Sunday, May 15, 2016

Game of the Day (5/15/91)

Rangers 5, Tigers 4 (12). Both teams started pitchers who'd already seen action in Games of previous Days in 1991, with Texas sending Bobby Witt and Detroit responding with Walt Terrell.

The Tigers took the lead in the first half inning of the game. Lou Whitaker started the rally with a one-out single, and moved up on a walk to Alan Trammell. A passed ball advanced the runners to second and third, and Cecil Fielder's sacrifice fly brought Whitaker home. Terrell allowed a single and steal to Jack Daugherty in the bottom of the inning, but left him on second. Both teams would put a runner in scoring position in the second inning (Detroit on a walk to Pete Incaviglia and a wild pitch, Texas on a Julio Franco walk and a Denny Walling single), but neither scored.

Lloyd Moseby led off the top of the third with a single, but was erased on a double play, and Texas tied it in the bottom of the inning when Jeff Huson led off with a walk and Daugherty then hit into a three-base error by Whitaker (which seems like an unusual number of bases for a misplay by a second baseman). The go-ahead run was now on third with nobody out, but a strikeout, a walk, and a double play later, Terrell had preserved the tie.

Terrell's efforts paid off quickly when Detroit pulled ahead again in the fourth, courtesy of one-out walks to Mickey Tettleton and Rob Deer followed by a Travis Fryman double. Deer was thrown out at home on the play, but Tettleton's run still put the Tigers in front 2-1.

Terrell and Witt threw a perfect inning apiece, sending the game to the bottom of the fifth. With one out in the inning, Huson tripled and Daugherty walked, but Terrell recovered to retire Rafael Palmeiro and Ruben Sierra to strand the tying run at third. Each team picked up a two-out baserunner in the sixth, but neither Tettleton's single nor Juan Gonzalez's double led to any scoring. Witt and Terrell then kept the bases clean in the seventh, keeping the 2-1 score intact.

The Tigers padded their lead by an additional run in the top of the eighth, starting with a Moseby single and a Whitaker walk. Trammell bunted the runners to second and third, and Fielder was intentionally walked to load the bases. Witt then fanned Tettleton, but Deer drew a base on balls to force a run across.

Having been given his largest lead of the game, Terrell was only allowed to enjoy it for one batter; he was pulled when Palmeiro led off the bottom of the eighth with a single. Paul Gibson then allowed a hit to Sierra before Franco fouled out. Mike Henneman relieved and threw a wild pitch that moved Palmeiro to third, then gave up an RBI single to Brian Downing. Up next was Gonzalez, whose sacrifice fly scored Sierra and tied the game at 3. Henneman walked Walling and was replaced by Jerry Don Gleaton, who walked pinch hitter Mike Stanley before pinch hitter Steve Buechele grounded out to leave the bases loaded with go-ahead runs.

Jeff Russell relieved Witt in the top of the ninth and got into trouble when one-out singles by Milt Cuyler and John Shelby put Tigers at the corners. But Whitaker and Trammell were retired to end the threat, and Gleaton worked around Daugherty's leadoff single in the bottom of the inning to send the game to extras.

Russell was perfect in the tenth; Gleaton was not, allowing a hit and two walks while also balking once. But the sequence of events (Pettis walked and was caught stealing, Gonzalez singled and was balked to second, Stanley walked with two outs) was such that the Rangers never got a runner as far as third base.

Goose Gossage and Steve Searcy combined on a hitless eleventh inning. The twelfth was rather more eventful. Shelby led off the top of the inning with a double; Trammell was intentionally walked with one out, and Shelby moved to third on Fielder's flyout. Tettleton then singled to put Detroit back in front. Deer walked to load the bases, but Travis Fryman struck out to leave them that way, and the failure to pad the lead came back to haunt the Tigers rather quickly. Franco led off the bottom of the twelfth with a single, and one out later, Gonzalez hit a two-run homer to end the game.

Juan Gonzalez was only 21 years old in 1991, and was in his first year as a regular. He would go on to amass 13 seasons of at least semi-regular playing time, including a steady decade of starting that led to some prodigious hitting. Gonzalez led the league in homers twice, RBI and doubles once, and won two (undeserved) AL MVPs. For his career, he amassed 434 home runs (44th all-time) and 1404 RBI (79th); his .561 slugging average is the 16th-highest ever. He even lasted to a second appearance on the Hall of Fame ballot.

Even by Gonzalez's standards, this was an outstanding game at the plate. With the Rangers down a run, he doubled with two outs in the sixth. In the eighth, his sacrifice fly tied the game. In the tenth, he singled and would end the inning in scoring position. And in the twelfth, of course, he hit a come-from-behind walkoff two-run homer - the only comeback walkoff shot he would ever hit. That adds up to a WPA of +.964, his best ever - and he reached that mark in the 66th game of his lengthy career.

No comments:

Post a Comment