Thursday, September 25, 2014

Game of the Day (9/24/84)

A's 10, Rangers 6. The starters were Oakland's Bill Krueger and Texas's Frank Tanana, both of whom prove (in very different ways) that if you're left-handed, you can pitch forever.

Oakland took the lead in the first when Rickey Henderson walked, stole second, and scored on a Carney Lansford double. Dwayne Murphy then flied out, moving Lansford to third, and two-out walks by Mike Heath and Bill Almon loaded the bases before Mickey Tettleton struck out to end the inning. Texas threatened in the bottom half on a Gary Ward walk and a Larry Parrish single, but left both men on.

After the A's squandered a hit by Tony Phillips in the second, the Rangers rallied in the bottom of the inning. Kevin Buckley reached on a one-out error by Steve Kiefer, Ned Yost singled, and Curt Wilkerson walked to load the bases. Alan Bannister then singled Buckley home to tie the game at 1. Ward proceeded to hit into a double play, ending the inning. Dave Kingman walked and Almon singled in the top of the third, but Tanana stranded them both, and Texas pulled ahead on a Buddy Bell homer in the home half. A single, a balk, and a walk allowed them to mount an additional threat, but Krueger worked out of the jam.

Oakland responded in the top of the fourth, starting with a one-out Phillips single and a game-tying double by Henderson. Henderson then stole third and scored the go-ahead run on a Lansford sacrifice fly. Wilkerson and Bannister opened the bottom of the inning with walks, but a lineout and a double play negated the potential rally. Heath singled in the fifth, but was caught stealing; Krueger then set the Rangers down in order. Tettleton led off the sixth with a single and was bunted to second, but Tanana allowed him to advance no further.

The Rangers recaptured the lead in the bottom of the sixth. Buckley led off with a double, and was pulled for pinch runner Wayne Tolleson. Yost flied out, and Wilkerson singled; it was presumably an infield hit or a shallow fly ball that might have been caught, because Tolleson stayed at second. Krueger was pulled for Lary Sorensen, and Bannister greeted the newcomer with a base-loading single. Ward then singled to bring in the tying and go-ahead runs, and Bell's single added another for a 5-3 lead. Parrish hit into a double play to end the inning.

The A's mounted a threat in the top of the seventh against reliever Dickie Noles. Lansford led off with a single, and Murphy walked. One out later, Heath walked as well, loading the bases. Dwayne Henry replaced Noles and drew foulouts from pinch hitters Bruce Bochte and Dan Meyer, leaving all three runners on. But after a perfect seventh from Sorensen, Oakland struck in the top of the eighth. Phillips drew a one-out walk, and Henderson singled. Lansford then tripled, scoring both runners, and came home himself when Wilkerson committed a throwing error on the play. The A's now led 6-5, and didn't stop there. Kingman drew a two-out walk, driving Henry from the mound in favor of Tom Henke. Heath greeted Henke with a walk, and Bochte, Jim Essian, and Donnie Hill followed with consecutive RBI singles. Phillips singled as well, and it took Essian getting thrown out at home to conclude the inning.

Texas didn't submit completely without a fight; they picked up a run in the bottom of the eighth on singles by Bannister, Ward, and Bell. But Keith Atherton relieved Sorensen at that point and ended the inning, and Oakland restored the four-run lead in the ninth when Henderson walked and stole second against Odell Jones, then came home on a pinch double by Garry Hancock. Atherton allowed a George Wright single and walked Marv Foley in the bottom of the ninth, but ended the game without further scoring.

The 1984 AL West division race was a very close one, albeit between mediocre teams. This game was... not important to it at all, as neither team involved could even lay claim to mediocrity. It was, however, an excellent game in isolation, featuring as it did four lead changes and four other instances of tying or go-ahead runs being left in scoring position.

It was also one of the best games in the career of a pretty impressive player. Carney Lansford went 3 for 5 and drove in four runs. Three of those runs scored in the person of Rickey Henderson; two of them broke ties in Oakland's favor, and the other evened the score in the eighth. And immediately after that tying run, Lansford scampered home himself with the go-ahead tally thanks to an error.

Those contributions add up to a WPA of +.661, which was the highest of Lansford's career to date, and the second-best he would amass in his distinguished 15-year tenure in the majors. As usual, the lesson is that even a September game between non-contenders can give you something very much worth watching.

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