Sunday, June 8, 2014

Game of the Day (6/7/84)

Twins 5, Rangers 4. Texas's Danny Darwin pitched pretty well for quite a long time (21 big league seasons), and ended up with a losing record to show for it. Minnesota's Ken Schrom pitched pretty badly, for the most part, and for a relatively short time - and ended up breaking even in terms of wins and losses. Don't ever let anyone tell you life is fair.

Billy Sample led off the game with a home run, giving Texas a quick 1-0 lead. Schrom recovered and avoided falling any farther behind, and Darwin retired the Twins in order in the bottom of the inning. Both pitchers allowed multiple baserunners in the second, with the Rangers getting singles from Gary Ward and Wayne Tolleson and Minnesota having Mickey Hatcher single and Gary Gaetti walk, but neither side scored. A two-out walk in the bottom of the third put that inning's only runner on base, and the runner did not advance.

Singles by Pete O'Brien and Donnie Scott put Rangers at first and second with two outs in the fourth; Tolleson then singled as well, but O'Brien was thrown out trying to score. The Twins also had a runner cut down at home, as Dave Engle singled, Randy Bush doubled, and Hatcher grounded to third, with Engle attempting and failing to reach the plate safely. However, a Gaetti groundout brought Bush in with the tying run on the next play.

Both teams picked up lone singles in the fifth, and the Rangers got one in the sixth as well. Bush doubled with one out in the bottom of the inning and scored the go-ahead run on a Hatcher single; Gaetti singled Hatcher to third, and Mike Hart scored him with a sacrifice fly. Gaetti was then caught stealing, but Minnesota had still taken a 3-1 lead.

Texas rallied in the top of the seventh; Scott, Tolleson, and Curtis Wilkerson singled (the last two on bunts) to load the bases with nobody out, ending Schrom's day. Ron Davis struck out Sample, but Mickey Rivers struck a game-tying two-run single, and Buddy Bell followed with a go-ahead sac fly.

The lead changed hands again in the bottom of the inning, as Kirby Puckett singled, Tim Teufel doubled him in to tie the game, and Kent Hrbek followed with a go-ahead RBI single. Dave Schmidt replaced Darwin and coaxed a double play from Engle, but the damage was done; Davis retired the Rangers in order in both the eighth and ninth to finish off the contest.

This game gives you a glance at the initial stages of the construction of the 1987 World Series winners. Kirby Puckett had been in the majors for about a month, and ended the game (in which he scored the tying run) with a .366 average. That mark would come down significantly over the rest of the season, and he didn't hit a single home run all year, but he hung in there with the bat and (according to WAR) was great with the glove. Kent Hrbek (who drove in the eventual winning run) was an established but still developing star on the way to his best year to date. And Gary Gaetti (who also drove in a run) was 25 and coming off of back-to-back 20-homer seasons; he actually regressed sharply in '84, but rebounded nicely over the next two seasons.

For now, the Twins were merely a decent team (although even that was enough to compete in the '84 AL West). But Hrbek, Puckett, Gaetti, and Frank Viola made a nice quartet of pieces around which to build a team that ended up being very good in the relatively near future.

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