Thursday, August 18, 2016

Game of the Day (8/18/91)

Cubs 7, Phillies 6 (10). Philadelphia's Danny Cox faced Chicago's Danny Jackson in a rematch of Game 5 of the 1985 World Series.

Jackson started the game by walking both Braulio Castillo and Randy Ready. Which came back to haunt him quickly, as the next batter was Wes Chamberlain, who launched a 3-run homer. Cox also gave up a homer to the third batter of the first inning, but he had retired the previous two Cubs, so Ryne Sandberg's longball was of the solo variety. The Phillies got that run right back in the top of the second, as Dickie Thon walked, Castillo reached on an error, and Ready singled Thon home. Chamberlain then walked to load the bases, ending Jackson's day very early, and Shawn Boskie struck out Ricky Jordan to end the inning.

Cox was perfect in the second, and Boskie allowed only a Darren Daulton single in the top of the third. Jose Vizcaino led off the home third with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch and third on a groundout, but was left there. Boskie threw a 1-2-3 fourth, and in the bottom of the inning, Sandberg led off with a double and came around in front of Dwight Smith's two-out, two-run homer, which pulled the Cubs within 4-3.

Boskie walked Chamberlain to start the fifth, but erased him on a double play, and nobody else got on for either team in the inning. Thon reached on an error with two outs in the sixth, prompting the Phillies to hit for Cox; pinch hitter John Morris grounded out, and the Cubs struck quickly against reliever Mike Hartley in the bottom of the inning. Sandberg was hit by a pitch with one out, Andre Dawson singled, and George Bell was plunked as well to load the bases. Smith struck out, but with Rick Wilkins at the plate, Hartley uncorked a wild pitch that brought in the tying run. Wilkins walked to reload the bases, and Vizcaino followed with a go-ahead two-run single. Wally Ritchie then relieved and ended the inning.

Castillo greeted Les Lancaster with a single in the seventh, but was promptly caught stealing. Sandberg singled as well in the bottom of the inning and was left on. Lancaster was pulled after Charlie Hayes's two-out hit in the eighth, with Chuck McElroy inducing a Daulton groundout to end the inning. Ritchie was flawless in the bottom of the eighth, giving his team one more chance at the two-run deficit.

Thon led off the ninth with a single, and pinch hitter Lenny Dykstra followed with a double, chasing McElroy from the game and putting the tying runs in scoring position. Paul Assenmacher induced a groundout from pinch hitter John Kruk, which kept the runners in place. Ready flied to center, scoring Thon and halving the deficit, but also putting his team one out from defeat. Chamberlain was up next, and grounded to third... where Vizcaino misplayed the ball into an error that allowed the tying run to score. Assenmacher sensibly decided not to rely on his defense any longer, and struck out Jordan to end the inning; Mitch Williams then set the Cubs down in order to bring on extras.

Assenmacher tossed a spotless top of the tenth. With one out in the bottom of the inning, Sandberg singled; he stole second once there were two away. Shawon Dunston followed with a single that brought Sandberg home with the winning run.

The Cubs probably should have lost this game. Their starter didn't make it out of the second inning, which is generally a bad sign. Their bullpen pitched well... for a while, until a badly-timed fielding-aided meltdown cost them their hard-won lead. And yet, their lineup chipped away at the Philly advantage all game, erasing the early deficit, building a lead sufficient to survive the late pitching collapse, and finishing it off in extras.

The key to all of that was more narratively satisfying than usual: Ryne Sandberg, who did just about everything you can do in this game. He homered in the first inning, doubled and scored in the fourth, was hit by a pitch and scored in the sixth, and single, stole second and scored in the tenth. The Cubs scored runs in four different innings in this game, and Sandberg scored the first run in every one of them.

If you have that kind of game often enough, they put you in the Hall of Fame. Sandberg, it would seem, had that kind of game often enough.

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