October 12th brought World Series baseball back to Detroit for the first time since 1968.
The 104-game-winning, Wire-to-Wire Tigers had to chance to take a lead on the Padres.
Going into the game, the Tigers needed to stem the tide of a trend of failing to drive in men after getting them on base. They’d left 9 aboard on Tuesday night and 3 on Wednesday, when getting guys on to begin with had been tough against long reliever Andy Hawkins. Perhaps a more specific plague beset Detroit: scoring in the first inning and then stalling out. Because much of that had been Andy Hawkins’ great performance in Game 2, it remained to be seen if their drop off against Padres pitching (whether starters or relievers) would continue.
The pitching matchup was the second righty vs. lefty matchup of the series, with Milt Wilcox facing southpaw Tim Lollar. The big lefthander was one of a half-roster of guys drafted by the Yankees and traded away in their youth. It was a multi-way deal that sent Jerry Mumphrey to New York and Lollar, Ruppert Jones and others to the Padres.
Lollar pitched a great 16-win, 3.13 season in ’82, but regressed to 7-12, 4.62 in ’83. In ’84 it was 11-13 with a 3.91 record. But he was among the league-worst when it came to walks/9 innings (4.8).
The game began with Alan Wiggins spiting the bunt-guarding Marty Castillo by poking a liner past him into the bullpen, where Herndon bobbled it, Wiggins ending up with a double. It was his fifth hit of the series. Most of the core Padres: Garvey, Kennedy, and Gwynn had been gamely doing their parts thus far. But there’d be no more hits in the half inning, Wilcox getting out of mild danger.
The Tigers got two on with walks in the first and left them there.
In the bottom of the second, Lemon inside-outed a Lollar pitch into the right field grass, then advanced to second on a wild pitch. Evans then lofted a fly ball to Brown in center, a situation in which you wouldn’t always send the runner. But the Tigers didn’t fear the arms of any Padre outfielder, and when Lemon tagged, Brown launched a rainbow that was right on target but late because of the arc.
Marty Castillo got behind on the count against Lollar, but drilled one into the left field seats to make it 2-0, Chet Lemon executing a beautiful “we’re number one” pose partway down the third base line.
Then it really got ugly. If the Padres were going to come back again, without Andy Hawkins available this time, they’d need Lollar to knuckle under. Instead, he walked Whitaker, then let up a slashing double down the line to Trammell, scoring Whitaker from first on a close play in which Lou knocked the ball out of Kennedy’s mitt with his slide.
He walked Gibson.
He got a grounder from Parrish that Nettles made a valiant diving quasi-stop on (he didn’t cleanly field it) but there was no play and the bases were loaded.
That was it for Lollar, and 24-year-old righty Greg Booker (son-in-law of Jack McKeon) came in, promptly walking Larry Herndon to score Trammell. Barbaro Garbey’s fly to center left another three men on base, five and counting through two innings.
After a Garvey groundout scored Wiggins in the third to make it 4-1, Booker got back to walking hitters, Evans, Whitaker, and Trammell. That was enough to give the boss’s son-in-law the hook, and Met draftee and journeyman Greg Harris came in. He didn’t walk Gibby, but he did bean him, and Evans scored, bases still loaded. Harris then got Parrish on a lineout to left-center, and Detroit had left 3 more, and led 5-1. It could’ve been 7 or 9.
Milt Wilcox had good stuff, keeping a lid on the Padres, mostly with groundouts. Harris walked two more in the fifth, but the Tigers let him off the hook when Herndon popped out to Templeton. Imagine if the Pads found a way to scuttle back after all these men left on base.
Wilcox pitched out of a jam in the sixth, which would be his last inning—he left the game leading 5-1 after a workman-like performance. His replacement was Bill Scherrer, who got stung by a hot Steve Garvey, who doubled Gwynn to third (and would end the game with a .313 series average).
Playing good station-to-station ball, Nettles got Gwynn in with a sac fly, and Sparky brought in Hernandez to face Kennedy with Garvey on third. With a full count, Kennedy hit a rising liner into cavernous center field, over Lemon’s head. Chet twisted the wrong way then reached back and plucked it out of the air for an ooh-ahh inning-ending out. The lead remained 5-2 going into the final stanzas.
Nothing remarkable happened for the rest of the game, and when Willie Hernandez got Garvey on a lazy fly to center, the Tigers had taken a 2-1 lead in the series.
The 11 walks given by the Padres tied a World Series record, and to be sporty, the Tigers had left 14 men on. It wasn’t a virtuoso performance. The Tigers hadn’t hit the ball well on a consistent basis all game—only the homer by Castillo and double by Trammell in the second constituted a real show of batting prowess. Other than that, they’d been handed their runs and failed to score when the run wasn’t walked in.
It’s hard to gauge the momentum, where the Tigers were exactly, heading into Saturday. The biggest factor was, of course, the lead. The second was probably a slight edge they had for Game 4 in the pitching matchup of Morris against Show, the Padres’ ace who’d yet to start a game. One could be satisfied with the general standing of the two teams: while Wiggins was getting on base and Gwynn was hitting him over, and while Kennedy and Nettles and Garvey were getting their hits, the Padres had averaged 3 runs per game. They could move guys along and had already scored a few runs on sacrifices, and that’s what it had all added up to: the Tigers pitching just wasn’t a pushover.
But there was a paradox with the Padres’ pitching: with the exception of Thurmond, who’d battled well in Game 1 before leaving down 3-2, it couldn’t possibly get any worse. Not only did the Tigers have to anticipate a quality start from one of the Padres, but Dravecky and Hawkins and Lefferts had silenced the Tigers bats completely. Whether because of a pitcher in a groove or a tired team, the Tigers hadn’t scored beyond the 5th inning—their production in Games 2 and 3 had closed in the 2nd and 3rd innings, respectively. The good news was it had been enough to go up 2 games to 1, the bad that they might have a hard time continuing to win that way.
Fans looking a few hours ahead to Game 4 could set their course to the star of Jack Morris, who figured to bring some stability to their voyage. Whether or not the Tigers continued to lapse offensively late in games, they knew they had the bulldog fighting for them.
 Tim Lollar. Baseball-Reference.com. https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/l/lollati01.shtml