Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Game of the Day (9/14/91)

Mariners 4, Royals 3 (11). Seattle's Bill Krueger was approaching the end of his career as a decent left-handed swingman. KC's Kevin Appier was just starting out in his tenure as a right-handed ace.

Appier was perfect in the first; Krueger was not. Brian McRae reached second on an Edgar Martinez error with one out in the home first, and Bill Pecota singled him home to put the Royals in front. Appier walked Tino Martinez and gave up a Greg Briley double in the top of the second, but left the runners at second and third. In the home second, David Howard reached third on a single-and-error with two outs, but didn't advance from there.

Seattle broke through in the third, as Dave Valle singled and Edgar Martinez doubled him home. One out later, Ken Griffey Jr. singled to score Martinez and put the Mariners in front 2-1. Walks to Pete O'Brien and Tino Martinez would load the bases, but Appier retired Briley to strand all three men. Krueger promptly got into trouble in the bottom of the inning, giving up a single to Tim Spehr and walking Kirk Gibson; McRae bunted the runners to second and third, and Pecota grounded to the mound, with Spehr somehow being put out by the pitcher unassisted (short grounder up the third base line maybe)? Krueger was therefore able to escape damage.

Mike Magnante replaced Appier in the top of the fourth. With one out, Valle singled; Edgar then struck out, but Harold Reynolds reached on a bunt hit, and Sean Berry misplayed it into second and third with two outs. Magnante retired Griffey to avoid any lasting damage. Krueger was flawless in the fourth; Alvin Davis reached on an error in the top of the fifth, but nobody else on either team would join him on the bases.

Joel Johnston relieved and worked a 1-2-3 top of the sixth, and in the bottom of the inning, a bunt hit by McRae, a George Brett walk, and a Todd Benzinger double tied the game at 2. Krueger recovered to leave the remaining runners at second and third. Johnston yielded only a Griffey single in the top of the seventh, and Scott Bankhead walked Gibson and allowed a McRae single to put runners at the corners in the bottom of the inning, then saw Pecota line out to leave them there.

Johnston and Bankhead were both flawless in the eighth; Jeff Montgomery relieved in the top of the ninth and kept the bases clear as well. Russ Swan walked Danny Tartabull with two out in the bottom of the inning, and Michael Jackson relieved and stranded the runner, sending the game to extras. Griffey opened the tenth with a walk, stole second, and was bunted to third, but Montgomery left him there; Jackson then set the Royals down 1-2-3.

Steve Crawford took the mound in the top of the eleventh. Omar Vizquel reached on a one-out bunt hit, Valle walked, and a wild pitch moved the runners to second and third. Edgar Martinez's sacrifice fly put the Mariners in front 3-2, and Reynolds added an RBI single for insurance. It proved necessary, as Bill Swift allowed a leadoff double to Benzinger, who then moved to third on a flyout and scored on a groundout. Jim Eisenreich singled and moved to second on a passed ball, and Stu Cole walked to put the winning run on, but Jorge Pedre grounded out to end the game.

Any commentary on this game has to be prefaced by the statement that these were two .500 teams playing out the string in September, and that the outcome of the game was not necessarily a high-value proposition for either side.

That being said, the Royals' decision to remove Kevin Appier after he gave up two runs in the third inning is an odd one. It's certainly possible that KC was simply being cautious with their young ace, but Appier continued to start regularly for the rest of the season, so if there was an injury scare of some kind, it wasn't severe enough for them to shut him beyond this game. And while turning the game over to the bullpen in the fourth worked out for a while (their first three relievers combined on seven scoreless innings), it was only a matter of time before they found someone who would crack, and they started that clock earlier than would seem to have been necessary.

But again, it was September; Bill Pecota was batting third, and Harvey Pulliam, who would barely eclipse 200 career plate appearances, started in right field and hit sixth. And despite the home team's apparent lack of dedication to the outcome, the fans in attendance got to watch an entertaining game.

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