Thursday, July 3, 2014

Game of the Day (7/2/84)

A's 9, Red Sox 6 (11). Oakland's Steve McCatty was a former ERA champion (kind of) who was all but washed up. His opponent was a 21-year old righty who would have a slightly better year than McCatty in '84 - but it was the 24 wins, ERA title, and MVP two years later that would really bring Roger Clemens into national prominence; he would, of course, go on to win a total of seven ERA titles and the same number of Cy Young Awards, which is pretty respectable.

Rickey Henderson took advantage of a pair of Boston errors in the top of the first, reaching base on one, then stealing second and advancing to third on the other, but Clemens retired Dwayne Murphy, Joe Morgan, and Dave Kingman to leave him on. Wade Boggs drew a leadoff walk from McCatty and didn't advance past first. After a spotless second from Clemens, Boston opened the scoring on a Mike Easler single, a Bill Buckner walk, and a Marty Barrett single.

Oakland replied in the third when Tony Phillips doubled and Henderson singled him in; Henderson took second on the throw home, stole third, and scored the go-ahead run on Morgan's single. Dwight Evans homered to bring the Sox back even in the bottom of the third, but a Bruce Bochte walk and a Mike Davis homer put the A's in front once more in the top of the fourth.

McCatty was perfect in the bottom of the fourth, while Clemens worked around a walk in the fifth. Boston drew a run closer in the bottom of the inning when Barrett singled, Jackie Gutierrez walked, and Boggs singled Barrett home; they might have scored more, but Gutierrez was thrown out at third on the run-scoring hit to diminish the remaining threat. Neither team had a runner reach base in the sixth, and a Murphy double and a Kingman homer extended Oakland's lead to 6-3 in the top of the seventh.

Rich Gedman led off the bottom of the seventh with a double to chase McCatty; two outs later, Boggs doubled against Keith Atherton to score Gedman and bring Boston within two. And after a perfect eighth from Mark Clear, Atherton allowed consecutive homers to Tony Armas and Easler, tying the game at 6. Bill Caudill relieved and kept the Sox from scoring further. Clear allowed a Henderson double and steal in the ninth, but left the leadoff man at third; Boggs started the bottom of the inning with a single, but Caudill prevented the Sox from moving him into scoring position, and the game moved into extras.

Carney Lansford singled and stole second in the tenth before being stranded. Caudill yielded a leadoff double to Easler in the bottom of the inning, but kept him pinned to second while recording three outs. The A's then broke through in the eleventh, starting with a Mike Heath double. Tony Phillips followed with a single, and Heath scored the go-ahead run on a Boggs error that also moved Phillips to second. Phillips stole third, Henderson walked and stole second, and both runners came home on a Murphy single to make it 9-6. Lary Sorensen relieved Caudill in the bottom of the eleventh and gave up singles to Boggs and Evans, but Jim Rice hit into a double play and Armas grounded out to end the game.

Two exceptional leadoff men faced off in this game, and both had the kind of games that would eventually help them land in Cooperstown. Wade Boggs went 4 for 5 with a double and a walk, reaching to start an inning three times and driving in two runs to help Boston keep the game close in the middle innings. But it was Rickey Henderson who ended up with the superior effort - 3 for 5 with a walk and a double, two runs, one RBI, and four stolen bases - one each time he reached. I'm mildly surprised to learn that Henderson, who had two years earlier set the single-season record for steals, tied his career high (to this point) with four swipes in this game; he would not nab five in one contest until 1989, by which point he was well into double digits in the number of four-steal efforts he'd had. Similarly, Boggs's four hits tied his career high to date - it would be one of seven four-hit games he posted in 1984 alone, but he didn't put up a five-spot until 1986.

I suppose you could use that as one definition of an all-time great: a player who regularly accomplishes feats that would be once-in-a-career for almost anyone else.

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