Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Game of the Day (8/11/84)

Mariners 5, Twins 4 (10). Minnesota's Mike Smithson and Seattle's Salome Barojas both debuted in 1982, and both were out of the majors by the end of the '80s. Barojas was slightly more effective per inning, but also spent most of his career as a reliever; 1984 was the only season in which he made more than four starts, whereas Smithson was exclusively in the rotation until his last couple years.

The Twins loaded the bases in the top of the first when Kent Hrbek singled, Randy Bush doubled, and Tom Brunansky walked, but Gary Gaetti hit into a force to end the inning. Smithson had a comparatively tame first inning, allowing singles to Alvin Davis and Ken Phelps that put runners at the corners before Al Cowens fanned to leave them there. Barojas was perfect in both the second and third; Smithson allowed only a Steve Henderson single in the second, but gave up the game's first runs in the third when Jack Perconte doubled and Davis homered.

Brunansky got Minnesota on the board with a fourth-inning homer, and Gaetti and Tim Laudner drew walks to put the tying run in scoring position, but Tim Teufel hit into a double play to end the inning. Cowens led off the bottom of the inning with a double and moved to third on a Henderson flyout before being stranded there. Kirby Puckett's single made him the only player on either team to reach in the fifth. Bush and Brunansky both singled in the sixth, but Barojas stranded them both; Smithson was perfect again in the bottom of the inning. Teufel singled in the seventh, but was erased on a double play; Ivan Calderon also singled in the bottom of the inning, but didn't make it past first.

Barojas quickly recorded the first two outs in the eighth. Bush then drew a walk, and Brunansky whacked his second homer of the day, putting the Twins in front 3-2. Ed Nunez relieved Barojas and allowed a Gaetti double before ending the inning. Smithson got one out in the bottom of the eighth and should have had a second but for a Ron Washington error that put Spike Owen on base. Len Whitehouse replaced him and allowed singles to Davis and Phelps, the second of which tied the game. Ron Davis took the mound and retired Cowens, but then gave up a go-ahead double to Henderson, albeit one on which Phelps ended the inning by getting thrown out trying to follow his teammate home.

Nunez thus took a one-run lead into the ninth. It turned out to be inordinately short-lived, as Teufel led off the inning with a game-tying homer. Nunez retired the next three hitters, and Davis worked around a single in the bottom of the inning, sending the game to extras. Nunez induced three consecutive flyouts in the top of the tenth, and Pete Filson took the mound in the bottom of the inning; he allowed an Owen single and walked Alvin Davis, then coaxed a foulout from Barry Bonnell before being supplanted by Mike Walters. Walters promptly served up a single to Cowens, scoring Owen with the winning run.

This game entered the eighth inning with a 2-1 score - and over the next three innings, went from 2-1 to 3-2 to 4-3 to 4-4 to 5-4. That's the kind of whiplash-inducing action that WPL likes a great deal, and indeed, this contest's score of 5.09 is a 95th-percentile mark.

Much of that drama is the responsibility of two very good '80s players. Seattle's Alvin Davis hit the homer that scored the game's first runs, then singled the tying run to third in the eighth and ended up scoring the go-ahead run, and followed that by drawing a walk that moved the winning run into scoring position in the tenth. That effort adds up to a WPA of +.485, which is quite nice, if only the third-best day of Davis's tremendous rookie season.

It was also not the individual work in this game. Tom Brunansky walked to load the bases in the first, homered to bring his team within a run in the fourth, singled the tying run to second in the sixth, and homered again in the eighth, turning a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 lead and kicking off the late-game fireworks. The game-altering second homer in particular is WPA catnip, and the performance overall adds up to a stellar WPA of +.676, which would last as Brunansky's career high for nearly a decade, until this game in which he hit a come-from-behind walkoff homer.

A lead change avalanche and a near-career game from a player who participated in 1800 of them? Yes, please.

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