Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Game of the Day (6/1/91)

Mariners 12, Rangers 8. As you might expect based on the score, neither of the starting pitchers in this game had a particularly effective 1991; the younger of the two regressed from his two preceding solid seasons to post a losing record and a 4.40 ERA, while the elder maintained an ERA slightly better than league average despite being the wildest pitcher in the league. The first starter would lead the AL in hit batters in 1991, the second would lead in walks (for the second of three consecutive years).

Things improved somewhat for the pair after the end of 1991, however, and by the time their careers concluded, Kevin Brown and Randy Johnson would combine to win 514 games and six ERA titles.
Brown was perfect in the first; his counterpart was anything but, displaying all the characteristic wildness of his youth. Brian Downing was hit by a pitch leading off and was sacrificed to second; Ruben Sierra's single then put runners at the corners. Julio Franco followed with a double, on which Downing scored the game's first run and Sierra was thrown out trying to score the second. Juan Gonzalez and Mike Stanley walked to load the bases, but Steve Buechele grounded out to strand all three runners.

Both starters faced the minimum in the second, but in very different ways. Brown retired the Mariners in order. Johnson, meanwhile, walked the first two Rangers he faced - and Downing then grounded into a triple play. The third inning passed somewhat more conventionally; Brown hit Dave Valle with a pitch (apparently injuring him slightly - Valle was pulled for Scott Bradley and missed the next two games, but resumed regular duty on June 4), and Johnson allowed a single to Sierra, with no scoring resulting from either.

Seattle broke through in the top of the fourth, starting with a one-out double by Edgar Martinez. With two outs, Pete O'Brien doubled Martinez home to tie the game, and Jay Buhner then singled O'Brien around to take the lead. Johnson held that advantage with considerable difficulty in the home fourth, as he allowed a single to Stanley and then walked Mario Diaz and Gary Pettis to load the bases with one out. But Downing and Jack Daugherty struck out, and all three Rangers remained in place.

Brown walked Omar Vizquel to open the fifth, and a pair of groundouts moved the runner to third before he was left there. Johnson then walked both Sierra and Franco to begin the bottom of the inning, and was pulled for Bill Swift. Gonzalez hit into a forceout, but Stanley singled Franco home, and Gonzalez then scored on Buechele's groundout, putting Texas back in front 3-2.

That lead proved exceedingly short-lived. Seattle loaded the bases in the top of the sixth on singles by Martinez, Alvin Davis, and O'Brien. Buhner then walked to force in the tying run, and Alonzo Powell singled to bring in two more, moving to second on one of the various throws that occurred during the play. Vizquel flied out, but Bradley singled in both remaining runners for a 7-3 lead. Brown was finally pulled after hitting Harold Reynolds with a pitch, and John Barfield retired the next two Mariners to finally conclude the inning.

In the face of their largest deficit of the game, the Rangers conceded nothing. With one out, Downing walked, and Daugherty and Sierra singled to bring him around. Franco singled to load the bases, and Gonzalez followed with a hit of his own, bringing two men home and reducing the Seattle lead to one. Swift was swiftly pulled in favor of Russ Swan; a double steal put the remaining runners at second and third, but pinch hitter Rafael Palmeiro popped up, and after an intentional walk to Buechele reloaded the bases, pinch hitter Jeff Huson grounded out to leave the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

The mutual onslaught didn't end there. Barfield was pulled after a two-out walk to Buhner in the top of the seventh, and Goose Gossage promptly allowed an RBI double to Powell and an RBI single to Vizquel, stretching Seattle's lead to three. Downing walked and Daugherty doubled in the bottom of the inning, getting one run back and chasing Swan in favor of Michael Jackson. Gossage allowed a Martinez single in the visiting eighth and was replaced by Kenny Rogers, who ended the inning with the next hitter. Palmeiro's homer in the bottom of the eighth pulled the Rangers within 9-8, but Jackson retired the other three hitters he faced.

The Mariners put the game away in the top of the ninth, starting with a walk to Buhner. Powell then grounded to second, and Franco's throwing error allowed Buhner to score and Powell to advance into scoring position. Vizquel doubled to score Powell and chase Rogers, and Eric Nolte allowed an RBI single to Bradley before closing out the inning. Jackson was perfect in the home ninth, finishing the contest at 12-8.

One of the starting pitchers in this game lasted only four innings (or four-plus, I believe is the official term for when you start the fifth but don't record an out). He allowed four hits and a staggering eight walks, leading to three runs - and he was lucky it was only three, as he benefited from a triple play and another runner being thrown out at home.

And he was the better of the two starters, as his counterpart was hit around for seven runs. The two of them were only the beginning, as every single pitcher who appeared in the game was either charged with a run allowed, or allowed an inherited runner to score. The teams combined to hit better than .400 (14 for 34) with runners in scoring position, and the game remained competitive until the ninth.

All of that makes it no surprise that this scores as one of the most dramatic nine-inning contests of the year to date - and that it holds the unusual distinction of being the best game of a day that also included three extra-inning affairs.

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