Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Game of the Day (6/3/84)

Padres 7, Giants 6. Eric Show was tabbed for San Diego. The Giants opposed him with Mark Grant, who I confess is entirely new to me; he was also almost entirely new to the majors, as a 20-year-old making his third career start. He would pitch intermittently (and badly) during this season, then reestablish himself in the majors three years later and go on to a reasonably long career, most of it spent in relief.

Grant walked Tony Gwynn in the first, and Gwynn advanced to second on a passed ball before being stranded. Show allowed a Johnnie LeMaster single, but nothing else, and Grant threw a 1-2-3 second in response. The Giants opened the scoring in the bottom of the second; Scot Thompson drew a leadoff walk, Joel Youngblood singled, Bob Brenly grounded out to advance them both, and Brad Wellman added a two-run single. Grant bunted Wellman to second, and Chili Davis singled him around to make it a 3-0 lead.

Show reached on an error in the top of the third, but Grant coaxed a double play from Alan Wiggins. Show kept the bases clear in the bottom of the inning, and San Diego got on the board in the top of the fourth. Tim Flannery started the rally with a leadoff triple, and Gwynn walked behind him. Kevin McReynolds grounded into a fielder's poor choice at third, which was exacerbated when Youngblood added a throwing error that put runners back at the corners while allowing a run to score. Kurt Bevacqua added an RBI single that moved the tying run into scoring position with nobody out, but Grant recovered to retire Carmelo Martinez, Garry Templeton, and Bruce Bochy, keeping that run from scoring.

The teams put on one runner in each of the next three half-innings - Wellman singled, Wiggins walked and was caught stealing, and LeMaster walked and was left on. The string appeared to be continuing when Bevacqua singled with two outs in the sixth, but Martinez followed with a go-ahead two-run homer. San Francisco countered with a Thompson single and a Brenly double, evening the game at four apiece. Grant was spotless in the top of the seventh, and his teammates took the lead once more in the bottom of the inning; Davis led off with a single, was bunted to second, moved to third on a balk, and after an out and a Jack Clark walk, Thompson singled in the go-ahead run. Youngblood walked to load the bases, but Brenly popped up to end the inning.

Having decided they'd stretched their rookie as far as they could, the Giants replaced him with Gary Lavelle in the top of the eighth, and the reliever allowed only a McReynolds single in the inning. Davis added a solo homer to double the lead in the bottom of the inning, which looked especially valuable after the Padres picked up a quick run in the top of the ninth when Martinez singled, moved to second on a wild pitch and third on a hit by Templeton, and scored on Bochy's sac fly. Pinch hitter Steve Garvey then singled, but Templeton was thrown out trying to score from second. Getting the tying run cut down at home barely even slowed the Padres, however, as Wiggins singled, Bobby Brown walked to load the bases, and Gwynn followed with a go-ahead two-run single. Greg Minton relieved and stopped the bleeding, but Goose Gossage set the Giants down in order in the bottom of the inning to finish off the multi-comeback win.

Both starters pitched at least 7 innings and gave up at least 4 runs, with Show going for 8 and 6 (and getting the win). Show's WPA for the game was -.485, which is both awful and not terribly surprising given both his performance and the back-and-forth nature of the contest, and he was credited with the victory anyway because his offense bailed him out in the ninth.

But I don't want to take an excellent game like this and turn the post into a rant about pitcher wins and losses. This was the second game of a doubleheader, and Tony Gwynn had burned the Giants pretty badly in the first one - 3 for 5 with 2 runs and an RBI in a 7-5 win. So this time, they were careful with him, and through 8 innings, he was 0 for 2, albeit with a pair of walks and a run scored. And then... he came up with the bases loaded and down a run in the ninth. In 1984, Tony Gwynn was about the last hitter you wanted to see in that situation - he entered the game hitting .366. The results were... well, you can't ever really count on a hit, but you can certainly fear one when facing Gwynn, and that was exactly what happened.

In other words, sometimes having really good baseball players helps you win baseball games. This was one of those times.

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