Sunday, August 3, 2014

Game of the Day (8/2/84)

Cubs 3, Expos 2. Montreal's starter was Bryn Smith, who was having a pretty good year for a 29-year-old first-time full-time rotation member. In this game, however, he was matched against Chicago's Rick Sutcliffe, who in 9 starts with his new team was 7-1 with a 2.49 ERA.

Sutcliffe allowed a Max Venable double and walked Andre Dawson in the first, but stranded both runners. In the bottom of the inning, Henry Cotto led off with a single and stole second, Ryne Sandberg walked, and Leon Durham drew a base on balls as well to load the bases with one out; Keith Moreland then hit into a double play to end the inning. Sutcliffe was perfect in the second, while Smith worked around a Jody Davis leadoff double. In the third inning, it was Sutcliffe who allowed the double (to Tim Raines), and Smith who retired the side in order.

Dan Driessen singled and Tim Wallach walked in the top of the fourth, but Sutcliffe recovered to strand both of them. In the bottom of the inning, Durham and Moreland singled to put runners at the corners, and one out later, Ron Cey hit into a forceout that brought Durham home to open the scoring. Montreal responded quickly, however; Raines drew a one-out walk in the fifth, stole second and took third on a passed ball, and then came home at a more leisurely pace in front of Dawson's go-ahead two-run homer.

Smith was spotless in the bottom of the fifth, and Sutcliffe worked a 1-2-3 sixth. In the bottom of the inning, Moreland homered with two outs to tie the game at 2. Sutcliffe allowed a two-out single to Venable in the seventh, then picked him off of first, and the Cubs recaptured the lead in the bottom of the inning on a Cey double and a pair of runner-advancing groundouts.

Sutcliffe and Smith were both perfect in the eighth. Wallach led off the ninth with a single and was pulled for pinch runner Miguel Dilone; Derrel Thomas struck out, but Mike Stehouse hit for Doug Flynn and singled Dilone to third. With the tying run 90 feet away and one out, Lee Smith replaced Sutcliffe, Pete Rose pinch hit, and what has to be one of the crazier game-ending plays of the year ensued. As described at this link, Rose lined the ball back up the middle, and it caromed off of Smith multiple times before being corralled in the air by shortstop Dave Owen, who threw to first to double off Stenhouse and end the game.

Had the final play been a normal 1-6-3 double play instead of a freakish one, this still would have been a fine game - multiple lead changes, a solid number of chances for both teams (a combined 1 for 18 with runners in scoring position), and the tying run to third with one out in the ninth. The highly unusual game-ender takes it to a different level, one that would hold the potential spawn any number of goofy speculations about a team of destiny.

Of course, as it happens, the '84 Cubs were a team of destiny - it's just that destinies are not guaranteed to be happy.

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