Thursday, June 19, 2014

Game of the Day (6/18/84)

Yankees 2, Tigers 1. Detroit's Milt Wilcox was in his last full season at age 34, and hadn't thrown 200 innings since 1978. (This is not entirely fair - he'd gone over 190 three times and would again in '84, and threw 166.1 in the abbreviated 1981 season - but it is technically correct.) New York's Phil Niekro was 11 years older than Wilcox, but was in the middle of his 17th consecutive 200-inning season (with the exception of '81), and would throw two more before the string ended. He had exceeded 300 innings more recently than Wilcox had thrown 200, and was more effective while on the mound to boot.

New York picked up a run in the first when Willie Randolph singled and Don Mattingly doubled him home. Detroit responded in the bottom of the inning on a solo homer by Kirk Gibson.

From there, the starters settled in nicely. Wilcox worked around a Ken Griffey single in the second and was perfect in the third; Don Baylor walked and Dave Winfield singled in the fourth, but Wilcox retired the next three Yankees to end the inning. Meanwhile, Niekro was perfect in the second and third, then allowed a Gibson single in the fourth only to see the runner caught stealing.

The Yankees grabbed the lead back in the fifth when Randolph doubled, Butch Wynegar singled, and Mattingly hit a sacrifice fly. The Tigers mounted consistent if mild threats in the next several innings, putting their leadoff hitters on base in the fifth (a Chet Lemon walk), sixth (a Lou Whitaker single) and seventh (Darrell Evans reached on an error). The tops of the innings were not silent either, as Steve Kemp walked in the sixth and Bob Meacham led off the seventh with a double. But no runs were scored by either team.

Willie Hernandez relieved Wilcox in the eighth and allowed a single to Dave Winfield; Niekro kept the bases clear of Tigers in the bottom of the inning. Hernandez threw a 1-2-3 ninth, and Detroit assembled a last gasp rally in the bottom of the inning when Johnny Grubb and Lemon both walked with two outs, but Jose Rijo relieved Niekro and induced a game-ending groundout from Larry Herndon.

This was Phil Niekro's fifteenth start of the 1984 season. In those starts, he threw 110.1 innings, allowing 28 runs (21 earned) and three home runs. His record was 10-3, and his ERA was 1.71.

Niekro would tail off sharply for the rest of the year (6-5, 4.53, 12 homers allowed in fewer innings than it took him to allow three at the beginning of the year). But the remarkable start was easily enough to assure his fifth and final All-Star berth, as well as putting him firmly on the path toward his 300th win, which would be secured at the end of the '85 season.

Not bad at all for a 45-year-old knuckleballer.

No comments:

Post a Comment