Thursday, May 19, 2016

Game of the Day (5/19/91)

Expos 5, Giants 4 (13). Montreal started Mark Gardner, who ended his career with over 1700 innings and an ERA+ of 88; I don't imagine that's a common combination. He was opposed by Kelly Downs, who threw barely half as many innings at a rate that was only slightly better.

Hey, if every pitching matchup included a future Hall of Famer, we'd go numb to Maddux and Clemens eventually.

The Expos got off to a fast start in the top of the first; Delino DeShields walked, moved to third on a Marquis Grissom single, and scored on Ivan Calderon's sacrifice fly. The start then accelerated further when Andres Galarraga homered to make it a 3-0 lead.

Robby Thompson led off the bottom of the first with a walk, stole second, and came home on Willie McGee's single; the trouble was, the ball was at home before he was, so he didn't actually score. The next two Giants were retired and the scoring chance was squandered. Spike Owen opened the second with a double and never made it past second, Galarraga singled with two out in the third and was left on, and they were the only men to reach in either half of those innings.

San Francisco finally scored in the fourth inning when Will Clark homered, and again in the fifth via a Kevin Bass single and a Steve Decker double. Decker represented the tying run, and was in scoring position with nobody out, but the next three hitters were retired, and Montreal added another run to its lead in the top of the fifth when Calderon walked, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on a hit by Tim Wallach.

Gardner worked around a Kevin Mitchell walk in the bottom of the sixth, then was pulled for a pinch hitter during Downs's flawless seventh. Barry Jones allowed a single to Bass in the home seventh, but wiped him from the bases on a double play. Francisco Oliveras and Jones exchanged perfect eighths, and Jeff Brantley managed a 1-2-3 top of the ninth, giving his team one final shot at the 4-2 deficit.

Clark greeted Tim Burke with a double to start the bottom of the ninth, but was still on second two outs later. Up stepped Bass, who worked the count to 3-1, then cracked a 2-run homer to tie the game at 4. Burke recovered well enough to fan Decker and send the game to extras.

Brantley allowed singles to Ron Hassey and DeShields in the top of the tenth, putting runners at the corners. Grissom then flied to center, and pinch runner Junior Noboa was thrown out trying to score, ending the inning. Steve Frey was spotless in the bottom of the inning, as was Dave Righetti in the top of the eleventh. Frey then worked around a Clark walk and a Matt Williams single in the home eleventh to extend the game once more.

Righetti allowed no baserunners in the top of the twelfth. Frey was pulled after recording the first out in the bottom of the inning, and Bill Sampen worked around a Greg Litton single to notch the remaining two outs. Mike LaCoss took the mound in the top of the thirteenth, and Montreal broke through as DeShields walked, stole second, moved to third on Grissom's flyout, and scored on Calderon's single. The Expos would then draw a pair of walks to load the bases before Wallach flied out to strand all three men, but Scott Ruskin worked a 1-2-3 thirteenth to secure the victory.

Kevin Bass played in the majors for about a decade and a half, and was at least a semi-regular player for most of that time. His best season was 1986, in which he made his only All-Star appearance and received his only MVP votes (finishing seventh). It's also the year in which he reached the playoffs for the only time, participating in the classic Astros-Mets NLCS. The most famous game of that series was the last one, the marathon that was Game 6 - and Bass was the last hitter in that game, striking out with the tying run in scoring position in the bottom of the sixteenth inning.

So maybe it's slightly fitting that, in the game in which Bass accrued the third-highest WPA of a solid career, his team still lost.

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