Friday, April 17, 2015

Game of the Day (4/17/91)

Mariners 4, Twins 3 (11). Minnesota's Kevin Tapani and Seattle's Scott Bankhead were both 27-year-old right-handers (Bankhead about 8 months older). Bankhead entered the '91 season with over 600 career innings pitched, over 3 times as many as Tapani had thrown to this point. From '91 on, Bankhead had just over 270 innings remaining in his arm; Tapani, meanwhile, had over 2000 to go.

Bankhead allowed a single to Kirby Puckett and walked Kent Hrbek with two outs in the first. Chili Davis followed with a single, but it was the kind of single that's recorded when a baserunner (Hrbek, in this case) is struck by a batted ball. Hrbek was out and the inning was over.

Tapani was spotless in the home first, and Bankhead got into trouble again in the second when Brian Harper led off with a double. Mike Pagliarulo singled Harper home to open the scoring; Pagliarulo was thrown out trying to stretch the hit, but the Twins kept the pressure on as Shane Mack doubled immediately thereafter. Greg Gagne reached on an error by first baseman Pete O'Brien, putting runners at the corners, and Chuck Knoblauch hit a sacrifice fly to bring Mack home and double the lead to 2-0.

Tapani allowed a leadoff hit to Edgar Martinez in the second, but left him on. Davis hit a more conventional single in the third and was also stranded, and the starters then exchanged perfect half-innings. Martinez singled again in the fourth, and was again stranded; Minnesota then extended its lead in the fifth on a Knoblauch single, a groundout, and a two-out RBI hit from Hrbek.

Seattle got back into the game in the bottom of the fifth. Jay Buhner led off the inning with a home run, putting them on the board. One out later, Dave Valle singled and Jeff Schaefer doubled him to third, putting the tying runs in scoring position. Harold Reynolds grounded out to score Valle, and Ken Griffey, Sr. singled to plate Schaefer and even the score at 3.

Bankhead and Tapani were both perfect in the sixth. Bankhead recorded two quick outs in the seventh, but then allowed a double to Randy Bush; he was pulled after intentionally walking Puckett, and Russ Swan retired Hrbek to end the inning. Tapani set the Mariners down in order in the seventh as well. Swan allowed a one-out Harper double in the top of the eighth, leading Michael Jackson to take his place and leave the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Steve Bedrosian supplanted Tapani on the mound in the bottom of the eighth, and quickly got into more trouble than his predecessor had faced in a while. Griffey doubled with one out and was pulled for a pinch runner. An intentional walk and a Martinez single loaded the bases, but Bedrosian recovered to strike out Alvin Davis and coax a flyout from Buhner to keep the game tied.

Jackson and Bedrosian exchanged immaculate ninths, necessitating additional baseball. Jackson worked around a two-out Chili Davis walk in the tenth; Rick Aguilera took over in the bottom of the inning and allowed a walk and steal to Greg Briley, but left him at second. Jackson posted a spotless eleventh, and Alvin Davis led off the bottom of the inning with a single. Henry Cotto pinch ran and stole second, Buhner walked, and O'Brien struck out. The Mariners then summoned veteran backup catcher Scott Bradley to pinch hit; Bradley worked a 2-2 count, then grounded a single into left, driving Cotto home with the winning run.

Scott Bradley had never been a particularly extraordinary player; he never exceeded 400 plate appearances in a season, and his only time over an OPS+ of 95 came in a year in which he played 77 games. As 1991 began, he had been definitively shifted to a part-time role; the '91 season was the last in which he would play more than 10 games, and his batting line (.203/.280/.244) clearly explains why. After this game, there were all of 11 RBI remaining in his career.

This is usually the spot where I say that the walkoff single Bradley hit in this game was the last big moment of his career. But in this case, it wasn't. In fact, it wasn't even the last walkoff single he would hit in this particular series; he cracked another one off of Dennis Eckersley three days later, in this game.

It may not have been a one-time thing, but key hits also weren't everyday occurrences for Scott Bradley. But one of the best things about the 162-game baseball season is that it makes you use everyone on your roster, and use them enough that just about all of them are going to have some big moments.

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