Thursday, June 2, 2016

Game of the Day (6/2/91)

Cubs 4, Expos 3. Much like the previous day's best outing, this one matched up a pair of young pitchers who were having some trouble settling in as regular starters.

Very much unlike the last Game of the Day, neither of the starters in this one (Shawn Boskie for Chicago, Brian Barnes for Montreal) would last over 1000 innings in the majors.

Both pitchers were perfect for the first two innings; in fact, the first batter on either team to reach was Boskie, who singled with two outs in the top of the third. A wild pitch moved the hurler to second before a strikeout left him there; he then returned to the mound and set the Expos down in order once again.

The highly effective pitching persisted through the middle innings as well. Boskie allowed a fourth-inning double to Eric Bullock, and walked Delino DeShields in the sixth, but neither of them advanced from their original bases, and the Cubs went down in order in frames four through six.

The mutual shutout broke decisively in the seventh. Ryne Sandberg opened the top of the inning by reaching second on a single-and-error, and moved to third on a one-out wild pitch. George Bell then singled to score the game's first run, and Andre Dawson promptly drove Bell home with a double. Barnes recovered to retire the next two hitters, however, and Montreal responded in the home seventh. Ivan Calderon led off with a double, and Boskie then hit Larry Walker with a pitch. Up next was Tim Wallach, who grounded back to the mound; Boskie proceeded to end his own day by throwing the ball away, allowing Calderon to score and putting the other runners at the corners. Paul Assenmacher was summoned in relief and recorded one quick out, but Mike Fitzgerald then hit into the inning's second error (by Luis Salazar at first), bringing Walker home to tie the game. Pinch hitter Nelson Santovenia was intentionally walked to load the bases, pinch hitter Junior Noboa struck out, and DeShields then walked to force in the go-ahead run.

Bill Sampen took the mound to begin the eighth, and was pulled after a one-out walk to Damon Berryhill (and after Dwight Smith had been announced as a pinch hitter, thereby forcing the Cubs to burn Smith and turn to Shawon Dunston once Scott Ruskin took the mound). Ruskin retired Dunston; Sandberg followed with a single that moved pinch runner Ced Landrum to third, then stole second, but Chico Walker proceeded to strike out and strand both the tying and go-ahead runs in scoring position.

Assenmacher worked around a Wallach single in the bottom of the eighth, giving the Cubs one more shot at their one-run deficit in the ninth. With one out, Doug Dascenzo doubled, and Salazar was then intentionally walked. Greg Maddux was called on to pinch hit in an attempt to bunt the runners over, but bunted foul with two strikes. Mark Grace walked to load the bases, however, and Landrum then stepped in for his first at bat and single home the tying and go-ahead runs. Barry Jones replaced Ruskin and ended the inning. Dave Smith was called on for the save; he walked Tom Foley and allowed pinch runner Marquis Grissom to reach third on a steal and a groundout, but left the tying run 90 feet away.

The lesson of this game, if you insist on learning one... if the Cubs hadn't come back to win in the ninth, it would probably be "don't use a pitcher as a pinch hitter with the aim of having him lay down a one-out sacrifice bunt when you're down by a run in the ninth inning." But since they overcame that bit of managerial malfeasance, the take home message is something more along the lines of "don't assume that a game that starts as a pitcher's duel will end up that way, especially if it's a matchup of two pitchers who really aren't that good."

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