Sunday, August 14, 2016

Game of the Day (8/14/91)

White Sox 9, Tigers 8. By any standard, Detroit's Walt Terrell was a veteran pitcher in 1991; it was his tenth (and second-to-last) year in the league, and in his previous start, on August 10, he had won the 100th game of his career.

Chicago's Charlie Hough was a decade older than Terrell, and had been in the league twelve years longer. And his arm still had three more years in it to Terrell's one.

The White Sox scored before an out was recorded, as Tim Raines, Robin Ventura, and Frank Thomas all singled, with the last of those hits putting the game's first run on the board. Terrell retired the next three hitters, however, and the Tigers tied it up quickly when Tony Phillips led off the bottom of the first with a homer. Hough kept the bases clear for the rest of the first, and Terrell allowed nary a runner in the second.

Detroit rallied mildly in the home second, as Mickey Tettleton and Rob Deer both drew walks. Chicago tried in the third; Raines led off with a single and stole second, and Thomas walked behind him. A groundout moved them to second and third, but Terrell stranded them there. Detroit then took its first lead in the bottom of the third. Phillips drew a leadoff walk and stole second. Lou Whitaker walked as well, Alan Trammell hit into a force at second, and Cecil Fielder's sacrifice fly brought Phillips home to make it 2-1 in Detroit's favor.

That lead did not last long. Lance Johnson led off the fourth with a single, and one out later, Joey Cora walked. Up next was #9 hitter Ozzie Guillen, who had entered the game with a .321 slugging average and one home run on the year to date. Naturally, he belted Terrell's first pitch of the at bat over the right-field wall for a lead-changing three-run jack. Raines followed with a single, and Ventura's subsequent home run brought Raines around and made it 6-2. One Thomas walk later, Terrell was yanked in favor of Paul Gibson, who finally brought the deluge to a close.

Hough was flawless in the home fourth; Gibson allowed a walk to Ron Karkovice and a single to Cora in the fifth, but left them both on. The Tigers then narrowed the gap in the bottom of the fifth. Phillips reached on a one-out Cora error to begin the rally, and Whitaker singled him to second. Trammell hit into a force at third, but Ventura committed a throwing error when trying for the double play, which allowed Whitaker to score and moved Trammell to third. Fielder's single then plated Trammell to push the score to 6-4.

Raines drew a walk to open the sixth, and two outs later, pinch hitter Craig Grebeck tripled him home, padding Chicago's advantage by a run. In the home sixth, Deer led off with a walk, and Pete Incaviglia homered to pull Detroit within one. Phillips and Whitaker then worked one-out walks, chasing Hough from the game. Donn Pall allowed a single to Trammell, on which Phillips was thrown out at home, then walked Fielder to load the bases. Scott Radinsky was summoned in relief and walked Tettleton to force in the tying run before finally closing out the inning.

Gibson was perfect in the seventh, while Radinsky worked around a leadoff walk. In the top of the eighth, Gibson was pulled after a one-out single by Ventura. Dan Gakeler retired Thomas, but then walked Grebeck and allowed a tiebreaking two-run double to pinch hitter Mike Huff.

Radinsky walked Whitaker to begin the home eighth, and Bobby Thigpen took his place; he would issue a two-out walk to Tettleton before closing out the inning. Gakeler was perfect in the ninth, and the Tigers mounted a final rally in the bottom of the inning; Incaviglia singled with one out, and pinch hitter Scott Livingstone doubled, putting the tying runs in scoring position. Phillips flied out to bring one run home, but Thigpen struck out Whitaker to end the game.

The late-inning hero of this game was Mike Huff, who picked an excellent time to produce two of his 75 career RBIs, and thereby also established a career high in WPA (+.381 - not quite as impressive as Barry Bonds's career best total from a couple days earlier, but not bad). The White Sox also had several other major contributors in their lineup (which is how you score nine runs), from the likely (Tim Raines and Robin Ventura had three hits each and combined to score five times) to the startling (Ozzie Guillen hit a three-run homer).

But the player I'm going to highlight was not a member of the victorious White Sox. His production on the day, while solid (1 for 3 with a homer, 2 runs, and 2 RBI), was not spectacular, nor was it necessarily brilliantly timed (his WPA was just +.047). But Detroit's Tony Phillips was the spearpoint of just about everything the Tigers did in the game, starting from his home run to open the bottom of the first. To wit: In the third inning, Phillips led off with a walk and scored the go-ahead run on a sacrifice fly. In the fifth, he reached on an error with one out; he would later be forced at third, but two runners who reached behind him would go on to score. The sixth was similar; he walked with one out, nobody on, and the Tigers down a run, then was thrown out at home on a later hit, but the Tigers would bring the man behind him home with the tying run. And finally, in the ninth, his sacrifice fly... actually wasn't that helpful, since it scored a meaningless run and brought the White Sox within an out of ending the game. But it was an RBI!

The Tigers scored in five different innings in this game - and Tony Phillips had a role in every single one of those rallies. Which is a really good day for just about any leadoff man.

No comments:

Post a Comment