Saturday, July 19, 2014

Game of the Day (7/18/84)

Cardinals 8, Giants 4 (11). St. Louis started rookie left-hander Ricky Horton, who had been promoted to the rotation just over a month earlier. San Francisco countered with Atlee Hammaker, who is making an appearance in this space for the third consecutive start - which is even more remarkable considering that he only made six total starts in the 1984 season.

Horton was perfect in the first, while Hammaker worked around a Tito Landrum single in the bottom of the inning. Horton allowed only one hit in the top of the second - but it was a solo homer by Jeffrey Leonard, putting the Giants in front. Terry Pendleton singled and was balked to second in the home half of the inning, but Hammaker struck out the next two hitters to leave him on.

San Francisco extended the lead in the top of the third. Brad Wellman singled, but was caught stealing; undeterred by the setback, the Giants got consecutive hits from Dan Gladden, Manny Trillo, and Dusty Baker to double their advantage to 2-0. St. Louis responded in the bottom of the inning when Lonnie Smith made it to third on a double-and-error and Tom Herr scored him with a groundout. A Bob Brenly single and a Steve Nicosia triple would have resulted in a run in the top of the fourth if Joel Youngblood hadn't hit into a double play in between them; as it was, Hammaker was left with the same one-run lead, which he preserved through a spotless fourth.

Horton walked Hammaker to open the fifth, and a Gladden single and a Baker walk loaded the bases with one out. Jeff Lahti was hustled to the mound in relief; he struck out Leonard and induced a foulout from Brenly to leave all three runners on. Hammaker worked another spotless inning in the fifth, and his teammates finally consummated a rally in the top of the sixth. Nicosia tripled with one out, and Wellman walked to put runners at the corners. Chili Davis hit for Hammaker and was intentionally walked after Wellman stole second; Gladden followed with a two-run single to grow the lead to 4-1. Neil Allen relieved Lahti and coaxed a double play from Trillo to end the inning.

The Cards responded in the bottom of the sixth against Jeff Cornell, starting with doubles by Smith and Herr. Andy Van Slyke walked, and Cornell retired the next two hitters, but Pendleton then singled Herr home to bring St. Louis back within a run. An intentional walk to Darrell Porter loaded the bases, and Chris Speier then struck out to end the inning. Both teams managed singles in the seventh; Baker was erased on a double play, while Smith stole second but was left there. In the eighth, Bruce Sutter walked Youngblood and allowed a hit to Nicosia, then retired the next three Giants; Greg Minton walked a pair of Cardinals and had one errant pickoff throw, but left the runners on as well.

Sutter gave up a Leonard double in the ninth, but nothing else. In the bottom of the inning, Minton retired the first hitter, but then ran up against the Smith-Herr combination that had proved so potent throughout the game. The pair at the top of the Cardinal lineup struck again, as Smith singled, moved to third on a steal-and-error, and scored the tying run on a Herr single. Minton recovered to preserve the unwanted tie, sending the game to extras.

Ralph Citarella threw a spotless top of the tenth; Minton had rather more trouble in the bottom of the inning, as Pendleton led off with a single, moved up on a groundout, and had Art Howe intentionally walked behind him. Minton retired pinch hitter Glenn Brummer and Smith to leave the winning run at second. Dave Von Ohlen replaced Citarella in the top of the eleventh and allowed a leadoff pinch single to John Rabb; Gladden sacrificed Rabb to second, and Trillo followed with a single, but Van Slyke threw Rabb out at home on the play, and Baker grounded out to end the inning.

Bob Lacey took the mound in the bottom of the eleventh and started the inning allowing a double to Herr. Van Slyke hit into a fielder's poor choice; Herr held at second and the hitter reached first safely on the play. George Hendrick then singled to load the bases with nobody out. Lacey nearly escaped, getting David Green to pop up and Pendleton to hit into a force at home, but Porter then launched a walkoff grand slam.

Man, there was a lot of fun stuff in this game. Tom Herr drove in Lonnie Smith three times; before this game, he'd only once exceeded that RBI total for all teammates combined. Darrell Porter hit the sixth of his seven career grand slams, and by far the best-timed one. And while those two players combined to bring in seven of the eight runs that would win the game for St. Louis, and to do so in unusual and interesting ways, their feats still paled in comparison to those of San Francisco catcher Steve Nicosia.

Nicosia had two triples in this game. In the 357 appearances that constituted the remainder of his major league career, he hit one. That's got to make this about the least-likely multi-triple game in baseball history. Put it together with the walkoff slam and the devastating 1-2 lineup combo and the eleven innings, and you've got a legitimately terrific baseball game.

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