Monday, July 18, 2011

Random Past Game: May 29, 1994

Date of Game: Sunday, May 29, 1994
Location: Veterans Stadium
Opponent: Houston Astros
Final Score: Phillies 4, Astros 2
Winning Pitcher: David West
Losing Pitcher: Doug Drabek
Save: Doug Jones
Home Runs: Tom Quinlan, Kim Batiste

Phillies Starting Lineup

Lenny Dykstra, cf
Mariano Duncan, 1b
Jim Eisenreich, rf
Darren Daulton, c
Milt Thompson, lf
Kim Batiste, ss
Mickey Morandini, 2b
Tom Quinlan, 3b
David West, p

Astros Starting Lineup

James Mouton, rf
Steve Finley, cf
Craig Biggio, 2b
Jeff Bagwell, 1b
Luis Gonzalez, lf
Andujar Cedeno, ss
Chris Donnels, 3b
Scott Servais, c
Doug Drabek, p

About this game: When you think of baseball history, the first things that enter your mind are achievements by legendary players. There's Joe DiMaggio's 56-game hitting streak, Hank Aaron's 715th home run, etc. But the beauty of baseball and sports in general is that historic events can occur at any given time, regardless of the participants. On a sunny Sunday before Memorial Day at Veterans Stadium in 1994, a pair of Philadelphia Phillies pitchers came tantalizingly close to entering the record books. A date with destiny wasn't quite meant to be, but the home team did emerge victorious when all was said and done.

After coming within two victories of a World Series title in 1993, the 1994 Phillies were an injury-riddled shell of the previous season's pennant winners who found themselves in the National League East basement thanks to a 12-21 start. They'd finally heat up after that, though, and a 10-3 spurt got the Phils to within two games of the .500 mark by the time the Houston Astros came to town for a three-game set over Memorial Day weekend. There was a lot of buzz surrounding this series, though it had nothing to do with how either club was performing on the field. The reason for the hype was Mitch Williams visiting Philadelphia for the first time since being traded to the Astros following the '93 World Series, which of course ended when the Wild Thing surrendered a three-run walkoff home run to Joe Carter in Game 6, the second loss for Williams in the Fall Classic against the Toronto Blue Jays.

The Astros had taken the first two games of this three-game set at the Vet by scores of 4-2 and 7-5, respectively. Solo home runs by Scott Servais and Steve Finley off losing pitcher Shawn Boskie snapped a 2-2 tie in the seventh inning of the series opener and provided the final score. It was not without drama, as Williams entered the game for Houston in the ninth and walked Jim Eisenreich before hitting Mickey Morandini with a pitch. After Kim Batiste lined to left, Williams was replaced by John Hudek, who walked Lenny Dykstra with two outs to load the bases before getting Mariano Duncan on a game-ending popup to save the game for winning pitcher Shane Reynolds. The Astros struck late to win the second game as well, snapping a 5-5 tie on a sacrifice fly by Luis Gonzalez in the seventh before adding an insurance run on an RBI single by Jeff Bagwell in the eighth. Todd Jones nailed down the save for Houston in the middle game as Brian Williams got the win. Andy Carter took the loss for the Phils, who entered the series finale in last place in the NL East with a record of 22-26, eight games behind the Atlanta Braves. The Astros sat at 27-21, tied for first in the newly-formed National League Central with the Cincinnati Reds, two games ahead of the St. Louis Cardinals.

Hoping to avoid a sweep, the Phillies sent David West to the mound in the series finale. West had been the lefthanded setup man for the Phils in 1993, going 6-4 with a 2.92 ERA while appearing in 76 games out of the bullpen. He didn't find that level of success out of the 'pen in 1994, going 0-4 with a 5.12 ERA in 17 appearances before being moved into a starting role after a series of injuries decimated the rotation. West made his first start on May 24 against the Cardinals in St. Louis, tossing four shutout innings and getting a no-decision in a game the Phils would win by a score of 4-0 thanks to a four-run ninth. It appeared to be a mound mismatch, as Doug Drabek would toe the rubber sporting a 7-1 record on the season to go along with a 2.42 ERA. But, as they say, there's a reason the games aren't played on paper.

West got his day off to a good start, retiring the Astros in order in top of the first while Drabek worked around a one-out single by Duncan in the home half. A leadoff walk and stolen base by Bagwell didn't faze West in the second, as the hefty lefty struck out Gonzalez, Andujar Cedeno, and Chris Donnels in order to retire the side. The Phillies would strike first in their half of the second, as Morandini singled with two outs and scored ahead of Tom Quinlan on what turned out to be the only home run of Quinlan's career, a two-run shot to give the Phils a 2-0 lead. There would not be another baserunner for either team until there were two outs in the bottom of the fourth, when Batiste launched what would be his only home run of the 1994 season and last as a Phillie, a solo blast to make it 3-0.

