Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Game of the Day (6/28/91)

Braves 3, Dodges 2 (10). Atlanta's Steve Avery was a good young lefty who would get worse with age. LA's Bob Ojeda was a significantly older lefty who had gotten better with age. Which means both of them were good at the time this game took place.

Avery allowed two singles in the top of the first, but Brett Butler was caught stealing before Stan Javier's hit, and Stan Javier was caught stealing after Stan Javier's hit, so no scoring took place. Otis Nixon singled and Lonnie Smith walked in the bottom of the inning, but Ojeda stranded both of them. In the second, Eddie Murray and Lenny Harris both walked and were left on, and no Braves reached base.

Avery struck out the side in the third, and Atlanta pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning when Nixon singled, stole second, stole third, and scored on Smith's sacrifice fly. The Braves mounted rally attempts for the next several innings as well; Ojeda worked around singles from Jeff Blauser and Brian Hunter in the fourth, a Nixon ROE and a Terry Pendleton single in the fifth, a leadoff hit from Blauser in the sixth, and a Nixon double in the seventh. Meanwhile, Avery was flawless in all four innings, preserving the 1-0 lead.

Avery's streak of perfect came to an end when Gary Carter led off the eighth with a single. Jose Gonzalez pinch ran, was bunted to second, and moved to third on a groundout. That brought the pitcher's spot up, and Mike Sharperson hit for Ojeda and singled Gonzalez home to tie the game at 1. Brett Butler singled as well, chasing Avery, and Juan Berenguer retired Juan Samuel to leave the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Tim Crews took the mound in the bottom of the eighth and allowed a leadoff single to Smith. Deion Sanders pinch ran, and promptly moved to third on a steal-and-error. Ron Gant struck out, Blauser was intentionally walked, and Crews was replaced by John Candelaria, who coaxed a double play from pinch hitter Mark Lemke, giving the Dodgers a narrow escape. They capitalized immediately in the ninth, as Javier led off with a home run to give them their first lead of the day.

Berenguer recovered to retire the next three Dodgers, and the Braves batted with a deficit for the first time in the game against Kevin Gross. Greg Olson led off with a walk, but Rafael Belliard hit into a double play, putting Atlanta one out from defeat with nobody on base. Pinch hitter Jeff Treadway then drew a walk, and with Nixon at the plate, Gross was pulled mid-batter, and Dennis Cook finished the walk that put the tying run in scoring position. Jim Gott then took the mound and allowed an RBI single to Pendleton, evening things at 2.

Kent Mercker relieved in the tenth and worked around an Alfredo Griffin single. Gott remained in for the Dodgers in the home tenth and quickly got into trouble, walking Gant and balking him to second. Blauser was intentionally walked, but Gott retired the next two hitters. Belliard singled to load the bases, however, and that brought Mercker to the plate. The reliever was allowed to hit for himself, and on a full count, Mercker drew a run-scoring walk to end the game.

So this is a good game. It's well-pitched by the starters, and livens up once the bullpens get involved, particularly in the ninth (and especially with whatever caused the mid-batter pitching change in the bottom of the ninth. My assumption would be either injury or ejection; given that Gross pitched again the next day, my unverified speculation would be ejection. Incidentally, in trying to track down a game recap, I found a couple of articles about the Braves' shocking ascent to third place in their division, which look delightfully quaint in hindsight but also provide useful context for how bananas their season was overall.)

It also has a walkoff walk drawn by a relief pitcher. Which is odd, even by Game of the Day standards. And yet, we've seen so many bizarre endings this year that it's almost more surprising that this one is new.

Wonders never cease. Which is kind of a wonder in and of itself.

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