Monday, September 1, 2014

Game of the Day (8/31/84)

A's 7, Tigers 6 (13). Detroit's Milt Wilcox and Oakland's Ray Burris were both entering their mid-30s, and both of their careers would be over by the end of 1987. Burris, however, was putting up one last good season, while Wilcox was pretty much reliant on the Tiger offense at this point (which ended up working out nicely for him, as he went 17-8 despite a worse-than-average ERA). Incidentally, this game is the fifth Game of the Day started by Wilcox so far in 1984.

The Tigers seized a quick lead in the top of the first. Alan Trammell singled with one out, Kirk Gibson was hit by a pitch, and Lance Parrish walked to load the bases. Darrell Evans then singled in a pair of runs. Ruppert Jones hit into a double play to end the inning, and Oakland got a run back in the bottom half when Carney Lansford singled, Joe Morgan and Dave Kingman walked, and Dwayne Murphy hit into an RBI forceout. Bruce Bochte walked to reload the bases, but Jim Essian flied out to leave all three runners on.

The starters calmed things considerably from there, as neither team put as much as a baserunner on in the next two innings. Detroit resumed the scoring with two outs in the fourth when Jones homered, then tacked on another run when Johnny Grubb doubled, Larry Herndon walked, and Howard Johnson singled Grubb home for a 4-1 lead. The A's responded in the bottom of the inning, loading the bases on a single by Bochte and walks to Essian and Mark Davis. Tony Phillips hit into an RBI forceout, Rickey Henderson singled home a run, and Lansford doubled, scoring Phillips and Henderson and putting Oakland ahead 5-4. Wilcox was then pulled for Aurelio Lopez, who walked Morgan before getting Kingman to foul out to end the inning.

Trammell led off the fifth with a homer to tie the game, and it stayed that way for a while. Burris allowed three further baserunners through the eighth (Gibson HBP, Evans walk, and Johnson single), while Lopez walked both Henderson and Lansford in the bottom of the sixth, but neither team had a runner make it as far as third in that four-inning period.

That changed in the ninth, when Larry Herndon led off with a single to chase Burris from the mound. Bill Caudill relieved and was greeted by a Johnson sac bunt. Lou Whitaker walked, Trammell fouled out, and Gibson and Parrish then walked as well, forcing in the go-ahead run. Oakland responded immediately in the bottom of the inning, as Henderson led off with a triple and Lansford brought home the tying run with a sacrifice fly. Willie Hernandez then replaced Lopez and worked around a Kingman single to send the game to extras.

Caudill and Hernandez exchanged perfect tenths. Whitaker singled and Trammell walked in the eleventh, but Caudill recovered to leave Whitaker at third; Hernandez then retired the A's in order again. Keith Atherton relieved in the top of the twelfth and allowed a single to Grubb and a double to Rusty Kuntz, but retired Johnson to leave them at second and third. Mark Wagner led off the bottom of the inning with a single and made it as far as second before Hernandez stranded him.

Atherton retired the Tigers in order in the top of the thirteenth. Dave Rozema replaced Hernandez in the bottom of the inning and allowed a one-out Davis single; after the second out, Henderson singled Davis to third, and Rozema then threw a wild pitch to bring him home.

This game provides a bit of an instruction manual for How to Beat the 1984 Tigers. First, their rotation was merely solid, not spectacular, so hammer on the starting pitcher as much as you can. Second, have a good starting pitcher yourself, and hope he at least contains the highly potent Detroit lineup. Third, once the Tigers turn the game over to Aurelio Lopez and Willie Hernandez, you probably aren't scoring for a while, so if their lineup does catch up to your initial onslaught, you'll have to hang in there long enough to get to the rest of the bullpen. And once you do, pounce as quickly as possible.

It's not an especially easy plan to enact, of course. That's why it was only successfully managed 59 times in the entire season, including the playoffs.

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