The only real trouble West faced all day came in the fifth, as Gonzalez led off with a walk before advancing to second on a passed ball by Darren Daulton. Cedeno followed with another walk, and after Donnels went down swinging for the first out, the runners moved up to second and third on a wild pitch. Servais was up next and sent a deep drive to the seats in left that hooked just foul. Given a reprieve, West came back to strike out Servais, then got Drabek on an inning-ending grounder to Quinlan at third. The Astros remained hitless as they went down in order in the sixth, but West wasn't stretched out enough to last any longer than the 102 pitches he'd thrown, so his afternoon ended right there.

Taking the mound for the Phillies in the seventh was Heathcliff Slocumb, who'd emerged as the club's top setup man after being acquired from the Cleveland Indians the previous offseason in exchange for Ruben Amaro, Jr. Slocumb issued a one-out walk to Gonzalez in the seventh, but kept the no-hitter intact as he struck out Cedeno and Donnels to retire the side. Astros manager Terry Collins pulled out all the stops in the eighth, sending three consecutive pinch-hitters to the plate in an effort to get off the schneid. It didn't work, as Mike Felder (batting for Servais) flied to Milt Thompson in left, while Sid Bream (batting for Drabek) and Kevin Bass (batting for James Mouton) grounded to Quinlan at third. The Phils were three outs away from what would've been the ninth no-hitter in franchise history and first in which more than one pitcher was involved.

There was another element of drama in this game, as Williams would make his second appearance of the series in the bottom of the eighth. The Wild Thing worked a full inning this time, but he yielded the fourth Phillies run of the day as Duncan walked to start the frame before being bunted to second by Eisenreich, stealing third, and coming in to score on a two-out RBI single by Thompson. The outing by Williams represented another "last" in this game, as it turned out to be the final career appearance he'd make in Philadelphia.

With that out of the way, the focus shifted back to the home team and a potential place in the game's history. The Veterans Stadium crowd of 52,930 buzzed in anticipation of witnessing an historic event as Slocumb headed back out to the mound for the ninth inning with the Phils holding a 4-0 lead. Because the game was no longer in a save situation, manager Jim Fregosi had elected to stick with Slocumb for a third inning and leave closer Doug Jones in the bullpen. If Slocumb was to finish off the no-no, he would have to go through the heart of Houston's order.

Visions of an on-field celebration danced through the heads of Phillies fans as the ninth inning got underway, but Steve Finley quickly provided a reality check as he led off with a single to break up the no-hitter three outs shy of its completion. Finley moved up to second on defensive indifference, then over to third when Craig Biggio flied to Eisenreich in right for the first out. A single by Bagwell plated Finley with the first Astros run of the game and sent Slocumb to the showers in favor of Jones. More defensive indifference saw Bagwell move up to second, and he'd come in to score on a Cedeno single with two outs to make it a 4-2 game and bring the tying run to the plate. Jones made sure the Houston comeback ended, as he got Donnels on strikes for the fourth time that day for the final out. History wasn't quite made by the Phillies, but they did salvage the final game in the series. West got the win, Drabek the loss, with Jones nailing down the save.

With the win, the Phillies improved to 23-26 on the season, seven games behind the East-leading Braves. They'd finally climb above the .500 mark on June 19, but they were never more than one game above sea level at any remaining point in the strike-shortened 1994 campaign. A 14-22 mark after July 1 left the Phils in fourth place with a record of 54-61, 20.5 games behind the Montreal Expos when play was halted on August 12. The Astros fell to 27-22 with the loss and remained tied with the Reds atop the Central. The strike would prove costly to Houston, as their 66-49 record had them 1/2 game behind the Reds in the division and 2.5 games behind the Braves in the Wild Card standings when the remainder of the season was wiped out.

The victory was the first of the year for West, who stood at 1-4 on the season. Though originally intended to be a short-term replacement, West spent the remainder of the strike-shortened 1994 campaign in the rotation, finishing with a 4-10 record despite a respectable 3.55 ERA. Injuries would limit West to 15 appearances over the 1995 and 1996 seasons, 14 of which were starts. His career ended with six relief outings as a member of the Boston Red Sox in 1998. Slocumb's first season as a Phillie ended with a record of 5-1 and 2.86 ERA in 52 appearances. He'd take over as the team's closer in '95, earning a spot on the National League All-Star team with 32 saves to go along with a 5-6 record and 2.89 ERA. He was traded to the Red Sox after the '95 season in a deal that saw reliever Ken Ryan along with outfielders Glenn Murray and Lee Tinsley head to Philadelphia. Jones was an All-Star in '94, going 2-4 with 27 saves a 2.17 ERA in what turned out to be his only season with the Phils.

