Thursday, September 15, 2016

Game of the Day (9/15/91)

Before we get to the actual contest here, it's worth pointing out that the most important game of the day was actually the least-dramatic: Braves 9, Dodgers 1. The NL West race between these two teams was the closest divisional contest of the year, with the Braves entering the day leading by only half a game. It quickly became clear that the margin was about to increase, as Sid Bream hit a first-inning grand slam and Atlanta led 8-0 after three, with Steve Avery throwing a complete-game four-hitter. Not only was it the least-exciting game of the day by WPL, but at 0.70, it ranks as the second-least engaging contest of the year.

Which is to say that context is always important in statistics.

Now, let's move on to our daily helping of also-rans: Expos 6, Cubs 5 (10), pitting Chicago's Rick Sutcliffe, who lasted a long time and had extreme highs and lows, against Montreal's Mark Gardner, who was basically Sutcliffe if his highs were flattened out to ERA's less than 10% better than league average.

Sutcliffe was perfect in the top of the first; Gardner allowed only one baserunner in the bottom of the inning, but it was Chico Walker, and he was really more of a base-trotter after hitting a leadoff homer. Montreal responded swiftly in the second, starting with a game-tying one-out homer by Larry Walker. Nelson Santovenia doubled, Bret Barberie walked, and Spike Owen singled Santovenia home to put the Expos in front. Gardner finished the rally by executing a successful squeeze bunt, scoring Barberie to make it 3-1.

George Bell led off the home second with a single, but was erased on a K/CS double play, and Montreal expanded its lead in the third when Marquis Grissom reached on an error and came home on John Vander Wal's double. However, the Cubs replied in the bottom of the third. Shawon Dunston led off with a single, and after Sutcliffe bunted the runner to second, Chico Walker hit his second homer of the game, narrowing the gap to a run. With two outs, Ryne Sandberg singled, and Andre Dawson went deep as well, putting the Cubs ahead 5-4.

Sutcliffe worked a 1-2-3 fourth, and Doug Piatt relieved Gardner in the bottom of the inning and set the Cubs down in order. In the top of the fifth, Grissom singled with one out, and with Vander Wal at the plate, the fleet-footed Expo center fielder stole second. Hector Villanueva's throwing error on the play allowed Grissom to come all the way home with the tying run.

Piatt was spotless again in the fifth. Chuck McElroy relieved Sutcliffe in the top of the sixth and circumnavigated a walk by Larry Walker; in the bottom of the inning, Dawson doubled with one out and was left at second. Junior Noboa hit a pinch single in the top of the seventh, but pinch runner Eric Bullock was promptly caught stealing. Bill Sampen induced the first two outs of the home seventh, then was pulled after Dwight Smith's base hit, and Scott Ruskin whiffed Chico Walker to end the inning.

Paul Assenmacher worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Ruskin combined with Mel Rojas on an identically effective bottom of the inning. Assenmacher and Rojas set their respective foes down in order in the ninth as well, sending the game to extras.

Assenmacher retired two of the first three Expos in the top of the tenth, with Tom Foley's single as the exception. With two away, Foley stole second, and Assenmacher proceeded to walk Grissom and hit Dave Martinez with a pitch. Bob Scanlan was hustled to the mound in his place and fared little better, walking Mike Fitzgerald to force in the go-ahead run. Jeff Fassero allowed a single to Dunston in the bottom of the tenth, and the Cub shortstop later moved to third on a steal-and-error, but Fassero struck out the other three hitters he faced, bringing the game to a close.

The game opened with the appearance of a nascent slugfest, as the teams combined for nine runs in the first three innings. (The first few innings featured a battle of the Walkers, as Chico and Larry combined for three homers.) However, the scoring was cut off as soon as the bullpens took over the action; six relievers combined on ten shutout innings before Paul Assenmacher was left in a few batters too long.

After the fireworks in the early stages, the game finally came to an end courtesy of a bases-loaded walk. And if that was what was going to produce the decisive run, the Expos were always going to come out on top. Why? Because the Cubs drew no walks in the ten innings of the game. Which was the fatal flaw of not just this Cub team (fewest walks drawn in the majors), but many other Cubs teams throughout their decades of futility.

No comments:

Post a Comment