Saturday, August 13, 2016

Game of the Day (8/13/91)

Orioles 4, Rangers 3 (12). Texas's Brian Bohanon was a mediocre pitcher who would spend over a decade in the majors and start over half of his games, but averaged less than 100 innings per season. Baltimore's Bob Milacki spent less time in relief - but also made fewer starts than Bohanon did in his career, which fell just shy of 800 innings.

Rafael Palmeiro led off the game with a single.

Let's pause there for a moment. Palmeiro played in over 2800 games in his 20-year career, and started 2713. Of those 2713 starts, all of 11 came in the leadoff spot (roughly one in 246). He filled the unaccustomed role well in this inning, though, stealing second and taking third on a groundout before being left there. Baltimore then grabbed the lead when David Segui walked, Cal Ripken singled, Dwight Evans walked to load the bases, and Randy Milligan hit a sacrifice fly.

Juan Gonzalez doubled in the top of the second, and Bob Melvin in the bottom, but neither man made it past second base. Neither pitcher allowed a baserunner in the third, and Ruben Sierra's leadoff hit in the top of the fourth made him the only player on either side to reach in that inning. Geno Petralli opened the fifth with a single and was bunted to second, but made it no further, and the Orioles extended their lead in the home half of the inning. Melvin led off with a double, and one out later, Mike Devereaux's single brought him home. Segui then singled Devereaux to third, and Ripken's sacrifice fly made it 3-0.

The Rangers finally broke through in the sixth when Sierra led off with a single and Steve Buechele homered two outs later. Bohanon worked a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, and Milacki was pulled after Dean Palmer led off the seventh with a double. Jim Poole and Mark Williamson combined to strand Palmer at second, and Bohanon set the Orioles down in order in the home seventh. Mike Flanagan and Todd Frohwirth then worked a spotless eighth between them; Bohanon walked Ripken but put nobody else on.

Buechele led off the top of the ninth with a single against Gregg Olson. Olson quickly recorded the next two outs, but Gary Pettis singled and Palmeiro walked to load the bases, and Mario Diaz then came through with a game-tying single. Kenny Rogers replaced Bohanon in the bottom of the ninth and worked around a hit by Melvin to send the game to extras at 3 runs each.

Olson allowed singles to Gonzalez and Petralli in the tenth, but left them at the corners. Rogers was perfect in the bottom of the inning. Dave Johnson took the mound in the top of the eleventh, and Pettis greeted him with a double; a groundout moved Pettis to third, and... well, the play-by-play records him as caught stealing home, 2-5-1. That reads like either a pickoff or a missed squeeze bunt (certainly an option with the light-hitting Diaz at the plate). Whatever the case, the go-ahead run was removed from the bases, and Diaz struck out to end the inning. Rogers then kept the bases clean in the home eleventh.

Johnson worked a 1-2-3 twelfth, and in the bottom of the inning... bad things happened. Leo Gomez grounded to short to start the inning, and Diaz misplayed it into an error that put Gomez on first. Melvin then bunted, and the Rangers tried and failed to get the lead runner at second. The next batter was #9 hitter Juan Bell, who either bunted or grounded back to the mound (the play-by-play doesn't record the exact nature of the hit). Rogers fielded the ball, then committed a throwing error (to a base also not recorded in the PBP) which allowed Gomez to come in with the winning run.

Through 11 innings, Mario Diaz and Kenny Rogers looked like co-players of the game from Texas's perspective; Diaz had the game-tying hit in the ninth, and Rogers had three one-hit innings of relief to keep the tie intact. And then came the bottom of the twelfth, in which the two of them masterminded an exceptional series of fielding disasters that brought the game to a close.

Which, given that their exploits played a rather decisive role in the game's outcome, I suppose still might make them the players of the game.

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