Friday, June 27, 2014

Game of the Day (6/26/84)

Angels 3, Rangers 2 (14). California's Jim Slaton had just turned 34 and firmly entrenched in a decline that would have him out of the league in two years. Texas's Charlie Hough was well past his 36th birthday, and had another decade left in the league. Ah, the power of the knuckleball.

Hough allowed a first-inning single to Rod Carew, who actually tagged and made it to second on a foul popup to the catcher despite being 38 years old, but didn't advance past that point. Mickey Rivers walked to start the bottom of the inning, Gary Ward singled, Buddy Bell moved Rivers to third with a double play ball, and Larry Parrish singled him home with the game's first run. Hough was perfect in the second, while Slaton allowed a lone single. Bob Boone led off the top of the third with a double before being stranded, while Slaton kept the bases clear in the bottom of the inning.

California tied the score in the fourth on singles by Doug DeCinces, Reggie Jackson, and Rob Wilfong; an inning later, a Billy Sample double, a sac bunt, and a Curt Wilkerson single put Texas back on top. The Angels had regular chances to tie from that point; Brian Downing singled in the sixth and was left on, and the same was true of Dick Schofield in the seventh. But the Rangers failed to extend their lead despite hits from Bell in the sixth and Sample and Wilkerson in the seventh.

The Angels had an excellent shot in the eighth when DeCinces and Jackson singled, putting runners at the corners with one out, but Downing hit into an inning-ending double play. Slaton was pulled for Don Aase, who worked around an error. Wilfong led off the ninth with a hit. One out later, pinch hitter Jerry Narron hit into a force at second, but Wilkerson made a throwing error trying to turn the double play, allowing Narron to reach second. Rob Picciolo pinch ran for Narron, and Gary Pettis singled to score him with the tying run. Aase allowed a pair of singles in the bottom of the ninth (to Donnie Scott and Wayne Tolleson), but Sample hit into a double play between the two hits, and the game progressed to extras tied at 2.

Hough and Aase were both perfect in the tenth, and Hough worked a 1-2-3 eleventh as well. Bruce Kison relieved Aase in the bottom of the eleventh and started his appearance by hitting Parrish with a pitch. One out later, Scott singled Parrish to third. Sample was intentionally walked to load the bases, and pinch hitter Marv Foley was brought to the plate; Foley struck out, and after Boone caught strike 3, he fired it down to third to pick off pinch runner Alan Bannister, which is rather a spectacular way to end an inning.

Hough was finally removed in the top of the twelfth, with Odell Jones taking his place. Jones allowed a single to Picciolo, who made it to third on a pair of groundouts before ending the inning there. Kison struck out the side in the bottom of the inning. Jones allowed a Jackson single and hit Downing with a pitch in the thirteenth; Jackson moved to third on a force before being left on. After Kison worked around a single in the bottom of the inning, the Angels scraped together a run in the top of the fourteenth when Pettis walked, stole second, and scored on Carew's single. Lynn flied to right and Carew was thrown out trying to advance to second, but the one-run lead proved to be enough as Kison retired the Rangers in order.

This was a day for old men to do cool things. 38-year-old Reggie Jackson had three hits; 38-year-old Rod Carew had two hits, an RBI, and some baserunning adventures (again - he went from first to second on a foulout to the catcher!). 36-year-old Bob Boone had a double and a huge, potentially game-saving pickoff throw. And 34-year-old pitchers Jim Slaton and Bruce Kison combined for 11 innings of two-run baseball, giving their lineup time to finally put together that third run.

But the best of the old men was the one who matched Slaton and Kison's combined efforts almost exactly.  Charlie Hough's 11 IP, 11 H, 2 R, 1 ER, 1 BB, 9 K pitching line was the equal of the Slaton-Kison combo in innings, hits, runs, and strikeouts; he allowed one fewer walk, and only one of his runs was earned. His team may have lost the game, but Hough's performance is still the primary highlight of the contest.

It will likely come as a surprise to virtually nobody to learn that this was not the only 9+-inning start of Hough's career; indeed, he ended up with 10 such outings, five of which (like this one) lasted 11 or more innings, and four of which came in the 1988 season alone. If I have broken down the list correctly (doubtful), that puts him behind only Jack Morris in starts of over nine innings since 1980. Hough's 1988 season may well end up containing more starts that last past regulation than the entirety of major league baseball in the current decade.

I'm sure that kind of thing is ruinous for arms if done too often (although it kind of looks like present-day pitching is just as ruinous, if this year's run of Tommy John surgeries is any indication). But that doesn't mean it wasn't fun to have a few guys who could go past 9 if the situation and their performance merited it, and I rather wish that some pitchers would still be permitted to try from time to time.

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