Monday, September 26, 2016

Game of the Day (9/26/91)

Pirates 4, Mets 3 (15). Pittsburgh started Randy Tomlin, who lasted five years and looks to have been pretty effective most of the time despite a very low strikeout rate. New York replied with David Cone, who spent considerably more than five years in the majors, and had a notably higher K rate than Tomlin - to wit, he was just about to finish his second consecutive league lead in strikeouts.

Cone allowed a one-out Jay Bell single in the top of the first, then struck out the next two hitters. The Mets put runners on the corners in the home first by way of a Keith Miller single, a Gregg Jefferies walk, and a flyout; Jefferies then stole second, but Mark Carreon flied out to leave both runners in scoring position. Barry Bonds walked and was caught stealing in the top of the second, while Chris Donnels singled in the bottom of the inning, but didn't advance past first.

Pittsburgh started the scoring in the third, Carlos Garcia led off with a single and was bunted to second. Bell worked a two-out walk, and Cecil Espy singled Garcia home. Bobby Bonilla and Bonds followed with walks, the latter of which forced in the inning's second run.

Tomlin was perfect in the home third, walked and was stranded in the top of the fourth, and set the Mets down 1-2-3 again in the bottom of the fourth. Bell singled and was bunted to second before being left on in the fifth, and Charlie O'Brien and Miller both singled in the home fifth and were also stranded. Howard Johnson's walk in the sixth made him the only runner to reach for either side, and he was quickly erased on a double play.

Tomlin led off the seventh with a single, and Orlando Merced matched him. Bell bunted the runners to second and third, but Cone struck out the next two Pirates to end the inning. Tomlin then worked a flawless home seventh, and Cone tossed a 1-2-3 eighth. In the bottom of the eighth, Kevin Elster and Jefferies both singled with two outs, but Johnson grounded out to leave the tying runs on.

Terry Bross relieved Cone in the top of the ninth and worked around a leadoff single from Garcia. In the bottom of the ninth, Carreon and Terry McDaniel opened with singles. Tomlin retired the next two hitters, but pinch hitter Garry Templeton then doubled, scoring Carreon and moving the tying run to third. That ended Tomlin's day, as Stan Belinda was called in to face pinch hitter Mackey Sasser. Sasser worked a 1-2 count and fouled off several pitches; on the ninth pitch of the at bat, Belinda uncorked a wild one, allowing McDaniel to come home with the tying run. Sasser grounded out two pitches later, sending the game to extras in a 2-2 tie.

Doug Simons recorded the first two outs in the tenth, then allowed a double to Bonds and was relieved by Jeff Innis, who retired Don Slaught to end the inning. Belinda walked Jefferies in the home tenth, and after a steal of second, walked Johnson intentionally before retiring both Carreon and McDaniel. Innis and Bob Kipper were both perfect in the eleventh. Merced led off the twelfth with a double and advanced to third before being stranded; Jefferies drew a two-out walk and was left at first. The thirteenth also saw one runner on each side, as Bonds walked against Blaine Beatty and McDaniel singled off of Neal Heaton.

Beatty walked pinch hitter Gary Redus to start the top of the fourteenth; a steal and a groundout moved Redus to third, and pinch hitter Lloyd McClendon then singled him home to put the Pirates in front. Bill Landrum took over in the bottom of the inning and recorded the first out. The pitcher's spot was up next, and New York's bench was sufficiently depleted that they turned to a 22-year-old catcher with less than 50 games under his belt, and a .184 average in those games. That catcher worked an eight-pitch full count, and then, on pitch number nine, Todd Hundley hit the first of what would eventually be over 200 home runs, tying the game at 3.

The Pirates were apparently undeterred by the setback, as Bonds greeted Wally Whitehurst with a single in the fifteenth and Slaught doubled him home. Landrum then set the Mets down 1-2-3 in the home half of the inning to wrap up the victory.

Let's note upfront that the Pirates won this game, thanks to the fact that their pitching staff managed 13 scoreless innings out of 15, giving them time to turn over their largely unproductive starting lineup for the game and find the players on their bench who would come through (Gary Redus, Lloyd McClendon, and Don Slaught). That, along with a 5-times-on-base effort from Barry Bonds, propelled them to victory.

That being said, this game is most notable for Pittsburgh's blown leads; Randy Tomlin and Stan Belinda combined to turn a shutout into extra innings in the ninth, and Bill Landrum served up a first career homer to a not-a-star-yet Todd Hundley to extend the game in the fourteenth.

Which made this contest a combination of the three factors that are most remembered about the Pirates of the early '90s: they won a lot of games, largely on the strength of exemplary play from Barry Bonds, but they also blew a few too many leads at the wrong times.

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