Sunday, July 13, 2014

Game of the Day (7/12/84)

Mets 8, Braves 6. New York started rookie right-hander Ron Darling, who would be excellent in each of the next two seasons, then fail to clear a 100 ERA+ again until 1992. Atlanta countered with veteran righty Rick Mahler, who would go on to lead the NL in hits allowed in four of the next five seasons; a cursory examination of the league leader tables on B-R says that he's the only pitcher to do that since Robin Roberts gave up the most hits in five consecutive years in the '50s. And given that, unlike Roberts, Mahler did not also lead the league in complete games in all five of those seasons (and innings and wins in four of them)... you probably get a sense of his quality as a pitcher.

Wally Backman led off the top of the first with a double, but Mahler retired the next three Mets to leave him on. Darling was perfect in the bottom of the first, while Mahler worked around a Hubie Brooks single in the second. Atlanta opened the scoring in the bottom of the second when Dale Murphy walked and Ken Oberkfell homered for a 2-0 lead.

Backman reached scoring position again in the third, singling and stealing second before being stranded; Darling kept the bases clean in the bottom of the inning. Mahler walked George Foster, then erased him on a double play in the fourth, and the Braves extended their lead when Murphy walked, Chris Chambliss singled him to third, and Oberkfell hit a sac fly to bring him home. New York threatened in the fifth on singles by Mike Fitzgerald and Ron Gardenhire; Darling bunted the runners to second and third, but Backman grounded into an out at the plate and Mookie Wilson flied out to end the inning with no scoring.

The Braves squandered a Rafael Ramirez single and a Gerald Perry walk in the bottom of the fifth, and the Mets finally got on the board in the sixth. Keith Hernandez led off with a walk, Darryl Strawberry doubled him to third, and George Foster singled in the first New York run of the game. There were still runners on the corners with nobody out, but Brooks fouled out, Fitzgerald struck out, and pinch hitter Danny Heep flied out to leave the remaining men at first and third. However, after an easy sixth from Darling, pinch hitter Ron Hodges led off the seventh with a homer, bringing the Mets within a run and chasing Mahler from the game. Gene Garber retired the first three New York hitters he faced; Brent Gaff gave up a leadoff hit to Bruce Benedict in the bottom of the inning, but Benedict was caught stealing and Gaff worked through the next pair of hitters without further incident.

The Mets finally pulled even in the top of the eighth when Foster and Fitzgerald both doubled. Steve Bedrosian relieved Garber after the second two-bagger and retired Rafael Santana to end the inning, and Atlanta struck back hard in the bottom of the eighth. Ramirez singled and Perry walked to start the inning. Jesse Orosco relieved Gaff and coaxed a force from Murphy, but pinch hitter Rufino Linares singled Perry in with the go-ahead run, Oberkfell grounded out to advance the two runners, and Glenn Hubbard doubled them both home to increase the lead to 6-3.

The last three-run deficit had taken the Mets four innings to make up, but they didn't have that much time with this one, so they set to work quickly in the ninth. Pinch hitter Rusty Staub led off with a double, and Backman walked. Donnie Moore relieved Bedrosian and induced a fly ball to left from Wilson, but Albert Hall erred on the play, allowing the Mets to load the bases with nobody out. Hernandez singled in a pair of runs, moving the tying run to third. Strawberry struck out, but Foster singled in the tying run. Brooks flied to left, moving Hernandez to third, and Fitzgerald then doubled in two runs to give the Mets their first lead of the day. Jeff Dedmon relieved and brought the top of the inning to a close, but Doug Sisk worked an easy bottom of the ninth to finish off the game.

Now THAT's how you come back from an All-Star break, baseball - with the fourth-best nine-inning game of the year so far, a career day from Mike Fitzgerald (3 for 5, 2 doubles, 3 RBI, and +.571 WPA, the best figure of his decade-long career), and (more importantly) with a full slate of games after only THREE days off.

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