Sunday, June 19, 2016

Game of the Day (6/19/91)

Padres 6, Pirates 5. The pitching matchup in this game proves that baseball can produce above-average pitchers with fairly long careers from A(ndy Benes) to Z(ane Smith).

Benes retired the Pirates in order in the top of the first, and San Diego pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning, starting with a one-out single by Tony Fernandez. Tony Gwynn hit into a force, moved to second on a passed ball, and then scored ahead of a two-run homer by Jerald Clark. Pittsburgh tied it in the top of the second, however, as Bobby Bonilla singled and Barry Bonds went long. One out later, a Mike LaValliere walk and a Jose Lind single put the go-ahead run in scoring position; Smith bunted the runners to second and third, and Orlando Merced grounded out to leave them there.

Smith was perfect in the bottom of the second. The third inning brought a single-and-steal from Gary Varsho in the top half, and a single by Fernandez in the bottom, but both men were left on. In the fourth, Lind reached on a Scott Coolbaugh error and made it to third on a sac bunt and a balk before being stranded; Smith worked a 1-2-3 home half of the inning.

Pittsburgh pulled ahead in unorthodox fashion in the top of the fifth. Varsho started the rally with a one-out double, and Bonilla singled him to third. Up next was Bonds, who flied to center; Varsho tagged and scored the go-ahead run, but Bonilla was thrown out after tagging up, ending the inning.

The next runner to reach was Lind, who singled with two outs in the top of the sixth; the Padres tried to rally in the home half, but squandered singles from Gwynn and Clark. Merced's single in the visiting seventh similarly went to waste, as he was doubled off on a lineout from Jay Bell. The bottom of the seventh saw the resumption of the scoring, as Benito Santiago singled and Tim Teufel doubled him home with the tying run. The Padres then started an unusual sequence of plays. Coolbaugh bunted Teufel to third. Bip Roberts was called on to hit for Benes, and laid down a squeeze bunt that plated Teufel with the go-ahead tally. With the bases now clear, Darrin Jackson stepped to the plate - and bunted, getting thrown out at first to end the inning.

Pittsburgh didn't take the smallest of small-ball rallies lying down. With one out in the eighth, Bonds singled against Larry Andersen, and came home with the tying run on a Mitch Webster double (with Webster taking third on the throw home). LaValliere then walked, and Lind grounded out, scoring Webster to put the Pirates in front 5-4. Andy Van Slyke grounded out to end the inning, however, and San Diego responded in the bottom half. Fernandez and Gwynn greeted Neal Heaton with singles, quickly chasing him from the mound in favor of Vicente Palacios. Clark flied out, moving Fernandez to third, and Fred McGriff then walked to load the bases. Santiago struck out, bringing Teufel to the plate. On a 1-2 pitch, Teufel singled, scoring both Fernandez and Gwynn and restoring the Padre lead.

Andersen finished the game off in the ninth, walking Merced but not allowing him to advance farther than second. Which provided a strangely quiet ending to what was a remarkably loud game.

In hitting terms alone, this game included key contributions from such variously talented persons as Barry Bonds, Bobby Bonilla, Mitch Webster, and Jose Lind on the Pittsburgh side, as well as Tony Gwynn, Tony Fernandez, and Jerald Clark for San Diego. But the key blow was also the last one - Tim Teufel's come-from-behind two-run single that put the Padres ahead for good in the bottom of the eighth. Given that Teufel also knocked in the tying run in the seventh, his WPA was a striking +.737, which was...

Somehow, that figure is NOT a career high for Tim Teufel (even though it would have been one for, say, Derek Jeter). Indeed, Teufel had four games in his career with WPAs of +.700 or higher:

June 24, 1984. Three run homer in the bottom of the ninth in a 3-2 victory. +.727.
June 24, 1990. Yes, that is the same date, six years later. Come from behind walkoff pinch hit two-run single in the bottom of the ninth. +.735.
June 19, 1991. The game you're reading about already; just missed being on June 24 again. +.737.
May 6, 1990. 3 for 4 with a walk, a double, and a homer, scoring two runs and driving in four. The homer was a 3-run shot that tied the game in the bottom of the sixth. The double tied the game again in the bottom of the eleventh, and (obviously) put the winning run in scoring position; it would come home two batters later on Kevin McReynolds's walkoff homer. But WPA picks Teufel as the hero, to the tune of +.808.

Tim Teufel: Occasional hero. Who knew?

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