Monday, July 7, 2014

Game of the Day (7/6/84)

Cubs 5, Giants 4. Both teams started the game with pitchers who did not begin the year in their rotations. San Francisco's Atlee Hammaker, who won the 1983 NL ERA title but did not make his first start of 1984 until late June, faced Chicago's Dennis Eckersley, who had been acquired from the Red Sox in May. Eckersley is not exactly the midseason 1984 pitching pickup that is most talked about for the Cubs, but he pitched creditably for his new team.

Hammaker allowed a leadoff double to Bob Dernier in the top of the first, then balked him to third, but recovered beautifully to retire the next three hitters without the fleet-footed center fielder scoring. Singles by Dan Gladden and Bob Brenly opened the bottom of the inning, but Eckersley rebounded similarly to keep them both on base. Gary Woods walked, stole second, and moved to third on a Larry Bowa single in the top of the second, but Hammaker stranded him as well, and Johnnie LeMaster's second-inning single was all the Giants mustered in the bottom of the inning.

Gary Matthews gave the Cubs the first lead of the day with a homer in the third, but the Giants responded in the bottom of the inning. Gladden led off with a single, moved to second on a groundout, then came home when his steal of third induced a Jody Davis throwing error. Jeffrey Leonard followed with a solo homer that gave San Fran the lead.

Ron Cey singled in the fourth, but was picked off. Eckersley threw the game's first perfect inning in the bottom of the fourth, then led off the fifth with a single; Dernier bunted him to second, and Sandberg singled, but Eckersley was thrown out at home on the play. Matthews walked, but Keith Moreland hit into an inning-ending force.

Eckersley was perfect again in the fifth, and Davis tied the game by leading off the sixth with a homer. One out later, Woods doubled, pinch hitter Dave Owen singled him to third, Eckersley bunted Owen to second, and Dernier singled Woods in with the go-ahead run. The Giants came right back in the bottom of the sixth on singles by Chili Davis, Joel Youngblood, and LeMaster. Duane Kuiper was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Tim Stoddard was summoned to replace Eckersley; pinch hitter Gene Richards lined into an inning-ending double play to bail the Cubs out of the inning.

Greg Minton took the mound in the top of the seventh, and allowed one-out singles to Moreland and Davis. Cey fouled out, but pinch hitter Thad Bosley walked to load the bases, and Owen then singled in a pair of runs to put the Cubs in front, 5-3. The Giants got one of the runs back in the bottom of the inning on a Brenly double, a wild pitch, and a Scot Thompson sacrifice fly, and stayed close as Minton limited the Cubs to a Matthews single over the next two innings. But Lee Smith allowed only a LeMaster single in the eighth and a matching hit to Brenly in the ninth, closing the door with a two-inning save.

This is a quality baseball game, coming in just shy of the 90th percentile for 1984 so far. It also kept the Cubs in first place, a half game ahead of the Mets team that swept a doubleheader on the same day. And it's all thanks to Dave Owen, who would end his career with less than 200 plate appearances, but who picked an excellent time to tie his career highs in hits and RBI (two of each) with his go-ahead two-out two-run single in the seventh.

It's probably not literally true that every scrub in the majors gets a day as the hero - but quite a few of them do, and this day was Dave Owen's. It's also probably not true that winning a game because of Dave Owen is a sign of cosmic blessing upon your season - but it still doesn't hurt.

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