Friday, August 22, 2014

Game of the Day (8/21/84)

Rangers 4, White Sox 3 (10). Texas started Mike Mason, a 25-year-old lefty who had a good year in 1984 and went downhill sharply. Chicago sent Gene Nelson, a 23-year-old right-hander who was off to an inauspicious start as a swingman, but would later reinvent himself as a moderately successful reliever.

The Sox scored the game's first run in the opening half inning when Rudy Law led off with a double and advanced a base on each of two flyouts. Texas countered in the bottom of the inning, taking a 2-1 lead courtesy of a Mickey Rivers single and a Gary Ward home run. Mason walked Ron Kittle to start the second, and he was the last runner on either team to reach in the first three innings.

Kittle singled and was left on in the fourth, while Larry Parrish had a hit in the bottom of the inning and was erased on a double play. Julio Cruz reached on a bunt hit in the fifth, and the starters then once again kept the bases clear for a multi-half-inning stretch that lasted through the sixth. The Sox evened the score in the seventh when Kittle singled, Tom Paciorek walked, and Vance Law singled Kittle home and Paciorek to third. Scott Fletcher struck out, and Cruz flied to center; the Rangers threw home to keep Paciorek from scoring, and Law tried to take second on the throw and was cut down on the relay, resulting in your everyday 8-2-6 double play.

Nelson was perfect in the bottom of the seventh, and the Sox struck again in the eighth. Rudy Law led off with a single; Carlton Fisk hit into a force, but then stole second and came home on Greg Luzinski's two-out base hit. Texas quickly retied the game on Marv Foley's solo homer in the bottom of the inning. The starters were both pulled after eight; Tom Henke worked around a Jerry Hairston single in the top of the ninth, while Bert Roberge retired the Rangers in order to send the game to extras.

Henke allowed a two-out Fisk double in the tenth, but stranded the runner at second. Roberge was pulled after Parrish led off the bottom of the inning with a single. Juan Agosto saw Pete O'Brien sacrifice the runner over, then coaxed a popup from George Wright. Pinch hitter Buddy Bell was intentionally walked, and the Rangers brought a second pinch hitter to the plate in Alan Bannister. At age 32, Bannister was barely a year from the end of his career - but he was still at least credible as a big league hitter, and proved it with a single that scored Parrish with the winning run.

The (eventual) best pitcher in this game was the one who fared the worst in 1984. Tom Henke threw a pair of scoreless innings in a tie game. That earned him a WPA of +.278, which was a season high, albeit in a season that ended with a 6.35 ERA. Henke also earned his only win of 1984, and the final win of his three-year Ranger tenure.

Before the 1985 season, Henke was selected by the Blue Jays as a free agent compensation pick. (The only context in which I am familiar with this term is the picks at the ends of the first round of the amateur draft, which clearly would not apply to Henke - so basically, I have no idea what this means.) From that point on, Henke would pitch another 11 years in the majors, and his ERA would never again exceed 4 - and only twice did it climb over 3.

We're not exactly looking at the game that started a turnaround in Henke's fortunes or anything, considering the fact that his ERA from this point to the end of the season was 7.62. But it's still fun to get a small preview of an exemplary decade of relief pitching.

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