Friday, August 26, 2016

Game of the Day (8/26/91)

Mariners 5, Brewers 4 (14). By the standards of pitchers who spent 13 years in the major leagues, Seattle's Bill Krueger is rather anonymous. He pitched just under 1200 innings in his career, splitting his 301 appearances fairly evenly between starting and relief. He qualified for the ERA title only twice. 1991 was probably his best season, featuring 175 innings pitched, a 3.60 ERA that was 14% better than the park-adjusted league average, and a career-high 11 wins. If that's your best season, you're not just flying under the radar; you're flying stealth.

And yet, Krueger was far more notorious than his opponent. Milwaukee's Mike Ignasiak was making the first start of a career in which he would pitch less than 150 innings, most of them out of the Brewer bullpen and many of them rather ineffective.

Little-known decade-long pitchers suddenly look much better when they're compared to the dozens of pitchers with much shorter careers. And the hundreds of pitchers who never make the majors, and the thousands who never play professionally...

The Brewers grabbed the early lead in the top of the first. Paul Molitor led off the game with a single, stole second, and came the rest of the way around on hits by Willie Randolph and Robin Yount. Greg Vaughn then walked to load the bases, and Dale Sveum singled Randolph home. Dante Bichette whiffed for the first out, and Jim Gantner added a sacrifice fly before the inning finally ended.

Harold Reynolds singled and stole second in the home first; he then moved to third on a flyout, only to be picked off. Randolph doubled and Yount walked in the second, but Krueger stranded both of them; Ignasiak did the same to Pete O'Brien, who led off the bottom of the inning with a base on balls. Krueger was perfect in the third; Ignasiak walked Omar Vizquel and allowed a single to Greg Briley, but coaxed a double play from Reynolds to escape.

Krueger was flawless again in the fourth, and this time the Mariners didn't let Ignasiak off the hook. O'Brien and Tino Martinez drew one-out walks, and Jay Buhner tripled to score both of them. Dave Cochrane walked as well, ending Ignasiak's outing; Julio Machado relieved and allowed a game-tying RBI single to Vizquel before inducing an inning-ending double play.

Randolph led off the fifth with a single, but was erased on a K/CS double play. The bottom of the inning followed an identical sequence, with Greg Briley as the man who hit the single and was cut down. Krueger then worked a 1-2-3 sixth, and Martinez broke the tie in the bottom of the inning with a solo homer.

Having been wildly effective for the last four innings, Krueger finally cracked in the top of the seventh, allowing singles to Rick Dempsey and Bill Spiers before being pulled. Michael Jackson walked Molitor to load the bases, and Randolph hit into a run-scoring force, tying the game. Yount then flied to center, and Spiers tagged up - and was thrown out at home, ending the inning.

Machado kept the bases clear in the seventh, as did Jackson in the eighth. The home eighth was split between Machado and Mark Lee, but was just as runnerless as the two half-innings that preceded it. In the top of the ninth, Rob Murphy gave up one-out singles to BJ Surhoff and Spiers, putting runners at the corners; Bill Swift relieved and got Molitor to ground into an out at home, then retired Randolph to keep the tie intact. Lee combined with Chuck Crim on a scoreless home ninth to send the game to extras.

The additional innings began quietly, as both Swift and Crim worked 1-2-3 tenths. Russ Swan gave up a leadoff hit to Darryl Hamilton in the eleventh and saw him move around to third, but no further, and Crim kept the Mariners from reaching again in the home half of the inning. Molitor began the twelfth with a walk, was bunted to second and took third on a flyout before being left there. Crim had a bit more trouble than he had previously, walking Edgar Martinez and giving up a pinch single to Scott Bradley, but left the runners at first and second.

A Surhoff single and a Spiers walk in the top of the thirteenth ended Swan's outing, and Mike Schooler retired Molitor to end the threat. Doug Henry walked Ken Griffey Jr. in the home thirteenth, but allowed nothing else. Schooler set the Brewers down in order in the fourteenth, and in the bottom of the inning, Edgar Martinez walked, Vizquel doubled him to third, Bradley was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Briley hit a sacrifice fly that brought Edgar home with the winning run.

This game was a fairly early example of what you might call a modern pitcher's duel. One team got eight innings of four-hit shutout ball; their opponents had 10.1 innings of six-hit, two-run pitching. But rather than coming from the starters, both of whom were hit around fairly soundly, those are the joint pitching lines of the two bullpens. (The pitching was less impressive than it was effective; it was helped along by five double plays, some of which were rather inventive. Seattle hit into conventional ground ball double plays to end the third and fourth innings - but in the fifth, both teams had strikeout/caught stealing double plays, and in the top of the seventh, the Brewers had a runner thrown out trying to score on what would have been a sacrifice fly had he been successful.)

So here's an odd thing about this game. The Mariners came back to tie this game in the fourth inning. From that point on, the Brewers had nine at bats with runners in scoring position. The Mariners had one - and did not get a hit; Greg Briley grounded out to end the inning with two runners on in the twelfth.

And the Mariners still won the game, on the strength of a solo homer in the sixth and a rally in the fourteenth in which a double put runners at second and third, and the next two hitters were not credited with at bats (IBB, sacrifice fly). That, plus a complete dearth of timely hitting on Milwaukee's side, proved to be just enough.

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