Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Game of the Day (6/15/91)

Cardinals 5, Dodgers 4. Why yes, it's the same two teams again! At least they're using different pitchers this time - the aging Bryn Smith for St. Louis, and the young Ramon Martinez for LA.

Both starters were perfect in the first. The same was decidedly not true in the second, as Felix Jose doubled with one out in the top of the inning, and Todd Zeile and Tom Pagnozzi singled him around the remaining two bases to put the Cards in front 1-0. Zeile was then caught stealing home; given that the putout was 2-5-2, I'm guessing he was just picked off of third and was so far from the base that he broke home instead. Pagnozzi advanced to second on the play, and a Jose Oquendo walk and a Smith single would load the bases before Ray Lankford flied out to strand all three men. Kal Daniels singled in the bottom of the inning, and Lenny Harris hit into a force, then stole second before being left there.

The only runner to reach base over the next two innings was Alfredo Griffin, who started the bottom of the third with a walk and was bunted to second but moved no further. Martinez threw his third consecutive flawless inning in the fifth, and his teammates loaded the bases in the home half on singles by Harris, Mike Scioscia, and Griffin. Martinez's groundout brought in the tying run, and Brett Butler walked to reload the bases, but Smith retired the next two hitters to preserve the 1-1 deadlock.

That tie didn't last much longer, as Luis Alicea, Pedro Guerrero, and Milt Thompson singled to break it in the top of the sixth. Jose then hit into a double play, but even that scored Guerrero from third to make it a 3-1 game. Smith countered a Daniels single with a double play ball in the bottom of the sixth, and St. Louis added another run in the seventh when pinch hitter Rex Hudler walked, stole second, and came home on Lankford's single. Cris Carpenter set the Dodgers down 1-2-3 in the home seventh, and the Cards widened their margin yet again in the eighth, courtesy of a Thompson double against Mike Hartley, a steal of third, and a wild pitch.

LA finally mounted a response in the eighth. Butler and Juan Samuel started the bottom of the inning with singles, chasing Carpenter; Juan Agosto relieved and walked Darryl Strawberry to load the bases. Lee Smith was then called to the mound, and Eddie Murray greeted him with a two-run single. Daniels added an RBI single to pull his team within 5-4, still with two runners on and nobody out. Harris bunted the runners to second and third, and Scioscia was intentionally walked to load the bases. The next two hitters were both of the pinch variety, and Smith retired both Stan Javier and Gary Carter, leaving both the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

Jay Howell worked a flawless ninth; Smith didn't quite manage that, allowing a single-and-steal to Butler, but he ended the game with the tying run still at second.

The Dodgers never led in this game, and after the Cardinals scored the game's first run, they managed to restore a tie only once, and then only for half an inning. But the last two innings saw fine, albeit failed, efforts from LA's hitters. The bottom of the eighth began with the Dodgers staring down 96% odds of defeat, but after their first five hitters reached, producing three runs and putting the tying run in scoring position, they actually became 54% favorites. Their odds quickly collapsed from there (back down to 19% after they failed to score any further), but Butler's one-man rally attempt in the ninth pushed them back up to 43% before they vanished entirely.

Those two significant late-inning threats were enough to get this game designated as the day's best. (Well, that and a decided lack of competition.)

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