Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Game of the Day (7/28/84)

Red Sox 3, Tigers 2. Boston started John Henry Johnson, who up to this point had come exclusively out of the bullpen in 1984; his longest outing of the season had been 3.1 innings. Detroit countered with workhorse Jack Morris, who had only one outing shorter than 3.1 innings through the season's first four months.

The Sox threatened in the top of the first on a Dwight Evans walk and a Jim Rice single, but Morris rallied to leave the runners at the corners, and Detroit seized the early lead when Lou Whitaker led off the bottom of the inning with a homer. Kirk Gibson would later double, but was caught stealing third to extinguish his own threat. Marty Barrett singled and was stranded in the top of the second, and the Tigers tacked on another run via a Larry Herndon triple and a Darrell Evans double. Howard Johnson bunted Evans to third and Tom Brookens walked, but Lou Whitaker hit into a double play to end the inning.

The Tigers appeared to be in position to pull away from their opponents, as they had so often during the season they'd spent as the best team in baseball. But a Lance Parrish walk and a Chet Lemon single went for naught in the bottom of the third, and the Red Sox were starting to make a bit of headway against Morris in the meantime. Bill Buckner and Rich Gedman both singled with one out in the fourth, but Barrett hit into a double play. Johnson tossed a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, and Dwight Evans homered in the top of the fifth to cut the Detroit lead in half.

Whitaker led off the bottom of the fifth with a single, but was left on; Mike Easler singled in the top of the sixth and was also stranded. Johnson walked Lemon to start the bottom of the sixth and was pulled for Bob Stanley; Stanley would issue a two-out walk to Howard Johnson but nothing else. Morris was perfect in the seventh, and Stanley matched him.

In the top of the eighth, Morris walked Boston's Evans and allowed a Rice single. Armas then singled as well, and Johnson erred on the play, allowing both Evans and Rice to score and sending Armas to third. (I would read that as an infield hit and a late throw that sailed into the dugout or stands, but there are probably other possible sequences that could produce the same result.) Willie Hernandez relieved Morris; he struck out Easler, plunked Bucker, whiffed pinch hitter Reid Nichols, and retired Barrett to leave Armas at third.

Stanley remained on the mound to begin the bottom of the eighth, and got into trouble quickly - he allowed singles to Parrish and Lemon, then threw a wild pitch that moved them to second and third. Mark Clear replaced Stanley and struck out Ruppert Jones; Detroit's Evans then grounded back to the mound, getting Parrish thrown out at home. Johnson drew a walk to load the bases, and pinch hitter Dave Bergman grounded out to end the inning.

Hernandez worked around a Wade Boggs walk in the ninth, and the Tigers took another shot at Clear in the bottom of the inning. Whitaker led off with a walk, Gibson singled with one out, and Lemon drew a two-out walk to load the bases once again, but Jones grounded out to end the game.

This game provides something of a template for beating the 1984 Tigers. Fight off the initial onslaught while minimizing the damage as much as possible. Bunch your hits and hope for a helpful fielding misplay (which isn't terribly likely, because they were a very good defensive squad). And then fend off the inevitable rally, leaving them with a 1 for 9 performance with runners in scoring position.

I didn't say it was a helpful template. But then, there's really no such thing as a reliable way to beat a genuinely great baseball team.

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