December 12, 2013
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Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Rays 10, Marlins 6: Two three-run homers for Kelly Johnson. He also singled, doubled and stole a base. He has 24 RBI in 21 games in May. Six straight losses for the Marlins despite what was, for them anyway, an offensive outburst.
Tigers 6, Pirates 5: While it was his second win in a row this one was way better, personally speaking, for Justin Verlander. Thirteen strikeouts and three runs over seven innings.
Orioles 6, Nationals 2: Fifteen hits for the O's and a nice start for Jason Hammel in the first of a weird, four-game home-and-home series in four days for Baltimore and Washington. Davey Johnson vowed not to shave until the Nats' bats "came alive." At this rate he's going to look like Billy Gibbons before it's all over.
Astros 3, Rockies 2: A walkoff ground rule double for Brandon Barnes in the 12th. The Rockies stranded 15 runners in this one. That's, like, more than two Gilligan's Islands worth of castaways.
Reds 4, Indians 2: Joey Votto hit a tiebreaking, two-run homer in the eighth off Nick Hagadone, who was just called up from Columbus. Shoulda stayed here in Columbus, man. It's so much safer here.
Cardinals 6, Royals 3: Yadier Molina homered and drove in four. Meanwhile, Adam Wainwright scattered 12 hits over eight innings. If you can call 12 in 8 a "scattering" as opposed to the Royals simply squandering multiple opportunities.
Twins 6, Brewers 3: Joe Mauer hit a homer that was reviewed and upheld on replay for the second time in three days. He's just not a big fan of the human element.
Athletics 4, Giants 1: Dan Straily with his second straight strong start, allowing one run over six innings. Madison Bumgarner was shaky. Four in a row for the A's.
Diamondbacks 5, Rangers 3; Diamondbacks 5, Rangers 4: Tyler Skaggs struck out nine in six innings in the first one. Yu Darvish strikes out 14 in seven and two-thirds in the nightcap. The difference: Skaggs won his start while Darvish got the no-decision thanks to a ninth inning RBI single by Cliff Pennington.
Mariners 9, Padres 0: Aaron Harang with a four-hit shutout and his best start in four years. Not that he needed it thanks to the M's bats. Homers from Jason Bay and Michael Morse, among other destruction.
Mets 2, Yankees 1: A rare late-innings failure for the Yankees bullpen. Not that they had a huge margin for error, but still. Daniel Murphy with an RBI single to center off Dave Robertson in the eighth. It was the first time in 23 games the Yankees lost when leading after six.
Blue Jays 9, Braves 3: Five driven in for Edwin Encarnacion. Rookie reliever Cory Rasmus got mop-up duty for Atlanta and gave up an RBI double to his brother Colby. Which wasn't very nice. Not all good for Toronto, though, as Brett Lawrie left with a sprained ankle.
Cubs 7, White Sox 0: Jeff Samardzija with a two-hit shutout. And like Harang's gem, he didn't have to do it given what the bats did. Two RBI a piece for Julio Borbon, Anthony Rizzo and Alfonso Soriano.
Red Sox 9, Phillies 3: Tyler Cloyd couldn't make it out of the third inning and Alfredo Aceves didn't stink for once. The Sox have won 10 of 13 and have taken sole possession of first in the east.
Dodgers 8, Angels 7: The eight-game winning streak is over. Not that the Dodgers made it easy on themselves. The Dodgers were down 6-1, thanks in part to numerous defensive miscues early -- many not called errors -- which helped Anaheim build their lead. Adrian Gonzalez remains hot. Even Juan Uribe got into the act, going 3 for 3 after coming in late as a pinch hitter.
Forty years ago today, White Sox knuckleball pitcher Wilbur Wood became a legend. He was always a great workhorse. He averaged more than 350 innings a season from 1971-73, with an ungodly 376.2 inning pitched in 1972. In 1973 he would become the first pitcher since Walter Johnson to win and lose 20 games in the same season, with a 24-20 mark.
But what Wood did on May 28, 1973 was his most impressive one-day performance.
On the face of it, that doesn’t appear right. If you look at the game logs, he had a nice complete game start, something he did plenty of other times. Aye, but the game logs overlook one key fact that makes this game special.
You see, if you look more closely, Wood is credited with making his only relief appearance from 1972-76 in the May 26, 1973 contest. That is both true and false. It’s true because his relief appearance came in that game, but it’s false that he pitched in relief on May 26. Huh?
You see, the AL at that time had a curfew rule. Games that went too long would be suspended and finished up at a later time. Chicago’s game against the Indians on May 26 was a never-ending marathon that hit the curfew after 16 innings of play.
