Friday, August 5, 2016

Game of the Day (8/5/91)

Astros 2, Padres 1 (12). Houston's Pete Harnisch and San Diego's Greg Harris were both having excellent years. It was Harris's first time as a full-time starter, and Harnisch's first time posting an ERA better than league average, and both were young enough that their production could have been taken as a highly promising sign. Neither pitcher would ever really be a star, but both ended up with creditable careers.

Both pitchers were perfect through two innings. Harnisch allowed a double to Darrin Jackson in the top of the third and walked Tony Gwynn in the fourth, but nobody scored until Houston tallied a run in the home fourth. Jeff Bagwell and Luis Gonzalez both hit two-out singles, putting runners at the corners, and with Ken Caminiti at the plate, Padre catcher Benito Santiago tried picking Gonzalez off of first. His throw was off target, allowing Bagwell to come home and open the scoring.

Jerald Clark led off the top of the fifth with a double, and one out later, Jackson reached on an infield hit with Clark holding at second. A groundout moved the runners to second and third, but Harnisch stranded them there. The next two half innings were baserunner-free. Craig Biggio broke the string of outs with a two-out double in the home sixth, but was left at second. Harnisch walked Jack Howell to lead off the seventh, then struck out the next three Padres he faced.

Harris quickly notched the first two outs in the bottom of the seventh; the third proved somewhat harder to come by. Mike Simms singled and was lifted for pinch runner Gerald Young; Young promptly moved around to third on a steal-and-error. Andujar Cedeno then walked and stole second, and Casey Candaele was intentionally walked to load the bases. Jose Tolentino was summoned to hit for Harnisch (which is enough to almost make you wonder whether the Padres went through all this just to get Houston's starter out of the game) and grounded out to end the inning.

Houston's selection from the bullpen was Curt Schilling, who of course would go on to a pretty respectable career. Pinch hitter Phil Stephenson greeted Schilling with a single, but Tim Teufel then hit into a double play. Steve Finley reached on a bunt hit against Padre reliever Mike Maddux in the home eighth, and advanced to third on a steal and a flyout, but Maddux and Rich Rodriguez retired the next two hitters to leave him there.

The Astros would soon regret missing that chance to pad their lead. Gwynn doubled to begin the ninth, and two outs later, Clark and Thomas Howard both singled, bringing him around with the tying run. Rodriguez was flawless in the home ninth, sending the game to extras.

Dean Wilkins had come on to record the last out of the top of the ninth, and remained in the game for the tenth. He walked pinch hitter Kevin Ward to start the inning, and saw him advance a base on each of two outs. Tony Gwynn was then awarded an intentional walk, and Wilkins retired Benito Santiago to end the inning. Jose Melendez worked around a pinch single from Javier Ortiz in the bottom of the tenth to keep the game going. Dwayne Henry relieved in the top of the eleventh and gave up a leadoff hit to Howell, but Clark promptly hit into a double play. Mark Davidson singled in the home eleventh and was stranded by Melendez.

Henry set the Padres down in order in the top of the twelfth, and Larry Andersen took the mound in the bottom of the inning. He quickly recorded the first two outs, but then gave up a pinch single to Rafael Ramirez. Things escalated quickly from there, as Finley singled as well. Andersen got ahead 1-2 on Biggio; the Houston catcher then fouled off a few pitches before singling, bringing Ramirez home with the winning run.

This is a good game, and the ending is part of what makes it that way; a walkoff hit from a young star against a veteran stalwart is generally going to be an entertaining outcome. But it was almost MUCH cooler.

Because if Ramirez had been held at third on Biggio's single, the bases would have been loaded with two outs in a tie game... and Jeff Bagwell, who the Astros had acquired about 11 months earlier, would have faced Larry Andersen, who had been traded by the Astros about 11 months earlier for Jeff Bagwell.

That would have been amazing. As it was, the ending was merely your garden variety twelfth-inning walkoff.

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