Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Game of the Day (7/7/84)

Astros 3, Expos 2. Montreal started a 26-year-old right-hander who had not pitched in the majors at all in 1983, but who was on the way to a halfway credible season in '84. Houston's starter was 3 years older and having a disaster area of a 71 ERA+ season. Based on those descriptions, you'd figure that the Expo hurler would have a brighter future (if not necessarily a bright one in absolute terms).

The Expo was David Palmer, who trundled along at OK for a few years. The Astro? Mike Scott, who was soon to begin one of the game's all-time late-career resurgences.

Palmer and Scott were both perfect in the first, and Palmer duplicated the effort in the second. The Expos broke through in the bottom of the inning; Gary Carter led off with a single, Tim Wallach walked, Mike Stenhouse singled to score Carter and move Wallach to third, and Derrel Thomas hit into a run-scoring double play to make it a 2-0 lead. Houston got one of the runs back in the third on a Terry Puhl double and a Scott single, and a Bill Doran walk moved the tying run to second before Palmer stranded it there.

Tim Raines singled in the bottom of the third, but was caught stealing; Jose Cruz got in on the baserunning antics in the fourth, leading off with a single and getting thrown out trying to stretch it into a double. After Scott threw a perfect fourth, the Astros tied the game in the fifth on a Mark Bailey walk, a Scott sac bunt, and a Craig Reynolds RBI single.

Scott kept the bases Expo-free again in both the fifth and sixth, with Palmer matching his effort in the half-inning in between. Phil Garner and Reynolds both singled with two outs in the seventh, but Palmer stranded them at the corners. Carter and Stenhouse singled in the bottom of the inning, putting runners at first and third with one out; Scott was then pulled for Bill Dawley, who coaxed a double play out of Thomas to end the inning.

Palmer cancelled a Cruz single with a double play in the eighth. Dawley walked pinch hitter Tony Scott to start the bottom of the inning. Pinch hitter Bryan Little bunted him to second, and Miguel Dilone singled; I assume it was an infield single, since the runner remained at second. Frank DiPino relieved Dawley and retired Pete Rose and Raines to end the inning. Bob James supplanted Palmer in the ninth and walked Puhl; he then made an error on Bailey's sac bunt that moved Puhl to third and allowed a go-ahead RBI single to Harry Spilman, who had been double-switched into the game along with DiPino. Garner hit into a double play to help the Expos keep the game close, but DiPino worked around a pinch single from Jim Wohlford to finish Montreal off in the bottom of the ninth.

Mike Scott pitched well in this game - 6.1 innings, 5 hits, 1 walk, no extra-base hits, and 2 runs allowed. He did not, however, show real signs of the form that would produce his remarkable 1986 season.

The difference? In this start, Scott did not record a strikeout. He did not have a single start matching that description in '86 (when he led the league with over 300 punchouts), and very few for the rest of his career as a whole. Moreover, the half dozen or so K-free appearances he would have between this game and his retirement in 1991 all lasted 4 innings or fewer. So this was the last time in Mike Scott's distinguished career that he would qualify for a win while not setting a single batter down on strikes.

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