Monday, September 22, 2014

Game of the Day (9/21/84)

Angels 5, Rangers 4. Texas's Danny Darwin was 28 and had been in the majors for 6 years, but was still in the early stages of what ended up being a productive career. California's Ron Romanick was also a relative neophyte in the majors (he was a rookie in '84), but his career would end up being considerably shorter than Darwin's.

Romanick was perfect in the top of the first, while Darwin worked around a Rod Carew single in the bottom of the inning. In the second, Bob Jones singled and was erased on a double play, and the Angels pulled ahead when Brian Downing doubled and Bobby Grich singled him home. Both teams mounted brief threats in the third; Curt Wilkerson and Mickey Rivers singled with two outs and were left on, while Juan Beniquez's leadoff hit in the bottom of the inning was cancelled with a double play.

Texas took the lead in the top of the fourth. Buddy Bell walked, but Larry Parrish hit into a double play to remove him from the bases; Jones then drew a walk of his own, and George Wright homered for a 2-1 edge. Downing doubled and was stranded in the bottom of the inning, and the Rangers pulled further ahead in the fifth on a Wilkerson single, a Rivers RBI double, and a run-scoring single by Gary Ward. Bell drew a walk that ended Romanick's day, and Curt Kaufman stranded the two remaining runners, but the lead was now 4-1.

California picked up a run in the bottom of the fifth that has to be about as unearned as any in baseball history. With two outs, Beniquez reached on an error by Wilkerson. Carew was up next and reached on a Darwin fielding error; Bell then recovered the ball and promptly committed a throwing error that allowing Beniquez to score and Carew to reach third. Darwin retired the next hitter to end the inning, but after a perfect sixth from Kaufman, Darwin allowed a Downing walk and a Grich single in the bottom of the inning, and pinch hitter Jerry Narron smacked a two-run double to tie the game at 4.

Kaufman worked around a Rivers single in the seventh, while Darwin walked Fred Lynn but allowed nothing else. Kaufman was perfect in the eighth, and Darwin was replaced by Ricky Wright in the bottom of the inning. Downing led off with a walk and was pulled for pinch runner Gary Pettis. Reggie Jackson bunted the runner to second, and Grich singled him home with the go-ahead run. Kaufman retired the Rangers in order once more to end the game.

There was a healthy amount of fun stuff in this game. Mickey Rivers had three hits, a run, and an RBI for Texas; Bobby Grich had two hits, a run, and two RBI, scoring the tying run and driving in the game winner for California. Brian Downing reached base four times, scoring twice and having his pinch runner score once.

But two aspects of the game stood out beyond the rest. First, Curt Kaufman had by far the best game of his brief carer - 4.2 innings, one hit, no walks, no runs, and a relief win. He had only two major league appearances left to him.

And second, in the bottom of the eighth inning, Reggie Jackson bunted the winning run into scoring position. Reggie Jackson is not the type of player you expect to bunt runners over with particularly high frequency - and indeed, he did not; this was one of the 13 sacrifices of his career.

Even that understates its rarity, though. Of those 13 sacrifices, 12 were laid down in 1972 or earlier. That makes this the only sacrifice bunt of the last 15 years of Reggie's time in the majors.

These are the kind of singular baseball events that I love finding when writing about games from 30 years ago. Uncovering two in one game? That's an unusual treat indeed.

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