Thursday, June 9, 2016

Game of the Day (6/9/91)

Giants 3, Cardinals 2. St. Louis started Jose DeLeon, who was approaching the end of a highly-variable but ultimately solid career. San Francisco responded with John Burkett, who was just starting out on a more consistent, but eventually similar MLB tenure.

San Francisco got off to a promising (yet disappointing) start in the top of the first. With one out, Robby Thompson walked and Willie McGee singled him to third. Matt Williams grounded to third, with Thompson getting thrown out at home. Kevin Bass then walked to load the bases; DeLeon escaped without allowing a run by striking out Greg Litton.

Burkett was perfect in the home first, as was DeLeon in the top of the second. Felix Jose drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the second, but was then doubled off on Gerald Perry's flyout. DeLeon worked around a McGee double and a Williams single in the top of the third; Burkett walked Rich Gedman and gave up a single to Jose Oquendo in the bottom of the inning, but then sandwiched two strikeouts around Gedman getting caught stealing third.

Litton led off the fourth with a home run to open the scoring. One out later, Jose Uribe tripled, and was then caught stealing home; given that Burkett was at the plate and the putout was recorded 2-5, I'd guess this was a busted squeeze play. The home fourth and visiting fifth passed without a baserunner; Burkett then walked Gedman and Oquendo in the bottom of the fifth, but stranded both of them.

Nobody from either team reached base in the sixth, and the top of the seventh also went 1-2-3. Perry homered with one out in the home seventh to tie the game at 1. Mike Felder led off the top of the eighth with a walk, chasing DeLeon from the game in favor of Juan Agosto. Felder advanced on a wild pitch, but was then thrown out at third on McGee's one-out grounder to short. However, Williams then singled, with McGee advancing to third and Williams coming into second on the throw to third. Bass followed with a go-ahead two-run single.

Burkett worked around a leadoff hit by Oquendo in the eighth, and Agosto set the Giants down 1-2-3 in the ninth. Dave Righetti took the mound in the bottom of the ninth, and promptly got into trouble. Ozzie Smith led off with a walk, and Ray Lankford hit into a force at second. Felix Jose walked as well, and Pedro Guerrero was called on to pinch hit. Guerrero struck an RBI single that moved the tying run to third with one out, and that ended Righetti's day. Jeff Brantley relieved to face Todd Zeile, and fell behind 3-0; Zeile apparently had the green light, because on the next pitch he grounded into a game-ending double play.

One of the major differences between WPL and conventional assessments of what makes a great baseball game is that WPL generally doesn't think much of pitcher's duels; the system generally prefers games that at least have a lot of scoring chances, even if they're not converted.

This game was not terribly long on baserunners; there were only 7 half-innings in which someone batted with a runner in scoring position (and in one of those, no RISP at bats were completed - the runner was caught stealing home immediately after reaching). But the game was close throughout, and the rallies that did take place drew out the tension very nicely - particularly the ninth inning, in which the Cardinals increased their win expectancy from 8% (down 2 at the beginning of the frame) to 45% (down 1, runners on the corners, one out), only to have the game end with the next batter.

All told, that's enough to push this well-pitched contest close to the 90th percentile in WPL - and enough to outstrip all the other games played on this particular day.

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