Sunday, October 2, 2016

Game of the Day (10/2/91)

Mets 9, Pirates 6 (11). New York's Pete Schourek and Pittsburgh's Randy Tomlin were both reasonably effective, reasonably young starters. For no reason that was immediately apparent at this point in time, Schourek's career would last just about twice as long as Tomlin's.

Kevin Elster walked and was stranded in the top of the first; the Pirates squandered a much better chance in the bottom of the inning, as Gary Redus led off with a double but didn't advance past second. Mark Carreon singled and Charlie O'Brien reached on an error in the top of the second, while Steve Buechele walked in the bottom, but neither team scored. Tomlin was then spotless in the third, and the Pirates pulled ahead in the bottom of the inning. Redus tripled with one out, and Jay Bell walked. After Andy Van Slyke popped up, Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds both singled, bringing in a run apiece.

Carreon singled in the fourth, and Gregg Jefferies hit into a force, then stole second before Tomlin left him on. In the home fourth, the Pirates put runners on the corners via single, sacrifice bunt, and... well, it's not quite clear what happened next; Redus hit into a fielder's choice with both runners safe, and given that there were two outs, I'm not sure why the choice would be anything other than throwing to first. (Maybe a grounder deep in the hole at short?) Regardless, Bell flied out to leave the men on, and neither team had anyone reach in the fifth.

The Mets broke through in the sixth, and in a big way. Elster led off with a single, and one out later, Kevin McReynolds singled and Carreon reached on a Bell error to load the bases. Jefferies then singled in two runs to tie the game, and Chris Donnels singled in the go-ahead run. After O'Brien flied out, Schourek singled to load the bases, and Keith Miller singled Jefferies home. Donnels tried to score on the play as well and was thrown out at the plate, bringing the rally to a close with New York now in front 4-2.

Schourek was perfect in the home sixth. Bob Walk relieved in the seventh and worked around a McReynolds single, and Schourek tossed another 1-2-3 inning in response. New York padded the lead in the eighth against Bill Landrum when Donnels singled, moved to second on a groundout, and scored on a single by pinch hitter Mackey Sasser. Tony Castillo relieved Schourek in the home eighth and the Pirates got that run back on a Van Slyke double and runner-advancing outs from Bonilla and Bonds.

Bob Kipper worked around a McReynolds walk and steal in the top of the ninth, and the Pirates had one last shot against John Franco in the bottom of the inning. Slaught led off by reaching on an Elster error, and Carlos Garcia cashed in the misplay immediately with an RBI triple. With the tying run 90 feet away, Lloyd McClendon struck out, but Redus followed with a single to even things at 5. Bell then hit into a double play to send the game to extras.

Roger Mason allowed only a Todd Hundley walk in the top of the tenth; Franco had a more difficult time in the bottom of the inning, as Cecil Espy singled and moved to third on a steal-and-error. Gary Varsho was hit by a pitch, putting runners at the corners with nobody out. Mike LaValliere then struck out, and Curt Wilkerson lined into a double play to extend the game.

Having escaped highly likely defeat (their win expectancy was 7% after Espy reached third), the Mets celebrated their reprieve in a fashion that was visible on the scoreboard. Bob Patterson walked Elster to start the eleventh, then gave up a single to Howard Johnson and a three-run homer to McReynolds. An extra run came in two outs later on a Donnels double and a Hundley single, and the Pirates were only able to mount a partial reply against Tim Burke in the bottom of the inning; Slaught and Garcia opened with singles, and Bell doubled Slaught home two outs later before Espy popped up to end the game.

If you're familiar with the names of moderately obscure outfielders from around this time, you might have noticed that a whole lot of them played in this game - and mostly for the Pirates. Which seems odd, given that the Pirates had an outfield full of stars, all of whom started in this game.

But in case you'd forgotten (which would be difficult, because they've been involved in the Games of something like half of the Days in the last week), the Pirates had clinched the NL East title long before this date. As a result, Andy Van Slyke was lifted for a pinch runner after his eighth-inning double, and Bobby Bonilla and Barry Bonds were pulled for replacements in the field in the top of the ninth. The 4-5 spots came up with a runner on third and nobody out in the tenth, but instead of Bonilla and Bonds, those at bats were taken by Gary Varsho and Mike LaValliere (pinch hitting in the new pitcher's spot in the order).

Which is to say that the Pirates would have had an excellent chance to win this game earlier in the season, when they would have cared. As it was, though, the 13,000 and change fans in attendance got to see a pretty exciting finish played out by the scrubs.

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