Monday, June 20, 2016

Game of the Day (6/20/91)

Red Sox 8, A's 7. Oakland's Dave Stewart was on his way to a distinctly unimpressive season. Boston's Mike Gardiner was en route to a distinctly unimpressive career.

Gardiner walked Rickey Henderson and allowed a single to Harold Baines in the top of the first, but left them at the corners, and Boston grabbed the early lead in the bottom of the inning when Ellis Burks led off with a double, moved to third on a grounder, and scored on a Wade Boggs sac fly. The top of the second swung the advantage the other way, as Ernie Riles walked, Lance Blankenship singled, and Henderson's triple scored them both.

Stewart countered a single with a double play in the home second. Gardiner walked Jose Canseco to start the third, and saw him advance a base on each of the first two outs before being left at third. The bottom of the inning saw the first two Sox reach on Oakland errors (by Blankenship and Stewart respectively); a walk to Boggs would later load the bases, but Stewart induced a groundout from Jack Clark to end the threat.

Vance Law walked and Mike Gallego singled to open the top of the fourth, but two forceouts and a strikeout would squander the opportunity, and Boston pulled even in the fourth. Tom Brunansky singled with one out, then advanced on each of two wild pitches before coming home on Tony Pena's double. Yet another wild pitch moved Pena to third before he was left on.

The Bash Brothers struck in the top of the fifth, as Canseco led off with a homer; Baines then singled, and one out later, Mark McGwire homered as well to put Oakland in front 5-2. Gardiner was pulled for Dennis Lamp after Gallego's two-out single, and Lamp quickly ended the inning. In the bottom of the fifth, Jody Reed doubled with one out, moved to third on a grounder, and saw Clark walk behind him. Mike Greenwell then doubled both runners home to pull the Sox within a run, and Brunansky followed with a home run to push them ahead 6-5.

Lamp worked around a walk in the sixth, and Stewart gave up a single to Pena who was thrown out trying to stretch it, then retired the next two hitters. In the top of the seventh, Baines and Terry Steinbach both singled, chasing Lamp in favor of Jeff Gray. McGwire walked to load the bases; Law hit into a double play, but even that brought Baines home with the tying run. Gallego was intentionally walked, and pinch hitter Willie Wilson singled Steinbach home to take a 7-6 lead.

Curt Young relieved Stewart and worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the seventh. Gray allowed a Baines double in the eighth, but nothing else. Greenwell led off the home eighth with a single, and Steve Chitren took over for Young. A wild pitch and a Brunansky double scored Greenwell with the tying run. Steve Lyons bunted Brunansky to third, and Pena then singled to drive him in and make it 8-7 in Boston's favor. Jeff Reardon relieved and threw a flawless ninth to secure Boston's victory.

Of Boston's eight runs in this game, five of them were scored by either Mike Greenwell or Tom Brunansky, and those two players combined with Tony Pena to drive in seven. Brunansky had the best timing of the group, hitting a go-ahead two-run homer in the fifth, then driving in the tying run and scoring the eventual game-winner in the eighth.

Brunansky spent 14 years in the majors, most of them as a regular corner outfielder, so he was a capable hitter. As a result, this was not the best came of his career. But his +.542 WPA was one of his top five efforts. Throw in the solid supporting efforts from supporting-type players (Greenwell and Pena on the Boston side, and Harold Baines and Willie Wilson for Oakland), and you have a game that ends up as quite a hero-off.

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