Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Game of the Day (9/27/91)

Expos 12, Pirates 8. It is inevitable that at some point when writing up one game every day of a baseball season, you will run out of things to say about pitching matchups. This game pitted Montreal's Mark Gardner against Pittsburgh's Zane Smith. Both men were pretty OK; they were similar ages (Smith a year and two months older), but their 13-year careers were offset by five years anyway. And that's all I've got.

Smith worked around a Spike Owen single in the top of the first. Gardner also allowed a single to the opposing #2 hitter (Gary Varsho), but then walked Bobby Bonilla with two outs and served up a three-run homer to Barry Bonds.

Andres Galarraga singled in the second and was erased on a double play; nobody else would reach until the next inning, when Bret Barberie led off with a double. Marquis Grissom singled one out later, then stole second; Owen walked to load the bases, and with two outs, Tim Wallach delivered a two-run single to put the Expos on the board. Gardner worked around a walk and steal by Curtis Wilkerson in the home third, and things calmed down after that; Galarraga's single in the fourth made him the only player to reach in the next two innings.

The hitters awoke from their hibernation in the sixth. Larry Walker singled with one out in the top of the inning, and Galarraga reached on a Carlos Garcia error. Mike Fitzgerald doubled, scoring Walker with the tying run. Barberie walked to load the bases, and Gardner followed with a single that brought in both Galarraga and Fitzgerald, putting Montreal in front for the first time in the game. Smith retired the next two hitters to end the inning, however, and the Pirates struck back in the home sixth. Bonilla drew a two-out walk, Bonds doubled him to third, Steve Buechele walked to load the bases, and Mike LaValliere tripled, scoring all three men and taking a 6-5 lead for Pittsburgh.

Montreal tied it in the seventh, as Ken Williams walked, Wallach singled him to third, and Walker hit into an RBI force. The game was turned over to the bullpens at that point, starting as Scott Ruskin worked around a leadoff hit by Gary Redus in the bottom of the seventh. Rosario Rodriguez also gave up a leadoff single (to Barberie) in the eighth, and did not mitigate it quite as well. Ruskin was allowed to hit for himself for reasons that are not clear to me, and worked a five-pitch walk. Marquis Grissom doubled to score Barberie with the go-ahead run, Owen singled Ruskin home, and Williams hit into a force that brought Grissom in as well. Wallach hit into a force, Walker singled, and Galarraga homered to score both of them, making it 12-6 and all but ending the game.

Bonilla did his best to narrow the gap, homering in the bottom of the eighth and driving in Don Slaught with a single off of Barry Jones in the ninth to establish the final margin.

Like all of the other Pirate games we've encountered in recent days, this one was irrelevant to the pennant race, as Pittsburgh had long since clinched the NL East. (Which might be why just over 8000 fans attended.) The few Pittsburghers who did make it to the stadium got to see a vintage performance from the 4-5 spots in the Pirate order, as Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds hit a homer each and combined on 5 hits, 5 runs, and 5 RBI. But they also saw a few less-usual events - such as a Mike LaValliere triple, one of five he would hit in his major league career. And a walk to reliever Scott Ruskin, the only one he would ever be issued. (In a tie game in the late innings, no less! And he was the first reliever into the game; it's not like Montreal's bullpen was depleted. So I'm not at all sure why he was hitting, but it worked out.)

Which is not bad, for a meaningless game.

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