Saturday, April 18, 2015

Game of the Day (4/18/91)

Brewers 4, Orioles 3 (11). Baltimore's Jeff Ballard was just 27 years old when this game was played, but had under 200 innings remaining in a big league career that had seen him join a rotation for the first time at 23. It wasn't an enviable fate - unless you were Milwaukee's Mark Knudson, who was 30 and had under 50 innings to go before the finish line.

Both pitchers got into trouble in the early going. Knudson allowed a leadoff single to Brady Anderson, then saw him steal second, move to third on a grounder, and score the game's first run on a Dwight Evans single. Paul Molitor led off the bottom of the inning with a double and made it to third on a groundout, but Ballard recovered to strand him there. Each pitcher allowed a baserunner in the second (a Billy Ripken single and a Willie Randolph walk, respectively), but neither runner made it past first.

Baltimore extended its lead in the third. Joe Orsulak led off with a single, and Cal Ripken was hit by a pitch. One out later, the runners stole their way to second and third; Evans walked to load the bases, and Sam Horn singled two men in and chased Knudson from the mound. Julio Machado struck out the next two Orioles to leave runners at the corners, and the Brewers rallied in the bottom of the third, Molitor singled with one out, and Robin Yount doubled him to third. Gary Sheffield grounded out to score Molitor, and Franklin Stubbs then reached on an error by Glenn Davis, bringing Yount home and cutting the deficit back to one.

Billy Ripken walked to start the fourth, but was caught stealing, and Machado and Ballard combined to retire the next eight hitters, putting the game in the bottom of the fifth. Bill Spiers led off that inning by reaching when Davis dropped a popup, and took third on a Yount double, but Sheffield was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Stubbs then hit into an inning-ending double play.

The Orioles had a chance to extend their lead in the sixth, as Horn drew a leadoff walk and Bob Melvin singled with one out. Darren Holmes then relieved Machado and ended the inning with a groundout and a strikeout. Ballard worked around a Greg Vaughn walk in the bottom of the inning, and Holmes set Baltimore down 1-2-3 in the seventh, keeping the 3-2 score intact.

Milwaukee evened things in the home seventh. Molitor's one-out walk chased Ballard in favor of Mark Williamson. One out later, Sheffield doubled Molitor home with the tying run. Sheffield took third on the throw home, and stayed there as Stubbs was intentionally walked and stole second; Dante Bichette then fanned to end the inning. Holmes was perfect in the eighth; Williamson was lifted after a Vaughn single, and Mike Flanagan allowed Vaughn to reach third on a steal and a groundout before leaving him there. The top of the ninth was baserunner free; in the bottom of the inning, Flanagan plunked Yount, and Stubbs reached on a two-out Davis error. Yount would make it to third thanks to Davis's second error on the same play, but Bichette hit into a force to strand the winning run 90 feet away.

Holmes remained on the mound as extras began, and set the Orioles down once more without incident. Flanagan was spotless as well in the second half of the tenth; Ed Nunez relieved Holmes in the eleventh and worked around a leadoff walk to keep the tie in place. Flanagan recorded the first out of the bottom of the eleventh, and was then pulled in favor of Jose Bautista as the top of the Milwaukee order came up. Molitor flied out, but Yount followed by hammering a 1-0 pitch over the left-center field fence for a walkoff home run.

There's an awful lot going on in this game. It included 4.2 perfect innings of relief from Darren Holmes, who was just starting out on a long, solid career as a journeyman reliever. The contest also featured four (FOUR) errors by Oriole first baseman Glenn Davis. Most of them ended up being relatively inconsequential, but one unearned run scored as a result, and his team lost the game by a run in extra innings, so his repeated miscues may well have made the difference.

And finally (in more than one sense), there was Robin Yount, whose pair of important doubles and walkoff homer gave him a WPA of +.662 for the day. It was Yount's highest single-game WPA in nearly a decade (since this game), and yet it would not end up as his highest mark of the season; his effort in this game would later top it. Still, it's a rather glorious flashback for one of the best players of the 1980s, and combined with Holmes's sterling relief, it was responsible for a victory in an excellent baseball game.

No comments:

Post a Comment