Saturday, July 16, 2016

Game of the Day (7/16/91)

A's 7, Indians 6 (13). Oakland's Dave Stewart, who was coming to the end of a tenure as a successful starter on a team with a great lineup, faced Cleveland's Charles Nagy, who was just about to begin such a stretch.

Stewart was perfect in the first inning; Nagy was not, allowing a double to Terry Steinbach and walking Harold Baines. He recovered to strand both of them, however, and Cleveland jumped into the lead in the second inning. Carlos Martinez led off with a single and stole second. Mike Aldrete walked behind him, and Mark Whiten then tripled both runners home. Sandy Alomar Jr. was hit by a pitch, and Felix Fermin hit into a double play, which allowed Whiten to score the inning's third run.

Nagy worked a 1-2-3 second. The two starters combined to allow three singles in the third (Carlos Baerga in the top of the inning, Mike Bordick and Steinbach in the bottom), but thanks to a double play, none of the runners made it past first. Dave Henderson's hit made him the fourth inning's only baserunner, and he was caught stealing immediately after reaching. Each team put a runner in scoring position in the fifth (Glenallen Hill singled and stole second, while Mike Gallego doubled), but neither brought him home.

The sixth inning was baserunner-free, while the seventh saw only a Fermin single separate it from mutual flawlessness. Stewart kept the Indians off the bases in the eighth as well, and in the bottom of the inning, Gallego and Willie Wilson both singled with nobody out. Nagy was then pulled for Shawn Hillegas - and Rickey Henderson greeted the reliever with a game-tying three-run homer. One out later, Jose Canseco went deep as well, and just like that the A's had turned around a deficit that had lasted six and a half innings, grabbing the lead and leaving the Indians only one chance to respond.

Oakland naturally inserted all-world closer Dennis Eckersley for the top of the ninth. Martinez greeted him with a single, and pinch runner Alex Cole stole second. Aldrete singled Cole to third, and one out later, Alomar's groundout brought home the tying run. Steve Olin worked around a Gallego single in the home ninth, sending the game to extras tied at 4.

Gene Nelson allowed a single to Hill with one out in the tenth, but then combined with Rick Honeycutt to strand the runner. Olin gave up a Canseco double in the bottom of the inning and left him at second. In the eleventh, Honeycutt plunked Brook Jacoby and Whiten back to back, eventually leaving runners at the corners. Olin then walked Lance Blankenship to start the bottom of the inning; Blankenship promptly moved to third on a steal-and-error, and Olin intentionally walked the next two Oakland hitters to load the bases with nobody out. But Mark McGwire and Rickey Henderson both struck out, and Steinbach grounded out to squander the most golden of opportunities.

(Side note: I bet Ernie Riles and Mike Gallego didn't have too many chances to be intentionally walked in front of McGwire and Henderson.)

Hill singled yet again in the twelfth, and was left on once more. Doug Jones walked Canseco to begin the bottom of the inning, but saw him erased on a double play. Joe Klink relieved Honeycutt in the top of the thirteenth and gave up a leadoff single to Jerry Browne; a groundout and a flyout moved Browne to third, and Alomar then singled him home. Fermin followed with a double that plated Alomar for a 6-4 lead.

Blankenship began the bottom of the thirteenth by reaching on a Baerga error, and moved to third on a Riles double. Gallego followed with a triple that scored both runners and tied the game - and the Indians once again intentionally walked the next two hitters (McGwire and Henderson) to load the bases with nobody out. Mike York was brought in for Jones at that point - and promptly showed the weak spot in the base-loading strategy, walking Steinbach to force in the winning run.

Before the top of the eighth inning began in this game, the Indians led 3-0 with a chance to expand their lead. At that point, their win expectancy was 94%.

After Felix Fermin's double in the top of the twelfth put them ahead 6-4, Cleveland's win expectancy was 93%.

They blew not one, but both of those leads. This would generally be considered a devastating loss - if the Indians weren't a team that had won less than a third of its games through more than half of the season. At that point, you really just shrug and move on to the next creative failure.

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