Thursday, September 4, 2014

Game of the Day (9/3/84)

Cubs 4, Phillies 3 (12). Chicago's prize midseason acquisition, Rick Sutcliffe, took on Philly's John Denny, who missed just over two months in the middle of the season. Triviality: One of these two pitchers threw 150.1 innings with a 2.69 ERA for his current team in 1984; the other threw 154.1 at a 2.45 clip. One of them parlayed that performance into a Cy Young - with the help of a 16-1 record, of course. The other had won the Cy the previous year, but went 7-7 in '84 and was predictably ignored in the voting.

Denny worked around a Bob Dernier double in the first, but Ron Cey homered to put the Cubs in front in the second. Chicago tacked on another run in the third when Sutcliffe singled, Ryne Sandberg and Gary Matthews both walked, and Leon Durham hit an RBI groundout. Denny allowed a Larry Bowa single and nothing else in the fourth, but Matthews homered in the top of the fifth to make it a 3-0 lead.

Meanwhile, Sutcliffe retired the Phillies in order in each of the first four innings. That string came to an end when Mike Schmidt led off the bottom of the fifth with a homer. Both starters threw perfect sixths, and Denny was pulled for Larry Andersen in the seventh; Andersen stranded Bowa after a leadoff double, and the Phillies came back to tie the score in the bottom of the inning when Schmidt walked (and was pulled for pinch runner Rick Schu), Al Oliver doubled, and Ozzie Virgil singled both runners home.

Andersen and Sutcliffe exchanged flawless eighths. Al Holland relieved in the ninth and walked Cey and Jody Davis to start the inning; he was quickly yanked for Bill Campbell, who allowed a sac bunt to Gary Woods, intentionally walked pinch hitter Thad Bosley, and retired Dernier and Sandberg to preserve the tie. George Frazier worked around a Jeff Stone leadoff single to send the game to extras.

Campbell was spotless in the tenth, while Frazier allowed a single to Virgil and walked pinch hitter John Wockenfuss, but left both men on. Renie Martin yielded a single to Henry Cotto in the eleventh, but Davis flied (or more likely lined) into a double play, and nobody else on either team reached in the inning. Richie Hebner led off the twelfth by reaching on a misplay by Juan Samuel; he moved to second on a bunt, but was thrown out at third on Sandberg's grounder to short. Sandberg then stole second, and Matthews grounded to short, where Kiko Garcia committed an error that allowed Sandberg to score the go-ahead run. Lee Smith set the Phils down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning to end the game.

Similar though Rick Sutcliffe and John Denny's lines were for the 1984 season (leaving out Sutcliffe's work for the Indians, which wouldn't help him in any case), there was one substantial difference. Sutcliffe struck out 155 men in the 150.1 innings he pitched for the Cubs; Denny fanned only 94 in his 154.1 innings of work. Denny countered this with better control (1.7 walks per 9 to Sutcliffe's 2.3), but the Red Baron still had significantly better fielding-independent numbers overall (he posted a remarkable 2.28 FIP as a Cub, as compared to Denny's still-solid 3.12). At no point was that on display more prominently than in this game, as Sutcliffe struck out 15 Phillies and walked one, as compared to Denny's 3 and 2.

Of course, that didn't exactly make the difference in the game - but it most likely would have, if the Cubs hadn't gone 0 for 12 with runners in scoring position. As it was, Sutcliffe's effort kept Chicago close enough to force extras, allowing the Philly defensive meltdown in the twelfth to prove decisive and augmenting the division lead to 6 games over the second-place Mets, and 9.5 above the Phils.

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