Saturday, August 6, 2016

Game of the Day (8/6/91)

Phillies 6, Cubs 2 (11). Chicago's Rick Sutcliffe was a former Cy Young winner. Philadelphia's Bruce Ruffin hadn't posted an ERA+ better than 81 since 1987. But in 1991, both of them were basically average pitchers.

Ruffin allowed a single to Mark Grace in the top of the first, but left him on. The Phillies rallied seriously in the bottom of the first, starting with a one-out walk to Darren Daulton. Wes Chamberlain singled, and John Kruk's groundout moved the runners to second and third. Sutcliffe then walked Dale Murphy to load the bases before striking out Charlie Hayes to strand all three men. Luis Salazar doubled and was left on in the visiting second, and the Phillies opened the scoring in the bottom half, as Mickey Morandini singled and Dickie Thon doubled him home. Ruffin walked, and one out later, Daulton singled to load the bases. Sutcliffe rallied, striking out Chamberlain and Kruk to end the rally.

Chicago evened things in the third, as Chico Walker walked, Grace singled, Ryne Sandberg walked to load the bases, and Andre Dawson hit a sacrifice fly. And in the bottom of the inning, Sutcliffe was relieved by Steve Wilson. I'm not entirely sure why. If he was injured, it can't have been serious, because he would make his next start on August 11. And if it was because he wasn't pitching well, you'd think the Cubs would have hit for him leading off the top of the third. At a guess, he took a weird step while running out his flyout and was pulled as a precaution. But I can't easily find a recap of the game to confirm.

Anyway, Steve Wilson's stint in relief got off to a bad start, as Murphy greeted him with a double. But the following hitters went groundout-popup-intentional walk-strikeout of Ruffin, and Murphy remained at second. Shawon Dunston's single made him the only hitter to reach for either side in the fourth. Grace and Kruk both singled in the fifth, and both were erased on double plays. Dawson led off the sixth with a single and was still anchored to first when the inning ended; Wilson set the Phils down 1-2-3 in the bottom of the frame, and Ruffin was flawless in the top of the seventh.

Chuck McElroy relieved Wilson and recorded two quick outs in the bottom of the seventh; he then walked both Chamberlain and Kruk before whiffing Murphy to end the threat. With one out in the top of the eighth, Sandberg singled and Dawson walked; Ruffin was then pulled for Mike Hartley, who induced George Bell to line into a double play. McElroy worked around Thon's two-out single in the home eighth.

Joe Boever relieved for Philly in the top of the ninth and allowed a one-out single to Dunston, who promptly stole second. With two outs, Dunston moved to third on a wild pitch, and pinch hitter Dwight Smith then doubled to score him with the go-ahead run. Smith stole third on ball four to Walker, but Wally Ritchie relieved and retired Grace to keep the game within a run. It got even closer immediately thereafter, as Lenny Dykstra homered on Paul Assenmacher's first pitch in the bottom of the ninth, tying the game at 2. Assenmacher allowed only a walk for the remainder of the inning, sending the game to extras.

Ritchie walked Bell with two outs in the tenth and left him on. Assenmacher gave up a leadoff single to Hayes and saw him advance as far as third before being stranded. Mitch Williams relieved in the top of the eleventh and pitched like Mitch Williams; he walked Dunston (not an easy thing to do), allowed him to steal second, and hit Rick Wiklins with a pitch, but then retired the next three hitters to maintain the tie.

Les Lancaster assumed pitching duties for the home eleventh and quickly got into trouble. Dykstra greeted him with a walk, and moved to third on Daulton's single. Chamberlain struck out, and Kruk was intentionally walked to load the bases.

At that point, the Phillies just needed Murphy to do anything but strike out or hit a hard ground ball right at someone, and they would win the game. He did not strike out, and he did not hit a hard ground ball right at someone. Instead, he homered, ending the game in rather more emphatic fashion than was strictly necessary.

Dale Murphy was an excellent baseball player who hit many home runs in his career - 398, to be exact. But 1991 was the last season in which he was even a passable major league hitter, and as such, this was the seventh-to-last home run he would hit in the majors.

He chose a pretty impressive time to hit it. Coming into this game, Murphy had just four walkoff home runs, and four grand slams. Leaving it, he had five of each.

Not bad, as they say, for an old guy.

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