Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Game of the Day (7/14/84)

Tigers 6, Twins 5 (12). Detroit's Milt Wilcox was not exactly a spring chicken in 1984; at age 34 and not quite maintaining a league average ERA despite an excellent defense behind him, he had only 32 starts left in his career after this one. But that's still nearly twice as many as the 18 starts Minnesota's Pete Filson, who was primarily a reliever (and a pretty mediocre one), would make after this game.

Filson worked a perfect first, allowing his teammates to take the game's first lead in the bottom of the inning. They did so when Kirby Puckett led off with a single, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on a hit by Kent Hrbek. Dave Engle then hit into a force, but came around to score on singles by Randy Bush and Tom Brunansky to make it a 2-0 lead. Filson and Wilcox exchanged flawless seconds, and both worked around doubles in the third; the bottom of the inning was rather more interesting, as Mickey Hatcher led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout, and was thrown out at home on a grounder to third despite an error being awarded on the play (I would guess he held up until the error occurred, then tried and failed to score).

Neither team put a runner on in the fourth. Chet Lemon led off the top of the fifth with a double and advanced to third, but no further. Detroit finally got on the board in the sixth when Howard Johnson doubled and moved to third on a Lou Whitaker groundout, then scored on Barbaro Garbey's single. After the second out, Lance Parrish swatted a go-ahead two-run homer. But Minnesota recaptured the lead in the bottom of the inning when Hrbek doubled and Bush homered, making it 4-3 Twins.

Rick Lysander relieved Filson in the top of the seventh; he allowed a one-out pinch single to Ruppert Jones and was removed in favor of Len Whitehouse, who finished the inning without further incident. Doug Bair, who had supplanted Wilcox with two outs in the sixth, was perfect in both the seventh and eighth. The Tigers mounted a rally in the eighth, as Whitaker walked and Garbey singled him to third with nobody out. But Ron Davis then struck out the next three Tigers to strand the tying run at third. With one out in the ninth, however, Davis served up a game-tying homer to pinch hitter Dave Bergman, and Bair retired the Twins in order once more in the bottom of the inning to force extras.

Davis issued two-out walks to Lemon and Darrell Evans in the tenth before stranding both runners. Willie Hernandez relieved for the Tigers in the bottom of the inning and kept the bases clear, and Mike Walters and Hernandez did the same in both halves of the eleventh. Kirk Gibson doubled against Walters with one out in the twelfth, and after Parrish was intentionally walked, Lemon singled Gibson home with the go-ahead run; Evans was then intentionally walked to load the bases, and Bergman padded the lead with a sac fly. The insurance run proved crucial when Tim Teufel homered off of Hernandez in the bottom of the inning; the Tigers still led by a run, and the Twins were unable to put anyone else on.

To this point in the season, the Tigers were 59-28, holding a 7-game lead in their division (over the Blue Jays, the second-best team in baseball no less). They had scored the most runs in the league, and allowed the fewest, and were generally established as one of the more dominant teams in recent history.

So it really seems excessive for them to win games by getting pinch home runs from Dave Bergman.

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