Friday, September 26, 2014

Game of the Day (9/25/84)

Royals 6, Angels 5 (12). California's Mike Witt and KC's Mark Gubicza were both young right-handers (Gubicza a 21-year-old rookie, Witt a fourth-year pitcher but only 23) who would go on to 2000-inning careers that were spent mostly but not entirely with their current teams and resulted in career records very close to .500. Witt was better in 1984; Gubicza would be better over the course of their full careers.

Gubicza started the game by walking Gary Pettis. Two outs later, it was Rod Carew on first, courtesy of a forceout, and a balk and a wild pitch then moved the runner to third. Brian Downing struck out to strand him there. Willie Wilson opened the bottom of the inning with a double and was bunted to third, but tried to score on George Brett's grounder and was thrown out at home. Gubicza was spotless in the second, and KC picked up the game's first run in the bottom of the inning on a Frank White double and a Don Slaught single. Onix Concepcion and Wilson singled as well, loading the bases, but Pat Sheridan grounded out to end the inning.

Gubicza retired the Angels in order once more in the third, and KC padded its lead in the bottom of the inning. Brett led off with a single, and after a force, Darryl Motley doubled Jorge Orta to third. Orta came home on a Steve Balboni flyout, and White then doubled Motley around for a 3-0 lead. Gubicza threw a third consecutive perfect inning in the fourth; Witt allowed a leadoff hit to Concepcion but countered it with a double play.

The Angels staged a substantial rally in the top of the fifth. Reggie Jackson drew a leadoff walk and was singled around by Doug DeCinces and Bobby Grich. Bob Boone bunted into a forceout, but Daryl Sconiers singled Grich home, and Pettis walked to load the bases. That spelled the end of Gubicza's day; his replacement, Joe Beckwith, fared little better. Carew drew a game-tying bases-loaded walk to begin Beckwith's appearance, and Fred Lynn then hit into an RBI forceout, with a bonus run scoring on a Concepcion throwing error. Downing drew a walk, and Jackson flied out to end the inning with California having taken a 5-3 lead.

Witt retired the Royals 1-2-3 in the bottom of the fifth; Beckwith saw Grich reach on a Brett error and steal second in the sixth, but allowed nothing else. KC drew within a run in the home sixth when Balboni doubled, White reached on a Carew error, and Slaught hit a sacrifice fly. John Curtis relieved Witt with two outs and runners on the corners, and retired pinch hitter Lynn Jones to keep the Angels in front.

Beckwith worked around a Lynn double in the seventh, while Curtis combined with Don Aase to keep the bases clear in the bottom of the inning. Neither team put a runner on in the eighth, and Dan Quisenberry replaced Beckwith in the ninth and threw a perfect frame of his own. In the bottom of the inning, Aase issued a one-out walk to Wilson, who promptly stole second and scored on a pinch single by Dane Iorg, tying the game. Aase recovered to retire Brett and Orta, forcing extra innings.

Quisenberry gave up singles to Lynn and Juan Beniquez in the tenth, but left the runners at the corners. Aase was spotless in the bottom of the inning, and both relievers threw immaculate elevenths as well, with Quisenberry retiring a pair of pinch hitters along the way. Pettis led off the twelfth with a walk and was bunted to second; Lynn was intentionally walked, and the next two hitters went down to leave the go-ahead run in scoring position. Curt Kaufman replaced Aase in the bottom of the twelfth and allowed a leadoff double to Iorg. Brett was intentionally walked, and the next two hitters went down... but that still gave the Royals an out to work with, and Balboni singled pinch runner UL Washington home to end the game.

This was a good one. The Royals came back to tie the game in the ninth, then won it three innings later, while having held the Angels to a 2 for 13 performance with runners in scoring position. The victory came largely from the bat of Dane Iorg, who pinch hit in the ninth and tied the game with an RBI single, then doubled in the twelfth and set up his pinch runner to score the winning run (crucial though they were, those hits would not exactly rank as Iorg's biggest).

The victory gave Kansas City a 1.5-game lead in the AL West with four games left in the season. For all I've talked about the value that can be found in late-season games between non-contenders, there's still nothing quite like a thriller that has serious postseason implications.

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