Monday, August 8, 2016

Game of the Day (8/8/91)

Tigers 4, Blue Jays 0 (14). Detroit's Bill Gullickson was on the way to the only 20-win season of his decade-plus MLB career. Toronto's Tom Candiotti had managed to escape the dreadful Indians in a midseason trade; despite rather similar overall performances for teams of wildly varying quality, he somehow managed to post both a winning record in Cleveland and a losing record with the division-winning Jays, ending up at 13-13.

Despite the difference in their records, Candiotti's seasonal ERA was over a run lower than Gullickson's. Go figure.

Candiotti's knuckleball spent the top of the first making Toronto catcher Greg Myers seriously question his life choices. Strike three to Tiger leadoff hitter Milt Cuyler escaped, requiring the out to be completed with a throw to first. Lou Whitaker struck out in more routine fashion, but Dave Bergman then worked a two-out walk. Cecil Fielder fanned as well, and this time Myers's failure to corral the elusive knuckler allowed Fielder to reach first. Another passed ball moved the runners to second and third, and Mickey Tettleton drew a walk to load the bases before Travis Fryman flied out, depriving Candiotti of a chance to strike out four batters in an inning. Gullickson's first inning looked comparatively routine, despite featuring a leadoff double from Devon White.

The top of the second saw two more strikeouts (including another 2-3 job), a walk to Rob Deer, a bunt hit by Cuyler, and a flyout by Whitaker that left runners at first and second. Gullickson was perfect in the bottom of the inning, while Candiotti had a more straightforward third inning, working around a Fielder single. White was hit by a pitch and stole second in the home third before being left on.

Neither team put a runner on in the fourth, and Candiotti kept the bases clear in the fifth as well (despite needing yet another strikeout to be completed via throw to first). Rance Mulliniks led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and was forced at second on Myers's grounder. Rob Ducey then singled, but Myers was thrown out trying for third on a play, completing a rather innovative sequence of one player being responsible for two outs on two separate plays; Manuel Lee's groundout then brought the inning to a close.

Tettleton doubled in the top of the sixth, and Joe Carter singled in the home half of the inning, but neither man moved past the original base they reached. Scott Livingstone (I presume) and Kelly Gruber both singled in the seventh, and once again neither team managed to advance its runner.

Candiotti was pulled to begin the eighth inning, and Bob Macdonald and David Weathers combined on a 1-2-3 effort. Gullickson recorded the first out in the home seventh, then walked White and gave up a single to Roberto Alomar. Mike Henneman relieved and stranded the runners at first and second. In the top of the ninth, Weathers walked Fryman, Deer, and Cuyler to load the bases with two outs, and Jim Acker was summoned to retire Whitaker and maintain the scoreless tie; Henneman also got into some trouble, allowing singles to Myers and Ducey with two away, but got out of the inning on his own and sent the game into extras.

Acker allowed a Tettleton single and walked Fryman in the top of the tenth, but left both men on; Alomar singled against Jerry Don Gleaton in the bottom of the inning and was stranded as well. A Tony Phillips walk in the eleventh was countered when Cuyler hit into a double play; Gleaton had a bit more trouble in the bottom half courtesy of singles from a pair of Pats (Tabler and Borders), but the inning ended with the runners still on first and second. Lou Whitaker's leadoff single in the top of the twelfth made him the only hitter on either team to reach.

Tom Henke, who had come on for the last out of the top of the twelfth, was spotless in the thirteenth. Paul Gibson gave up a single to Gruber and walked Borders in the bottom of the inning, but left the runners at first and second. And in the top of the fourteenth, the game finally broke. Cuyler doubled with one out, and Whitaker was intentionally walked.

Up to the plate stepped pinch hitter Mark Salas. Salas worked a full count and hit a few foul balls; then, on the ninth pitch of the at bat, he homered, bringing home the game's first three runs. One out later, Tettleton homered as well to make it 4-0. Gibson gave up an Alomar single in the bottom of the inning, but nothing else, and the game came to a close.

Mark Salas had his moments in the majors, certainly. He played in parts of eight seasons, the best of which was 1985, in which he was a semi-regular catcher for the Twins and hit .300/.332/.458. His career tailed off from that promising start, however, and 1991 was clearly destined to be his last season. In extremely limited duty entering this game, Salas had hit .067/.104/.089, which is especially bad considering he spent a significant fraction of his minimal playing time at DH.

By contrast, Tom Henke was at or near the peak of his considerable relief pitching powers in 1991, the leading man in arguably baseball's leading bullpen. Despite the formidable opposition, Salas worked through a lengthy plate appearance and produced the last of his 38 career home runs - and the second-to-last of his 319 career hits. It was also the only extra-inning home run of Salas's career... and the second homer he had hit against Tom Henke,

Here is the list of batters who hit more than one home run against Tom Henke (note that all of them had exactly two homers - nobody got to Henke three or more times):

Don Mattingly
Dave Winfield
Mark McGwire
Eddie Murray
Fred Lynn
Kirk Gibson
Mickey Tettleton (who also hit one of them in this game)
Mark Salas

That is a whole bunch of terrific hitters... and Mark Salas. Which is pretty cool, in an incredibly obscure way.

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