Friday, August 15, 2014

Game of the Day (8/14/84)

Astros 7, Cubs 6. Chicago's Steve Trout, who threw over 1500 reasonably effective innings in his career without ever throwing 200 in a season, faced off with Houston's Joe Niekro, who ended up with nine 200-inning seasons - which is far more than Trout, but still less than half as many as his older brother would accrue. Niekro is making his sixth Game of the Day start of the 1984 season, which is either tied for the most or very close.

Niekro walked Gary Matthews and Leon Durham in the top of the first, but left them both on; Trout retired the side in order in the bottom of the inning. Dave Owen singled and Trout walked in the second, but Niekro gave up nothing else. Singles by Jose Cruz and Jerry Mumphrey started the bottom of the second, but Terry Puhl hit into a double play to defuse the rally.

The Cubs seized the game's first lead in the third when Matthews singled, Durham doubled, and Keith Moreland hit a sacrifice fly. The starters exchanged perfect half-innings, and Houston rallied in the bottom of the fourth on a Phil Garner single, a Cruz double, a Mumphrey RBI single, and a Puhl sac fly that put them in front 2-1. Chicago responded in the fifth on a Matthews single, walks by Moreland and Ron Cey, and a two-run single by Jody Davis, but the Astros charged back ahead when Craig Reynolds, pinch hitter Mike Richardt, and Bill Doran all singled, and Garner doubled one out later. Cruz was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Mumphrey hit into an inning-ending double play, but the lead had returned to Houston, 4-3.

Both starters were pulled in the sixth, but the rallying continued unabated. Julio Solano walked Henry Cotto, then saw him steal second and allowed a game-tying single to Matthews. Puhl greeted George Frazier with a single, and after a bunt moved him to second, Reynolds singled him home to put the Astros in front yet again. Dave Smith relieved in the seventh and yielded singles to Moreland, Cey, and Davis that loaded the bases with nobody out; Frank DiPino took Smith's place and induced a force at home from pinch hitter Bob Dernier, followed by a double play from pinch hitter Gary Woods.

Houston's lead grew in the bottom of the seventh when Tim Stoddard served up a Cruz single, a Puhl triple, and an Alan Ashby single. Chicago got those two runs back in the top of the eighth, thanks to a two-out rally of Matthews single, Durham double-and-error, and Moreland single, but after Cey was hit by a pitch, Davis popped up to leave the tying run at second. Stoddard retired the Astros in order in the eighth, and DiPino worked around a two-out Cotto single in the ninth to bring the game to a close.

This game was eventful, to say the least. Every pitcher but one who appeared in the game gave up at least one run - and they guy who didn't allow any scoring also failed to record an out, loading the bases and getting yanked immediately. The hitting stars were the left fielders, as Gary Matthews and Jose Cruz combined to go 7 for 7 with two walks and five runs scored.

But the real story of the game was the lead changes. The bottom of the fourth began with the Cubs ahead 1-0. Over the next five half-innings, the score became 2-1, then 3-2, 4-3, 4-4, and 5-4. That is a remarkable string of lead swings, which is something that you can count on WPL to like a great deal. Throw in the Cubs loading the bases with nobody out while trailing by a run in the seventh, then getting the tying run into scoring position after a two-run rally in the eighth, and you make it even better.

If you were allowed to rearrange the sequence of events so that the five consecutive tie-or-lead-change half-innings started in the seventh instead of the fourth, you'd have a contender for most exciting nine-inning game ever. As it was, you still had a legitimately terrific baseball game.

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