Friday, June 6, 2014

Game of the Day (6/5/84)

Red Sox 5, Yankees 4. Al Nipper was just starting out with the Red Sox; Shane Rawley was rapidly approaching the end of a two-and-a-half year stint with New York. Both were workmanlike starters over the course of careers of moderate length (though Rawley's was over twice as long).

The first inning saw Rawley display the form that was about to get him traded to Philadelphia; he allowed a single to Dwight Evans and back-to-back doubles by Jim Rice and Tony Armas, a single to Mike Easler and an RBI groundout to Bill Buckner that made the score 3-0. The Yankees replied in the bottom of the inning, starting with a single by Willie Randolph and a walk to Butch Wynegar. Don Mattingly bunted the runners to second and third (yes, the Yankees bunted with their best hitter in the first inning), and Dave Winfield singled in one run, but Oscar Gamble then hit into a double play to defuse the remaining rally potential.

Rawley allowed singles to Marty Barrett and Jackie Gutierrez to start the second, but then retired the top of the Boston lineup in order to strand them both. New York picked up another run in the latter half of the inning when Steve Kemp and Roy Smalley singled, Omar Moreno bunted them over (which is much more sensible than Mattingly doing it), and Andre Robertson added an RBI groundout. A Randolph walk and a Wynegar single loaded the bases and chased Nipper; John Henry Johnson took the mound and got a flyout from Mattingly to preserve the lead.

Buckner doubled in the top of the third, but the rest of the Sox were not as rally-inclined during the inning, and the Yankees tied it in the bottom of the frame on a Winfield single, a Don Baylor double, and a Kemp groundout. Boston recaptured the lead in the fourth when Gutierrez and Evans both walked and Rice drove Gutierrez in (and chased Rawley) with a single, but consecutive doubles by Wynegar and Mattingly brought the Yankees even again in the fourth and chased Johnson in favor of Mark Clear. Clear allowed a Winfield single and steal that put two runners in scoring position with two outs, but Baylor popped up to end the inning.

Jay Howell worked around a Jeff Newman single in the top of the fifth, while Clear walked Kemp and gave up a single to Robertson in the bottom, but kept the game tied. The tie was broken in the top of the sixth when Wade Boggs singled, Evans reached on an error by Randolph that moved Boggs to third, and Rice brought him home with a sac fly. Clear put three runners on base in the bottom of the inning, but Mattingly hit into a double play after Wynegar's walk and before Winfield's double and Baylor's walk, removing much of the scoring potential. Bob Stanley entered with two on and two outs and got Kemp to ground out.

Howell allowed a Buckner single-and-steal in the seventh, but left him on. Moreno reached on a Gutierrez error in the bottom of the inning, but Griffey pinch hit into a double play. Gutierrez led off the eighth with a single, but Dave Righetti didn't let him past second (a base he reached when Boggs bunted him over). New York loaded the bases on two-out singles by Mattingly, Winfield, and Baylor, but Kemp grounded out to strand all three men. Righetti was perfect in the top of the ninth; Smalley led off the bottom of the inning with a single and was pulled for pinch runner Ron Guidry, and Moreno bunted the runner over before Stanley retired the next two hitters to end the game.

The game was a good one - both starters struggled and the lead changed hands a couple of times, it stayed close throughout, included a 5-hit game from Hall of Famer Dave Winfield, and ended with a very impressive 3.1-inning save by Bob Stanley (one-run lead, entered with two runners on, WPA of .510.)

But I'm having trouble convincing myself that the primary story of the game isn't the fact that two of the best hitters in baseball laid down sacrifice bunts. Mattingly, on the way to the 1984 batting title and a four-year run very close to the top of the game, bunted in the first inning, and the Yankees got one run out of it (which they might well have gotten anyway). Boggs, the defending 1983 batting champ (and the eventual winner of the next four after this season as well) was a slightly more defensible bunt request, as he had more powerful hitters coming up behind him - but in practice, his sacrifice was even more fruitless than Mattingly's.

You take the frustrating aspects of 1984 with the excellent, I suppose. Even a game involving sac bunts from Boggs and Mattingly at the peaks of their powers is a game with Boggs and Mattingly at the peaks of their powers, and I can easily live with that tradeoff.

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