Saturday, May 7, 2016

Game of the Day (5/7/91)

Expos 3, Giants 2 (15). San Francisco's Kelly Downs was a kind-of-OK pitcher who was approaching the end of a relatively short career that was mostly, but not entirely, spent in the rotation. Montreal's Chris Nabholz was a kind-of-OK pitcher who was just beginning a relatively short career that was mostly, but not entirely, spent in the rotation.

Nabholz was spotless in the first inning; Downs was not, but still faced the minimum, as Marquis Grissom was caught stealing after he singled. The second inning was very nearly identical; San Francisco once again went down in order, and Montreal managed only a single and a steal attempt, but Andres Galarraga reached second safely, forcing Downs to record all three outs in the inning. (Which he did, without further incident.)

Despite featuring no hits, the third was the most eventful inning to this point in the game; Gil Reyes led off the home half with a walk, was bunted to second, and moved to third on a groundout before being left there. The Giants finally managed a baserunner in the fourth when Willie McGee doubled with one out; he advanced to third on a groundout and stopped there. Montreal continued their one-runner-per-inning trend on a Tim Wallach walk, and per usual, left him on base. Dave Anderson's two-out walk in the top of the fifth made him the only player on either team to reach in the inning.

Robby Thompson began the visitors' sixth with a double, giving him the first leadoff hit of the day. Two outs later, Kevin Mitchell was intentionally walked, and Matt Williams followed that with a double to score Thompson. Kevin Bass was hit by a pitch to load the bases, and Steve Decker flied out to leave all three men on.

Downs was pulled with one out in the sixth, and Jeff Brantley finished off the perfect inning. Nabholz was flawless in the seventh, and Wallach belted the first pitch of the bottom of the inning for a game-tying homer. Brantley set down the remaining Expos to keep the newly-restored tie in place.

After a McGee walk and a runner-advancing groundout, Nabholz was replaced by Tim Burke in a double switch (Spike Owen took over shortstop). Burke intentionally walked Mitchell (because that worked great last time), drew a groundout from Williams that moved the runners to second and third, intentionally walked Bass, and struck out pinch hitter Terry Kennedy to leave the bases loaded. Owen singled with one out in the home eighth but was promptly caught stealing. Burke was spotless in the top of the ninth; Dave Righetti relieved in the bottom of the inning and gave up a single to Ivan Calderon, who he then picked off (the play went 1-3-6, so it's also registered as a CS). Wallach popped up to send the game to extras.

Extra innings began rather similarly to how most of regulation had gone, as Will Clark singled and was later forced at second in the top of the tenth. The bottom of the inning was a bit more eventful, as it began with singles by Larry Walker and Galarraga. Pinch hitter Junior Noboa tried to bunt the runners over, but Walker was forced out 5-6, and Righetti took advantage of that failure, inducing an inning-ending double play from Nelson Santovenia.

Steve Frey worked a 1-2-3 top of the eleventh; Mike LaCoss retired the first two Expos he faced in the bottom of the inning, but then walked Grissom. Grissom stole second and third, and saw Calderon walk behind him before Wallach grounded out to leave them at the corners.

Jose Uribe worked a base on balls to begin the twelfth; Thompson laid down an attempted sacrifice that failed only in that both runners were safe, so nothing was sacrificed. McGee and Clark then showed Thompson how sacrificing is supposed to work, as the first man bunted the runners to second and third, and the second hit a fly to left that brought in the go-ahead run. Frey then intentionally walked Mitchell, and Barry Jones relieved and struck out Williams to end the inning.

Walker led off the bottom of the twelfth with a double; two groundouts later, he was stationed on third. Santovenia proceeded to atone for his earlier GDP, doubling home Walker to tie the game at 2. Owen reached on a Thompson error, putting runners at the corners, but Trevor Wilson relieved LaCoss and induced a forceout to close out the rally and extend the game.

The Giants went down 1-2-3 in the thirteenth; Grissom walked and was bunted to second in the bottom of the inning, but advanced no further. Scott Ruskin relieved in the top of the fourteenth and worked around a two-out McGee double, while Wilson retired the Expos in order. San Francisco failed to reach against Ruskin in the top of the fifteenth, and with one out in the bottom of the inning, Grissom worked a full count, then took Wilson deep to end the game.

In 1991, Marquis Grissom was 24 and still establishing himself; it would end up as his first full-time season (and a pretty good one - he led the league with 76 steals). The walkoff home run he hit in this game was only the eighth of the 227 home runs he would hit in his career - but it was already his second walkoff shot. (The first had come in July of the previous year, in this absolute madhouse of a game.)

Shockingly, Grissom did not continue to end games with a quarter of his home runs. Indeed, after hitting two walkoffs in his first eight, he would hit only two more in the rest of his career - both of which were rather interesting in their own right.

The third walkoff homer of Grissom's career came in this game in August, 1994, less than two weeks before the strike that would cut short Montreal's best baseball season. Along with being one of his few game-ending homers, this was also the only inside-the-park home run of Grissom's career. Which... a walkoff inside-the-park home run? That's just impossibly great.

The fourth and final walkoff came in this April, 2005 contest. Grissom was 38, and it was his last season, and the home run would prove to be the second-to-last of his career. (The last would be hit a week later, against the same pitcher. And yes, giving up the only two home runs Grissom would hit in his last season did prove indicative of the MLB staying power of Scott Dohmann.)

All things considered, this is probably the least interesting of Grissom's four walkoff homers - and it came at the end of a 15-inning game in which Montreal was down to their last out in the twelfth.

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