Monday, August 11, 2014

Game of the Day (8/10/84)

Reds 5, Astros 4 (12). Houston's Joe Niekro was 39 years old when this game was played. Cincinnati's Jay Tibbs was a 22-year-old rookie. And yet both pitchers had very similar amounts of production left in their careers (Niekro would win 33 more games, Tibbs 37).

Bill Doran led off the top of the first with a walk, and was promptly caught stealing. In the bottom of the first, Niekro provided a quick, helpful summary of the hazards of throwing the knuckleball. With one out, Ron Oester struck out, but strike 3 escaped the grip of Alan Ashby for a passed ball, and Oester reached safely. He then took second on a wild pitch and saw Dave Parker draw a two-out walk behind him before Tony Perez grounded out to end the inning. Tibbs worked around an Enos Cabell single in the second, and the Reds took the lead in the bottom of the inning when Brad Gulden walked and Tom Foley and Gary Redus singled him around.

Tibbs was perfect in the third; Niekro allowed a pair of singles, but since Parker was caught stealing before Perez's hit, the potential rally never really materialized. Tibbs gave up a Jose Cruz single in the fourth, while Niekro retired the Reds in order. The Astros got on the board in the fifth, starting with a Cabell double. Terry Puhl then singled, and thanks to a Wayne Krenchicki error on the play (I'm guessing a throw into the dugout or stands on an infield hit), Cabell came home with the tying run and Puhl advanced to third. Ashby then singled to bring Puhl home with the go-ahead run, and advanced to third on a pair of productive outs before being stranded there.

Cincinnati tied it in the bottom of the fifth on an Oester single and a Parker double, but Houston responded promptly in the sixth when Cruz singled, Jerry Mumphrey doubled, and Cabell singled them both home for a 4-2 lead, though he did get himself thrown out at second on the play. Krenchicki led off the bottom of the inning with a hit, but Gulden lined into a double play.

Bob Owchinko took the mound in the seventh as part of a double switch, with Dave Concepcion taking over shortstop. Owchinko walked both Niekro and Doran, then induced a forceout and two flyouts to end the inning. And in the bottom of the seventh, Niekro served up back-to-back homers to Redus and Oester, allowing the Reds to tie it at four. Mumphrey led off the eighth with a single, but didn't advance past first; Owchinko hit for himself (!) in the bottom of the eighth and drew a two-out walk (!!) from Dave Smith before being stranded as well.

Houston threatened again in the top of the ninth, as Craig Reynolds and Denny Walling both singled with two outs. Cruz followed with a single of his own, but Reynolds was thrown out trying to score on the play. Frank DiPino relieved in the bottom of the inning and walked Redus, who then stole second and took third on a groundout. DiPino intentionally walked Cesar Cedeno and Parker to load the bases, and pinch hitter Skeeter Barnes then hit into an unorthodox 2-3 double play to send the game to extras.

Ted Power retired the Astros in order in the tenth, and the Reds got another shot in the bottom of the inning, starting when Eric Davis singled and moved to second on a bunt. Bill Dawley relieved DiPino and walked pinch hitter Nick Esasky, and Concepcion hit into a force that moved Davis to third, then stole second. Redus struck out to leave the winning run at third.

Houston had the chance in the eleventh, as John Franco allowed two-out singles to Doran and Reynolds that put runners at the corners before getting a Phil Garner forceout to leave them on. Dawley was perfect in the bottom of the inning, and Franco worked around a Mumphrey single in the top of the twelfth. Julio Solano relieved in the bottom of the inning, and Barnes greeted him with a walkoff homer.

Gary Redus: 90 home runs in 4066 career plate appearances.
Ron Oester: 42 HR in 4666 PA.
Skeeter Barnes: 14 HR in 675 PA.

And yet all three of them went deep in this game, and if any of them had not done so, the Reds likely would have lost. Of particular note is the fact that Redus and Oester's homers came back-to-back. Their home run frequencies were low enough that if they'd hit in consecutive lineup spots for Redus's entire 13-year career, there would have been just under a 50% chance that they NEVER would have hit consecutive longballs.

That would be enough to make this a pretty awesome game even if it hadn't gone 12, with each team blowing multiple prime scoring chances in potentially game-ending innings along the way.

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