Sunday, June 5, 2016

Game of the Day (6/5/91)

Phillies 12, Braves 11 (12). Atlanta started John Smoltz, who is best known as a member of the Hall of Fame trio of Braves starters from the 1990s. Philadelphia countered with Jason Grimsley, who is most famous for being investigated for steroid use.

Smoltz allowed a leadoff hit to Wally Backman in the top of the first, but erased him on a double play and ended the inning with no scoring. Atlanta also got a leadoff hit from Otis Nixon, and did rather more with it; a Terry Pendleton walk, a wild pitch, and a groundout brought Nixon in with the game's first run, and a David Justice double scored the second. Sid Bream walked, Jeff Blauser flied out, and Greg Olson doubled, scoring Justice for a 3-0 lead. Bream followed Justice home, but the ball beat him there, resulting in the third out.

Both pitchers were perfect in the second, and Smoltz worked around a Pendleton error in the third. Pendleton then led off the bottom of the third with a double, advanced on a flyout, and scored on a wild pitch, pushing Atlanta's lead to four. A Mickey Morandini single was cancelled by a double play in the top of the fourth; Blauser reached on an error in the home half of the inning, and was also erased in a twin killing.

At this stage, the Braves had scored four runs and had a promising pitcher on the mound who had yet to allow any. Win expectancy estimates a 90% chance for Atlanta to win going into the top of the fifth. That number took a rapid dive, however, as Von Hayes and Darrin Fletcher both singled, and Dickie Thon doubled Hayes home. Pinch hitter John Morris flied out for the second out of the inning, but Backman walked, Morandini singled in two runs, and John Kruk cracked a three-run homer to put the Phils in front 6-4.

The game was turned over to the bullpens at that point. Joe Boever allowed one run in the home fifth on a walk and two steals by Nixon, followed by a Lonnie Smith RBI double; Smith would get the tying run to third on a wild pitch before being left there. But Marvin Freeman worked around a walk in the top of the sixth, and Blauser led off the bottom of the inning with a homer to even things at 6.

Randy St. Claire allowed a pinch single to Charlie Hayes in the top of the seventh, but nothing else, and the Braves went back to work in the bottom of the inning. Nixon led off with a single and stole second. Pendleton reached on an error by new pitcher Roger McDowell, with Nixon holding at second. Smith then walked to load the bases. Justice grounded into a force at home, but Bream's forceout came at second, bringing in the go-ahead run, and Blauser followed with a double that scored another.

Philadelphia rallied in the top of the eighth, starting with a Kruk single. Dale Murphy then reached on a Rafael Belliard error. One out later, a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third, and Ricky Jordan drew a walk to load the bases. Kent Mercker relieved St. Claire and walked pinch hitter Randy Ready to force in a run; Juan Berenguer was then summoned in relief and retired the next two hitters to leave the tying run at third. Nixon singled and moved to third on an errant pickoff throw in the bottom of the inning, but was left on.

Mike Stanton took the mound in the top of the ninth and allowed a leadoff hit to Rick Schu. Morandini bunted Schu to second, and after Kruk struck out, Jim Lindeman, who had entered the game as a pinch runner in the previous inning, singled to score Schu and tie the game at 8. Mitch Williams worked around a walk in the home ninth to force extras.

Jordan singled and was bunted to second in the top of the tenth; Stanton then intentionally walked Thon to bring the pitcher's spot up, and pinch hitter Tommy Greene (generally used as a pitcher) hit into a double play. Darrel Akerfelds worked around a Belliard single in the bottom of the inning, and the Phils pulled ahead in the eleventh. Morandini started the rally with a one-out walk, and Kruk reached on a Brian Hunter error that put runners at the corners. Jeff Parrett then uncorked a wild pitch that brought Morandini home. Lindeman singled Kruk to third, and Von Hayes then singled as well, doubling the Philadelphia lead. Akerfelds was unable to close the game out, however, walking Smith and serving up a game-tying two-run homer to Hunter in the home half of the inning.

Philly pulled ahead again in the top of the twelfth, starting with a leadoff hit from Thon. Rod Booker, a pinch hitter so fearsome that the Phillies had used a pitcher instead of him two innings earlier, bunted into an error by Hunter that allowed Thon to score the go-ahead run. Pinch runner Terry Mulholland then moved to third on a groundout and came home on a Morandini single to make it a 12-10 game. A steal, an intentional walk, a forceout, and a flyout ended the inning with no further scoring. Atlanta had one more rally in them against Jose de Jesus, as Belliard and Parrett both drew one-out walks (you know your bench is depleted when your relief pitcher hits for himself despite the two-run deficit). Nixon hit into a force at second, and Pendleton singled Belliard home, moving the tying run to third. But Smith grounded out, bringing the game to an end.

23 runs. Two last-chance game-tying rallies, and a fine (albeit failed) attempt at a third. 21 runners left on, and 37 at bats with runners in scoring position. One pitcher pinch hitting, and another reliever hitting for himself in a potentially game-ending inning in which his team trailed. No less than five hitters had WPA's of +.300 or higher, three of whom did not start the game (and one of whom had no official at bats).

And yet, the best description I can come up with for how crazy the game was is this: Out of the half-dozen pitchers who took the mound for the winning team, the only one who DIDN'T give up a run was Mitch Williams.

No comments:

Post a Comment