Thursday, June 16, 2005

 

June 16th, 1992

Dodgers Play at Braves


Still full of the euphoria from yesterday evening's Yankee game, I thought it would be appropriate to do a game that featured a dramatic ninth inning of its own. This Dodgers-Braves game, played on what was probably a warm day in Atlanta in mid June (average daytime temperature in Atlanta for June 16th is 87°) was unremarkable for the first eight innings. The Braves jumped all over Dodgers' starter Kevin Gross to the tune of seven runs (six earned) in less than four innings, highlighted by back-to-back homers by Ron Gant and David Justice in the third. Although it was 5-2 going into the fourth, the Braves tacked on two more runs that inning, making it a seeming blow out, 7-2 after four innings. The Dodgers would get a run in the seventh but enter the ninth down by four runs. And that's when things got interesting.

Mark Wholers, not yet the Braves closer, started the ninth, replacing Kent Mercker. Mike Scioscia walked leading off the inning, but Wholers retired pinch-hitter Stan Javier on a strikeout. However, Jose Offerman walked and with two runners on, Bobby Cox made a move to his bullpen, replacing Wholers with Mike Stanton to pitch to the lefty Brett Butler. The plan worked as
Butler forced Offerman at second, but managed to avoid the double play, leaving runners at the corners with two outs. Mike Sharperson, who had entered the game as a pinch-hitter for Lenny Harris in the seventh doubled home Scioscia and moved Butler to third.

Having seen enough of
Stanton against the righties, Cox went to Juan Berenguer to face Mitch Webster. The thirty-seven year old Panamanian, in the last year of his career, simply didn't have it, as he surrendered a two-run single to Webster which brought the Dodgers within one. Up next was Eric Karros, who would be that season's Rookie of the Year. He helped prove why as he drilled one of his twenty home runs, giving the Dodgers an improbable 8-7 lead.

But the game wasn't over yet. After a Juan Samuel strikeout ended the inning, Dodgers' manager Tommy Lasorda called on Jay Howell to close out the game. Howell surrendered a single to Terry Pendleton but then got Gant on a liner to first. Lasorda then pulled Howell for lefty John Candelaria to pitch to lefties David Justice and Sid Bream. The "Candy Man" failed as Justice walked and Candelaria was pulled after Cox went to his bench and used righty Jeff Blauser as a pinch hitter for Bream. After Lasorda made his own move and inserted righty Jim Gott, Cox made his countermove, sending up lefty swinging Jerry Willard to bat against Gott. (This is another game I'm glad I wasn't keeping score at.)

All of these machinations came to a head when Willard singled, scoring the tying run in Pendleton and moving winning run Justice to second. Cox then pinch ran for Willard with Brian Hunter (presumably to stay out of the double play since that run meant nothing) as Damon Berryhill came to the plate. Berryhill struck out, leaving the Dodgers--as the Braves had been--just one out from victory, but as in the ninth for the Braves, it would never come. Mark Lemke worked a walk off Gott, and Lasorda called upon Roger McDowell to try and close it out. It wouldn't happen as light hitting (.211 in 1992) Rafael Belliard hit a single to center, scoring David Justice with the winning run, and giving the Braves an unlikely victory after throwing away a four run ninth inning lead.





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