Saturday, July 2, 2016

Game of the Day (7/2/91)

Mets 2, Expos 1. Montreal started Oil Can Boyd, who was doing fairly well for it being his last year in the majors. New York started David Cone, who was also doing fairly well for being stuck pitching in front of a horrible group of fielders. (Per Baseball Reference, his ERA was three quarters of a run higher than his league-best FIP.)

Darryl Boston got the game off to a good start for the Mets, opening the top of the first with a double. His teammates failed to capitalize on the opportunity, as the inning ended with Boston still stationed at second. The bottom of the inning saw Delino DeShields single and steal second with one out; Tim Wallach would walk with two away, but Cone would leave them both on.

Dave Magadan's walk in the top of the second made him the only batter on either team to reach in the inning. Boyd was flawless in the top of the third, while Cone allowed singles to DeShields and Ivan Calderon that put runners on the corners with two outs, then ended the rally by coaxing a force from Wallach. The Mets got on the board in the fourth when Howard Johnson hit a solo homer. From there, not a single runner reached for either team until the bottom of the sixth, when Wallach's longball tied the game at 1.

To this point, the game was a standard pitcher's duel, a type of contest that doesn't generally appeal to WPL. The game, however, was not over yet.

Howard Johnson opened the seventh with a double and moved to third on a groundout, but Boyd then induced two more grounders (one back to the mound, the other to short) to keep him from scoring. Ron Hassey led off the home seventh with a single, and pinch runner Ken Williams advanced to second on Cone's wild pitch. Cone recovered to retire the next three hitters, the third of whom (Eric Bullock) was pinch hitting for Boyd.

Jeff Fassero relieved in the top of the eighth and recorded a quick out. Pinch hitter Keith Miller then reached on a DeShields error, but was promptly thrown out trying to steal second, and Barry Jones then retired pinch hitter Mark Carreon to end the inning. With Alejandro Pena on the mound, DeShields walked and stole second with one out in the bottom of the eighth; Calderon then singled, moving the go-ahead run to third with one out, but Wallach hit into a double play to choke off the rally.

Jones remained in the game to start the ninth, and walked Kevin Elster to lead it off. Kevin McReynolds bunted the runner to second, and Johnson was intentionally walked. Hubie Brooks flied out, and Scott Ruskin relieved Jones; Magadan was up next, and singled to score Elster with the go-ahead run. Johnson was thrown out at home on the play, which I assume means that Magadan's hit was essentially a double on which he didn't quite reach second before Johnson was thrown out?

Whatever else happened on the scoring play, New York had retaken the lead, and turned it over to John Franco in the ninth. Dave Martinez greeted him with a single; two outs later, it was Mike Fitzgerald on first courtesy of a forceout. Spike Owen singled Fitzgerald to third, but Junior Noboa struck out to end the game.

Both teams involved in this game hit one solo homer. If you remove the home runs from their totals, the Expos had 7 hits and 2 walk to New York's 3 and 3. The Expos had two successful steals; the Mets had a runner thrown out stealing, and another thrown out on the bases. Montreal hit into the game's only double play, but also benefited from the game's only wild pitch.

On balance, you would expect the Expos to come out on top in that game more often than not. But "more often than not" does not mean "all the time," and baseball in particular is heavily prone to producing a high share of "than not" outcomes. Which is why they play 162 games, to let most of that stuff even out. (Well, that and to make more money. Actually, it's probably mostly the money thing.)

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