Thursday, July 21, 2016

Game of the Day (7/21/91)

Rangers 6, Blue Jays 5. At age 24, Toronto's Juan Guzman was in the first year of a decade-long big league career. A year younger, Texas's Gerald Alexander was in the midst of exceeding 10 innings in a season for the first and last time.

Alexander's day got off to a very bad start, as Devon White led off the game with a home run. Roberto Alomar followed with a double; however, he was thrown out trying to advance on Joe Carter's flyout, and John Olerud then flied out as well to end the inning. Moreover, the Rangers rallied quickly, starting with singles by Julio Franco and Rafael Palmeiro. With two outs, Juan Gonzalez cracked a three-run homer on the first pitch he saw from Guzman, putting Texas in front.

Alexander worked around a Franco error in the second, and Guzman kept the bases clear entirely. Toronto then struck in the third, starting with a two-out walk by White. Alomar followed with a single, and Carter then homered to take a 4-3 lead. Olerud's subsequent single was Alexander's last chance, as Wayne Rosenthal was summoned to the mound and retired Kelly Gruber to end the inning. Guzman countered a Franco single with a double play in the home third.

Rosenthal saw Manuel Lee reach on a Jeff Huson error in the fourth, but permitted no additional baserunners, and the Rangers evened things in the home half of the inning when Palmeiro singled, took second on a groundout, and scored on a hit by Dean Palmer. The fifth inning passed without a hit on either side (though Brian Downing started the Texas portion of the frame with a walk and reached as far as third before being left on).

The Blue Jays reclaimed the lead in the top of the sixth, starting with a leadoff double by Olerud. One out later, Kenny Rogers relieved Rosenthal, and pinch hitter Pat Tabler greeted him with a go-ahead RBI single. Rogers would later allow a single to Lee, but left the remaining runners on. Guzman was flawless in the home sixth, and Rogers matched that result in the top of the seventh.

In the bottom of the seventh, Toronto turned the game over to its bullpen, a unit I may have mentioned in this space a time or two already this season. And so naturally, the game ended... wait, what? Jeff Huson singled against Mike Timlin with one out, and then Kevin Reimer hit a pinch two-run homer to give Texas the lead?

Yes, even the best bullpens lose every now and again - and even the excellent Blue Jay lineup failed to muster more than lone singles in the remaining two innings (by Gruber and Cory Snyder, both off of Jeff Russell, both with two outs).

Kevin Reimer had a short career, for a very specific reason: his fielding. Bill James, I believe, once described him as the worst outfielder he had ever seen. But iron-gloved though he may have been, Reimer was a fairly capable hitter, and 1991 was his best year with the bat, mostly due to his 20 homers in 440 plate appearances. Despite his noteworthy limitations, Reimer was a fine pinch hitter to have available in the particular situation in which he was used - and his success in that spot is a testament to the value of putting your players in a position to succeed.

So good job on this one, Bobby Valentine. (And, you know, Kevin Reimer.)

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