwight Gooden - steal your way to a run while he's in the game, and hold on until the bullpen arrives. Most of the time, that was the best you could hope for.

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