Sunday, May 22, 2016

Game of the Day (5/22/91)

Rangers 5, Twins 2 (12). Both of the starters in this game won ERA titles at some point in their careers, and both were in their mid-20's when this game took place. Apart from that, it's tough to be less qualitatively similar than Minnesota's Allan Anderson and Texas's Kevin Brown (though Brown was not yet the star he would later become).

Both pitchers encountered some trouble in the first inning. Julio Franco and Ruben Sierra both singled with two outs in the top of the inning before Juan Gonzalez fanned to leave them on. Dan Gladden led off the home first with a single; Chuck Knoblauch hit into a double play, but a Kirby Puckett single and a Kent Hrbek walk put a Twin in scoring position before Chili Davis's force ended the threat. Texas's Mario Diaz doubled with two outs in the second, and was the only runner to reach for either team in the inning. Gladden's single in the third was countered by Knoblauch's second double play in a row, and the bases remained clear apart from that. The same was true in the fourth, with the single coming from Puckett and the subsequent DP from Hrbek.

The scoring finally opened in the top of the fifth when Steve Buechele singled, was bunted to second, and came home on a two-out hit by Brian Downing. Brian Harper and Pedro Munoz singled and walked, respectively, to start the bottom of the inning, but Mike Pagliarulo flied out and Greg Gagne hit into a double play to squander the chance to tie the game. Sierra reached on an error in the sixth, but Gonzalez GDP'd afterward; meanwhile, Puckett's two-out single went to waste in the home half.

Diaz and Buechele both singled in the top of the seventh, but Gary Pettis hit into a twin killing to end the inning, and Minnesota finally scored in the bottom of the frame. Singles by Davis, Harper, and Munoz loaded the bases with nobody out and ended Brown's tenure on the mound. Mike Jeffcoat relieved and surrendered a game-tying hit to Shane Mack. Goose Gossage was then called in from the bullpen and coaxed a flyout from Randy Bush. Gladden walked, forcing in the go-ahead run, but Knoblauch hit into a force at home and Puckett struck out to end the inning.

Steve Bedrosian and John Barfield each threw 1-2-3 eighth innings. Rick Aguilera relieved in the ninth and did not allow a hit - but three walks (one intentional after a steal) and a Jack Daugherty pinch hit sacrifice fly brought Sierra home with the tying run anyway. Gerald Alexander then worked around his own pair of walks to send the game to extras.

Aguilera and Alexander were both flawless in the tenth; Jeff Huson singled and stole second in the visiting eleventh, but nobody else on either team reached. And in the twelfth, Carl Willis replaced Aguilera and Texas broke it open. Daugherty led off with a hit, moved to second on a bunt and third on a single by Downing. Larry Casian relieved and gave up a go-ahead double to Rafael Palmeiro. One out later, Sierra was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Gonzalez stroked a two-run single to make it a 5-2 game. Jeff Russell then worked around a catcher's interference (!) to keep the score the same in the home twelfth, ending the contest there.

Two things stuck out to me about this game. First, there's the fact that in a contest including Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, Chuck Knoblauch, Kevin Brown, Goose Gossage, Juan Gonzalez, Ruben Sierra... you get the idea, a bunch of good baseball players. Anyway, the WPA leader for the game was Gerald Alexander, a reliever who would throw less than 100 innings in his career with an ERA of 5.79. But on this day, he threw three innings of tie-preserving scoreless relief, giving the Texas lineup enough time to push across the go-ahead runs.

The second is the double plays. The Twins hit into double plays in the first, third, fourth, and fifth innings, and the Rangers in the sixth and seventh. That's six total DPs, all induced by the two starting pitchers. Which is a big part of how Kevin Brown and Allan Anderson managed to keep their opponents to three combined runs (only one of which scored while they were actually in the game - Brown's actually crossed the plate after he left) despite combining for 2 strikeouts in 13 innings pitched.

It's also a good way for a game to rack up a healthy WPL score, because double plays mean wasted scoring opportunities, which are one of WPL's favorite things.

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