Drabek's loss was just his second in nine decisions to that point in 1994, he'd end up at 12-6 with a 2.84 ERA. Williams was released by the Astros two days after this game after going 1-4 with six saves and a 7.65 ERA in 25 appearances for Houston. The Wild Thing would appear in 20 games with the California Angels in 1995, going 1-2 with a 6.75 ERA and seven more with the Kansas City Royals in 1997, going 0-1 with a 10.80 ERA. In between, he had a brief stint in the minors with the Phillies in 1996, but never made it back to the parent club.

Quinlan hit .200 in 24 games for the Phillies in 1994, his only season with the club after brief appearances with the Blue Jays in 1990 and 1992. The remainder of his MLB career consisted of four games and six hitless at-bats as a member of the Minnesota Twins in 1996. Quinlan's brother, Robb, played for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim from 2003-10 and was briefly with the Phils during Spring Training in 2011. Batiste would hit .234 in 64 games for the Phillies in '94, his last with the club. After spending 1995 in the minors, he resurfaced as a member of the San Francisco Giants in 1996, appearing in 54 games and hitting .208 in his final MLB season.

This was the closest the Phillies would come to a no-hitter between the ones thrown by Tommy Greene against the Expos in Montreal on May 23, 1991 and by Kevin Millwood against the Giants at the Vet on April 27, 2003. Exactly 16 years after this game took place, Roy Halladay tossed a perfect game against the Florida Marlins at SunLife Stadium, and he'd go on to throw the second no-no in postseason history on October 6, 2010 against the Reds in Game 1 of the National League Division Series.

Personal Recollection: This was another one of those Sunday plan games, and it wasn't the first time I flirted with seeing a no-hitter in person. You may remember from the feature on Mike Jackson that I was unable to attend the game in which he came within three outs of a no-no in 1987, but in 1990 I saw John Smoltz toss 8.1 hitless innings for the Braves before Lenny Dykstra broke it up with a double and later that same season, I was at the infamous game when Sil Campusano denied Doug Drabek a spot in history with two outs and two strikes in the ninth. At least this time, I got to see the Phillies on the positive side of things.

Perhaps because this was a combined bid, there wasn't the usual buzz along the way that you normally get when a pitcher has a no-hitter going. It really wasn't until about the eighth inning when you looked up and realized the Astros hadn't gotten a hit yet. David West threw the ball very well, but not to the point where you thought he was untouchable.

The decision to leave Heathcliff Slocumb in for the ninth and not bring Doug Jones out of the bullpen wasn't really second-guessed, though I did wonder out loud while Slocumb was throwing his warmup tosses if keeping him for a third inning was a good idea. Maybe Jim Fregosi got gun shy after the whole Roger Mason controversy in Game 6 of the 1993 World Series. Still, Slocumb had thrown the ball well while he was in, so you can't be too upset about it. Sometimes you're damned if you do, damned if you don't. I didn't witness history that day, but I was in attendance when Kevin Millwood pitched his no-hitter in 2003. So that means I've been at games where pitchers have thrown a no-hitter and come within one, two, and three outs of doing so. Pretty cool, huh?

It was kind of sad seeing Mitch Williams pitch that day. He was completely shattered after what happened to him in the '93 World Series. I always liked the Wild Thing and was sad to see him traded, because I'd hoped he would be able to redeem himself as a Phillie. The guy just didn't have it anymore, though, mentally or physically. One of the guys Williams was traded for, Doug Jones, got the save in this game. Jones was a rare junkballing closer who a lot of people forget was very good in his only season with the Phils. It didn't mean a ton because the season was never finished and the Phillies weren't going to be in the race, but he was on his way to having one of the best years ever for a closer in franchise history.

Todd Jones eventually ended up getting the closer's role for the Astros. A decade later, he would be a Phillie after arriving from the Reds in a trade deadline deal. Seems like a pattern there, with Houston closers eventually pitching for the Phils. Doug Jones, Todd Jones, Billy Wagner, Brad Lidge. That's almost all of 'em over the last couple decades.

Being at the game, I didn't hear the live broadcast, but Harry's call was played on the news that night. Obviously, he was noting how the Phillies were three outs away from a combined no-hitter as Steve Finley stepped in. As soon as Finley made contact, Harry simply said, "Nope. Not gonna happen..." as only he could.

Tom Quinlan was only a Phillie for a brief time, so I assumed his home run in this game was the only one he ever hit with the team. I didn't realize it was the only one he hit in his career, though. It wasn't the last one for Kim Batiste, as he hit three more with the Giants in 1996. I do recall after the home runs, there was a Fred Flintstone "YABBA DABBA DOO!" sound effect played followed by Paul Richardson playing the theme from The Flintstones. The live action movie had come out around that time, which would explain that. I can't say I'm particularly proud of the fact that I can recall this. But on a day that featured eight no-hit innings from the immortal David West and Heathcliff Slocumb as well as home runs from the mighty Tom Quinlan and Kim Batiste, I guess some things are just hard to forget.

That's my story on May 29, 1994. Do you remember this game? If so, feel free to share your own recollections!