December 8, 2013
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Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Mets 5, Diamondbacks 4: Arizona took two leads in this game: a 3-0 lead it held for most of it and then, after the Mets tied it in the ninth, a 4-3 lead in the 13th. The ultimate rally was capped with Andrew Brown's two-run single. The best part of that, though: Kirk Gibson ordered an intentional walk to John Buck before that. John Buck who SCORED THE WINNING RUN. John Buck who was 0 for 4 at that point. John Buck who is hitting .205. Any time you can put the winning run on base, you totally gotta do that, right? I think that's in the grit handbook.
Yankees 10, Twins 4: Andy Pettitte, who has admitted to using performance enhancing drugs, passed Whitey Ford, who is well known for doctoring baseballs, for the Yankees all-time strikeout record. Two homers for Robinson Cano, as the Yankees snap their five-game losing streak.
Nationals 10, Brewers 5: Bryce Harper came back from the DL and smacked a homer on the second pitch he saw. Jayson Werth had the bigger bat, though, driving in five. Jordan Zimmermann won his 12th and had three hits of his own.
Blue Jays 8, Tigers 3: A happy Canada Day it was, eh, as the Jays topped the Tigers behind R.A. Dickey's seven innings of two-run ball. Detroit fell behind by five runs and any hopes the Tigers had of coming back were crushed when Mark DeRosa hit a three-run bomb.
Reds 8, Giants 1: It has rained in Ohio for a week straight, so no real surprise this one was rain-shortened. Mercifully so, really. Giants pitcher Michael Kickham: not exactly the answer to San Francisco's rotation problems. He has started three times, two of them have gone shorter than three innings and, in order, he has given up four, five and seven runs on four, eight and nine hits, respectively.
Rays 12, Astros 0: The bottom third of the Rays order went 9 for 15 with six RBI. Matt Moore pitched seven two-hit shutout innings for his 11th win.
Marlins 4, Padres 0: Jose Fernandez topped Moore, tossing eight two-hit shutout innings and fanning 10. All four of the Marlins runs were unearned.
Fifty years ago today, one of the greatest and most famous pitching duels in all baseball history took place, a marathon match up featuring Hall of Fame studs Warren Spahn of the Milwaukee Braves and Juan Marichal of the San Francisco Giants. It was a 16-inning game with both hurlers going the distance. And why not? Not a single runner crossed the plate until the bottom of the 16th.
This is exactly what you’d want in an all-time great pitchers' duel. Not only was it a never-ending double shutout, it featured two clearly deserving Hall of Fame pitchers.
At the time, it wasn’t obvious that both men would make it into Cooperstown. Well, it was clear that Spahn would. He entered this game with a career record of 338-212. That’s the most wins by any pitcher of his generation. It’s the most by anyone since Pete Alexander. Yeah, he was Cooperstown-bound.
Not only that, but Spahn was also an ageless wonder of the world. He was 42 years old and showing no signs of slowing down. Sure, in 1962 he won “only” 18 games, breaking up a streak of six straight 20-win seasons, but so far 1963 was proving to be one of Spahn’s best seasons ever. He was 11-2 with an ERA just a little over 3.00. He had a five-game winning streak going for him and hadn’t allowed a run in 12 innings.
While Spahn’s place in baseball lore already was firmly established, Dominican Dandy Juan Marichal still was proving himself. In July, 1960, he made his big league debut in historic fashion, fanning 12 in a complete-game one-hitter against the Phillies. That proved he had the talent, but Marichal still needed to develop a bit.
Each year he improved bit over the season before. Marichal pitched well as a rookie in 1960, but in just 11 games. In his first full season, Marichal won more than he lost but with a middling ERA. Marichal took his first real step forward in 1962, going 18-11 with a 3.36 ERA and earning his first All-Star squad selection.
But 1963 was the year Marichal arrived. As June ended, he rode an eight-game winning streak to a 12-3 record and a miniscule ERA of 2.38. He was one of the best pitchers baseball, and today the young 25-year-old would get to prove his mettle against the old master. He surely would do so, but the old man wouldn’t make it easy.
Both teams had solid lineups. In fact, Marichal’s Giants and Spahn’s Braves each finished in the top three in runs scored on the year. And both lineups featured all the biggest names: Hall of Famers Hank Aaron and Eddie Mathews for the Braves, and fellow immortals Willie Mays, Willie McCovey, and Orlando Cepeda for San Francisco. So this wasn’t just a great duel, it was a great duel against impressive hitters.
Through nine innings, neither team scored, of course. Even threats were rare. Milwaukee had two opportunities but blew both with outs on the bases. With two outs in the fourth, the Braves put together a mini-rally with a walk and a single that put runners on first and second. When catcher Del Crandall singled, the team waved the lead runner around third to score, but Mays gunned him down at the plate to end the inning. It wouldn’t be the last time Mays made a big play in this game.
In the seventh, Crandall singled again off Marichal but promptly was thrown out in a botched stolen-base effort. That proved to be key because a few minutes later, Marichal surrendered a double to Warren Spahn. Had it not been for the attempted steal, Spahn might have won the game for himself right there.
For his part, Spahn had a much easier time of it. His worst inning came in the seventh when he allowed back-to-back singles, but both came with two outs, and he recorded the third out without too much difficulty.
Okay, so it was scoreless through nine frames. That’s fun, but that’s not too uncommon. But it was the overtime that made this game so special.
After his early struggles, Marichal got into a groove and got stronger as the game went on. From the eighth through 13th innings, he retired 16 straight batters at one point. Spahn was nearly as effective. From the 10th to 13th, he allowed just two base runners, one on a bunt single and the other he immediately picked off. The hitters couldn't do anything against these men.
In the bottom of the 14th, the Giants finally looked ready to blow the game open as Harvey Kuenn led things off with a double. With the winning run in scoring position, the Giants had the heart of their order coming up: Mays, McCovey, Felipe Alou, and Cepeda. This was damn near a worst-case scenario for Spahn.
Okay, time to show them you don’t win 338 games without having some gumption. First, Spahn intentionally walked Mays. As great as McCovey was, there was only one Willie Mays. McCovey had the chance to be the hero, but instead he popped it up to the catcher. One down. Time for Alou, who had some legitimate power, with 20 homers and 31 doubles on the season.
But if Spahn could take out McCovey, he could take on Alou, who flew out to center, advancing neither runner. The crisis appeared to be passing for Spahn as he was just one out away from escaping the inning. But the always-dangerous Cepeda stepped up to the plate. He hit a grounder to third, which should have ended the inning, but the ball was fumbled for an error on Denis Menke, and all the runners were safe.
Please tell me a game this good won’t end on an unearned run. That seems so unworthy of the day. Warren Spahn agreed and got the next batter out to end the inning. On to the 15th frame. Neither side scored then, so onto the 16th.
In the top of the 16th, Marichal allowed a single, just the second hit he’d allowed in the last nine innings, but the runner never made it to second, let alone home.
All things must end, though, and that included this majestic dual pitching performance. With one out in the bottom of the 16th, Mays came back to the plate. He’d already been a hero on the field and now he was a hero at the plate, homering to end the game as a 1-0 Giants victory. Juan Marichal had outlasted Warren Spahn.
Marichal would go on to have his first great season, posting a 25-8 record, the first of six 20-win campaigns in a seven-season stretch. Spahn also had a terrific year, tying his personal best with 23 wins, but it proved to be his last hurrah. In 1964, he fell apart, and 1965 was his last year in the majors.
The primes of Juan Marichal and Warren Spahn barely overlapped, but they overlapped in truly tremendous manner 50 years ago today.
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