Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Game of the Day (8/16/91)

Twins 5, A's 4 (12). Oakland's Mike Moore and Minnesota's Kevin Tapani were at inverse stages of their careers; Moore had been in the league for a decade and had four more seasons left, while Tapani was in his third year in the majors, but had ten to go. So it might come as a mild surprise that the age difference between them was only four years and change.

Or maybe not; their careers are really only offset by about two years in age, which is hardly all that uncommon for pitchers. Let's get to the recap.

Oakland threatened without a hit in the first inning, largely because they had the player best-qualified to mount such a threat; Rickey Henderson reached on a Kent Hrbek error, then stole second and third before being left on. Minnesota rallied even more mildly; Chuck Knoblauch singled, and Kirby Puckett stole second after hitting into a force, but Hrbek lined out to leave him there. After the A's squandered a Jamie Quirk single in the second, the home team opened the scoring on a Brian Harper single and a Shane Mack double. A wild pitch moved Mack to third, but he was then thrown out at home on Mike Pagliarulo's grounder back to the mound. Pagliarulo took second during the rundown and advanced to third on a wild pitch as well, but was left there.

Mike Gallego walked to begin the third and moved up a base on each of the next two outs, then stalled 90 feet from scoring the tying run. The Twins padded their lead in the bottom of the inning, as Dan Gladden led off with a single-and-error that put him at third and scored on Knoblauch's groundout. But Jose Canseco led off the fourth with a homer, and a Harold Baines double and a Quirk single produced the tying run later in the inning.

Moore threw a 1-2-3 fourth. Tapani allowed only a Mike Bordick single in the fifth, and Moore set the Twins down in order again. In the top of the sixth, Canseco and Quirk struck again, with the former homering once more to break the tie, and the latter doubling Mark McGwire home after a walk to make it 4-2 in Oakland's favor. Moore allowed a Knoblauch single and walked Chili Davis in the bottom of the inning, but left both men on, and the starters then combined on a runnerless seventh.

Tapani allowed a Baines single and walked McGwire with one out in the eighth; the Twins then turned to their bullpen, and Mark Guthrie and Steve Bedrosian combined to escape the situation. Moore also lasted three hitters in the home eighth, coming out with two away, and Rick Honeycutt struck out Hrbek. Bedrosian was perfect in the ninth, giving Minnesota one more chance at the two-run deficit.

Davis led off with a single against Dennis Eckersley, and for the second time in the game, an error by an Oakland outfielder led to a two-base advance from a Minnesota runner. Harper's groundout therefore brought Davis home to split the Oakland lead in half. Pinch hitter Randy Bush followed with a double, and Pagliarulo singled to bring pinch runner Scott Leius home and tie the game. Pagliarulo would later steal second before being left on, and the game progressed into extras.

Bedrosian plunked Dave Henderson to start the tenth. One out later, Henderson stole second, but was then thrown out trying for third on Baines's flyout. Minnesota assembled a fairly similar rally, as Puckett hit a one-out single and made it to third on a steal-and-error before being left there. Bedrosian worked a 1-2-3 eleventh; Eric Show started the bottom of the inning, but was pulled after Gene Larkin's one-out double, leaving Joe Klink with a medium-grade mess to clean up (which he did).

Rick Aguilera took the mound in the top of the twelfth and allowed a pinch single to Scott Brosius, who moved to second on a passed ball before being left there. Gene Nelson worked the bottom of the inning, and with one out, allowed a double to Knoblauch and infield hits to Puckett and Hrbek that brought the young second baseman around with the winning run.

There's a lot going on in this game - which is appropriate, because there was a lot going on for these two teams in 1991. The A's were the three-time defending AL champions, and still carried most of the same lineup that had won those pennants, notably Jose Canseco (who homered twice in this game and a league-best 44 times for the season as a whole).

The Twins had much less power (though they weren't exactly bereft in that department, finishing sixth in the league in homers), and did their best work by way of hits that stayed in the park (they had the highest team batting average in the league - and by a wide enough margin that their OBP was also the AL's best despite a ninth-place finish in walks drawn). This game also proved typical for them, as they had 14 hits, including four doubles, and worked in a few other things (steals, opponent errors) to push across five runs without the benefit of a homer. Of particular note for Minnesota in this one was Chuck Knoblauch, whose four hits, run, and RBI were indispensable.

The game also proved representative of the two teams' fortunes in one other way: The A's were ahead for quite a while, but the Twins ended up on top.

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