Friday, September 30, 2016

Game of the Day (9/30/91)

Mariners 3, Rangers 2 (11). Seattle's Erik Hanson was 26 years old, and struck out 143 hitters in what was a fairly solid season. That strikeout total was about 70% of his opponent's mark in 1991 - and less than 40% of what Nolan Ryan had done when he was Hanson's age.

Ryan walked Ken Griffey Jr. and allowed a single to Pete O'Brien in the top of the first, but left them both on. The Rangers then grabbed the early lead, as Julio Franco walked, Rafael Palmeiro singled, and Ruben Sierra doubled Franco home. Hanson recovered to whiff the next two hitters, leaving two men in scoring position, and Seattle tied it in the second when Greg Briley doubled, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on Dave Valle's sacrifice fly.

Hanson worked into and out of trouble for the next several innings, giving up an Ivan Rodriguez single in the second, a Julio Franco single in the third, and a Juan Gonzalez double in the fourth, the last of which was followed by Dean Palmer reaching on a wild third strike. But with the help of a double play and a runner caught stealing, Hanson kept the Rangers off the scoreboard in all three innings. Meanwhile, Ryan set the Mariners down in order in both the third and fourth.

Seattle grabbed its first lead in the top of the fifth, starting with a double by Valle. An errant pickoff attempt by Rodriguez moved Valle to third. Ryan walked Omar Vizquel, then retired the next two hitters before Griffey singled Valle home. A wild pitch advanced the runners to second and third before O'Brien struck out to end the inning. This lead proved just as short-lived as the last one, as Jack Daugherty tripled with one out in the home fifth and scored on a wild pitch to tie the game at 2.

Ryan worked around a double by Briley in the sixth, while Hanson was perfect. Both starters were pulled at that point; Kenny Rogers gave up a double to Vizquel in the seventh, while Michael Jackson issued a two-out walk to Jeff Huson in the home half, with neither runner scoring. Rogers walked Tracy Jones to start the eighth, but Briley produced a delayed double play, hitting into a force and then getting caught stealing. Jackson combined with Russ Swan on a 1-2-3 home eighth. Terry Mathews allowed only a two-out Edgar Martinez single in the top of the ninth, and Mike Schooler allowed nothing at all, sending the game to extras.

Mathews and Schooler exchanged perfect tenths. Wayne Rosenthal took over in the eleventh, and allowed only one Mariner to reach - but it was Jay Buhner, and he reached on a go-ahead solo homer. Julio Franco greeted Bill Swift with a double in the bottom of the inning and moved to third on a groundout, but Swift left him there to end the game.

I don't know that there are too many sweeping statements that can be made about this game; it was a contest between two teams that were slightly better than .500, but long since eliminated from the pennant race.

But for two also-rans, these teams were pretty interesting. The Mariners had Ken Griffey Jr., Edgar Martinez, Omar Vizquel, and Jay Buhner (who of course hit the game-winning homer after coming off the bench), and they were arguably the less-interesting of the two squads, as the Rangers had a lengthy series of distinguished names we've listed before, and capped it off with Nolan Ryan starting.

Honestly, having 44-year-old Nolan Ryan face off with 21-year-old Ken Griffey Jr. is excitement enough for any one baseball game; that's got to be one of the largest age differences between a Hall of Fame pitcher and a Hall of Fame hitter who face each other (non-Satchel Paige division). The fact that it went extras and was decided on a homer by an upcoming minor star was a nice bonus, though.

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