Saturday, August 27, 2016

Game of the Day (8/27/91)

Cardinals 5, Giants 4. San Francisco started John Burkett, a young right-hander whose career looks very light on strikeouts by present-day standards (5.7 K/9 in 1991, 6.0 over the course of his 15-year career). St. Louis opposed him with Bob Tewksbury, who was significantly less K-prone even than Burkett, or basically any other successful pitcher from Tewksbury's time or ours: 3/5 K/9 in '91, 4.0 for his career.

The Giants got off to a very quick start. Willie McGee and Robby Thompson opened the top of the first with singles. Will Clark then hit a ground-rule double, scoring McGee. Two sacrifice flies later, the Giants led 3-0 and the bases were clear.

Burkett was perfect in the bottom of the first. Tewksbury worked around a Jose Uribe single in the second; Burkett also gave up only one hit, but it was a Milt Thompson solo homer, putting St. Louis on the board.

Clark's double in the third made him the only runner to reach in the inning, and the same was true of Ozzie Smith's single in the home fourth. The fifth inning brought rather more action to the table. Robby Thompson tripled with two outs in the top half and was left on. Milt Thompson then led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but was caught stealing while Rich Gedman struck out. However, Jose Oquendo drew a walk, and Tewksbury then doubled him home. After a wild pitch, a walk, a steal, and another walk, the bases were loaded (and had become so without any two of the runners on base having reached or advanced on the same play), and Todd Zeile's single then scored both Tewksbury and Ray Lankford, putting the Cardinals in front 4-3.

The game calmed again quickly in the sixth, as Felix Jose's single in the home half of the inning made him its only baserunner, and he was later caught stealing. Uribe walked in the top of the seventh, only to be erased on a double play; Don Robinson then relieved Burkett and worked a 1-2-3 inning.

San Francisco broke its lengthy scoring drought in the top of the eighth when Darren Lewis tripled and Robby Thompson singled him home. That also ended Tewksbury's day; Bob McClure struck out Clark, with Thompson getting caught stealing on strike 3, and Scott Terry caught Kevin Mitchell looking to end the inning. Robinson remained on the mound for the home eighth, and quickly got into trouble, allowing singles to Smith and Zeile. A forceout moved Smith to third, and Jose then brought him home with a tiebreaking sacrifice fly.

Lee Smith was called on for the top of the ninth. He recorded a prompt out, but then gave up hits to Kevin Bass and pinch hitter Tom Herr. Uribe reached on an error, loading the bases with one out. Smith then struck out pinch hitter Terry Kennedy on three pitches; Lewis made him work far harder, getting to 2-2 and fouling off several offerings, but on the eighth pitch of the at bat, Smith struck him out as well to end the game.

You can break this game down pretty simply: both starting pitchers lasted long enough that their bullpens had two innings of work to do, and both gave up four runs. The Cardinals split their two relief innings between three men, with Bob McClure and Scott Terry facing a batter apiece and then Lee Smith eking out a one-inning save. The Giants gave theirs to one pitcher - and after a 1-2-3 seventh, Don Robinson gave up the game-losing run in the eighth.

So if you really want to know why fans get to sit through a pitching change every other hitter in late-and-close situations these days... blame Don Robinson.

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