Sunday, June 29, 2014

Game of the Day (6/28/84)

Red Sox 9, Mariners 6 (11). The pitching matchup was a pair of fairly young lefties - Seattle's Matt Young against Boston's Bruce Hurst. Neither of them was at anything like their best level in 1984, which meant that Hurst was only slightly better than average and Young was terrible.

Hurst was perfect in the first, while Young allowed the game's first run on a double by Dwight Evans and singles by Jim Rice and Tony Armas. Al Cowens tied it in the second with a leadoff homer, after which nobody reached base until Evans tripled with one out in the third. Rice singled Evans home to put Boston back in front.

Seattle loaded the bases in the fourth; Barry Bonnell led off with a double, Dave Henderson singled with two outs, and Steve Henderson walked, but Jim Presley struck out to end the inning. The Sox had a similar chance in the fifth when Rice doubled, Armas was intentionally walked, and Mike Easler reached on a Young error before Bill Buckner grounded out. The sixth and seventh innings passed without a runner reaching scoring position for either team; Salome Barojas relieved Young in the seventh and kept the bases entirely clear. (As a clerical note, Steve Henderson was pulled for a pinch runner in the top of the seventh, so any further use of the name "Henderson" will refer to Dave.)

Hurst quickly recorded two outs in the eighth, but then allowed singles to Jack Perconte and Bonnell, and Alvin Davis followed with a three-run homer that gave Seattle its first lead of the game at 4-2. Cowens doubled to chase Hurst in favor of Mark Clear, who struck out Henderson to end the inning. Boston came right back in the bottom of the eighth, starting with an Easler double and a Buckner HBP. Mike Stanton relieved Barojas and retired pinch hitters Rich Gedman and Rick Miller, but the inning's third consecutive pinch hitter, Reid Nichols, managed a walk to load the bases. Wade Boggs then singled in a run, but Evans struck out to leave the bases loaded and the tying run at third.

Clear issued a trio of walks in the ninth (to Ken Phelps, Spike Owen, and Perconte) before stranding all three runners. Rice led off the bottom of the inning with a double, and came home to tie the game an out later on Easler's single. An intentional walk to Buckner and an unintentional one to Ed Jurak loaded the bases again, but Glenn Hoffman struck out to leave the winning run at third and send the game to extras tied at 4.

Bob Stanley pitched the tenth for the Sox. He started the inning by retiring Davis, but Cowens then singled, Henderson doubled him to third, and Phelps was intentionally walked to load the bases. Al Chambers then drew a pinch walk to force in the go-ahead run, and Bob Kearney pulled off the unusual bases loaded squeeze bunt to extend the lead to 6-4. Owen was hit by a pitch to load the bases again, but Perconte hit into an inning-ending force.

Boggs led off the bottom of the inning with a double, and Evans singled him to third. Bob Stoddard then replaced Stanton and retired Rice and Armas. Easler walked to load the bases, and Stoddard was pulled for Paul Mirabella. Buckner greeted the newcomer with a double, scoring Boggs and Evans to tie the game; Easler tried for home as well, but was thrown out to move the game into an eleventh inning.

Despite his initial ineffectiveness, Stanley remained on the mound in the top of the eleventh. He redeemed himself a bit, allowing a Davis single but coaxing a double play from Cowens. Mirabella retired Gedman to start the bottom of the inning; Jurak then reached second an error by Bonnell (who had moved from left to third an inning earlier). Hoffman drew a walk, and Boggs reached on a Davis miscue, but Jurak was thrown out attempting to score on the play. That brought Evans to the plate with two outs and runners on the corners. The Mariners summoned Ed Nunez for the at bat, and Evans scoffed at the platoon advantage, launching a three-run walkoff homer.

This game... I mean, holy cow. The teams traded the lead relentlessly in the late innings, with the Mariners jumping ahead 4-2 in the eighth, the Sox getting a run in the eighth and another in the ninth to tie, the Mariners picking up two more in the tenth and the Sox tying it again before winning in the eleventh. The teams loaded the bases in seven separate innings, including five in a row from the bottom of the eighth through the bottom of the tenth. Boston had the winning run thrown out at home in back-to-back extra innings.

And you can argue that none of the above qualifies as the game's most distinctive feature, because Dwight Evans's walkoff homer completed a cycle for him. According to the first comment in this Baseball-Reference post, it was only the fourth cycle in baseball history to feature a walkoff homer (Carlos Gonzalez added a fifth in 2010).

The game scores a WPL of 7.18, the sixth-highest of 1984 so far and the highest of any game 11 innings or shorter in my ever-expanding database (passing this game, which is rather better-known). And given the multiple runners thrown out at the plate and the walkoff cycle, you can argue that it's being underrated.

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