Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Game of the Day (5/18/91)

Angels 4, Orioles 2. There are some pitching matchups that lend themselves to expounding on the careers of the two hurlers, seeking out the similarities and differences that add the sort of nuance that Game of the Day seeks to achieve. And there are some pitching matchups that are simply a pitcher who's very good facing a pitcher who isn't.

California's Chuck Finley was very good. Baltimore's Jeff Robinson was not.

The only runner to reach in the first inning was Wally Joyner of the Angels, who singled and was erased on a double play. Lance Parrish walked in the top of the second, but the scoring didn't begin until Baltimore's Chris Hoiles homered against Finley in the bottom of the inning. Bob Melvin followed with a single, but was wiped out in a twin killing.

Luis Polonia singled with two outs in the third, and Joyner followed with a homer to put California in front 2-1. Tim Hulett opened the bottom of the inning by reaching on a Gary Gaetti error, and was singled to third by Billy Ripken; Mike Devereaux then grounded to third, with Hulett getting thrown out at home on the play. The rally continued, however, as after Dwight Evans struck out, Cal Ripken singled his brother home to tie the game at 2.

Dave Parker led off the fourth with a double, and Gaetti singled him to third. Parrish then grounded to third, resulting in a force at second; Parker broke for home once the throw went to second, and was cut down as well. Junior Felix would single Parrish to second, but Luis Sojo lined out to end the inning. Baltimore's fourth inning was slightly less eventful, as Melvin drew a walk and was left at second. Dick Schofield was plunked to open the fifth and removed when Polonia hit into a double play; the bottom of the inning started with singles by Ripken the younger and Joe Orsulak, but ended with a DP from Ripken the elder.

California tried again in the sixth, and once again Parker started it off, this time with a one-out single. He moved to second on a wild pitch, then held there on Gaetti's infield hit. Parrish struck out, but another wild pitch and a walk to Felix loaded the bases before Sojo fanned as well to strand all three runners. Baltimore staged another rally as well, as Randy Milligan walked and Hoiles singled; Melvin then bunted into a force, and Finley whiffed the next two O's to end the threat.

Joyner's walk made him the only runner to reach in either half of the seventh. In the bottom of the eighth, Milligan and Hoiles both singled, only to be stranded by their teammates once more.

Mark Williamson relieved Robinson in the top of the ninth and walked Felix to start the inning. Sojo bunted Felix to second, and Schofield, the #9 hitter was then intentionally walked. (I mean... that's a weird move, right? Williamson was right-handed and so was Schofield. The next hitter up was Polonia, a lefty; Baltimore relieved with Mike Flanagan, also a lefty, but that just leaves the same platoon advantage you already had. Maybe Williamson fell behind in the count and they decided to walk Schofield mid-at bat?)

With Schofield on first, Flanagan relieved and struck out Polonia. Up next was Joyner, who worked a full count and fouled off several pitches; during one of the non-foul pitches, the runners stole second and third. Finally, on the eleventh pitch of the at bat, Joyner lined a single to right, bringing both runners home and putting the Angels in front 4-2. Bryan Harvey took the mound in the bottom of the inning and allowed a walk and steal to Brady Anderson, but nothing else, and the game was over.

The clear story of this game is Wally Joyner. He reached base four times in five plate appearances, which is good but not a huge deal. However, the timing of those efforts was immaculate; his two-run homer in the third turned a deficit into a lead, and his two-run single in the ninth broke a long-standing tie and sealed the victory. His WPA for the contest was an outstanding +.671, which for many players would be a career high; not for Joyner.

Wally Joyner was a very good player for several years, but never really a great one. He made one All-Star team (his rookie year, courtesy of write-in votes), and received MVP votes in two seasons; he had 11 seasons of 2 or more WAR, but with a career high of only 4.1. But for his first half dozen years or so, he was inclined to have about one game like this every season. where he put the team on his back and dragged them to victory. As a result, his +.671 WPA in this game is not only not a career high, it's not one of his 5 best.

Which... is pretty impressive.

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