Sunday, September 28, 2014

Game of the Day (9/27/84)

Red Sox 4, Orioles 3. Baltimore sent 23-year-old right-hander Ken Dixon to the mound for the second start of what would be a fairly brief career. Boston countered with Bob Ojeda, who was 26 -the same age that Dixon would be in his last season - and still had a decade left.

Ojeda walked and stranded Cal Ripken in the top of the first. Wade Boggs led off the bottom of the inning with a single and moved to second when Dwight Evans reached on an error, but Dixon retired the next three Red Sox in order. And after that, neither team put a runner on until Evans singled with two outs in the third; he was immediately left at first.

Baltimore took the game's first lead in the top of the fourth when John Shelby led off with a single and Gary Roenicke doubled him home two outs later. Neither team managed a baserunner in the next three half innings, and the O's extended their advantage in the sixth when Ripken went deep. Boggs led off the sixth with a single, but Dixon erased him on a double play; Ojeda replied with a flawless seventh.

The Red Sox finally joined in on the scoring in the bottom of the seventh. With one out, Mike Easler and Bill Buckner both singled, and Rich Gedman tripled to score both of them and tie the game. Marty Barrett followed with a go-ahead RBI double and moved to third on a wild pitch, but Dixon managed to retire the next two Boston hitters and leave him there.

The Orioles tied it back up in the eighth when Rick Dempsey doubled, Shelby walked, and Ripken doubled Dempsey home. Mark Clear was called in with the go-ahead run at third and one out, and retired Eddie Murray and Wayne Gross to keep Shelby from scoring. Evans led off the bottom of the inning with a walk against Sammy Stewart, but was removed when Jim Rice hit into a double play. Tony Armas followed with a double, however, and Easler singled him home to put the Sox in front once more. Clear then retired the side in order in the ninth to end the game.

Cal Ripken was probably the best player in this game; his two hits were a solo homer that pushed his team's lead to 2-0 and a game-tying RBI double in the eighth, and he also drew a walk in the first. The WPA of +.426 was the third-best of his career to date, and exceeded all but one of the 162 games he'd played in his renowned 1983 season.

In fact, Ripken was probably a slightly better player in '84 than he had been the year before. He played every inning of every game in both seasons (of course); he had somewhat larger counting totals in '83, partly because the team around him was better and partly because he drew some extra walks in '84. A few other small things favored '84 as well; most notably, Ripken was 0 for 4 stealing bases in '83, and went 2 for 3 a year later. But the distinctions are pretty small, and both seasons were marvelous, best-player-in-baseball type efforts.

In 1983, the Orioles won the AL East and the World Series. In 1984, they (along with every other team in the majors) saw the Tigers run roughshod over them.

Coincidentally, in 1983, Ripken was voted the AL MVP. In 1984, he finished 27th in the voting. You might say that this game, in which Ripken was the best player on the field and his team lost anyway. was a microcosm of his unappreciated great season.

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