Thursday, September 1, 2016

Game of the Day (9/1/91)

Phillies 5, Braves 4 (10). Philadephia's Bruce Ruffin was generally not as good as fellow lefty Charlie Leibrandt, Atlanta's starter for the day. That characterization also applied in 1991. But he was at least close enough that a start featuring the two of them wasn't an utter mismatch.

Atlanta jumped ahead in the top of the first, thanks to a Jeff Blauser walk and a Ron Gant double. Leibrandt was perfect in the home first. Both starters allowed leadoff singles in the second, but Brian Hunter and John Kruk would both be stranded in scoring position. The Braves then expanded their advantage in the third, as Lonnie Smith doubled and Terry Pendleton homered.

Steve Lake led off the home third with a single and was bunted to second, but advanced no farther. However, after a flawless fourth from Ruffin, the Phillies joined in the scoring when Kruk doubled and Ricky Jordan homered, pulling them within a run. Smith's double and Randy Ready's walk were squandered in their respective halves of the fifth inning, and the same was true of the singles by Hunter and Jordan in the sixth.

Mark Lemke opened the seventh inning with a double. Leibrandt struck out by bunting foul, and the next two Braves fared little better. Jim Lindeman's two-out pinch single in the bottom of the seventh chased Leibrandt; Jim Clancy then walked Ready before stranding both runners. The top of the eighth saw Atlanta augment its margin once more. Pendleton led off with a single; Gant hit into a force, but then stole second. A groundout moved Gant to third, and Hunter's single then plated him to make it 4-2.

Kruk singled and stole second in the home eighth, then scored on Dale Murphy's double. John Morris ran for Murphy, and came around on Charlie Hayes's single to tie the game at 4. Mike Stanton was then called in to relieve Clancy and allowed a hit to Darren Daulton before leaving the remaining runners on.

Per tradition, Mitch Williams joined in the festivities in the top of the ninth; he walked pinch hitter Keith Mitchell to start the inning, but gave up nothing else. Mark Wohlers worked the bottom of the inning and also put the leadoff man on, as Ready singled; four batters and no hits later, the game was moving on to extra innings. Williams allowed a single to Hunter and walked Greg Olson in the top of the tenth, but stranded both men. Morris then stepped to the plate to start the bottom of the tenth, worked a 2-2 count, and on the seventh pitch of the at bat, homered to end the game.

John Morris was not a particularly good hitter. In seven major league seasons, he averaged all of 95 plate appearances per year, and didn't exactly make a strong argument to be given any more, hitting .236/.288/.326. In 1991, he was 30 years old, and his career (such as it was) was winding down; his .220/.293/.276 line was that of a player who would end the year with just one chance remaining to him (and he would not capitalize, hitting even worse in 63 plate appearances with the Angels in '92 and vanishing from the majors). He played in 85 games in 1991 but started only 26, serving as a frequent pinch hitter, pinch runner, and defensive replacement.

In other words, he was probably the player on the Phillies' roster the Braves would most have wanted at the plate in a crucial situation (pitchers excepted). And yet, Morris picked the perfect time to come through with the seventh of his eight career home runs, and his only longball of the '91 season.

Baseball! You absolutely never know.

No comments:

Post a Comment