Saturday, April 30, 2016

Game of the Day (4/30/91)

Angels 6, Indians 5 (11). Cleveland started Greg Swindell against California's Scott Lewis. The two starters were born in the same year (albeit 11 months apart), but Swindell was in the middle of a six-season streak in which he threw more innings each year than Lewis would work in his entire MLB career.

Cleveland jumped out to an early lead when Mark Lewis and Beau Allred hit back-to-back doubles in the top of the first. The starters combined on perfection for the next inning and a half before Lewis (Mark) doubled off of Lewis (Scott) again in the third. The Angels finally put their first runner on in the bottom of the inning when Lance Parrish led off with a single; Luis Polonia matched him two outs later, but both runners would be left on.

The Indians extended their lead in the top of the fourth, starting with an Albert Belle home run. Chris James and Sandy Alomar, Jr. followed with singles; Carlos Baerga singled as well, but Alomar was thrown out on a strange play that went 9-3-6; that reads like a throw home getting cut off and the trail runner having rounded second too far. After the second out was recorded, Jerry Browne singled to bring James home for a 3-0 lead. Swindell was untouched in the bottom of the fourth, and his teammates padded the lead by another run in the fifth on a Lewis (Mark) single, an Allred groundout that moved Lewis to second and ended Lewis (Scott)'s tenure on the mound for the day, and a Belle RBI single.

Swindell kept the bases empty in the home fifth, while Floyd Bannister allowed an Alomar single in the top of the sixth, then erased him on a double play. California finally joined in on the scoring in the bottom of the sixth, courtesy of the Cleveland defense; Dick Schofield led off with a walk, Polonia reached on a Browne error, Luis Sojo hit into a fielder's poor choice that allowed all three runners to reach safely, and Wally Joyner singled. Two runs came in on the initial hit, and a third followed them in on Allred's throwing error on the play. Joyner made it around to third on the misplay, and came home with the tying run one out later when Gary Gaetti singled. A Dave Parker single moved the go-ahead run into scoring position, but Swindell rallied to leave it there.

Bannister worked a 1-2-3 seventh, while Swindell allowed hits to Polonia and Sojo but stranded both of them. Mitch Webster hit a pinch single to lead off the road eighth, but Jeff Robinson relieved Bannister and kept the runner from scoring. Swindell then worked around a Parker hit by way of a pair of strikeouts. Robinson tossed an unblemished ninth, and Swindell yielded only a Sojo single in the bottom of the inning, sending the game to extras tied at 4.

Robinson allowed a leadoff hit to Alex Cole in the tenth; Lewis bunted him to second and a two-out wild pitch moved him to third before Belle grounded out to leave him 90 feet from the lead. Steve Olin was perfect in the bottom of the inning, however, and the Indians took advantage of their next chance when James reached on a Gaetti error, was bunted to second and moved to third on a groundout, then scored the go-ahead run on a Bryan Harvey balk.

Doug Jones took the mound in the bottom of the inning, and promptly allowed a game-tying homer to Junior Felix. Singles by Schofield and Polonia quickly followed, and with runners at the corners, pinch hitter Jack Howell was summoned, and delivered a game-winning single on the first pitch he saw.

Jack Howell had been the starting third baseman for the Angels for the preceding three seasons, but they had brought in Gary Gaetti to take that spot in '91, and Howell's bat slipped enough that he was benched, then traded during the season. He would go on to spend the next four seasons in Japan before returning to the majors as a reasonably successful part-time player in the second half of the decade.

Given his extended non-MLB career and later resurgence in the majors, Howell's game-winner here was not quite the equivalent of Marty Barrett's late-career pinch heroics earlier in the year for the Padres. But it was still a nice moment for a capable player who was soon to be shipped away from the only organization for which he'd ever played.

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