Monday, September 5, 2016

Game of the Day (9/5/91)

Red Sox 4, Mariners 3 (10). Seattle's Erik Hanson was a fine pitcher. In 1990, he had gone 18-9 with an ERA over 20% better than the league average. 1991 was a bit of a step back, but his ERA was still a solid 3.81, and he was on his way to a winning career record and above-average ERA in over 1500 innings.

Boston started Roger Clemens, whose career would encompass over three times as many innings as Hanson's and almost exactly four times as many wins. So... yeah.

Clemens was perfect in the top of the first, and Wade Boggs led off the bottom of the inning with a double; he would move to third on a groundout before being stranded there. Alvin Davis opened the second with a single and was left on, while Carlos Quintana walked and advanced to second on a groundout in the bottom of the inning, but advanced no further.

Seattle took the lead in the top of the third when Dave Valle homered, and extended it to 2-0 on doubles by Edgar Martinez and Ken Griffey Jr. Hanson had a bit of trouble in the bottom of the inning, giving up a single to Jody Reed and walking Phil Plantier, but retired Mike Greenwell to strand the runners. Clemens was perfect in the fourth, and the Sox joined in the scoring in the bottom of the inning when Mo Vaughn led off with a double, moved to third on a groundout, and scored on Steve Lyons's sacrifice fly.

The Mariners restored their lead to two in the top of the fifth on consecutive singles by Martinez, Harold Reynolds, and Griffey. Boston responded again, starting with singles by Boggs and Plantier; Greenwell then grounded back to Hanson, who committed a throwing error that allowed Boggs to score. Vaughn struck out to leave the tying run at third.

Clemens was perfect in the sixth, while Hanson worked around a Lyons double. Valle singled and was caught stealing in the top of the seventh, while Reed walked and was stranded in the bottom of the inning. Clemens was flawless in the eighth. Quintana's one-out walk in the bottom of the inning spelled the end of Hanson's day, and Bill Swift was called in to end the inning. Clemens gave up a one-out double to Greg Briley in the top of the ninth, but left him on, giving his teammates one more chance at their one-run deficit.

Swift remained in the game for the bottom of the ninth. He retired Jack Clark to start the inning, then gave up a one-out walk to Boggs. Pinch runner Mike Brumley moved to second on a two-out wild pitch, and Plantier followed with a double that scored him with the tying run. Swift then intentionally walked Greenwell, and Rob Murphy relieved and retired pinch hitter Tom Brunansky to send the game to extras.

Jeff Reardon came on to pitch in the top of the tenth, and a series of NL-style maneuvers accompanied him. Clark had hit for shortstop Luis Rivera, and was not trusted to play the field. Jody Reed moved from second to short, and Steve Lyons from center to second. Brunansky, who had hit for Mo Vaughn, took over in center. And since Vaughn had started the game at DH, that meant that the Sox gave up the DH for the duration.

Reardon allowed a two-out double to Griffey, then intentionally walked Davis and induced a forceout from Jay Buhner, surviving the inning despite a strained defense (Brunansky in particular had been an emergency-only center fielder for at least half a decade). Quintana led off the home tenth with a walk, and Lyons bunted, with Murphy committing a throwing error that led to the runners reaching first and second safely. Michael Jackson relieved Murphy and saw Tony Pena bunt the runners to second and third - which brought the pitcher's spot to the plate.

Boston obviously wasn't going to let Reardon (62 career plate appearances at this point, none in the last five years, and a career batting average of .091) hit for himself. So they called in backup catcher John Marzano, who was... probably better. Marzano's career OPS+ at the end of '91 was a rather unimpressive 70. Most of that was driven by batting average (which is what you need in a situation when a hit wins the game), but an average of .250 isn't exactly batting title worthy. (Bonus odd John Marzano fact: He spent parts of 10 seasons in the majors, and the two highest plate appearance totals of his career came in his first season and his last season. I'm guessing that's not a terribly common combination.) Still, Marzano was at least a decent bet to put the ball in play, and as it worked out, he did just a bit more, driving a single into left field that scored Quintana with the winning run.

The lesson here, I suppose, is that even if a team's manager maneuvers in highly aggressive fashion and the maneuvers don't work out as intended, it's not necessarily a fatal blow to the team's chances - especially if the backup catcher is still available to pinch hit in heroic fashion.

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