Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Game of the Day (7/21/84)

Brewers 7, A's 4 (10). Oakland started former Brewer Lary Sorensen, who was 28 and on the fast track to being washed up. Milwaukee replied with future A Tom Candiotti, who at 26 was still struggling to establish himself in the majors, but would pitch for another decade and a half. You can do that when you're a knuckleballer.

Jim Gantner singled and was left on in the top of the first, while Candiotti retired the A's in order in the bottom of the inning. Ben Oglivie reached on a Tony Phillips error in the second and made it to second before Sorensen stranded him. A Dave Kingman walk and an Ed Romero error on a Mike Heath grounder put Oakland runners on first and second in the bottom of the inning, but Candiotti kept both of them from scoring.

In the third, Rick Manning and Gantner both singled, and they advanced to second and third on a double steal attempt that would have failed if not for Carney Lansford mishandling the throw. But Sorensen retired Robin Yount and Cecil Cooper to leave both runners in scoring position, and Oakland scored the game's first run in the bottom of the inning when Phillips reached on a Gantner error and Dwayne Murphy and Joe Morgan singled him around. A wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, but a Kingman strikeout and a Lansford groundout allowed Candiotti to keep them there.

Ted Simmons and Oglivie began the fourth with singles; a Romero bunt advanced them, and Bill Schroeder added a groundout to score Simmons with the tying run. Oakland quickly recaptured the lead, however. Bruce Bochte led off the fourth with a double, and Heath singled him to third. Mike Davis grounded back to the mound, getting Bochte thrown out at home, but Mickey Tettleton and Phillips singled in a run apiece for a 3-1 lead, chasing Candiotti from the mound to be replaced by Bob McClure. Murphy singled to load the bases, but Morgan hit into a double play to keep Milwaukee halfway close.

Sorensen worked around a Yount single in the fifth. McClure and the Brewer defense combined to load the bases in the bottom of the inning (errors by Romero and McClure himself sandwiched a Bochte single) before Tettleton struck out to abandon all three men. An Oglivie single in the top of the sixth was obviated by a Romero double play ball, and Oakland padded its advantage to 4-1 in the home half of the inning on singles by Phillips, Morgan, and Lansford, the last of them coming against Tom Tellmann.

Rick Manning singled in the seventh and was balked to second before Sorensen got a flyout from Gantner to leave him there. Tettleton and Phillips both singled in the bottom of the inning, but Rick Waits relieved Tellmann and retired Murphy and Morgan to end the threat. Yount then led off the top of the eighth with a triple, and Cooper brought him in with a sac fly. A Simmons double ended Sorensen's day; Tim Conroy walked Oglivie, and Keith Atherton allowed a base-loading single to Romero, then walked pinch hitter Jim Sundberg to force in a run. Chuck Rainey then became the third Oakland reliever of the inning; he allowed a game-tying sac fly to Dion James, walked Manning to reload the bases, and finally coaxed an inning-ending grounder from Gantner to salvage a tie.

Kingman led off the bottom of the eighth with a single, and was the last player on either team to reach in regulation, as Waits and Rainey combined on nine consecutive outs. The same pitchers stayed on the mound to begin the extra innings, and had rather more trouble in the tenth. Oglivie led off with a single and was bunted to second; Rainey struck out Sundberg, but walked James and Manning to load the bases, then allowed a go-ahead two-run single to Gantner and a hit to Yount that brought in an insurance run. Waits had difficulties of his own, allowing singles to Jeff Burroughs, Lansford, and Bochte to load the bases, but Rollie Fingers then relieved and struck out Heath to end the game.

Weird stat of the day: The A's went 7 for 20 with runners in scoring position in this game, but only scored four runs. The Brewers were 3 for 12 with RISP, had no RBI extra-base hits, and scored seven times.

Several hitters had good games in this one (which is not exactly uncommon in contests that end with 7-4 scores), but the two I'm going to focus on both had three hits from top-of-the-order lineup slots. Milwaukee's Jim Gantner, a franchise stalwart who could handle any of the infield slots in a pinch but mostly stuck with second base, went 3 for 6 and drove in the go-ahead runs in the tenth, posting a healthy +.282 WPA. Oakland's Tony Phillips was also 3 for 6, scored twice and drove in one. His production was not as timely as Gantner's, but it was similar out of context. Which is appropriate, because at the time, Phillips appeared to be something of a Gantner-in-waiting - a multi-positional infielder who could bat left-handed (Phillips was actually a switch hitter), and hit just enough to make himself worth playing.

As it worked out, Phillips hung around in that sort of role until the early '90s, and then, when he was around the same age as Gantner was when this game was played, he joined the Tigers as a free agent and his career skyrocketed, leaving Gantner's in the dust. Which I guess makes him sort of a post facto best case scenario for a Jim Gantner type.

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