Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Game of the Day (7/5/91)

Expos 4, Pirates 3. The two starters were Pittsburgh's John Smiley, a highly inconsistent pitcher who would end up with a career of nearly 2000 innings, and Montreal's Dennis Martinez, who was only slightly more consistent in a career over twice as long as Smiley's.

In many seasons, this could have been a dud of a matchup; in 1991, it pitted an eventual 20-game winner against the eventual NL ERA champion.

Smiley worked around a Spike Owen double in the top of the first, and his teammates tallied the game's first run in the bottom of the inning when Orlando Merced, Jay Bell, and Andy Van Slyke all singled. That brought the meat of the Pirate order to the plate, but Martinez recovered to induce a double play from Bobby Bonilla and a flyout from Barry Bonds. Smiley was perfect in the second, while Martinez allowed only a Jose Lind single.

Montreal pulled ahead in the third when Martinez and Marquis Grissom both singled and Owen doubled both men home. Smiley stopped the bleeding at that point, and Martinez worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning. Bret Barberie's single was squandered in the top of the fourth, and the Pirates mounted a serious rally in the bottom of the inning, as Gary Varsho and Mike LaValliere both singled with two outs. A passed ball moved the runners to second and third, and Lind was then intentionally walked to load the bases for Smiley, who flied out to strand all three men.

The Expos extended their lead in the fifth when Grissom doubled, stole third, and scored on an Ivan Calderon single. Pittsburgh responded in the home half of the inning on a Bell double and a Bonilla single, cutting the deficit to one yet again. After a spotless sixth from Smiley, they tied it at 3 in the bottom of the inning when LaValliere singled, moved to second on a grounder, and scored on Smiley's single.

Having been allowed to hit for himself in a key spot, Smiley naturally returned to the mound to start the seventh - only to be pulled after walking Martinez with one out. Vicente Palacios relieved and gave up a single to Grissom. Up next came pinch hitter Dave Martinez, who doubled, scoring the preceding Martinez with the go-ahead run. An intentional walk to Calderon loaded the bases, but Palacios retired the next two hitters to limit the deficit to one run.

Martinez (Dennis, not Dave) worked around a Van Slyke single in the seventh. Ken Williams singled and Barberie doubled in the top of the eighth, but Williams was caught stealing before Barberie's hit, so no scoring resulted. Martinez worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and after his teammates squandered a pair of walks from Stan Belinda in the top of the ninth, the veteran starter set the Pirates down in order yet again to end the game.

This is a pretty good game (though not a great one; it grades out at roughly 80th percentile in WPL). My favorite part has little to do with the timing of the scoring, and much to do with the players who were involved in it. There were two runs scored in the sixth inning or later in this game; the first tied the game, and the second broke the tie.

The first of those runs was driven in by one of the starting pitchers, and the second was scored by his counterpart on the other team. Both of whom were allowed to hit for themselves in key late-game situations.

I'm not saying it was a good idea, necessarily. But it worked, and that makes it retroactively awesome.

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