Saturday, September 6, 2014

Game of the Day (9/5/84)

A's 5, White Sox 4. Oakland's Ray Burris took on Chicago's Richard Dotson. Both pitched for a long time (around 2000 innings) with losing records and slightly below-average ERAs.

Dotson was perfect in the first, while Burris allowed a Jerry Hairston single and walked Greg Walker, but coaxed a double play from Roy Smalley to end the inning. The A's got on the board in the second thanks to a Bruce Bochte homer. Tom Paciorek led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and moved to second on a one-out hit by Daryl Boston. Scott Fletcher grounded to short; Tony Phillips fielded the ball and stepped on second for the force, but then threw the ball away, allowing Paciorek to score the tying run. Julio Cruz walked, and Burris threw a wild pitch that moved the runners to second and third before Rudy Law flied out to end the inning.

Dotson and Burris exchanged spotless thirds. Joe Morgan doubled and was stranded in the top of the fourth; Boston and Fletcher both singled in the bottom of the inning and were also left on. Jim Essian and Mark Davis started the top of the fifth with singles, putting runners at the corners; Phillips then struck out, Rickey Henderson flied to right, and Boston threw Essian out at home on the play. A Walker single and a Smalley walk were wasted in the bottom of the inning when Paciorek fouled out.

Morgan singled and was left on in the sixth, and Chicago struck in the bottom of the inning when Boston doubled and Fletcher singled him home. Cruz then singled Fletcher to third, and Law grounded out to bring him home for a 3-1 lead. Oakland got a run back in the seventh when Davis reached on a Cruz error, stole second, and scored on a Phillips single. Burris set the Sox down in order in the bottom of the inning, and the A's completed the comeback in the eighth. Morgan drew a one out walk and was lifted for pinch runner Steve Kiefer, Dave Kingman singled and was pulled for pinch runner Bill Almon, Dwayne Murphy walked to load the bases, and Bochte singled in a run to tie the game. Dan Meyer then pinch hit and grounded into a double play to keep the game tied.

Fletcher singled in the bottom of the eighth, but Burris stranded him. Dotson allowed a Davis single to open the ninth, but saw him caught stealing. Unperturbed by the setback, Phillips followed with a tiebreaking homer, and Henderson then tripled to chase Dotson from the mound. Ron Reed relieved and hit Carney Lansford with a pitch, then allowed an RBI single to Mike Heath. Reed retired the next two hitters, but the A's had taken a 5-3 lead.

Bill Caudill replaced Burris in the bottom of the ninth and allowed a leadoff single and steal to Law. Hairston flied out, Walker walked, and pinch hitter Steve Christmas popped up, bringing the Sox down to their last out. Chicago executed a double steal, putting the tying run in scoring position, and Paciorek hit into a run-scoring fielder's choice, with Walker holding at second. Pinch hitter Ron Kittle then stepped in, and struck out to end the game.

This game included two upper-tier Hall of Famers, along with a number of other well-known hitters. So of course, the two major hitting stars were 25-year-old shortstops, neither of whom had yet posted a slugging percentage of over .370 in their careers. Scott Fletcher's 3 hits tied a season high, while his +.275 WPA came close - but his day was bettered by Tony Phillips, whose pair of RBI and go-ahead ninth-inning homer helped him to a then-career-high +.411 WPA.

The solid individual accomplishments in the game were roughly matched by the totality of the contest. Of the eighteen half innings in this game, only two of them ended with either team holding a lead larger than a run - and both times, the opponent narrowed that gap at the first opportunity. The A's had 11 at bats with runners in scoring position, and that trails Chicago's 13. Of those 24 at bats, 10 came with the score tied, and another five had the tying run in scoring position. The A's had the bases loaded with one out in the top of the eighth, and failed to break the tie; the Sox had the tying run at second in the ninth, and failed to bring it in.

It wasn't necessarily a classic - but it was a lively game from start to finish, and would have been a great deal of fun to attend.

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