Friday, July 15, 2016

Game of the Day (7/14/91)

A's 3, Orioles 2 (11). Oakland's Mike Moore had entered the league at age 22 in 1982 and been a solid starter for several years. In 1991, he was on the way to one of his best seasons, and would hang around for a few more years. Baltimore's Roy Smith had entered the league at age 22 in 1984, and made very intermittent appearances up to this point; he threw over 100 innings in only two seasons, and was to be out of the league at the end of the '91 season.

Moore and Smith were both perfect in the first. Baltimore grabbed the lead in the top of the second; Dwight Evans singled with one out, David Segui walked, and Leo Gomez's single brought Evans home with the game's first run. Bob Melvin then hit into an inning-ending double play.

Harold Baines led off the bottom of the second with a single, thereby notching Oakland's first hit after a 13-inning drought that dated back two days (Baines had recorded their previous hit as well, in the sixth inning of a loss on July 12). Naturally, Terry Steinbach immediately hit into a double play.

The Orioles threatened to extend their lead in the third, as Mike Devereaux, Joe Orsulak, and Sam Horn all walked to load the bases, but Moore managed to leave all of them on. Smith was spotless in the home third, but after Moore worked around Segui's single in the top of the fourth, the A's tied it in the bottom of the inning on singles by Rickey Henderson and Jose Canseco and a Baines sacrifice fly.

Moore worked a 1-2-3 fifth; Smith allowed a single to Vance Law, then induced a double play. Rickey's double made him the only runner on either side to reach in the sixth, and Gomez's walk against new Oakland pitcher Gene Nelson did the same for him in the seventh.

Orsulak greeted Rick Honeycutt with a single to start the eighth; two outs later, Evans walked, but Honeycutt then retired Segui to end the rally. Mike Gallego singled with one away in the home eighth and was promptly erased on a double play. Dennis Eckersley gave up a one out single to Melvin in the ninth and left him on; the bottom of the inning saw a two-out hit from Canseco that finally chased Smith from the mound, and Mike Flanagan relieved to retire Baines and send the game to extras in a 1-1 deadlock.

Eckersley walked Randy Milligan in the tenth, while Flanagan gave up a hit to Steinbach, but the first runner was left on and the second was removed on yet another double play. Curt Young assumed pitching duties in the top of the eleventh and yielded a leadoff double to Segui; two outs later, Todd Burns took the mound and promptly allowed a tiebreaking single to Chris Hoiles.

The Orioles turned the lead over to Gregg Olson, who retired Gallego for the first out. Jamie Quirk and Rickey Henderson then singled, putting the tying run in scoring position. Dave Henderson struck out, bringing Canseco to the plate as Oakland's last chance. Canseco worked a 2-2 count, and on the sixth pitch of the at bat, Olson uncorked a wild one, moving both runners into scoring position - and Canseco immediately capitalized, singling home both the tying and winning runs.

The A's were the three-time defending AL pennant winners, and a month before this game, they were in first place. But from June 16 to July 13, Oakland went 8-16 and fell into third place, 4.5 games behind the division-leading Twins. Coming out of the All-Star break, they had lost two of the first three games of their series against a pretty lousy Orioles team, and had just suffered a no-hitter.

All of that is to say, Jose Canseco picked an excellent time to post a +.819 WPA, the highest of his noteworthily turbulent 17-year career. It might have been narratively satisfying for this comeback win on the backs of one of the team's stars to turn Oakland's fortunes around (although, to be fair, if baseball in this period were a Hollywood film, Canseco is probably a villain). Instead, the win made little long term difference; it put the A's back to 6 games above .500, and they went 38-38 the rest of the way, finishing 11 games back and in fourth place.

Still, this was a nicely-stolen victory, as the team overcame an extra-inning deficit and four double plays turned by their opponents. And it has the amusing side effect of giving one of baseball's biggest steroid-associated names a career-best game in which he had no extra-base hits.

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