In the first season of major league baseball in South Florida, Marlins fans were witness to more losses than wins.
On July 22nd, the 40-54 Marlins were playing host to the 49-48 Cincinnati Reds with 33,668 in attendance at Joe Robbie Stadium. Of course, there was no roof to speak of in the Marlins home at that time, and this game was preceded by a ferocious thunderstorm about 90 minutes before gametime, according to the Sun Sentinel.
Jack Armstrong took the hill for the Marlins, at that time a 28-year-old right-hander. He would remain right-handed, but of course he didn’t remain 28. At six-foot-five and 220 lbs., Armstrong was an imposing figure on the hill, and a veteran of the “Nasty Boys” off the Reds.
At the time, Armstrong was 7-9 with a 4.34 ERA, a 1.346 WHIP, and 78 K’s in 120 1/3 innings for Florida. For three innings he matched zeros with former rotation-mate Tom Browning, who was 6-5 with a 4.87 ERA, 1.592 WHIP, and 49 K’s in 92 1/3 innings. The fourth inning is where it all fell apart for our boys.
Armstrong allowed a leadoff single to Chris Sabo, then Reggie Sanders reached base on a Gary Sheffield error, his National League “leading” 21st of the season. After a Hal Morris RBI-single, Juan Samuel cleared the bases with his third tater of the season.
"We had one bad inning. We made an error, but that’s not the main thing. There was one bad pitch, with bad location. But we should be able to come back from that. We came back a little, but not enough. – Lachemann, quoted by Michael Mayo in the Sun Sentinel"
Armstrong struck out the next batter, Joe Oliver, swinging, but Jacob Brumfield followed with a triple. Pitcher Browning then sacrifice flied Brumfield home. With the bases again empty, Armstrong walked leadoff man Bip Roberts and surrendered a stolen base before getting Jeff Branson to ground out to end the nightmare with a five-run deficit.
In the bottom of the inning, Henry Cotto doubled, then Jeff Conine and Sheffield strung together consecutive singles to score Cotto. Orestes Destrade then double played, 4-6-3, and Benito Santiago grounded out. The Marlins wouldn’t get any closer the rest of the way.
"We’re down by four runs, and he just threw three wild pitches, so that’s the call. If he walks me, then we could have a big inning. Personally, I would always like to hit, but every hitter would. – Destrade, on his 400-foot foul ball in the seventh inning"
Sanders later added insult to injury, hitting a two-run shot off reliever David Weathers for a sizable 7-1 advantage in the top of the seventh. The Marlins got a pair back in the bottom of the frame, on three consecutive singles from Destrade, Santiago, and Rick Renteria and a sacrifice fly by Walt Weiss. The game ended just two hours and 27 minutes after it started, with a 7-3 final score, advantage Redlegs.
Conine was the only Marlin to collect multiple hits, going three-for-four and raising his average to a team-best .306.
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First of all, can you imagine a game lasting just 2:27 today? It doesn’t seem possible. The Reds relied on Browning for 6 2/3 innings, then Scott Service pitched the final 2 1/3 innings.
Despite Armstrong’s fourth inning trouble, he came in to pitch the fifth. In what can only be described as a sign of the times, manager Rene Lachemann left in the starter for another full inning. Maybe this is due to the fact that major league clubs at the time had mostly five-man bullpens, and maybe partly it’s because in those days, it was considered unmanly to pitch less than five. I don’t know, I’m just spitballing here. Anyway, Weathers pitched two and Joe Klink came on for the final two, striking out three and not allowing anyone to score.
Well, hope you enjoyed this. Not much else going on in baseball-land, but that’s about to change. Pitchers and catchers report in just nine more days. Go Marlins!