Saturday, August 16, 2014

Game of the Day (8/15/84)

Indians 4, Blue Jays 3 (13). This was the second game of a doubleheader, and you could tell by the starting pitchers - Toronto's Jim Acker made only three starts out of his 32 appearances in 1984, and Cleveland's Jamie Easterly was making his only start from 26 games.

The Jays jumped out to an early lead when Damaso Garcia led off with a single, was bunted to second, took third on a fly ball, and scored on a Jesse Barfield single. Cleveland tied it back up immediately, which was actually a disappointing outcome after the bottom of the first started with singles by Joe Carter and Julio Franco and a Mike Hargrove walk, loading the bases with nobody out. Andre Thornton struck out, Mel Hall hit a sacrifice fly, and George Vukovich flied out to finish the not-quite-complete squandering of an outstanding opportunity.

Easterly walked Buck Martinez and allowed a single to Tony Fernandez in the second, but left both men on; Acker hit Brook Jacoby with a pitch (apparently injuring him, as Pat Tabler replaced him on the bases) to start the bottom of the inning, and the next two outs moved Tabler to third before he was left there. Easterly was perfect in the third, while Acker allowed a hit, two walks, and a wild pitch, but managed to keep anyone from scoring, largely because Franco was caught stealing after his single and before Thornton and Hall walked. Willie Upshaw led off the fourth with a single and stole second; he was then thrown out trying for third on a Garth Iorg grounder, and while the rundown lasted long enough for Iorg to take second, Fernandez grounded out to leave him there. Acker then retired the Indians in order.

Dave Collins reached on a Tabler error in the fifth, but nobody else joined him on base. Jim Gott relieved Acker in the bottom of the inning and allowed a one-out single to Franco; Franco then stole second and took third on an error before scoring the go-ahead run on a Hargrove flyout. The lead failed to survive a single batter in the top of the sixth, as Barfield homered to retie the game at 2. Easterly was replaced by Ernie Camacho after Iorg singled with two outs, and Camacho ended the inning after allowing a Fernandez single.

Gott was perfect in the bottom of the sixth. Camacho allowed singles to Cliff Johnson and Barfield in the seventh, then left both men on; Chris Bando led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but Gott effectively pinned him to first. Singles by Fernandez and Garcia put runners at the corners with two outs in the eighth, but Camacho got Collins to ground out, leaving them on. Gott then retired the Indians in order in the home half of the inning. The top of the ninth once again saw the Jays get runners to the corners with two outs, this time on singles by Barfield and Upshaw, and Camacho stranded them once more; Gott followed with another perfect inning to send the game to extras.

Roy Smith took the mound in the top of the tenth, and the scoring drought ended. Fernandez singled with one out, then stole second with two away. Ernie Whitt walked, and George Bell singled Fernandez home to put the Jays in front. Gott set down the first two hitters in the bottom of the inning, but Franco singled and Hargrove and Thornton walked to load the bases. Jimmy Key relieved Gott, and Carmelo Castillo hit for Hall... and drew a bases-loaded walk to tie the game at 3. Key then retired Vukovich to end the inning with the winning run 90 feet away.

Smith walked Barfield to start the eleventh and was pulled for Mike Jeffcoat, who allowed Barfield to steal second and intentionally walked Lloyd Moseby but ended the inning with an Alfredo Griffin double play ball. Key gave up a Mike Fischlin single and walked Brett Butler in the bottom of the inning, but retired Carter and Franco to leave them on. The pitchers traded perfect twelfths to keep the game going.

Bell led off the thirteenth with a single, and Johnson singled him to second; Barfield's flyout moved Bell to third, Upshaw fouled out, Moseby was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Griffin ended the inning with an unusual play - a dropped third strike that Bando picked up and used for a force at home. Key walked Vukovich to start the bottom of the thirteenth. Fischlin hit into a force at second, and Bando popped up, but Butler and Carter followed with singles, the second of which scored Fischlin with the winning run.

The Indians left 13 men on base and went 1 for 9 with runners in scoring position, with their lone hit being the walkoff; their previous three runs came in on a pair of sacrifice flies and a walk. They loaded the bases twice and came out with disappointing-but-important single runs in both cases, and they rallied to tie the game in the bottom of the tenth. And they got four hits and two runs from Julio Franco, who even in 1984 only kind of qualified as young (he would turn 26 eight days after this game - and I just realized that he is older than my parents).

And the Indians were the boring team. Toronto stranded 20 runners, and went 2 for 18 with RISP. The Jays got at least one runner into scoring position in 11 of the 13 innings played in the game, and not counting Jesse Barfield's homer (which I suppose did put him temporarily in scoring position, but nobody batted while he was there), only two of them scored. Toronto got 7 hits off of Ernie Camacho in the reliever's 3.1 innings of work, and not one of those players scored. They also got four-hit games from both Barfield and Tony Fernandez, with the latter being the first such effort in a long and distinguished career.

The 13 innings, extra-inning comeback, and 33 total stranded runners add up to form the ninth-best game of 1984 so far. Given that every game ranked ahead of it either featured significantly more innings or significantly more runs scored (or both), it's probably about as good as you can reasonably expect in a 4-3, 13-inning game - which is pretty high praise.

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