Sunday, July 31, 2016

Game of the Day (7/31/91)

July 31 brought the year's two most exciting teams together again. The AL West rivals in Chicago and Texas played one of the best nine-inning contests of the year to date, in which the score went from 1-0 to 1-1 to 4-1 to 5-4 to 5-5 to 8-5 to 10-8, with the last change coming courtesy of a walkoff grand slam from a young star off of a Hall of Fame closer. It was exactly the kind of game I love writing about.

And it was exceeded, easily, by Red Sox 11, A's 10 (14). The pitching matchup was Oakland's Dave Stewart, posting a disappointing season in the midst of a solid career, and Boston's Dana Kiecker, posting a terrible season that ended his justifiably brief career. (This was actually Kiecker's last career start; he made a few relief appearances later in the year and then was done in the majors for good.)
As he did more often than anyone else in major league history, Rickey Henderson led off the game with a home run. Kiecker retired the next three A's, and Wade Boggs opened the bottom of the first with a double, but was erased when Jody Reed lined into a double play, defusing the potential rally. Brook Jacoby walked in the top of the second and was left on; Ellis Burks and Luis Rivera both reached in the home half of the inning and were stranded as well.

Kiecker was perfect in the top of the third, and the Sox struck in the bottom of the inning. Boggs once again led off with a double. Reed followed with a walk this time, and Mo Vaughn walked as well, loading the bases. Jack Clark then launched a go-ahead grand slam.

Oakland began to rally in the top of the fourth, as Harold Baines singled and Jacoby doubled him home. Stewart worked around a walk to Boggs in the bottom of the inning, and in the top of the fifth, Mike Gallego led off with a single, Dave Henderson drew a two-out walk, and Jose Canseco doubled them both around to tie the game at 4. Terry Steinbach then doubled as well, scoring Canseco with the go-ahead run.

The Red Sox responded swiftly. With one out in the home fifth, Clark singled, Mike Greenwell doubled, and Carlos Quintana grounded out, plating Clark with the tying run. A wild pitch and a walk then put runners on the corners before Stewart escaped the inning. But Oakland struck again in the top of the sixth, starting with a Mark McGwire single and a plunking of Gallego that ended Kiecker's day. Mike Bordick greeted Daryl Irvine with a sacrifice bunt, and Rickey walked to load the bases. Dave Henderson then doubled two runs home, and Canseco added an RBI groundout to make it 8-5.

The runs kept on coming in the home sixth, as Boggs and Reed hit consecutive doubles to chase Stewart. Gene Nelson retired two of the next three hitters, ending the inning with the A's still ahead by two. Irvine worked around a McGwire double in the top of the seventh, and Nelson did the same with a two-bagger from Burks in the bottom.

Oakland augmented the lead in the top of the eighth when Canseco doubled with two outs to chase Irvine, Tony Fossas intentionally walked Baines, and Jamie Quirk singled. Canseco came home on the hit itself, and Baines then scored when Burks misplayed the ball in center field, making it 10-6. Boston rebounded in the bottom of the inning, starting with a Boggs single and a Reed home run. One out later, Clark went deep as well, pulling the Sox to within a run. Rick Honeycutt then relieved Nelson and ended the inning without further incident.

Jeff Reardon allowed a walk to Bordick and a single to Rickey in the top of the ninth, but stranded them both. Honeycutt remained in the game for the bottom of the inning, even after giving up a leadoff triple to Burks. One out later, Tony Pena walked, and Boggs followed with a game-tying single. Honeycutt then retired the next two hitters, sending the game to extras in a 10-10 tie.

The teams had both averaged more than a run per inning in regulation - so naturally, in extras, the scoring ground to an immediate halt. Reardon was perfect in the top of the tenth, and Kevin Campbell allowed only a Carlos Quintana walk in the bottom of the inning. Greg Harris and Campbell both worked flawless elevenths, and Harris was spotless in the twelfth as well. The home twelfth saw walks by both Tom Brunansky and Greenwell, but Campbell stranded them. Harris kept the bases clear once more in the thirteenth; Harris then hit Burks with a pitch and saw Pena reach on an error, but Boggs lined into a double play to extinguish the threat. Harris walked McGwire in the top of the fourteenth and left him on; Steve Chitren relieved in the bottom of the inning, and with two outs, gave up a walkoff homer to Clark.

This game is absurd. In the expected nine innings, there were 20 runs scored on 27 hits (17 for extra bases, including a ridiculous twelve doubles). And in the five extra innings, there was one hit, total: Clark's game-ending homer (which incidentally was his third of the day). There were 30 at bats with runners in scoring position in the game; 27 game in regulation (3 per inning), and 3 came in extras (in five innings).

I can't even imagine what it would be like to attend this game - to have the first nine innings be so non-stop, and then just have everything cease immediately when extras began, as if the hitters thought the game had already ended. There is a non-zero chance that I would have fallen asleep midway through the twelfth or so. Which would have been a shame, because I would have missed Jack Clark putting the perfect capper on one of the best games of his long and outstanding career.

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