Friday, May 27, 2016

Game of the Day (5/27/91)

Tigers 15, Brewers 9 (14). The Brewers started Kevin Brown, who is definitely not the Kevin Brown you're thinking of; rather than being the highest-paid player in baseball at one point and a Hall of Fame candidate, Milwaukee's Kevin Brown would throw less than 100 innings in his career.

Detroit's response was Bill Gullickson, who... well, if you're thinking of a Bill Gullickson, it's this one. He was a pretty solid pitcher for a while, and was on the way to a 20-win season in 1991.

Both halves of the first inning saw runners reach scoring position, as Brown allowed a Rob Deer double and Gullickson walked Paul Molitor and allowed a single to Robin Yount, but neither team scored. In the second, both pitchers allowed hits and still faced the minimum, as Travis Fryman was caught stealing after singling and Jim Gantner was erased on Dale Sveum's double play ball. Brown was perfect in the third, and Milwaukee pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning when Bill Spiers doubled, moved to third on Molitor's bunt hit, and came home on BJ Surhoff's sacrifice fly.

The Tigers responded quickly in the fourth. Deer and Cecil Fielder drew consecutive walks with one out, and Mickey Tettleton and Fryman followed with RBI singles to take a 2-1 lead. A wild pitch would move the remaining runners to second and third, but they were left there when the inning ended. Gullickson worked around a single-and-error that put Gantner on second in the home fourth. Brown was perfect in the fifth, while Molitor singled in the bottom of the inning but could only advance to second before being left on.

Deer walked and Fielder doubled to open the sixth, ending Brown's outing. Julio Machado relieved and allowed a one-out RBI infield single to Fryman; one out later, Andy Allanson launched a 3-run homer to extend the Tiger advantage to 6-1.

Dan Petry relieved Gullickson in the home sixth, and the Detroit lead nearly evaporated as a result. Dante Bichette started things with a one-out homer. Sveum then singled, Spiers doubled, and Molitor doubled as well, bringing both runners home and cutting the deficit to two runs. Steve Searcy replaced Petry and allowed an RBI single to Yount, but ended the inning with the 6-5 advantage still in place.

Machado walked Trammell in the top of the seventh, but he was removed on a K/CS double play; Machado and Jerry Don Gleaton combined to ensure that nobody else reached base in the inning. The eighth was rather a different story. Fielder led off with a walk, and Tettleton promptly homered, making it an 8-5 game. After a one-out walk, Dan Plesac was called in to finish off the Tigers, which he did without further scoring. Sveum then led off the bottom of the eighth with a homer. Willie Randolph doubled, Molitor singled, and Rick Dempsey walked to load the bases. Gleaton retired the next two hitters, but Greg Vaughn then singled home a pair of runs to even the score at 8.

Detroit threatened against Plesac in the ninth, as Tony Phillips and Fielder both walked; a passed ball moved them to second and third before Tettleton grounded out to strand them. Paul Gibson then set the Brewers down 1-2-3, sending the game to extras. Fryman greeted Mark Lee with a walk in the top of the tenth, but was the only batter on either side to reach in the inning. Gibson issued a pair of walks (one intentional) in the eleventh, but once again, neither team mustered a hit, and the game persisted.

In the top of the twelfth, Fielder walked and advanced to second on an errant pickoff throw before being left there. Mike Henneman allowed the first hit of extra innings in the home half, a Randolph single, but Molitor promptly hit into a double play. Chuck Crim replaced Lee and was perfect in the thirteenth, while Henneman worked around a brace of walks.

After four relatively tepid extra innings, the fourteenth was rather inferno-esque. Trammell led off with a single and stole second. Fielder was intentionally walked, and Tettleton worked a walk as well, loading the bases. Fryman then singled to bring in the go-ahead run, and Milt Cuyler followed that with a double that plated three more. Allanson proceeded to double Cuyler home, and John Shelby homered to complete the avalanche and stake Detroit to a 15-8 lead. Henneman would allow a run in the bottom of the fourteenth on a Sveum single, a Randolph walk, and a Dempsey single, but that concluded the scoring for the day.

This game has quite a bit going on, starting with a series of wild swings in regulation and ending with one last, highly decisive scoring explosion in extras. On an individual level, the contest saw a pair of undistinguished relievers (Paul Gibson and Mark Lee) establish near-career-highs in WPA (each of them had the second-best figures of their respective careers in this game), and also included a 4-for-7 effort from Paul Molitor that was still only a slight positive for the Brewers, since he also hit into two double plays, and a five-walk outing from Cecil Fielder.

But the top story in this one was the continued emergence of a young star third baseman, which has been a GotD theme to some extent this year. It was a huge outing for the 22-year-old Travis Fryman, who had four hits, drove in three runs and scored two. He had a go-ahead RBI in the fourth, drove in another run in the sixth, and then nearly an entire regulation game later, broke the 8-8 tie in the fourteenth with yet another RBI single. The resultant +.309 WPA was an at-the-time career high for the eventual five-time All-Star - and it was also a sign of things to come, as he would exceed that figure with some frequency through the rest of his fine career.

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