Sunday, May 8, 2016

Game of the Day (5/8/91)

White Sox 2, Brewers 1. Chicago's Jack McDowell faced Milwaukee's Jaime Navarro in a matchup of pitchers in their mid-20's who would start pretty regularly throughout the '90s.

As you might expect from the final score, both pitchers got off to good starts in this one; neither allowed a baserunner in the first two innings. BJ Surhoff's one-out double in the third made him the first hitter to reach; he would be left on, and the Sox put runners on in the bottom of the inning as well, starting with an Ozzie Guillen single. Guillen stole second, then was thrown out when he tried for third on Scott Fletcher's grounder. Tim Raines would single Fletcher to second before Lance Johnson flied out to end the inning.

Jim Gantner led off the top of the fourth with a single, and moved to second on Franklin Stubbs's hit before both men were left on. Chicago then took the lead in the bottom of the inning, as Carlton Fisk singled, Frank Thomas walked to move him to second with two outs, and Sammy Sosa singled him home.

McDowell was perfect in the top of the fifth, and worked around a Gantner single in the sixth. Meanwhile, Chicago put a runner on in both innings, but both men were removed from the bases - Fletcher when Raines hit into a double play, and Robin Ventura when he was caught stealing after his leadoff walk.

On the second pitch of the top of the seventh, Greg Vaughn homered to tie the game. Surhoff walked two outs later and was left on. The bottom of the inning also started with an extra-base hit, but Thomas's knock was merely a double, and he would still be camped on second at the end of the inning. Gantner's double in the top of the eighth made him the only hitter on either team to reach.

The game was still tied as the ninth inning began. It remained so through the top of the inning, as Darryl Hamilton's single was countered by Willie Randolph's double play ball. In the bottom of the inning, Dan Pasqua singled with one out and was lifted for pinch runner Joey Cora. Cora stole second, Thomas was intentionally walked, and Sosa was unintentionally walked to load the bases. Guillen then flied to center, and it proved to be deep enough to bring Cora home with the winning run.

The most obviously notable feature of this game is that it was a double complete game, which was presumably less common in 1991 than it had been 25 years ago, but still significantly more common than it is today. (In particular, you'd basically never see it from a pair of 25-and-younger pitchers, neither of whom threw a shutout and both of whom exceeded 110 pitches.)

Given the excellence of the moundwork, it seems rather appropriate that one of the key offensive contributors in the game never actually stepped to the plate. Joey Cora entered as a pinch runner in the ninth; his steal of second set up the pair of walks that loaded the bases, and he then scored the winning run on a fly ball shallow enough that the play-by-play labels it as a "popup" to center field (all possible caveats regarding the accuracy of 1991 PBP data apply, but he certainly seems more likely to score than Dan Pasqua, who was 7 for 17 in steal attempts for his career). I suppose that when you're in the fourth season of a major league career that wouldn't see you have 300 plate appearances until your sixth year, you find ways to contribute without using your bat.

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