Saturday, June 18, 2016

Game of the Day (6/18/91)

Dodgers 6, Cubs 5 (13). Chicago's Bob Scanlan was making the ninth start of his career (and the third Game of the Day start). LA's Tim Belcher had been around a bit longer - and had a lot longer left, as well. Because he was a better pitcher.

Belcher was perfect in the top of the first, while Scanlan worked around a leadoff walk to Brett Butler. In the second, George Bell singled with two outs and was left on. LA pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning, starting when Kal Daniels walked and moved to second on a groundout. Mike Scioscia doubled Daniels home with the game's first run, moved to third on a single by Alfredo Griffin, and scored on a Belcher squeeze bunt. Griffin, being one of the most famously reckless baserunners of all time, then came home on an infield hit by Butler to make it a 3-0 lead.

Belcher kept the bases clear in both the third and fourth. Scanlan did not match him in either frame; he allowed an Eddie Murray single in the third, and considerably more an inning later, yielding a single to Belcher, walking Butler, and giving up a single to Juan Samuel that loaded the bases before Lenny Harris popped up to strand all three men. Rick Wilkins singled in the top of the fifth, but nobody else from either side joined him on base.

In the top of the sixth, Belcher walked both Doug Dascenzo and Chico Walker; one out later, Ryne Sandberg homered, tying the game at 3. Chuck McElroy relieved Scanlan in the bottom of the inning and allowed a single to Griffin, who (being a famously reckless baserunner) was then caught stealing to end the inning.

Belcher gave up a single to Wilkins and walked Dascenzo in the seventh before leaving them both on. Butler walked and stole second to start the bottom of the inning. One out later, Harris singled; Butler was thrown out trying to score the go-ahead run, with Harris taking second on the play. Eddie Murray was intentionally walked, and Paul Assenmacher relieved McElroy and struck out Daniels to end the inning.

Tim Crews was flawless in the top of the eighth, and John Candelaria matched his effort in the visiting ninth. Meanwhile, Assenmacher struck out five of six Dodgers in the bottoms of the innings, and the game moved into extras. Both teams picked up leadoff singles in the tenth; Shawon Dunston was bunted to second before being left there by Jay Howell, while Dave Smith countered Harris's hit by inducing a double play ball from Murray.

Jim Gott relieved in the top of the eleventh and walked Sandberg to open the inning. Two outs later, Sandberg stole second. Bell was intentionally walked, and Wilkins reached on a Samuel error to load the bases. Dunston then singled, scoring Sandberg with the go-ahead run; Bell tried for home as well and was thrown out very extensively (the play is scored 8-3-6-2-5, which is quite the multiple rundown), ending the inning.

The Dodgers responded in the home half, also getting two outs before moving the lead runner (Mike Scioscia, who had singled with one away) past first. Chris Gwynn then tripled, tying the game at 4; Smith would retire Butler to extend the contest into the twelfth.

Gott walked Dascenzo to open the twelfth and was pulled for Mike Hartley. Dascenzo stole second and moved to third on a groundout, then scored the go-ahead run on Sandberg's single. Andre Dawson singled as well, but both of them were left on. Heathcliff Slocumb took the mound in the home twelfth and walked Samuel and Murray, putting the tying run in scoring position with one away. After the second out, Stan Javier reached on a Mark Grace throwing error, allowing Samuel to score the tying run. The remaining runners stole second and third, putting the winning run 90 feet away; Slocumb walked Scioscia to walk the bases, and Mike Bielecki relieved and retired Griffin to leave all three men on.

Hartley was perfect in the top of the thirteenth. In the bottom of the inning, Bielecki retired Gwynn for the first out. Pinch hitter Jeff Hamilton then reached on a Dunston error, and Samuel singled him to third. Harris then grounded to short, where Dunston threw home in time to cut down Hamilton - but Murray followed with a single that brought Samuel home with the game-winner.

There is SO MUCH going on in this game. Let's start with the obvious: the Cubs rallied from three down in the sixth, then took leads in the eleventh and twelfth, but blew both of them before finally losing in 13. The Dodgers, after scoring the tying runs in the eleventh and twelfth, left the winning run at third in each inning, and had a potential game-winner thrown out at home in the thirteenth before finally converting.

We're not done yet. Don't forget Alfredo Griffin's madcap baserunning, scoring from second on an infield hit. Or the fact that, after both teams' fielders played well through regulation, three of the five runs that scored in extras were unearned.

And it gets even better! There were two outfield assists in the game, both involving runners being thrown out at home. George Bell threw Brett Butler out trying to score the go-ahead run in the seventh. And in the eleventh, it was Butler's throw that started the nuthouse of a rundown that ended up with Bell being out between third and home, preventing an insurance run that likely would have sealed the game for the Cubs. I don't imagine two outfielders get assists on each other's outs at home too terribly often.

But wait... there's more. Chris Gwynn played parts of 10 major league seasons (not necessarily big parts, as he accrued only 1100 plate appearances, but still). His game-tying triple in the eleventh led to a WPA of +.477 in this contest, the highest figure of his career. And it wasn't even the highest WPA anyone had in the game; Ryne Sandberg, who tied the game with a three-run homer in the sixth, scored the go-ahead run in the eleventh, and drove in the go-ahead run in the twelfth, posted a non-career-high-but-still-exemplary total of +.711.

All told, this game would have been an absolute delight to attend, and it's one of my favorite games of 1991 so far.

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