Sunday, July 3, 2016

Game of the Day (7/3/91)

White Sox 3, Mariners 2 (12). Seattle started Bill Krueger, who was in his ninth reasonably effective major league season and on his fourth team. Chicago's answer was Charlie Hough, in his twenty-second MLB season, but just starting out with his third team.

Chicago threatened in the top of the first when Robin Ventura doubled with one out. Frank Thomas grounded back to the mound which resulted in Ventura getting thrown out at third; Carlton Fisk then walked, moving Thomas into scoring position, but both men were left on. Hough was perfect in the first, and the Sox threatened again in the second when Cory Snyder led off with a double; he moved to third on a groundout but was left there. Alvin Davis walked and was stranded in the home second, and Chicago tried yet again in the third on singles by Tim Raines and Ventura. Thomas lined into a double play to immediately defuse that rally.

Hough worked a 1-2-3 third, and the White Sox continued their unsuccessful rallying ways in the fourth. Craig Grebeck led off with a single, and one out later, was balked to second and wild pitched to third. But a strikeout and a groundout ended the threat. Hough was perfect again in the fourth, and Krueger finally had a flawless inning of his own in the fifth. It proved to be the best inning to this point in the game for both halves of the Mariners, as they tallied the game's first run when Pete O'Brien tripled and Alonzo Powell brought him in with a sacrifice fly.

Thomas opened the sixth with a walk, but was erased when Fisk hit into a double play, and Seattle extended its advantage when Ken Griffey Jr. homered in the bottom of the inning. Chicago finally got on the board in the top of the seventh by way of a Snyder single, a Sammy Sosa double, and an RBI groundout by Ozzie Guillen, but they left the tying run at second. Hough walked both Davis and Powell in the home seventh and stranded them. Krueger combined with Michael Jackson on a 1-2-3 eighth. Hough was pulled after Omar Vizquel began the home eighth with a double; Griffey sacrificed the runner to third, and reliever Scott Radinsky then left him there (grounder to the mound, intentional walk, flyout).

Chicago had one chance left in the top of the ninth, and went hard after it; Lance Johnson started the inning with a pinch hit triple, and was followed by three more pinch hitters in succession. Matt Merullo popped out and Dan Pasqua struck out, but Warren Newsom doubled to bring in the tying run and chase Jackson. Russ Swan then retired Guillen to leave the go-ahead run in scoring position. Seattle would threaten in the bottom of the inning, starting with an O'Brien single that ended Radinsky's outing. Donn Pall relieved and allowed a sac bunt before plunking Powell, but then drew a double play from Dave Valle to send the game to extras.

Swan was yanked after Ventura singled with one out in the tenth, and Calvin Jones retired the next two hitters to leave the runner on. Pall set Seattle down in order in the home half, and the Sox tried again in the eleventh, as Johnson singled and stole second to start the inning. Merullo walked, but Jones recovered with a strikeout and a double play, and Pall was flawless again, extending the game once more.

Jones drew two quick outs in the twelfth, but then gave up a double to Ventura. Thomas was intentionally walked, and Fisk singled Ventura in with the go-ahead run. In the bottom of the inning, Bobby Thigpen took the mound and promptly hit Henry Cotto with a pitch; Cotto stole second and moved to third on a groundout. Dave Cochrane then pinch hit and grounded to first; Merullo threw Cotto out 3-5 (which means... Cotto came too far off of third, I guess?), and Vizquel hit into a game-ending force.

Even outside of the twelve innings and the ninth inning comeback, this was a really fun game. For starters (literally), Ken Griffey Jr. led off the game. Griffey would eventually start 2545 games in his two-decade career, and led off in FIVE. On the other side, Robin Ventura had the first four-hit game of his distinguished MLB tenure, and Donn Pall's three outstanding innings in a tie game led to a +.485 WPA, the third-highest of his decade-long stint in the majors.

On top of all of that, there was an oddity in the ninth inning that you would virtually never see in 2016: The White Sox used four consecutive pinch hitters. Moreover, every one of those four positions in the lineup changed fielding positions in the next inning (plus one more): Lance Johnson hit for second baseman Craig Grebeck and then played center field, Matt Merullo hit for right fielder Cory Snyder and then played first base, Dan Pasqua hit for center fielder Sammy Sosa and then played right field, Warren Newsom hit for catcher Don Wakamatsu and was then swapped out for Scott Fletcher, who played second base, and Carlton Fisk moved from first base to catcher. That is possibly the single most radical lineup realignment I have ever seen happen between one fielding inning and the next. And it worked - the pinch hitters came through to produce the tying run, and the new defensive alignment helped keep the bases clear of Mariners for two innings and then cut down the tying run between third and home an inning later.

Also, they probably drove anyone keeping score in the stands to the brink of madness. So this would have been an especially entertaining game to attend if you were sitting near anyone trying to maintain a scorecard.

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