Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Game of the Day (8/2/91)

Phillies 6, Expos 5 (11). The Phillies started Danny Cox, who had fairly recently returned to the majors after a two-year absence. The Expos responded with Dennis Martinez, who had very recently thrown a perfect game. So... not the most even of matchups.

Naturally, it was Martinez who gave up the game's first run, as Wes Chamberlain walked and John Kruk doubled him home in the top of the first. No further scoring occurred in the next four half-innings (despite a Charlie Hayes single in the top of the second and a Tim Wallach double in the bottom), but Montreal tied it in the third when Bret Barberie led off with a home run.

Philadelphia pulled ahead again in the top of the fourth when Chamberlain led off with a triple and scored on a wild pitch. The Expos waited less time to retie the score, as Larry Walker homered with two outs in the home half of the inning, but a Lenny Dykstra double and a Darren Daulton single put the Phils in front once more in the fifth.

Cox allowed singles to Barberie and Delino DeShields in the bottom of the fifth, but the former erased on a double play before the latter batted, so nobody reached scoring position. Martinez was perfect in the sixth, however, and the Expos came back yet again in the bottom of that inning when Marquis Grissom singled, stole second, and came home on a hit by Ivan Calderon to tie the game at 3.

Once again, the Phillies pulled ahead, this time on a homer by Dickie Thon in the top of the seventh - and in the bottom of the inning, Barberie went deep off of Wally Ritchie to even the score once more. Scott Ruskin relieved Martinez in the top of the eighth and allowed a single to Chamberlain and a walk to Kruk, Barry Jones then replaced him and recorded the second out; Hayes followed with a single, but Chamberlain was thrown out trying to score on the play, ending the inning. Joe Boever took the mound in the bottom of the eighth and gave up a go-ahead homer to Calderon, putting Montreal in front for the first time in the game.

Jeff Fassero took the mound in the ninth hoping to preserve that newfound lead. His efforts got off to a poor start, with a walk to pinch hitter Randy Ready and a single by Thon putting the tying run at third. One out later, Dykstra singled Ready home to even the game at 5. Fassero recorded the remaining two outs with no further drama, which game the fans a nice break before Mitch Williams, the human incarnation of late-inning drama, relieved in the home ninth. Williams walked Gil Reyes with one out, then allowed pinch runner Eric Bullock to steal second and third before striking out Barberie and Andres Galarraga to send the game to extras.

Kruk led off the tenth with a single and advanced to third on a pair of outs before being left there. Williams then walked DeShields to begin the bottom of the inning and balked him to second, but retired the next three Expos. The third of those was a pinch hitter, meaning that Mel Rojas relieved Fassero in the eleventh - and his fifth pitch was tagged for a solo homer by Thon. Rojas gave up only a walk in the remainder of the inning, but Mike Hartley threw a 1-2-3 home eleventh to end the game with the Phils in front.

Dickie Thon was never a particularly prolific power hitter; he managed double-digit homers in only two of his 15 major league seasons, and his 71 total homers mean he hit about one every 69 plate appearances. His pair of homers in this game made it one of only six multi-homer games he would have in his career, and the tiebreaker in the eleventh was one of his two extra-inning shots.

And yet, Thon's multi-jack job wasn't even the least likely in this game. Bret Barberie lasted six years in the majors (of which 1991 was the first), and averaged about 280 PA per year. His career high in home runs was 5. He would hit a total of 16 home runs, less than one every 100 plate appearances. This was the only multi-homer game of his career - and not only was it composed of the first two home runs of his career, but they were also the only two he would hit in the 1991 season.

I'm not going to try approximating the odds of both of those players hitting two homers in the same game. Let's just go with "absurdly low," and add in the fact that it occurred in an extra-inning game in which the scoring margin was never more than one, meaning that it involved five separate comebacks...

Yeah, this is a fun one.

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