Friday, July 29, 2016

Game of the Day (7/29/91)

Giants 6, Expos 5. Montreal's Brian Barnes was over two years younger than San Fran's John Burkett, and if you didn't look too closely, you might think they were similar pitchers. In actuality, Burkett was solidly better (as indicated by his peripheral numbers in '91), and proved it by lasting nine years past the end of Barnes's career.

Montreal jumped out to an early lead when Marquis Grissom was hit by a pitch, stole second, and scored on Dave Martinez's single in the top of the first. Darren Lewis's leadoff single in the bottom of the first was cancelled out when Dave Anderson hit into a double play, but Kevin Bass then walked and Kevin Mitchell homered to put San Francisco in front 2-1. Montreal rallied swiftly as well, as Tim Wallach opened the second with a single and Larry Walker went deep to reclaim the lead.

Barnes threw the game's first perfect inning in the second, and the Expos stretched their advantage in the third. Martinez started the rally with a two-out single. Ivan Calderon grounded to short, where Jose Uribe's error put him on; Wallach then grounded to third, and his counterpart Matt Williams misplayed the ball to load the bases. Walker capitalized with a single that made it a 4-2 game.

Lewis doubled and was stranded in the home third. After a flawless fourth from Burkett, Mitchell and Robby Thompson both walked, and their teammates left them on. Montreal struck again in the fifth when Grissom reached on another error by Uribe, stole second, and scored on a single by Calderon.

San Francisco rejoined the scoring in the home fifth. Pinch hitter Mike Felder led off with a single, and Lewis doubled him home. Anderson's single then moved Lewis to third, and Bass scored him with a sacrifice fly. Barnes was then yanked in favor of Mel Rojas, who retired the next two hitters to preserve the newly-shrunken lead. Rod Beck took the mound and threw a spotless sixth, however, and the Giants went back to work in the home half, starting with a one-out Kirt Manwaring single. Pinch runner Tony Perezchica moved to second on a wild pitch and took third on Will Clark's groundout, then scored the tying run on Felder's single.

Beck gave up a two-out hit to Martinez in the seventh, but the runner was immediately caught stealing, and Rojas worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning. Kelly Downs set the Expos down in order in the eighth. Thompson singled with one out in the home eighth to chase Rojas; Scott Ruskin's presence on the mound proved anything but an improvement, as he allowed a single to Terry Kennedy and then walked both Clark and Felder to force in the go-ahead run.

Barry Jones was called in to replace Ruskin and coaxed a force at home and a groundout to keep the margin small, and Mike Fitzgerald led off the ninth with a single to chase Downs. Dave Righetti took over and induced a grounder to short from Spike Owen, but Anderson committed a throwing error that put runners at the corners with nobody out. Andres Galarraga was up next, and flied to right, apparently too shallow to score the tying run. Delino DeShields stepped in and promptly hit into a game-ending double play.

The two teams played a pretty even game in this one (I mean, obviously, since it was tied in the eighth inning). It was 10 hits to 8, and each team hit one home run, both two-run shots. The Giants, who had the extra hits (including both of the game's doubles), also committed four errors, but partially offset that by turning an extra double play.

Beyond that, there were also four multi-hit games in this contest, two on each team. For Montreal, Dave Martinez had an RBI single in the first, singled and scored (after two errors) in the third, and singled and was caught stealing in the seventh. Larry Walker hit a two-run homer in the second and an RBI single an inning later. Walker's RBI single scored Martinez, so the two men combined to participate in four of Montreal's five runs on the day.

As for San Francisco, their first multi-hit man was Darren Lewis, who led off the first with a single and was erased on a double play, doubled in the third and was stranded, and hit an RBI double in the fifth and came around to score two batters later. The second was a player who didn't even start the game. Mike Felder led off the fifth with a pinch single and was the runner who scored on Lewis's aforementioned double. He moved into right field to stay in the game, and two innings later, singled home the tying run. And that was all of his hits - but not the end of his contribution to the Giants' chances, as his eighth-inning walk forced in the decisive tally.

And it was that last play that captures the difference between the two teams in this game: the Giants drew five walks, the Expos none. That difference was more than merely abstract, as well; their first walk of the day scored a run, and their last drove one in, and those two runs were the margin between victory and defeat.

So we're really just repeating one of the oldest lessons of baseball statistics: if your hitters draw walks, and your pitchers don't give them up, good things will usually happen.

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