Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Game of the Day (5/25/91)

Rangers 8, Mariners 6 (11). Seattle started Rich DeLucia, who was a fairly unimpressive pitcher making his second GotD appearance this month. Texas replied with Scott Chiamparino, who could be described in exactly the same way.

Brian Downing opened the game by working a full count, then hit a home run. DeLucia would also allow a Ruben Sierra single in the first inning, but gave up just the one run. The bottom of the inning involved no runs, but still went much worse for the starting pitcher, as Chiamparino was pulled with one on and one out. Given that he did not pitch again in 1991, it seems safe to assume he incurred a serious injury of some kind. Mike Jeffcoat was summoned in relief and stranded Harold Reynolds at second.

Juan Gonzalez led off the second with a single, and Geno Petralli drew a nine-pitch walk behind him. Steve Buechele bunted the runners to second and third, but Jeff Huson struck out, and after an intentional walk to Downing, Jack Daugherty hit into a force to leave the bases loaded. Pete O'Brien's walk made him the only man to reach in the bottom of the inning, and neither team managed even that much in the third.

The scoring resumed in the fourth, as Buechele homered in the top of the inning to double the Texas lead, and Ken Griffey the younger matched him in the bottom, reducing the advantage to 2-1. Jeffcoat would then allow singles to Alvin Davis and O'Brien, but stranded them both. DeLucia was flawless in the top of the fifth, however, and the Mariners tried again in the bottom of the inning. Reynolds started the rally with a one-out single, and Ken Griffey the elder doubled him to third. Jim Poole relieved Jeffcoat at that point, and Griffey the younger greeted the new pitcher with a groundout, bringing Reynolds home with the tying run. (It is worth pointing out that Griffey Junior was pulled in the next inning, so he likely tweaked something running out the grounder; he would pinch hit the next day, then resume normal center field duty on May 27.) Davis then singled in Papa Griffey to put Seattle in front. Edgar Martinez walked and O'Brien singled to move Davis around for a 4-2 lead.

DeLucia was pulled after a two-out walk to Gonzalez in the top of the sixth, and Bill Swift ended the inning without drama. Gerald Alexander also worked around a walk in the home sixth, In the top of the seventh, singles by Huson and Downing and a Daugherty forceout brought the Rangers a run closer; Sierra then singled Daugherty to third, but Julio Franco struck out to leave him there. Alexander walked both the elder Griffey and Martinez in the bottom of the seventh, and stranded them at first and second.

In the top of the eighth, Gonzalez doubled off of Rob Murphy with one out. Michael Jackson was summoned to the mound and threw a wild pitch that moved Gonzalez to third with the tying run, but retired both hitters he faced to keep the runner from scoring. Seattle also got a runner to third in the eighth, as Greg Briley singled against Goose Gossage, advanced on a wild pitch, and was bunted over; Briley was then thrown out at home on a Dave Valle grounder to second.

Jackson remained on the mound in the top of the ninth, and with one out, served up a game-tying homer to Downing. Sierra doubled after the second out, but would be left on. The home ninth saw Gossage allow a two-out walk to Davis and a single to Martinez; John Barfield was brought in to pitch and retired O'Brien, sending the game to extras.

In the top of the tenth, Jackson allowed a Mike Stanley single with one out; Russ Swan relieved him with two away and finished off a scoreless frame. Barfield set the Mariners down in order in the bottom of the inning. Swan quickly recorded the first two outs of the eleventh, then had rather more trouble getting the third, as Sierra singled, Franco doubled, and Gary Pettis singled both of them home; Dave Burba was called to the mound in Swan's place and immediately served up a two-run homer to Gonzalez. Jeff Russell relieved in the bottom of the inning and allowed a Reynolds single and a Jay Buhner homer, closing the margin to 8-6. A hit by Henry Cotto and a walk to Martinez would put the tying run on base, but Russell recovered to end the game with no further scoring.

A starting pitcher leaving in the first inning is roughly a worst-case scenario for a pitching staff. The Rangers managed to hold it together respectably well after Chiamparino's unexpected departure, but they burned through half a dozen relievers and gave up half a dozen runs in doing it.

The comeback win required contributions from all around the outfield - Ruben Sierra had four hits, Juan Gonzalez had three including a homer, and Gary Pettis broke the tie in the eleventh with a two-run single. But it was 40-year-old leadoff-hitting DH Brian Downing who was really the key to the game, as his first- and ninth-inning homers allowed the game to extend into extras in the first place. Downing's four times on base (and particularly the game-tying shot in the ninth) gave him a WPA of +.471; this was far from a career high for the quality veteran hitter, but it was the last time he would post a figure in excess of .4 before his retirement a year later.

So, if you want to read some deeper meaning into the game (which is not usually the best idea), it probably runs along the lines of a 24-year-old's career getting derailed, and a 40-year-old making up for it with one last outstanding game.

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