Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Game of the Day (8/17/91)

Dodgers 8, Astros 7 (10). LA started Bob Ojeda, who I did not know had ever pitched for them. Houston started Ryan Bowen, who I'm unfamiliar with altogether. (Not without reason; the only time he exceeded 100 innings in a season was for the expansion '93 Marlins.)

Ojeda walked and stranded Jeff Bagwell in the top of the first. Bowen allowed a Brett Butler single and a Lenny Harris walk in the home first, and two outs later, Eddie Murray doubled both men home to open the scoring. The Astros narrowed the margin to a run in the second when Mike Simms walked, Javier Ortiz and Casey Candaele singled to load the bases, and Andujar Cedeno hit a sacrifice fly; they still had two men on with one out, but Bowen watched strike 3 and Craig Biggio lined out.

Bowen was perfect in the second. In the third, Ken Caminiti doubled and was left on. The Dodgers countered with a single (Butler), a walk (Kal Daniels), a pair of wild pitches and a runner-advancing groundout, but came out of it without a run. Houston struck in the fourth, starting with an Ortiz single and a Candaele double. Cedeno reached on a Harris error that brought in the tying run. Bowen hit the world's least productive sac bunt (lead runner stays at third, trail runner moves to second), and Biggio then singled two runs home to put Houston in front.

The team wasn't done yet, however. Steve Finley fouled out to the catcher... and Biggio tagged up and took second on the play, to be driven home by a Bagwell single a batter later. Ojeda was pulled in favor of Tim Crews, who retired Caminiti to end the inning with the score at 5-2.

The Dodgers responded without delay, picking up a run in the home fourth on singles by Mike Scioscia and Jose Offerman, a pinch walk to Dave Hansen, and a Butler sacrifice fly. In the fifth, Simms led off with a double and moved to third on a foulout to first base; an intentional walk later, Cedeno grounded to second and Simms was thrown out at home. A wild pitch put runners on the corners, but Bowen was at the plate and hit into a force to end the inning. LA then tied the score at 5 on a Daniels single and a Darryl Strawberry homer. Bowen also allowed a single to Murray before being pulled, and Jimmy Jones (whose name is making it very tempting to use a "freaky fast delivery" joke) retired the next three Dodgers to keep the tie intact.

Gott was perfect in the sixth, while Jones allowed a leadoff single to Stan Javier and saw him advance on each of the next two outs before leaving him at third. Roger McDowell took the mound in the seventh, and with two outs, Ortiz homered to put the Astros in front. Rob Mallicoat relieved, walked Strawberry and gave up a double to Murray in the home seventh, but Mallicoat then whiffed Juan Samuel, and Curt Schilling relieved and retired pinch hitters Gary Carter and Mitch Webster to end the inning.

McDowell threw a 1-2-3 eighth; Schilling did not. Butler walked and Harris singled with one out, and after Daniels struck out, Schilling threw a wild pitch, then walked Strawberry to load the bases. Al Osuna was called in and promptly walked Murray on four pitches to force in the tying run. Dwayne Henry then retired Samuel to at least mitigate the damage.

The Astros pulled ahead again in the ninth, as Bagwell and Caminiti singled with one out against John Candelaria to put runners at the corners and Rafael Ramirez hit a sacrifice fly to make it 7-6. But Carter led off the bottom of the ninth with a homer to retie the game. Henry allowed only a bunt hit to Butler for the rest of the inning, sending the contest to extras.

Jay Howell hit Luis Gonzalez with a pitch in the tenth, but left him on, and in the bottom of the inning, still facing Henry, the Dodgers put together a Kevin Gross single, a Strawberry walk, and a Murray single to bring home the winning run.

The Dodgers and Astros were both rather unusual teams in 1991. The Astros had a lineup that would have been pretty well-suited to win a pennant in 1996; the Dodgers had one that seemed custom-designed for 1986. (To be fair, the Dodgers were also a very good team in 1991, finishing 93-69 and only one game back of the Braves. But that was mostly on the strength of a pitching staff that allowed the fewest runs in the league.)

In this game, the 1986 All Stars proved to be enough for LA; Gary Carter hit the 319th (and sixth-to-last) home run of his career to tie the game in the ninth, and Eddie Murray (who unlike Carter had several years left, but also was clearly not what he once had been) had four hits and drove in four runs, including the game-winner.

And they needed every bit of it. In this game, the Dodgers blew a lead of 2-0, and rallied from deficits of 5-2, 6-5 (in the eighth), and 7-6 (in the ninth) before winning in extras. They did that despite going 3 for 19 with runners in scoring position. That adds up to a WPL of 6.39; that's a total that is exceeded with some regularity in much longer games, but it is the fourth-highest WPL I have on record for a game of 10 innings or less (in a database that includes eight full seasons - well, seven full seasons and 3/4 of 1991 so far - plus every postseason game and All-Star game). And that's without accounting for the excellent performances from great and once-great players, not to mention the fact that multiple Astros tagged and advanced on infield foulouts.

Which is to say: this would have been a really fun baseball game to attend.

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