Grubb Comes Through: ’84 ALCS Game 2

Detroit Tigers players Darrell Evans, Chet Lemon, and Larry Herndon smiling and slapping hands

Big Cats Put Saberhagen on Heels

The Tigers had dominated the Royals in Game 1.  Game 2 gave them a shot to completely demoralize K.C., to make them believe they couldn’t win.

They’d have to do it against the kind of combatant perfectly suited for his team in the situation, a confident young kid new to the battle: Bret Saberhagen.

At the beginning of the season, Saberhagen was a week shy of his 19th birthday when he pitched in his first Major League Game.  On Apr. 19 he got his first start—at Detroit.  He reacted by handing us what was at the time a very rare loss.  In 6 innings, the fastball/breaking ball pitcher let up just one run, and the Royals won 5-2.

On the year, Saberhagen went 3-1 against the Tiges, with a 3.68 ERA, making him the team’s most effective starter against us. 

On Oct. 3, he went up against Dan Petry, who’d gone 1-1 n the year against K.C., with a 3.80 ERA.

Petry turned in a meat and potatoes, 7-inning performance in Game 2

The game began with Whitaker softly bounding one to shallow shortstop. Onix Concepion leaned in to pick it, and as he was straightening for the throw he bobbled the ball to the carpet, Lou safe on the error.[1]

Trammell flew out to deep center, Whitaker boldly tagging and making in to second on the play.  Gibson sliced one into the right field corner to score Whitaker and make it 1-0.

Next up, Parrish took a Saberhagen pitch out over the plate and muscled it into right field to score Gibson and test the mettle of young Bret.

            Saberhagen Holds Up, Royals Strike Back

Petry, coming off an 18-win year, got off to a great postseason start, punching out the Royals in the first two innings.  In the 3rd, Gibson took a 3-2 offering and hit it pure and true over the head of Willie Wilson.  It carried and carried and ended up on the lawn beyond the center field fence.  The Tigers were up 3-0.  It appeared that if Saberhagen had tamed us on the regular season, his magic had worn off.

Kirk Gibson doubles in Whitaker, then homers in the 3rd

Meanwhile, Peaches got the Royals 1-2-3 in their half of the 3rd, and that tinkly organ in Royals Stadium started sounding very loud against the quiet consternation of the fans.

In the 4th, Petry walked future Tiger Pat Sheridan with 1 out.  George Brett pounded a high liner out of Lemon’s reach that sent Sheridan to third.[2]  The crowd was now awake, and Jorge Orta chopped one over Petry’s head, where Whitaker gloved it.  He stepped on the bag for the force but couldn’t get Orta at first. Sheridan scored, making it 3-1.

While Petry further bent by allowing a single to Darryl Motley, he got “Bye Bye” Balboni swinging to dodge the bullet and end the inning.

In a pressure situation, not knowing if the damage had already been done, all Saberhagen could do was keep has club as close as possible.  He cruised the 4th unharmed, then got three fly balls in the 5th to keep it at 3-1.

Everything held ‘til the bottom of the 7th, when Frank White beat out the throw to first on a double play attempt.  Don Slaught then hit an odd bloop in front of second base, barely on the shortstop side.  Tram was passive, waiting for the bounce.  Though there were two outs, and he could’ve thrown it to Evans to get Slaught, he instead tried to beat White to the bag, and when he couldn’t, everyone was safe.

To show their poise and grit, not wanting to let an error go unpunished, the Royals capitalized when Dane Iorg coaxed one under the glove of Whitaker into right to score White.  It was now 3-2 in the late innings.

Royals skip Dick Howser kept Saberhagen in the game, and when he got Evans on a warning track fly to Sheridan, he’d achieved his fifth straight scoreless inning.

            Drama in the late innings

Willie Hernandez relieved Petry at the start of the 8th, his first hitter the former Tigers role player Lynn Jones.  The diminutive outfielder singled to left.  After Willie got George Brett, veteran DH Hal McRae strode to the plate.  The right hander lined one into the corner in left.  Ruppert let it roll along the curve of the wall to his waiting glove, and Jones came in to score.  It was a whole new ballgame, 3-3, with Petry now ineligible for a decision.

Sparky would later say he’d erred by bringing in Hernandez, who was assailed by a flu bug.

Willie’s possible rival for the Cy Young Award, Dan Quisenberry, came in and got Detroit in the 9th.

In the bottom of the inning, Lopez, now in the game, walked the dangerous Willie Wilson.  But pitching coach Roger Craig called a pitchout at the right time and Parrish gunned Wilson down, sending it to extra innings.

An Unlikely Hero?

The deadlocked game went to the 10th inning, with the series’ balance on the line, and with Howard Cosell and Jim Palmer continuing to bicker in ABC’s booth.  The 10th inning was tense due to circumstance, but eventful for both teams.

However, Parrish led off the 11th by slugging one to left field.  Darrel Evans put down a rare bunt, and when Don Slaught flubbed it trying to bare hand it down the first base line, both men were safe.  Ruppert Jones also got the bunt sign, sending one back to the Quis, who got Lance at third.  One out, runners on first and second.

Grubb’s heroism wasn’t quite unlikely, but very welcome.

Johnny Grubb came to the plate, so far 0-3 for the night.  But he got plenty of lumber on a Quisenberry pitch and lofted one over Willie Wilson’s left shoulder, a one-hopper to the wall.  Evans scored easily and Ruppert Jones gained on him down the third base line, sliding in right behind his teammate.  Grubb’s shot had given the Tigers a 5-3 lead.

Go Johnny, Go, Go!

The Royals weren’t ready to go quietly into that good night, though.  Don Slaught singled off Lopez, and Willie Wilson tapped one meekly toward Castillo, who couldn’t get off a throw against the speedster.  That put the tying run on first base with Lynn Jones to the plate.   Jones hit a hard line shot right at Kirk Gibson, who caught it for the game’s final out.

For the Tigers, the dramatic win was a show of what Cosell called their “undending strength.”[3]  Big extra base hits and RBIs from role player were nothing new for the team—in addition to Grubb, Bergman and HoJo and Ruppert had all figured large in key games over the year.

Plus, Grubb had shown his big-game moxie with no less than 3 homers in the series at Toronto.  His heroism wasn’t quite unlikely, but very welcome.

Ruppert Jones scores behind Evans. Tigers win 5-3

Petry had pitched a meat-and-potatoes seven innings, leaving with the lead, and after Hernandez had faltered, Lopez had kept K.C. at bay to let the hitters win the game.

A poster with Tigers catcher Lance Parrish standing next a real tiger
I don’t care if you’re Willie Wilson, don’t mess with these cats.

The series was now going to Motown, where the Tigers hoped to reverse the trend of the road team winning most games on the season series.  It was a strange phenomenon, hard to explain, and the fans in Detroit didn’t care much about it.  Going back home, the Tigers seemed to have a pretty good lock on the series.

That’s about how it looked in the N.L. too, for the Cubs, that is.  Chicago had gotten to Padres hurler Mark Thurmond early and had held on for a 4-2 win to make it 2-0.  In the Tigers’ broadcast, speaking of the several warning track shots Parrish had already hit in K.C. (in addition to his Game 1 homer), Al Michaels exuded, “Can you imagine Parrish in Wrigley?”

That would’ve been something, Al.  But instead, let’s turn to Tiger Stadium.


[1] 1984 ALCS game 2 Detroit Tigers at Kansas City Royals. User: gibomber youtube.com https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAyPpg2MEA4&t=4064s

[2] Ibid

[3] Ibid

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