Saturday, July 26, 2014

Game of the Day (7/25/84)

Royals 5, Blue Jays 4 (13). Toronto's Jim Clancy, a right-hander having a down year smack in the middle of a solid career, took on KC's Charlie Leibrandt, a lefty having a respectable partial season which also came smack in the middle of a career that was somewhat better than Clancy's, but not overwhelmingly so.

Leibrandt allowed a Lloyd Moseby single in the first, but got a double play ball from George Bell, and the next two half-innings passed without anyone reaching base. The game's first runs came across in the bottom of the second when Jorge Orta doubled and Dane Iorg homered, and the Royals added another tally on a Darryl Motley single, a groundout that moved him to second, and an RBI single from Onix Concepcion.

Toronto mounted something of a reply in the third when Alfredo Griffin singled, stole second, took third on a wild pitch, and scored on a hit by Tony Fernandez; they added another run an inning later when Bell homered. The Royals squandered an error in the bottom of the fourth and a Concepcion walk in the fifth, and the Jays struck again in the sixth. With two outs, Cliff Johnson walked, Jesse Barfield singled, and Willie Upshaw reached on a Leibrandt error to load the bases; Buck Martinez then singled in a pair of runs to put his team in front 4-3.

Clancy retired the Royals in order in both the sixth and seventh, while Bret Saberhagen relieved Leibrandt in the seventh and worked around a Griffin leadoff single thanks to Bell's second double play ball of the day. Saberhagen was then perfect in the eighth, and Clancy was pulled after walking Concepcion and hitting Willie Wilson with a pitch. Jimmy Key took over and promptly picked Concepcion off of second, then whiffed Pat Sheridan; his success came to a screeching halt there, as a pair of wild pitches moved Wilson around to third, and George Brett doubled him home to tie the game. Jim Acker relieved and stranded Brett at second.

Saberhagen allowed a walk and steal to Dave Collins in the ninth, but nothing else; Acker gave up a Motley single but allowed him to advance only to second, and the game continued beyond regulation. Saberhagen retired the Jays in order in the tenth; Acker had a much more eventful inning, as Brett walked with one out and Hal McRae singled him to third. McRae was pulled for pinch runner Buddy Biancalana, and the Royals then tried... something exciting. The play is scored "Brett caught stealing home, C-3B-C-SS; Biancalana to third." That reads like a blown squeeze play or an attempted double steal; the exact nature of the play is tragically lost in the sands of time, but its general nature can safely be classified as AHH WHAT IS HAPPENING.

Acker stranded Biancalana at third, and he and Saberhagen exchanged 1-2-3 elevenths. Dan Quisenberry relieved in the twelfth and also set the Jays down without incident. Acker allowed singles to Concepcion and Wilson, then was pulled for Bryan Clark, who got a forceout from Sheridan and a double play from Brett. Toronto finally got an extra-inning baserunner in the thirteenth, courtesy of a two-out Willie Aikens single, but pinch runner Damaso Garcia was promptly caught stealing, and the Royals ended it in the bottom of the inning on a pinch single by Greg Pryor, a sac bunt by John Wathan, and an RBI single by Motley.

For the second day in a row, we have a fine game in isolation (in this case, a 6.12 WPL, ranking 21st on the season so far) that gets significantly enhanced by context. The context of this game was that it was a preview of the 1985 ALCS (the same team won, even), and the key player, throwing five innings of one-hit relief, was rookie swingman Bret Saberhagen, who would go on to win the '85 AL Cy Young Award and pair it with a World Series MVP.

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