Monday, April 25, 2016

Game of the Day (4/25/91)

Twins 4, Mariners 3 (10). Seattle's Erik Hanson was making his fourth start of the season - and his second that would turn into a Game of the Day. His opponent was Minnesota's Allan Anderson, who had won the AL ERA title in 1988, and three years later (at age 27) was well on his way out of the league.

The Mariners jumped on Anderson almost immediately, as Ken Griffey, Jr. walked with two outs in the first and Edgar Martinez doubled him around. Hanson allowed a Chuck Knoblauch single in the bottom of the inning, but erased him on a double play. Jay Buhner led off the top of the second with a single, and Dave Valle's walk moved him to second, but the runners ended the inning at second and third. Chili Davis's walk went for naught in the home second, as did Henry Cotto's leadoff single in the visiting third, though he stole second and took third on a flyout before being stranded.

Hanson threw the game's first perfect inning in the bottom of the third, and Anderson matched him in the top of the fourth. The bottom of the fourth saw Kirby Puckett single, then get caught stealing. Both halves of the fifth also saw singles - Griffey in the top, Brian Harper in the bottom - and both runners were still on first as the innings concluded. Anderson was flawless in the sixth; Hanson had a bit more trouble, allowing two hits and a walk, but an early double play allowed him to escape with runners left on the corners and his 1-0 lead still intact.

Anderson worked around an Omar Vizquel walk and a Harold Reynolds single in the seventh, and his teammates finally tied the game in the bottom of the inning. Davis and Harper began the rally with singles, a flyout moved Davis to third, and Gene Larkin then singled him home with Minnesota's first run of the day. Dan Gladden later walked to load the bases with two outs, but Knoblauch grounded out to strand all three men.

Larry Casian relieved Anderson in the eighth, and Seattle pulled ahead again immediately on a one-out Martinez single and a two-out Buhner double. The Twins responded with equal swiftness against Michael Jackson in the bottom of the eighth, as Kent Hrbek singled, Davis was hit by a pitch, and Mike Pagliarulo singled with two outs to score pinch runner Al Newman from second. They might have done more damage, but Davis was thrown out trying for third on Pagliarulo's hit, ending the inning.

Steve Bedrosian allowed only a Greg Briley double in the top of the ninth, and Jackson set the Twins down in order in the bottom, sending the game to extras tied at 2. And that's when things became... unusual.

With one out in the top of the tenth, Bedrosian hit Martinez with a pitch, then walked Alvin Davis. Scott Bradley grounded out, moving the runners to second and third. Pete O'Brien was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Valle stepped to the plate for what might have been a wildly tense at bat - if Bedrosian's first pitch hadn't gone wild, allowing the go-ahead run to score.

Valle popped up to end the inning, and the Twins dug in for one more chance with Jackson still opposing them from the mound. Knoblauch led off with a single, and Puckett laid down a bunt, which seems like an odd choice; it became even odder when it failed, as Knoblauch was forced out at second on the play. Newman then doubled, sending Puckett to third with the tying run, and Chili Davis was intentionally walked to load the bases. And in an eerie bit of deja vu, Jackson's 0-1 pitch to Harper went wild, allowing Puckett to come in with the tying run. That's not all, though. Valle's throw to Jackson covering the plate bounced off of Puckett and escaped, and Newman charged home with the game-winning tally.

The tenth inning of this game might be the most ridiculous series of baseball events I've ever encountered. The Mariners broke the tie on a hit batter, a walk, a groundout, an intentional walk, and a wild pitch; they then blew the lead on a single, a bunt forceout, a double by a player who'd entered the game as a pinch runner, an intentional walk, and a wild-pitch-plus-error. It is not necessarily an easy sequence around which to build a compelling narrative, but it does make for fairly respectable farce - and you need a bit of farce to survive a six-month regular season.

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