Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Game of the Day (9/23/84)

Brewers 8, Blue Jays 5. Milwaukee's Bob McClure was 32, and had not posted an ERA+ above 90 in more than 10 innings since 1980. Toronto's Luis Leal was 27 and finishing off his third straight 200-inning campaign with an ERA+ of 100 or better.

This game would be the third-to-last start of McClure's career - but only because he transitioned into a full-time relief role, which he maintained for nearly a decade. Leal, meanwhile, would be finished in the majors by the end of 1985.

It would seem to be a fair statement that pitchers can be unpredictable at times.

Robin Yount led off the game by reaching second on an error by Jesse Barfield, but made it only as far as third; McClure was spotless in the bottom of the inning. Milwaukee opened the scoring in the second, beginning with singles by Bobby Clark and Dion James. The runners attempted a double steal, but Clark was thrown out at third. James then moved to third on a groundout by Jim Sundberg, and Ed Romero singled James home.

McClure worked around a walk to Willie Upshaw in the home second, and Leal allowed only a Cecil Cooper single in the third. Toronto struck in the bottom of the third, starting with singles by Alfredo Griffin and Tony Fernandez. With two outs, the runners successfully executed a double steal, and George Bell singed them both home, taking second on a Clark error. Cliff Johnson followed with an RBI single, moving to third on a Doug Loman error in the outfield before being stranded.

Leal countered a James single with a double play in the top of the fourth, while McClure set the Jays down in order. In the top of the fifth, Willie Lozado led off by reaching on a Fernandez error; two outs later, Cooper launched a game-tying home run. Lloyd Moseby's single in the bottom of the inning was squandered, and Roy Lee Jackson relieved Leal in the top of the sixth; the Brewers got to him as well, with James reaching second on a single-and-error (with Bell responsible for the misplay) and Romero singling him home with the go-ahead run.

Toronto mounted a serious threat in the bottom of the sixth. Johnson led off with a single, and Barfield walked. One out later, Buck Martinez reached on a Romero error to load the bases. But McClure rallied, inducing a Garth Iorg popup and getting pinch hitter Dave Collins to fly out and strand all three runners. Jackson was perfect in the seventh, however, and the Jays struck in the bottom of that inning when Fernandez doubled, Moseby tripled him home to tie the game and chase McClure, and Bell greeted Jim Kern with a go-ahead RBI single. Johnson singled as well, but Kern managed to escape the inning without further damage.

Milwaukee waited no time at all to respond, as Loman led off the eighth with a game-tying homer. Clark followed with a triple, and Jimmy Key was hustled to the mound in Jackson's place. James grounded out, but Sundberg doubled Clark home with the go-ahead run, and Lozado followed with an RBI double one out later. Key intentionally walked Yount, and Jim Gantner followed with a single to complete the one-inning team cycle, but Lozado was cut down at home on the play for the third out.

Kern allowed one-out singles to Rick Leach and Fernandez in the eighth, and was pulled for Ray Searage, who struck out the next two Jays. Loman homered against Key in the top of the ninth, and Searage then retired Toronto 1-2-3 to end the game.

At this point in the 1984 season, three of the four division races were over; only the three-way struggle between mediocre AL West teams remained in doubt. But just because the Brewers and Blue Jays were not a part of the playoff picture, that doesn't mean there weren't still things to look for in this game.

The Jays were in the process of setting up their exemplary 1985 season. This game saw them get 3 hits from Tony Fernandez, who was just getting started on his long and productive career; it also brought a combined 4 hits, 2 runs, and 4 RBI from Lloyd Moseby and George Bell, who made up two thirds of one of the best outfields of the '80s. Finally, their last pitcher of the day was Jimmy Key, who was finishing off a rather poor rookie year, but was on his way to much better things in the near future.

Milwaukee, meanwhile, was a team mired in rather sharp decline; having won 95 games and the AL pennant two years earlier, and 87 one year back, this was the first of three straight losing campaigns for the Brewers. But while there was less long-term hope to be found on the roster, there was more short-term success in this game; the single-inning reverse cycle in the eighth that put them in front was of particular note.

Beyond that, however, was the performance of cleanup hitter Doug Loman. Loman's eighth-inning homer tied the game, and his shot in the ninth helped to secure the lead. The home runs were the only two of his abbreviated 1984 season, one in which his performance (.276/.402/.408 in 93 PA) belied his status as a 26-year-old rookie. In 1985, he would come down rather sharply, to the tune of .212/.221/.318 in 70 plate appearances and the abrupt end of his major league career.

All that is to say: Doug Loman's two home runs in this game were the only two he would hit in the major leagues - and they came in consecutive at bats. I'm guessing that not many players have pulled that off.

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