Monday, August 18, 2014

Game of the Day (8/17/84)

Rangers 8, Royals 6. Both teams started pitchers who would make over half of their 1984 appearances in relief - veteran Dickie Noles for Texas, and rookie Bret Saberhagen for KC. This is about the only equivalence you'll ever see anyone draw between those two pitchers.

Noles was perfect in the first, and the Rangers jumped on Saberhagen in the bottom of the inning. Billy Sample and Gary Ward started the inning with singles, putting runners at the corners. Buddy Bell hit an RBI groundout, Larry Parrish singled, and Pete O'Brien picked up an RBI with a single of his own. George Wright struck out, Donnie Scott walked to load the bases, and Jeff Kunkel popped up to leave them that way.

A Jorge Orta single and a Dane Iorg walk started the top of the second, but Noles retired the next three Royals to leave the runners on. After a 1-2-3 inning from Saberhagen, however, the Royals got on the board in the third when Willie Wilson doubled and Pat Sheridan singled him home. Sheridan then stole second, took third on a George Brett flyout, and came home at a more sedate pace when Orta homered to put KC in front 3-2. The Rangers responded immediately, as Bell, Parrish, and Wright all doubled in the bottom of the third to take a 4-3 lead and knock Saberhagen out of the game. Frank Wills took the mound and ended the inning without further damage.

Joey McLaughlin replaced Noles in the top of the fourth and allowed singles to Don Slaught and Wilson, but left both men on. Ward singled in the bottom of the inning, and was then caught stealing second. Iorg walked and Steve Balboni singled with two outs in the fifth, but Slaught grounded out to end the inning, and Wills retired the Rangers in order in the bottom half.

In the top of the sixth, Greg Pryor led off with a single, and Sheridan doubled him to third with two outs. Tom Henke relieved McLaughlin, and Brett greeted him with a go-ahead two-run double. Once again, the Rangers mounted a prompt reply, as Kunkel tied the game with a homer in the bottom of the inning. This time, however, Kansas City struck again in their next opportunity. Iorg led off the seventh with a single, and one out later, Slaught and Pryor singled him the rest of the way around to take a 6-5 lead. Buddy Biancalana reached on an O'Brien error to load the bases, but Henke struck out Wilson and coaxed a groundout from Sheridan to end the inning.

Wills walked Ward and allowed a Bell single in the bottom of the seventh, putting the tying run in scoring position, but retried Parrish and O'Brien to leave it there. Henke was flawless in the eighth, while Dan Quisenberry worked around a Scott single. Dave Schmidt retired the Royals in order in the ninth despite Pryor getting a second chance when O'Brien dropped his foul popup.

Quisenberry came back out for the ninth and got off to a bad start when Sample singled and stole second. Ward singled the tying run to third; Bell popped up, but Parrish hit a sac fly to tie the game, and O'Brien followed with a walkoff two-run homer.

This game is in a virtual tie as the best nine-inning game of the year so far (it's #53 overall, and the three best regulation contests rank in spots 52-54). You can see why - there were a full half-dozen lead changes or rallies to tie contained within its nine innings, plus 29 at bats with runners in scoring position (nine of which resulted in hits) and a walkoff homer. Both teams had five multi-hit games. The Royals got two hits each from Willie Wilson, Pat Sheridan, Jorge Orta, Don Slaught, and Greg Pryor, with all of them but Slaught also either scoring or driving in a run. The Rangers did even better with their multi-hit players, however, mostly because Billy Sample, Gary Ward, Buddy Bell, Larry Parrish, and Pete O'Brien occupied the first five slots in their lineup. As a result, all five of the Rangers' stars of the day participated in multiple runs, and they combined to score seven and drive in six of the team's eight total tallies.

On the pitching side, neither staff provided much to write home about - but they did each get a few innings from someone who would be a star later, Bret Saberhagen for the Royals and Tom Henke for the Rangers. Both of them had bad days, with WPAs worse than -.300 - but neither did quite as poorly as KC's Dan Quisenberry, who posted a -.654 figure. All in all, it was a bad day to be a Hall of Very Good pitcher.

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