Monday, October 3, 2016

Game of the Day (10/3/91)

There were only five major league games played on October 3, 1991. When the total is that low, the selection is often not terribly impressive when it comes to excitement.

On the other hand, sometimes five-game days give you White Sox 13, Twins 12 (12). Minnesota started Kevin Tapani, who was closing out a season in which he had arguably been the best starting pitcher on a division champion; Chicago started Greg Hibbard, finishing up a year in which he had barely held onto his spot in the rotation.

The early innings of the game gave no indication of what the final score would be. Hibbard worked a 1-2-3 top of the first; Tapani walked Robin Ventura and allowed a single to Dan Pasqua, but stranded both of them. In the top of the second, the roles reversed; Hibbard gave up a double (Gene Larkin) and walk (Lenny Webster) before escaping, while Tapani retired the Sox in order. Hibbard was spotless in the third, and Chicago opened the scoring in the home half on an Ozzie Guillen double, a Tim Raines single, and a Ventura sacrifice fly.

The game shifted dramatically in the top of the fourth. Greg Gagne led off with a game-tying home run. Pedro Munoz and Chili Davis followed with singles, and Larkin doubled Munoz home to take the lead. That double also ended Hibbard's day on the mound; Roberto Hernandez took over and walked Webster to load the bases, then gave up singles to Paul Sorrento and Scott Leius that brought home a combined three runs. Steve Wapnick replaced Hernandez and ended the inning without allowing any further hits - but he did walk both Jarvis Brown and Munoz to force in another run, making it 6-1 in Minnesota's favor.

The Sox began chipping away at their new deficit in the bottom of the fourth. Warren Newsom led off with a single. Lance Johnson hit into a force, but that worked out for the best, because the speedy Johnson proceeded to steal second and score on steal-induced errors from Webster and Brown. (Of course, he might have scored anyway; Craig Grebeck doubled and Guillen singled after he scampered around the bases.) Wapnick was yanked after allowing a single to Larkin and walking Webster in the top of the fifth, and Jeff Carter induced a double play and a flyout to end the rally. Chicago then trimmed the lead further on back-to-back homers by Pasqua and Carlton Fisk. Newsom, Johnson, and Guillen all followed with singles to load the bases before Tapani retired Raines to strand all three runners.

The White Sox quite literally gave the Twins a run in the top of the sixth, as Al Newman reached on a Guillen error, and Brown then reached on a Pasqua error that brought Newman in from second. Carter retired the next three hitters, however, and Chicago completed its comeback in the home sixth against Carl Willis. Frank Thomas homered with one out, closing the gap to 7-5. Pasqua and Fisk followed with doubles, and Newsom's single plated Fisk with the tying run. Newsom would advance as far as third before being left on.

Donn Pall worked a 1-2-3 top of the seventh, and the White Sox continued their work against Steve Bedrosian in the bottom of the inning. Raines started the rally with a one-out single, and after Ventura flied out, Thomas and Pasqua both walked, loading the bases. Up next was Fisk, who launched a tiebreaking grand slam.

The Twins suddenly found themselves trailing after having led by multiple runs for much of the game - and they responded well. Leius homered in the top of the eighth, but the Sox got that run back in the bottom of the inning against Gary Wayne on a Johnson double, a Grebeck single, and a Guillen sac fly. Munoz led off the ninth with a homer, chasing Pall from the game. Scott Radinsky recorded two quick outs, but Webster singled and Sorrento doubled, scoring one more run and bringing the tying run to the plate. Bobby Thigpen came on to face pinch hitter Kent Hrbek - and Hrbek homered, evening the game at 12. Newman walked and stole second before Thigpen finally ended the inning, and Wayne set the Sox down 1-2-3 to force extras.

Thigpen stayed in for the top of the tenth; he gave up hits to Mike Pagliarulo and Brian Harper to put runners at the corners before leaving them on. Wayne walked Grebeck and allowed a single to Guillen in the home tenth, but neither man scored. Ken Patterson worked a 1-2-3 eleventh; Wayne was pulled after Ventura led off the bottom of the inning with a single, and Terry Leach benefited from a K/CS double play, keeping the White Sox scoreless again.

Patterson was yanked after Munoz doubled with two outs in the top of the twelfth, and Brian Drahman retired Shane Mack to leave Munoz at second. Joey Cora led off the bottom of the twelfth with a single, Johnson bunted him to second, and Matt Merullo delivered a pinch single to score Cora with the winning run.

The post-clinching Twins turn out to behave rather similarly to the post-clinching Pirates; stars Kirby Puckett, Kent Hrbek, and Chuck Knoblauch combined for two plate appearances in this game (and one of them was a game-tying ninth-inning homer). And speaking of late-inning homers, Carlton Fisk had a tiebreaking grand slam in the seventh, one of two homers he hit in the game, leading to a total of six RBI that was one off of the highest of his 24-season Hall of Fame career. And if that wasn't enough, it was one of the last five home runs of that career.

So, it's a twelve-inning game in which each team blew a lead of at least four runs, plus a grand slam that serves as something of a coda to the career of one of the ten best catchers in MLB history. Oh, and as a bonus, it's the second half of a doubleheader, the first game of which also went to extras.

Which is to say... even after your team clinches its playoff berth, they can still do some things worth watching.

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