Monday, July 14, 2014

Game of the Day (7/13/84)

Pirates 4, Giants 3 (18). San Francisco's Atlee Hammaker, the 1983 NL ERA titlist who would make only six appearances in '84, opposed Pittsburgh's Larry McWilliams, a capable veteran having arguably his best year. Since the game was played in 1984 and not 1884, neither starter would figure in the decision by the time the 18th inning rolled around.

San Francisco opened the scoring in the top of the first when Al Oliver doubled and Jeffrey Leonard singled him home. The Pirates threatened in the first (on a Tony Pena double) and second (Dale Berra single-and-error, McWilliams single) but failed to score in both innings. The Giants stranded Dan Gladden after he doubled in the third, and Pittsburgh squandered a Jim Morrison double in the bottom of the fourth.

McWilliams was perfect in both the fourth and fifth, and his teammates got on the board in the bottom of the latter inning. Lee Lacy led off with a single, and Ron Wotus bunted him to second. Pena singled Lacy to third, and took second on a throw of some kind (I'm guessing throw home to keep Lacy from scoring). Jason Thompson then tied the game with a single, and Morrison added a sacrifice fly to put the Pirates in front 2-1.

McWilliams allowed an Oliver single in the top of the sixth, but erased him on a double play. Marvell Wynne singled with one out in the bottom of the inning, but a pair of forceouts ended the minor threat without it becoming a major one. Manny Trillo singled with two out in the seventh and was also stranded. Greg Minton relieved Hammaker in the bottom of the seventh, and his appearance started with Wotus reaching on a Brad Wellman error. Pena then singled Wotus to third, Thompson grounded to second, with Wotus getting thrown out at home on the play, and Morrison followed with a double that scored Pena and made it a 3-1 Pirate lead.

The Giants loaded the bases with one out in the eighth on singles by Wellman, Gladden, and Oliver. McWilliams was pulled for Kent Tekulve at that point, and the submarining reliever escaped the inning with only one run coming across on a forceout. Minton was spotless in the bottom of the eighth, however, and San Francisco completed its comeback in the ninth when Steve Nicosia doubled, pinch hitter Scot Thompson grounded out to move him to third, and pinch hitter Chili Davis singled in the tying run. Gary Lavelle took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and worked around a Wotus walk, sending the game to extras.

Tekulve allowed a serious threat in the tenth, as Oliver singled, Joel Youngblood doubled, and Leonard was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Nicosia popped up and Trillo flied out to end the inning. Lavelle counteracted an Amos Otis single with a double play in the bottom of the inning, and his teammates tried again when facing Don Robinson in the top of the eleventh, as Bob Brenly and Gladden singled to put runners at the corners with two outs. Robinson coaxed an inning-ending force from Oliver, and the Pirates responded in the bottom of the inning as Doug Frobel walked and was bunted to second, pinch hitter Bill Madlock was intentionally walked, and the next two hitters were retired, with the runners ending up at second and third before the inning concluded.

Robinson was perfect in the twelfth, and Frank Williams relieved and matched him in the bottom of the inning. A Gene Richards single went for naught in the top of the thirteenth, as did Wynne's leadoff double in the bottom of the inning. Robinson and Williams traded 1-2-3 innings in the fourteenth and fifteenth as well. Richards walked in the sixteenth, but was left on; Lee Mazzilli started the bottom of the inning with a double, but his next three teammates all struck out.

Robinson kept the bases clear in the seventeenth. Williams allowed a Johnny Ray double in the bottom of the inning, eventually stranding him at third. And both relievers finally concluded their marathon efforts as the eighteenth began. Rod Scurry relieved Robinson and retired the Giants in order in the eighteenth; Jeff Cornell took the mound in the bottom of the inning and did less well. Mazzilli greeted him with a single, took second on a balk, and was bunted to third by Lacy. Intentional walks to Madlock and Pena loaded the bases, and Thompson then singled in the game winner.

Eighteen innings. Tying run scoring with two outs in the ninth. Six squandered RISP chances in the first eight extras before the game-winner scored, including bases-loaded-one-out, first-and-second-nobody-out, and multiple instances of first-and-second-one-out. Extraordinary relief work from Don Robinson and Frank Williams, who combined for 13 innings, 6 hits, 3 walks, 13 K's, no runs, and 1.662 WPA.

It's the second-best game of the year so far, putting up a remarkable total of 8.64 WPL. And since it featured the #2 and #3 teams in the excitement rankings to this point in the year and came on the same day as a doubleheader of blowouts by the top-ranked Yankees, it also allows the Pirates and Giants to carve off about 2/3 of New York's previously-prodigious lead.

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