Yankees 9, Rangers 8. As you might expect from the final score, the pitching matchup was highly undistinguished, with Texas's Dickie Noles (usually a mediocre reliever) taking on New York's Joe Cowley (who was primarily a starter, but qualified for the ERA title only once in his five seasons, that being 1986 when he scraped past the qualification line with 162.1 innings).
The Rangers jumped out in front before an out was recorded in the top of the first when Wayne Tolleson walked and Mickey Rivers homered. But New York responded with equal promptness. Willie Randolph and Butch Wynegar drew bases on balls to open the bottom of the inning, Don Mattingly singled to load the bases, and Dave Winfield launched a grand slam to seize a 4-2 lead. The Yankees would leave additional runners at the corners, then capitalized on another chance in the second when Randolph led off with a single-and-error, Wynegar's groundout moved him to third, and Mattingly singled him home.
Tolleson singled with one out in the third, but Texas did not score again until the fourth when Larry Parrish and Pete O'Brien singled, George Wright (not to be confused with the Hall of Famer and baseball pioneer) reached on an error to load the bases, and Marv Foley hit a sacrifice fly to bring the deficit back down to two. Noles was spotless in the bottom of the fourth, and Buddy Bell halved the deficit in the fifth with a solo homer.
Mattingly doubled and was stranded in the bottom of the fifth. Bob Shirley replaced Cowley in the top of the sixth and worked around a Bobby Meacham error (Wright's second ROE of the day) and a Foley walk. Noles walked Mike Pagliarulo and allowed a double to Meacham in the bottom of the sixth, but retired the next two hitters to leave them at second and third. Rivers was the only runner to reach in the seventh, and his single was counteracted by Bell's double play grounder. Gary Ward's two-out single in the eighth chased Shirley for Dave Righetti, who finished the inning routinely; Ken Griffey led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but Noles retired the next three Yankees to end the threat.
The Yankees entered the ninth still leading by a run, 5-4, and with their newly-minted star closer on the mound. Billy Sample led off the inning with a pinch single, was bunted to second, and stole third. Righetti walked Tolleson to put him a well-placed ground ball from ending the game, but Bill Stein then stroked a pinch double to score both runners and put the Rangers in front. Bell walked, Parrish popped up, and O'Brien doubled in two more runs to expand the lead to 3 and chase Righetti. Mike Armstrong brought the inning to a close, but the Rangers had turned the game on its head, and amazingly, after giving up a first-inning grand slam, Noles was in position to claim the win via a ninth-inning rally.
Dave Schmidt relieved Noles in hopes of ensuring that result. His appearance began inauspiciously, as Omar Moreno greeted him with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. Willie Randolph then reached on a Tolleson error and moved to second on a passed ball. One out later, Mattingly singled Randolph home. Winfield proceeded to reach on Tolleson's second error of the inning, Griffey singled in the tying run, and pinch hitter Roy Smalley singled Winfield home with the game winner.
There's not an enormous amount of analysis to do on this game, but here goes: There were nine runs scored in the first eight innings, and eight in the last one. Dickie Noles pitched eight innings despite a WPA of -.203, but was badly outstripped in the unhelpfulness department by Dave Schmidt's third of an inning and -.962, as he turned a three-run lead into a loss while recording only one out. As a result of Texas's generous pitching (not to mention Wayne Tolleson's pair of incredibly ill-timed errors), the Yankee lineup amassed 1.166 WPA; five of the eleven New York players who came to the plate had WPAs of +.149 or better (led by Ken Griffey's +.481), and none of them were lower than -.085.
But the main point is the same as it nearly always is after a stunning finish like this one: Great games are made in the late innings.