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Birthday Baseball (An Occasional Series): Game 17- July 12, 1991

By now our readers know the story… I am looking back to see how the Yankees performed on my birthday each year since I’ve been born and then telling the story of what took place on that summer day.

As always, whenever I do research like this, my first two stops are always Retrosheet and Baseball-Reference.

Let’s head back to 1991 to see what took place in the Yankees game that night…

***

The early 1990s were not kind years to the Yankees. This was a tough time to be a Yankees fan. Yet, on Friday, July 12, 1991, the Yankees found themselves just one game under .500 (with a 39-40 record) as they began play in California against the Angels (44-38).

Rookie Scott Kamieniecki took the mound for the Yankees that night. He would be making his fifth Major League start. Thus far things had gone well for Kamieniecki. He came into the game with a 3-1 record.

The Angels sent Mark Langston, then in his eighth season. He came into the game with a 12-3 record.

***

The visiting Yankees decided to battle the Angels with the following lineup:

Steve Sax – 2b

Randy Velarde – ss

Don Mattingly – 1b

Jesse Barfield – rf

Kevin Maas – dh

Hensley Meulens – lf

Bernie Williams – cf

Bob Geren – c

Pat Kelly – 3b

The Angels countered with the following:

Luis Polonia – lf

Wally Joyner – 1b

Dave Winfield – rf

Dave Parker – dh

Lance Parrish – c

Gary Gaetti – 3b

Max Venable – cf

Donnie Hill – 2b

Dick Schofield – ss

***

On this night, the Yankees cam out swinging!

Steve Sax led off with a double. Since the Yankees had been no-hit (rain shortened game) the previous July 12, and hadn’t played on July 12 the previous two years, this double was their first hit on July 12 since 1987.) Randy Velarde then walked. Don Mattingly followed with a double of his own scoring Sax and setting up a situation with men on second and third and no outs. The Yankees were ready to burst the game open.

Alas! This was 1991. They would do no such thing. Jesse Barfield struck out. Kevin Maas popped out. Hensely Meulens struck out.

A golden opportunity wasted.

Luis Polonia then began the game for the California Angels by reaching on an error by third baseman Pat Kelly. (Yes, this was the era when the Yankees took Pat Kelly, a rookie known for being a standout defensive second baseman and had him playing third base. Third basemen usually hit for power. In 96 games that year, Pat Kelly hit three home runs. The error was Kelly’s 8th of the year! This was on-the-job training.)

But all was not lost. Wally Joyner popped out and Dave Winfield grounded into a double play to end the inning.

The Yankees went quietly (there was a walk (Bernie Williams), a fielder’s choice (Pat Kelly), and a stolen base (Pat Kelly, again, but not much else) in the second inning.

In their second inning, the Angels got a two-out single from Gary Gaetti, but nothing else.

The score remained 1-0 Yankees after two full innings of play.

In the third inning, Jesse Barfield walked to account for the sum total of the Yankees’ offense that inning.

Scott Kamieniecki then lost the strike zone. In the bottom of the third, he walked three Angels. But somehow (courtesy of a sacrifice, a fielder’s choice, and a fly out) the Angels failed to score.

The Yankees knew they has just escaped, Houdini like, and responded by… going down in order to begin the fourth inning.

The Angels then got another single from Gary Gaetti, but did nothing else.

This brought the teams to the fifth inning.

The Yankees went down in order.

The Angels, tired of being on the short end of a 1-0 deficit, came out ready to score. And score they did. Dick Schofield singled. He then stole second base. Luis Polonia flew out. Wally Joyner then walked… and that brought up Dave Winfield.

Big Dave ripped a single to tie the game at one run each. Scott Kamieniecki then got Dave Parker and Lance Parrish out to escape the inning and keep the game tied at 1 -1.

Both teams went down in order in the 6th.

The Yankees failed to have a batter reach base in the seventh.

For the bottom of the seventh inning, the Yankees brought in lefty Greg Cadaret to replace Kamieniecki. After one out, Luis Polonia singled, but Cadaret then struck out Wally Joyner and Dave Winfield to close the frame.

In the top of the eighth… the Yankees went down in order.

In the bottom of the 8th, Dave Parker began his team’s half inning by striking out. He was Greg Cadaret’s third consecutive strike out victim, so, of course, it made sense to take him from the game. Out came Cadaret… in came John Habyan.

Habyan made easy work of the California guys and the game entered the ninth inning still tied at 1-1.

In the top of the ninth, Jesse Barfield has a one-out infield single. This was just the Yankees’ third hit of the game and their first since the first inning. It mattered little, Kevin Maas and Hensley Meulens both whiffed

The Angels also failed to score (with two outs and a man on, the Yankees replaced Hayban with Steve Howe who faced and retired Luis Polonia).

On July 12, 1990, the Yankees played a rain-shortened game. This year, they were heading to extra innings.

Bryan Harvey, the Angels’ closer now came in to pitch. He walked Bernie Williams to begin the tenth inning. Matt Nokes then pinch-hit for Bob Geren.

Nokes singled!

Pat Kelly then sacrificed the two runners to second and third (with one out). (This was the exact spot the Yankees were in in the first inning which turned out to be their other big scoring opportunity of the game – one they failed to produce in.

Steve Sax then hit a grounder to third. Gary Gaetti fielded the ball and decided to try to turn the double play. They got the first out at seond, but Sax reached at first. With Bernie William scoring, the Yankees didn’t just have a rally – they had the lead! But, it was the only run they’d get.

In the bottom of the tenth inning, Steve Howe coaxed a ground out out of Wally Joyner. The Yankees then went to Steve Farr, their closer. Farr retired Dave Winfield and Dave Parker to close out the win!

The Yankees won 2-1 and climbed back to .500.

Amazing.

***

Next we will head to 1992 and a game in New York with the Mariners coming in to face the Yankees. Shawn Hillegas made nine starts for the Yankees in his entire career. This would be one of those starts…

***

Yankees Record on July 12 (in this series – since 1968): 15-2

(There were no games played on July 12 in 1971, 1976, 1978, 1981, 1982, 1988, and 1989)

Don Mattingly on July 12 (through 1991): 9 for 23 (.391), 1 2b, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 1 BB, SO

Graig Nettles (as a Yankee on July 12): 33 AB, 7 hits (.212), 1 run, 5 strikeouts, 4 walks. 1 RBI (I had hoped that my favorite player would have done better on my birthday.)

#BirthdayBaseball

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