December 12, 2013
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Wednesday, August 08, 2012
15,000 days ago, the Padres and Pirates faced off in a humdinger of a game. It had great pitching and plentiful comebacks, and then it sent all the folks in Three Rivers Stadium happy with a walk-off win for their team.
July 15, 1971, was the first game after the All-Star break, and the matchup appeared to be lopsided in favor of the home team. The Pirates entered the game with a record of 57-41, by far the best record in the NL, and only a half-game behind Oakland for the best record in either league. Facing them, the visiting Padres possessed the worst record in the big leagues at 33-58.
So you’d figure this would be a good opportunity for a mighty team to whip the hell out of one of the lesser teams of this earth. It wouldn’t be nearly so simple.
Evening the field was Dave Roberts. He was by far the best pitcher on the Padres staff and would end the season with a sparkling 2.10 ERA though only a 14-17 record thanks to San Diego’s anemic offense. Facing him was Pittsburgh’s Steve Blass, a fine young pitcher in his own right.
So it shouldn’t be too surprising that the game began as a hard-fought pitchers' duel. Rallies were scarce and runs non-existent as the game entered the seventh still knotted up, 0-0.
San Diego broke the deadlock in the top of the seventh, turning a pair of singles, an intentional walk, and a passed ball into a 1-0 lead.
Heading into the bottom of the ninth, that was still the score. With one out, the Pirates began a rally, though. First, Bob Robertson walked, and manager Danny Murtaugh lifted the potential game-tying run for pinch-runner Vic Davalillo. That move immediately paid dividends when Jose Pagan singled Davalillo to third. Now Pittsbugh had two outs to advance a guy 90 feet to stay alive.
The next out was enough. Gene Alley hit a sacrifice fly to bring home the run, and the game moved into extra frames, now tied, 1-1.
Onward it went, with no serious rallies until the 13th inning, when Ivan Murrell bopped a one-out, pinch-hit home run to give San Diego a 2-1 lead. Once again, Pittsburgh needed to score a run before making three outs to stay in the game.
Once gain they did just that. After San Diego reliever Al Severinsen fanned the first two batters in the bottom of the 13th, up to the plate came Willie Stargell. And he did exactly what you’d expect Willie Stargell to do, smashing a game-tying home run to keep the game alive.
And again, onward the game went. No one scored in the 14th or the 15th. In the 16th, though, San Diego took another lead. After a pair of singles put runners on the corners with one out and Nate Colbert—the only dangerous Padre batter—at the plate, Pittsburgh brought in a new reliever, Jim Nelson. Alas, Nelson immediately threw a wild pitch that brought home the lead run. He prevented any more from scoring, but once again the Pittsburgh entered the bottom half of an inning needing to score one run before making three outs.
And once again they did just that. This time Richie Hebner was the hero, as his one-out home run tied it, 3-3.
Onward the contest continued, but not that much onward. In the 17th, the Pirates finally ended it. With one out, veteran star Roberto Clemente came up and did what veteran stars are supposed to do, sending everyone home happy with a walk-off home run.
After four hours, 12 minutes, and three do-or-die comebacks, the Pirates had won the game. Given the resilience they showed on this day, it shouldn’t be too surprising to learn that they would win the world championship in 1971, rallying from a two-games-to-none deficit in the World Series to win it all in seven games. But no individual game showed them striving quite as much as the win over the Padres 15,000 days ago.
Aside from that, many events today celebrate either their anniversary or “day-versary.” Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d prefer to just skim through things:
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Tigers 6, Yankees 5: Miguel Cabrera homered for the third straight game. The dude is good. The Tigers have won six straight and, with the White Sox loss, pull to within a half game. Speaking of the Tigers, I found out last night that one of the people I hung out with at Comerica Park this past weekend wrote a book about "The Rockford Files" that was published yesterday. That's him, as a young man, on the cover next to Garner. And he also owns a Rockford-style gold Firebird, which is for sale and looks suh-weet. How did none of this come out over the three days I spent with this dude?
Phillies 3, Braves 0: Philly breaks the losing streak to Atlanta via a Cole Hamels shutout. Ryan Howard hit a two-run homer. This is how they drew things up once upon a time.
Marlins 4, Mets 2: Jose Reyes extends his hitting streak to 25 and his being-booed-at-Citi-Field streak to two. Giancarlo Stanton hit a sac fly in his return. The Mets have dropped eight in a row at home.
Diamondbacks 10, Pirates 4: Chris Johnson smacks two homers, helping the D-backs rally for seven runs in the last two innings to beat Pittsburgh. The Pirates have dropped three of four. It's too early to worry, though. Right? RIGHT?
Brewers 3, Reds 1: Well, I suppose it really is too early to worry about the Pirates, what with the Reds dropping three in a row themselves. Mike Fiers shut them down, throwing eight innings of one-run ball and striking out seven.
Giants 4, Cardinals 2: Cards lose too, so I guess it doesn't matter for any of the contenders in that division. Barry Zito was effective and Buster Posey hit a three-run homer.
Royals 5, White Sox 2: Country Breakfast was two for four with a yicketty. Can't tell from the box score if it was mammo.
Rays 4, Blues Jays 1: Evan Longoria came back and went 1 for 3 with an RBI. J.A. Happless allowed four runs in four and a third innings for the Jays.
Rangers 6, Red Sox 3: Ryan Dempster notches his first win as a Ranger. He pitched shutout ball into the seventh inning. No earned runs, but the three unearned runs came on a home run he gave up to Will Middlebrooks after an error. Unearned runs are stupid. I mean, it's not like he didn't serve up a three run dinger there. It did happen, and it happened because he got smacked. Whatever.
Twins 7, Indians 5: That's 11 straight losses for Cleveland. This one coming when the Twins plated six runs in the final three innings thanks in part to bad Cleveland defense. Chris Perez blew his second save in three days. The recently-recalled Tsuyoshi Nishioka hit a sac fly to give Minnesota the lead. Because he's clutch like that.
Nationals 3, Astros 2: Danny Espinosa hit a two-run homer and then hit an RBI single in the 12th, accounting for all of Washington's runs. Houston threatened in the bottom of the inning but Roger Bernadina made a diving catch into the wall to end the game.
Rockies 3, Dodgers 1: One-man wrecking crews were a thing last night I guess, because Josh Rutledge did it too. He had three doubles and a single, driving in all three Colorado runs. Rutledge, who is filling in for Troy Tulowitzki, was called up from Double-A around the All-Star break and has since driven in 18 runs in 22 games.
Padres 7, Cubs 4: Seven straight losses for the Cubs. Carlos Quentin hit a three-run homer.
Orioles 8, Mariners 7: Baltimore wins yet another one-run game, and another extra-inning games, continuing its charmed existence in that regard. The Orioles have won 12 straight extra-inning games, actually, five of which lasted 13 innings or more. Two homers for Matt Wieters. Hey, remember these?
Athletics 10, Angels 4: Bartolo Colon pitched seven scoreless innings, extending his scoreless innings streak to 22 and a third. The A's racked up 13 hits, including four homers off Angels pitching.