Monday, July 18, 2016

Game of the Day (7/18/91)

Angels 5, Indians 4. Both starters were left-handers in their 20's who would end up with careers long enough to lose over 100 games, but not of sufficient quality to approach the Hall of Fame (one of the pitchers made the All-Star team once, while the other received Cy Young votes once). Cleveland's Greg Swindell was the better of the two, but was still rather less famous than his counterpart; becoming a major league pitcher with only one hand will do that.

(California's starter was Jim Abbott, in case that wasn't clear.)

Abbott and Swindell were both perfect in the first inning. Abbott walked Mark Whiten and left him on in the top of the second, and allowed a single to Felix Fermin in the third but erased him on a double play. And apart from that, nobody on either team reached base through four innings, with Abbott also working a 1-2-3 fifth.

Dave Winfield led off the bottom of the fifth and became the first Angel to reach on the day, courtesy of an Albert Belle error. Dave Parker followed with a single, bringing in the game's first run. The sixth inning was once again flawless on both sides. In the seventh, Abbott gave up a single to Carlos Martinez, while Swindell yielded a double to Luis Sojo and walked Wally Joyner, but neither team scored.

Cleveland finally got on the board in the eighth, as Brook Jacoby, Fermin, and Glenallen Hill all singled. Steve Olin relieved Swindell in the bottom of the inning, and retired the side in order. And then the madness began.

Abbott remained on the mound to begin the ninth. Carlos Baerga led off the inning with a single; Martinez laid down a bunt, and the Angels tried and failed to force Baerga at second, putting two runners on with nobody out. Bryan Harvey then took over for Abbott, and was greeted by an RBI single from Belle that put the Indians in front for the first time in the game. Whiten followed with a double, bringing two more runs home. A groundout moved Whiten to third, and Sandy Alomar Jr. grounded back to the mound; Whiten tried to score and was cut down at home. Harvey then retired Fermin to bring the disaster of an inning to a merciful conclusion.

Shawn Hillegas took over pitching duties in the home ninth, and did not start out well. Luis Polonia greeted him with a single, and pinch hitter Donnie Hill drew a walk. Joyner singled to bring in one run, and Winfield walked to load the bases. Jesse Orosco replaced Hillegas, and drew an RBI groundout from Parker, then intentionally walked Gary Gaetti to reload the bases. Jeff Shaw took over to try to preserve the now-only-one-run lead, but Lance Parrish greeted him with a sacrifice fly that tied the game. The other runners also advanced on the play, which means either the Indians threw home or the flyout was really deep, Pinch hitter Max Venable was intentionally walked, loading the bases yet again - and Dick Schofield was then unintentionally walked, forcing in the winning run.

This game was a remarkable pitcher's duel through seven innings, as not a single earned run scored in that time. One scored in the eighth, to tie the game.

And then seven runs scored in the ninth, and in the most exciting configuration possible in a game that started out tied (three in the top, four in the bottom). Plus, another runner got thrown out at home, which in hindsight may have decided the game.

Don't leave baseball games early.

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