CLEVELAND — That. Was. AWESOME!
Heading into the ninth inning, the scoreboard in Cleveland updated to show the Boston Red Sox leading the Chicago White Sox. With the Brewers trailing 6-5 and holding a 2 1/2 game lead over Boston in the AL East, the lead seemed to be trickling away.
Len Barker, Cleveland’s starter, tossed in a 3-1 fastball. Molitor launched a high fly ball to left center field. Outfielder Rick Manning raced to the track and leapt for the ball, but it barely escaped his grasp for a two-run home run to give the Brewers the lead.
“He looked like he had lost some velocity,” Molitor explained, regarding Barker’s ninth inning performance. “I know I was tired and I didn’t throw 140 pitches.
Everyone was tired, you see, because of the extreme humidity on this hot Cleveland afternoon. As Molitor rounded the bases, Gorman Thomas then led the charge out of the dugout to mob Molitor at the plate.
“It’s all part of the thrill,” Thomas said after the game, sipping a mug of beer. “I was as happy as a pig in a brand new, well watered sty.”
Of course, that celebration, combined with likely dehydration, resulted in back spasms for Gorman, and Marshall Edwards replaced him in centerfield for the bottom of the ninth.
Rollie Fingers pitched a perfect ninth and the Brewers held on for the stunning victory.
It’s one of those games that separates champions from good teams. Pete Vuckovich didn’t have his best stuff, but the offense did enough to stay in the game.
Gorman Thomas, before injuring his back, was more than just a cheerleader. He hit a two-run homer in the third to give the Brewers a 3-1 lead. Then, with the game tied at three with one out in the sixth and the bases loaded, Roy Howell hit a possible double play ball to shortstop Mike Fischlin, who attempted to step on the bag and turn two. Instead, Gorman Thomas bared down on him from first and upended the shortstop while the ball went flying. Two runs scored as a result.
Had that play not happened, the double play may have been turned and no runs scored. No runs, no dramatic victory in the ninth.
“It just proves what I’ve been saying all along,” manager Harvey Kuenn said later. “This team never quits, even with two outs in the ninth they are battling.”
They don’t quit. They just win.
Game Notes: Outfielder Ben Oglivie has struggled mightily since the All-Star break, hitting .178 (16-for-90) and with only seven hits in his last 56 at bats.