Sunday, April 24, 2016

Game of the Day (4/24/91)

Astros 1, Reds 0 (13). Cincinnati started Jack Armstrong, who in 1990 became probably the worst pitcher ever to start the All-Star game, and who spent 1991 earning the negative half of that title. He was opposed by a 22-year-old right-hander making his first major league start after a few relief appearances - one Darryl Kile, who would go on to a fine career lasting over a decade until his shocking death in 2002.

Kile's first first inning was about as good as they come, featuring two strikeouts and a popup. Armstrong had rather more trouble in the bottom of the inning, allowing singles to Steve Finley and Craig Biggio, followed by a double steal that put them both in scoring position; he rallied to leave both men on. Kile worked around a leadoff walk to Paul O'Neill in the second, while Armstrong set the Astros down in order; both pitchers were then flawless in the third.

Kile walked Herm Winningham and balked him to second in the fourth, but gave up nothing else; Armstrong permitted a lone hit to Tuffy Rhodes in the bottom of the fifth, and those were the only runners to reach in the middle three innings of regulation.

Through this point in the game, Darryl Kile had thrown 65 pitches. He was not lifted for a pinch hitter in the bottom of the sixth. And he had not yet allowed a hit.

He was removed from the game after six innings anyway. Al Osuna kept the no-hitter going with 1-2-3 efforts in the seventh and eighth (while Armstrong worked around singles by Luis Gonzalez and Jeff Bagwell in the seventh, and a leadoff walk to Mark McLemore in the eighth). Pinch hitter Bill Doran finally picked up Cincinnati's first hit leading off the ninth against new reliever Curt Schilling. A bunt and a wild pitch moved him to third, but Schilling struck out Barry Larkin to leave him on. Ted Power relieved in the bottom of the ninth and set the Astros down in order, sending the game to extras in a scoreless deadlock.

Schilling allowed a two-out hit to Luis Quinones in the tenth, which made Quinones the only player to reach base in the first three half-innings of extras. That changed when Don Carman relieved in the bottom of the eleventh. Pinch hitter Casey Candaele drew a leadoff walk; Eric Yelding laid down a bunt, but was tagged out, and Candaele did not advance on the play. Rafael Ramirez followed with a single, chasing Carman in favor of Rob Dibble. Biggio struck out, and Ken Caminiti singled to load the bases; Gonzalez then flied out to strand all three men.

The Reds assembled a similar threat against Dwayne Henry in the top of the twelfth, starting with a bunt hit by Winningham. Larkin bunted the runner to second, O'Neill was intentionally walked, and a flyout moved Winningham to third. Quinones then flied to shallow right to end the inning. Scott Scudder restored some calm to the game in the home twelfth, allowing only a Rhodes single, and Henry kept it going with a spotless top of the thirteenth.

Houston put the pressure back on in the bottom of the thirteenth, as Ramirez singled with one out and Biggio followed with a walk. Caminiti hit into a force, moving the winning run to third with two outs, and bringing the pitcher's spot to the plate. Since it was the thirteenth inning, the Astros had no better bench option available than Ken Oberkfell, a 35-year-old who had spent 15 years in the majors without ever making the All-Star team and hadn't had a full-season OPS+ over 100 since 1983.

Naturally, Oberkfell singled, bringing in the game's only run. He would have only 38 hits and 23 RBI remaining in his career, and he picked a fine time to spend one of each, as the RBI single earned him a WPA of +.373, the third-highest figure he had left in him.

Before Oberkfell, though, the story of this game was the pitchers - and more specifically, it was Darryl Kile. The decision to remove him in the middle of a no-hitter, when his pitch count was on pace to complete nine innings under 100, is startling to me. It's the sort of move you might expect in 2015 in a pitcher's first major league start - but 1991 was the year of Jack Morris's 10-inning shutout in Game 7 of the World Series, and I would have expected the managers of that time (Art Howe, in this case) to be much more aggressive in leaving starting pitchers in the game.

But then, Kile's early removal didn't cost the Astros anything (their bullpen was marvelous and they won anyway), and it probably also didn't hurt his career, given that he provided over a decade of solid rotation work. So maybe there's something to the idea of treating young arms with some delicacy.

No comments:

Post a Comment