Monday, August 15, 2016

Game of the Day (8/15/91)

Cubs 7, Expos 6. Chicago's Bob Scanlan was a rookie making the twelfth start of his career (and his first in about a month and a half; he'd been demoted to the bullpen for the intervening period). And yet, he was the more experienced of the two hurlers, as Montreal's Chris Haney was making his eighth start (with no relief appearances). Both pitchers would extend their careers into the next century, but neither would exceed 1000 innings in his MLB tenure.

The Expos jumped on Scanlan early and hard. Delino DeShields led off the game with a walk, and scored on Marquis Grissom's triple. Dave Martinez then singled Grissom home. Tim Wallach singled and Larry Walker doubled to bring Martinez around, and Andres Galarraga grounded to short, making the game's first out but also scoring Wallach to push the lead to 4-0. Bret Barberie hit into an out at home, Mike Fitzgerald was intentionally walked, and Haney finally flied out to end the inning, having batted before he pitched.

Chicago began the long climb back into the game with a run in the bottom of the first, as Mark Grace walked, Ryne Sandberg singled him to third, and Andre Dawson hit an RBI groundout. Scanlan was perfect in the second, and the Cubs chipped away once more on a Luis Salazar double, a Shawon Dunston bunt single, and a run-scoring grounder from Joe Girardi.

Scanlan got into trouble again in the third, as a Wallach single and walks to Walker and Barberie loaded the bases with one out. But Fitzgerald hit into a double play to extinguish the threat, and the Cubs narrowed the gap yet again in the home half of the inning as Sandberg reached second on a Barberie error, moved to third on a flyout, and scored on Salazar's single. Scanlan worked around a hit by DeShields in the fourth, and his teammates tied the score in the latter portion of the frame when Doug Dascenzo reached on a misplay by DeShields, stole second, moved to third on a wild pitch, and came home on Grace's double. A pair of walks would load the bases and end Haney's day; Bill Sampen then retired George Bell to preserve the unwanted tie.

Scanlan walked Walker and allowed a single to Galarraga in the fifth, but stranded both men; Sampen then kept Dunston at second after a double in the bottom of the inning. Paul Assenmacher relieved in the top of the sixth, and Montreal pulled back ahead on a Fitzgerald single, a Sampen sac bunt, and a DeShields single. Sampen set the Cubs down in order, and Galarraga homered with two outs in the seventh to push the lead to 6-4. The Cubs went down 1-2-3 once more in the home half of that inning.

Assenmacher walked and stranded a pair of Expos in the eighth. Dunston led off the bottom of the inning with a double, finally chasing Sampen from the mound. Jeff Fassero relieved and walked pinch hitter Rick Wilkins. Jose Vizcaino bunted the runners to second and third, and Chico Walker, the third straight pinch hitter, singled to bring Dunston home. Grace then reached on a Wallach error, scoring Wilkins with the tying run and moving Walker to third, and Sandberg's sacrifice fly off of Barry Jones put Chicago in front for the first time in the game. Chuck McElroy worked a 1-2-3 ninth to end the game.

There's a weird sort of symmetry to this game. Montreal opened it with four runs in the first inning. From that point on, the runs were scored on a one-per-inning (or fewer, of course) basis - until the bottom of the eighth, when the Cubs unleashed the second and final big rally in the game to finish things off.

One more bit of symmetry... the first run the Cubs scored was tallied by Mark Grace, who walked, took third on a single, and came home on a sac fly. The fourth (and middle) run, which tied the game, scored on a Grace double. The sixth (which tied the game again), came home when Grace reached on an error, and that play also moved the seventh (winning, and final) run to third base, to be brought in one batter later.

It's almost like he was trying to be an alternate answer to the riddle of the Sphinx, giving the Cubs their first run when they were just trying to crawl back into the game, another at the midpoint of the contest when they were striding confidently into a tie, and their last two, needing a bit of extra assistance in the form of Montreal errors, as the game was about to expire.

Whatever it was, it produced a respectable +.451 WPA, and one Chicago victory.

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