Rather than finish the game up on Sunday, May 27, the Sox decided to give fans an extra reason to show up to their Monday Memorial Day game against the Indians, so the final innings of the May 26 game came on May 28. As it happens, May 28 was also the day Wilbur Wood was scheduled to pitch.
Sox manager Chuck Tanner had a simple idea. Since Wood is supposed to pitch today, and since that marathon game can’t go on much longer (right?) let’s have Wood finish up Saturday’s game and then take his regularly scheduled start.
So in the early afternoon of May 28, 1973, Wood took the hill in the top of the 17th against the Indians before a crowd of 17,419 Sox fans in a game tied 2-2. Wood’s knuckleball was unhittable. He fanned the first two batters and retired 11 in a row. Unfortunately, the Sox couldn’t score and so after 20 innings, it was still 2-2.
In the 21st, things went haywire for Wood. He fanned the first two batters – giving him 14 outs in 15 batters faced, but then issued a two-out walk to left fielder Charlie Spikes. No big deal, as catcher Dave Duncan hit one to shortstop Eddie Leon. Uh-oh—Leon botched it. All hands were safe, with Spikes scampering to third. DH Walt Williams made everyone pay, with an RBI single—just the second hit off Wood. He retired the next batter to end the inning, but despite he run being unearned, Wood looked destined to suffer an unfair loss.
But the game wasn’t over. Indians pitcher Milt Wilcox allowed a leadoff double to Tony Muser, and after a bunt sacrifice advanced Muser to second, Leon redeemed his error with an RBI single to tie the game. Cleveland pulled Wilcox, but the new pitcher allowed another single. Now a possible winning run was in scoring position for Chicago.
The fans buzzed in their seats as another reliever came into the game—a young Cleveland pitcher named Ed Farmer (who has called games on White Sox radio for decades). He got a force play for the second out, but that brought up the last man Cleveland wanted to see: defending AL MVP Dick Allen. And Dick Allen did what Dick Allen did best: got good wood on the ball for a home run. It was the 10th and final walk-off homer of his career.
The Sox won and Wood had his win, courtesy of five innings of pitching allowing just two hits and one unearned run.
And since he’s Wilbur Wood, the man who threw more than 370 innings the year before and would go 24-20 this season, why not have him make his regular start anyway? Five innings was chicken feed for him. Besides, he clearly had his knuckler knuckling.
Early on, he looked a little rickety, giving up a double and a walk in the first inning. But he survived unscathed. He gave up a scratch single in the second, and another in the third, but no one advanced to second, let alone scored. Meanwhile, the Sox had staked him to a 2-0 lead.
In the middle innings, Wood settled down on the mound and shut down the Indians at the plate. No one reached against him in the fourth or fifth. Charlie Spikes reached on an error by third baseman Bill Melton with two outs in the sixth, but Wood then fanned Dave Duncan to end the inning.
In the seventh Williams successfully laid down a bunt single against Wood, but he was gobbled up in an inning-ending double play a few minutes later. And by now it was 4-0 Wood.
Leading off the eighth, Wood issued his second walk of the game, but again the runner never even advanced to second, let alone scored. The ninth inning went rather appropriately for Wood. Facing the same trio that gave him problems in the 21st—Spikes, Duncan and Williams—Wood retired them with a pop up, fly ball, and grounder. That was it. Game over. Day over.
Wilbur Wood had pitched 14 innings, allowed zero earned runs on six hits and three walks. Oh, and he picked up two wins. Sure, he allowed an unearned run, but that inning would’ve ended easily had it not been for the error. Wood’s domination was so complete that in only two of his 14 innings of work did a runner even reach second base.
It’s as close as anyone has ever come to two complete game victories in one day in ages. That was common in the deadball era, but hasn’t happened since World War II. OK, so it was 14 innings, not 18, but given how strong Wood was, he likely could’ve made it four more frames without any problem. Keep in mind, only once in history has a pitcher thrown two complete game shutouts in one day: Ed Reulbach for the 1908 Cubs. And 65 years later, Wilbur Wood threw 14 innings in two games without allowing a single earned run.
It was an amazing achievement—and it happened 40 years ago today.
(One last side note: That crowd of 17,000-plus fans included two of my uncles, Ron and John Jaffe, so this day found its way into family lore.
Aside from that day, plenty of other baseball events celebrate their anniversary or “day-versary” (which is something happening X-thousand days ago) today. Here they are, with the better ones in bold if you’d rather just skim.
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