Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Game of the Day (8/30/91)

A's 6, Tigers 3 (10). Detroit's Frank Tanana had once been great, but was now 37 years old and had less than 400 innings left. Oakland's Ron Darling had never really been great, but he had been very good. At age 30, he predictably had more time left than Tanana - but not that much more, as he would be out of the league after about 650 post-'91 innings.

Darling was perfect in the first; Tanana was decidedly otherwise, as he gave up a leadoff homer to Rickey Henderson. Jose Canseco also singled, but was erased on a double play. Brook Jacoby's double made him the only player to reach in the second, and the Tigers then tied the game in the third when Pete Incaviglia led off with a solo shot.

Tanana was flawless in the home third, and both pitchers allowed walks in the fourth (Mickey Tettleton and Lloyd Moseby in the top of the inning, Jacoby in the bottom), but no hits or runs. Another pair of Tigers walked in the fifth (Milt Cuyler and Lou Whitaker), but both men were left on, and Tanana then threw a 1-2-3 frame.

Cecil Fielder walked to begin the sixth, and Tettleton finally made Darling pay for his lack of control, hitting a go-ahead two-run homer. Henderson responded with his second leadoff shot of the game in the bottom of the inning, pulling the A's within 3-2. Steinbach would single later in the sixth and be left on. Darling walked both Whitaker and Alan Trammell in the top of the seventh, and was relieved by Gene Nelson, who stranded both runners. Tanana walked Mark McGwire and gave up a single to Harold Baines in the bottom of the seventh, and was pulled for Dan Gakeler, who retired Henderson to leave the tying run in scoring position.

Moseby doubled and was stranded in the eighth, and in the bottom of the inning, Canseco's one-out homer tied the game at 3. Gakeler was removed after walking Steinbach and McGwire, and Jerry Don Gleaton ended the inning. Rick Honeycutt worked the top of the ninth and allowed a single and a walk, but Cuyler was caught stealing before Phillips reached. Gleaton walked Mike Gallego in the home ninth, but erased him on a double play to send the game to extras.

Dennis Eckersley threw a 1-2-3 tenth. Canseco singled with one out in the bottom of the inning, then stole second and third. Jacoby was intentionally walked with two outs, and up next was... McGwire.

Mark McGwire did not have a very good year with the bat in 1991 - but Brook Jacoby had a worse one, and the two of them hit from the same side, so there was no platoon advantage gained by putting Jacoby on. And even in a season-long slump, McGwire was still a dangerous man - as he proved here. launching a 1-2 pitch over the left-center field fence for a walkoff three-run homer.

The Tigers and A's may or may not have done this on purpose, but they had the two most Moneyball batting orders of 1991. The A's were 13th in the 14-team AL in batting average, but had the second-most walks and fourth-most homers, and therefore ended up with the fifth-most runs in the league despite playing in an extreme pitcher's park. The Tigers were even more skewed - they had the only batting average lower than Oakland's, but led the AL in both walks and homers, which pushed them to score the second-most runs in the league.

So in a closely-contested game between these two teams, it makes a certain amount of sense that all nine of the runs scored came courtesy of six home runs - and that two of the three baserunners who trotted home in front of those homers reached via the base on balls.

It was something of a preview to the next 15 years of baseball - and as such, it's rather appropriate that two of the key players in the game were Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire.

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