Monday, May 30, 2016

Game of the Day (5/30/91)

A's 8, Blue Jays 6. In 1990, Todd Stottlemyre lost 17 games and had an ERA well over 4. Bob Welch won 27 games and the Cy Young.

A year later, Stottlemyre would be the more effective pitcher.

Rickey Henderson opened the scoring as the game's first batter, leading off with a homer. Stottlemyre recovered to retire the next three hitters, while Welch worked around two-out hits by Roberto Alomar and Joe Carter in the bottom of the first. Stottlemyre was perfect in the second; Welch was not, loading the bases on two walks (Rance Mulliniks and Devon White) and a plunking of Ed Sprague before stranding all three men.

Mike Gallego reached on an error in the top of the third, but was left on, and in the bottom of the inning, Alomar tied things with a solo homer. But Oakland quickly broke that tie, as Jose Canseco led off the fourth with a home run; they added another tally when Harold Baines doubled and crossed the remaining two bases on a pair of flyouts.

Toronto struck again in the bottom of the fourth. Manuel Lee drew a walk with two outs, as did White. Up next was Mookie Wilson, who launched a go-ahead three-run homer. The comebacks didn't stop there, however, as Walt Weiss led off the fifth with a walk, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on Gallego's double to tie the game at 4. Henderson followed with a walk, but a fly ball double play defused the remaining rally.

The rallies continued yet again in the bottom of the fifth. With two outs, Mulliniks singled and Greg Myers walked. Sprague then singled to bring in the go-ahead run, and Lee's single made it a 6-4 game. The scoring finally abated in the sixth, as Stottlemyre worked around a walk to Terry Steinbach. Steve Chitren relieved Welch and allowed a triple to Alomar in the bottom of the inning, but he and Joe Klink combined to strand the runner at third.

Singles by Weiss and Gallego ended Stottlemyre's day in the top of the seventh, and Duane Ward allowed a sacrifice fly to Ernie Riles that halved the Oakland deficit. Klink worked a spotless bottom of the inning, and the A's came back one more time in the eighth. With one out, Steinbach, Willie Wilson, and Jamie Quirk all singled to load the bases. Weiss tied it with a sacrifice fly, Gallego was plunked to reload the bases, and Henderson walked to force in the go-ahead run. Mike Timlin relieved Ward and was greeted by a Riles single; Quirk scored on the play, but Gallego was thrown out following him home, ending the inning.

Oakland now led 8-6, and took no chances with that lead; Lee led off the bottom of the eighth with a double, and Dennis Eckersley was promptly summoned from the bullpen and retired the next three Toronto hitters. Timlin worked a flawless ninth; Eckersley did not, allowing singles to Carter, John Olerud, and Myers to load the bases with one out, but he recovered to retired Mark Whiten and Lee to end it with the 8-6 margin intact.

This was a strange game. The Blue Jays had 12 hits and 5 walks, to Oakland's 10 and 4. The teams were essentially even in extra base hits - four apiece, including two homers each, and the Jays had the only non-solo homer of the day. Both teams committed one error, but the Blue Jays had other fielding plays to make up for it, turning the game's lone double play and adding a pair of outfield assists. Toronto also had nearly twice as many at bats with runners in scoring position, 16-9, and while they were less efficient in converting them, they still had more RISP hits than the A's, 4-3.

So how did Oakland win? Timing. The A's scored the following runs in this game: Double, flyout, sacrifice fly. Walk, steal, wild pitch, double. Single, single, sacrifice fly. Those three runs were all tricky opportunities to convert, but Oakland cashed them all in. Meanwhile, Toronto had innings in which a one-out triple and a leadoff double were squandered.

Good sequencing won this game for the A's. But given that they did a better job of getting runners into scoring position, even if they didn't bring as many of them home, there were reasons for optimism on the Toronto side despite the loss. (Even if one of the Jays' best moments in the game was a home run from Mookie Wilson, who had only one longball left in his career after this one.)

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