Thursday, June 5, 2014

Game of the Day (6/4/84)

Tigers 6, Blue Jays 3 (10). The Tigers, having gotten off to arguably the best start in baseball history at 35-5, were finally in a bit of a slump; they had lost 6 of 9 since playing their 40th game. Their task would be no easier in this one, as they sent back-of-the-rotation starter Juan Berenguer against a Toronto team with the second-best record in baseball and their ace, Dave Stieb.

Both starters were perfect in the first, which meant that Willie Upshaw's homer leading off the top of the second opened the scoring. A Rance Mulliniks single and an Ernie Whitt walk threatened to extend the lead before Berenguer retired Alfredo Griffin to end the inning. Stieb put his newfound lead in immediate jeopardy by hitting Lance Parrish and walking Darrell Evans to start the second, but Johnny Grubb popped up and Chet Lemon flied out, with Parrish getting doubled off on the latter play. The Tigers countered with a non-standard double play of their own in the top of the third, as Dave Collins singled and was then caught stealing while Lloyd Moseby struck out.

Lou Whitaker doubled with two out in the bottom of the third, and moved to third while Alan Trammell reached on a dropped third strike. Kirk Gibson grounded out to leave both halves of the double play combination on base. The unconsummated rallies continued in the fourth, as George Bell singled and stole second and Parrish led off with a double, with both runners being stranded. The starters combined on a runnerless fifth, but in the sixth, Upshaw singled and Bell homered to augment Toronto's lead to 3-0.

Trammell singled and was left at second in the bottom of the sixth, while Griffin singled with one out in the seventh, then was caught stealing immediately before Damaso Garcia doubled. That double chased Berenguer from the game in favor of Willie Hernandez, who ended the inning quickly. Stieb notched the first out in the bottom of the seventh, but then hit Lemon with a pitch, gave up a single to Dave Bergman, and served up a game-tying 3-run homer to Howard Johnson. A Whitaker single and a Gibson walk prompted Stieb's replacement with Dennis Lamp, who got Parrish to fly out, leaving the go-ahead run at second.

Moseby led off the eighth with a double and moved to third on a passed ball before an out was recorded. But Upshaw popped up, pinch hitter Cliff Johnson grounded to third with Moseby holding, Bell was intentionally walked, and pinch hitter Jesse Barfield struck out to end the inning with the run still unscored. Lamp countered a Grubb single with a Lemon double play in the bottom of the eighth, while Hernandez allowed only a Garcia single in the top of the ninth. Bergman led off the bottom of the ninth with a walk and was bunted to second; Whitaker was then intentionally passed, and Trammell's flyout moved the winning run to third. Jimmy Key relieved Lamp, Whitaker stole second, and pinch hitter Larry Herndon grounded out to send the game into an extra inning.

Hernandez retired the first two hitters in the tenth, and Aurelio Lopez replaced him and got the third. Parrish led off the bottom of the inning with a single; Key was relieved by Roy Lee Jackson one out later, and Jackson issued a two-out walk to Lemon, followed by a walkoff 3-run homer to Bergman.

Despite Detroit's historic start to the season, the Blue Jays entered this date only 4.5 games out of first. With the Tigers having looked beatable over the last week and change, it looked like an excellent chance to make up ground. And then, the superior team asserted itself by picking up a win over Toronto's ace on the strength of home runs by their 8 and 9 hitters.

When Dave Bergman is hitting one of his three career walkoff homers (the other two are here and here, respectively) against your chief divisional rival to let you steal a game started by their #1 and your #4... it just might be your year. (Also, it's a good sign if you start 35-5.)

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