Monday, August 1, 2016

Game of the Day (8/1/91)

Royals 6, Brewers 5 (11), KC's Mike Boddicker made over 300 starts in his career. Milwaukee's Jim Hunter made six. But hey, a third of Hunter's starts were Games of their respective Days, and I'm fairly confident that Boddicker can't say that...

Hunter allowed singles to George Brett and Jim Eisenreich in the top of the first, but left them both on. The Brewers then jumped into the lead when Darryl Hamilton tripled and Robin Yount singled him home, and extended that advantage on Candy Maldonado's subsequent two-run homer. Boddicker also allowed a double to BJ Surhoff and walked Franklin Stubbs before settling down to end the inning on a double play ball from Jim Gantner.

Kurt Stillwell's single in the top of the second made him the only player to reach in either half of the inning, and he was quickly eliminated on a double play ball. Hamilton and Yount started the bottom of the third with singles, but a K/CS double play took care of Hamilton, and Yount would be left at second.

Kansas City broke through in the fourth when Brett doubled and Todd Benzinger singled him home, but Milwaukee responded in the bottom of the inning on a home run by Stubbs. Undeterred, the Royals loaded the bases with nobody out in the fifth, thanks to walks by Terry Shumpert and Kirk Gibson sandwiched around a Brian McRae single. Brett then hit into a double play, bringing in one run but cutting down on the possibility for more.

Milwaukee had a chance to extend the lead again in the home fifth, as Yount singled, Maldonado walked, and Surhoff singled. But Yount was caught stealing immediately after his hit, and the other two runners would be left at the corners once Mike Magnante relieved Boddicker. Benzinger led off the sixth by reaching on an error, and a wild pitch and a walk later, Hunter was pulled for Chuck Crim, who retired the next three Royals to strand both runners. Magnante allowed three baserunners in the bottom of the inning (singles by Gantner and Paul Molitor and a walk to Spiers), but escaped largely because Gantner was caught stealing before the other two reached.

The top of the seventh was identical to the top of the first, as Brett and Eisenreich both singled with two outs (against Julio Machado this time) and were left on. Magnante was flawless in the home seventh, and the game passed into the eighth inning with the score still 4-2 in Milwaukee's favor.

That changed quickly. With one out, Machado allowed a double to Stillwell. Brent Mayne was then called in to pinch hit, and launched a game-tying two-run homer. Machado set the next two hitters down, and Tom Gordon worked around a Gantner single in the home eighth. Doug Henry replaced Machado after Gibson led off the ninth with a walk; he would walk two more hitters to load the bases before stranding all three runners. Molitor led off the home ninth with a single and would advance to third before being left there, sending the game to extras tied at 4.

Henry allowed a McRae single in the top of the tenth, and Gordon worked around hits from Gantner and Willie Randolphn in the bottom of the inning. Darren Holmes relieved in the eleventh and was greeted by a leadoff homer from Brett. KC added an insurance run when Benzinger and Bill Pecota singled, Stillwell reached on an error to load the bases, and Mayne hit an RBI groundout. And that run proved necessary in the bottom of the inning, as Jeff Montgomery walked Hamilton, allowed a single to Dante Bichette, saw Maldonado reach on an error, and coaxed a game-tying forceout from Surhoff before finally whiffing Stubbs to end it.

George Brett was not a young man in 1991. The year before, he had won the last of his three batting titles, but in '91 his average tumbled 74 points to .255, and would not recover past .300 before the end of his career two years later. His home run power, which was never really his strongest point anyway, was almost completely gone; he would hit only ten homers in 1991. But the one he hit in this game, the 288th of the 317 he would hit in his career, broke an extra-inning tie and helped the Royals take home the win.

Contrariwise, Brent Mayne WAS a young man in 1991, having turned 23 in April. He would certainly never be the hitter that Brett was, but he would go on to a distinguished 15-year catching career. And the game-tying home run he cracked as a pinch hitter in the eighth? It was his first in the big leagues, and it could hardly have come at a better time.

So I suppose you could see this game as a passing of the torch. Not from George Brett to Brent Mayne, exactly, because Mayne was never really any kind of torch-bearing player and left the Royals about a third of the way into his career anyway. But more from an era when the Royals were consistently competitive to one in which they were... otherwise.

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