RANGERS 3, BREWERS 2
Sunday, July 23, 1978 at Arlington Stadium
Game 1280 – 1/27/13
Whether it was a joke, a statement of sorts, or just a harbinger of things to come for the Brewers, when Texas starting pitcher Dock Ellis held up a tiny noose he’d found on the field and allowed himself to be photographed with it before the game, his teammates wondered if Ellis would be taking his starting assignment more seriously than he was taking his pre-game preparations.
As it turned out, they didn’t have to worry. Ellis (8-9) pitched eight strong innings, allowing just two runs in earning his eighth win, as the Rangers clipped Milwaukee 3-2, thanks in part to shortstop Robin Yount’s misplayed ground ball off the bat of Bobby Bonds in the eighth, which allowed Bump Wills to trot home from third with the go-ahead and eventual winning run. Reliever Reggie Cleveland took over for Ellis in the final frame and shut down the Brewers for his ninth save, as Texas took two of their three weekend games at Arlington Stadium.
“I have no excuse,” said Yount. “I just freaking misplayed it.”
The Brewers opened the scoring in the second inning, when a bases-loaded sacrifice fly to deep right field by Sixto Lezcano gave Milwaukee a 1-0 lead. They could do no more harm, however, as Charlie Moore flew out to left for the second out, and Don Money—trying to score from second on a single up the middle by Gorman Thomas—was nailed at home on a pinpoint throw from center fielder Juan Beniquez, ending the inning.
The Rangers would take the lead in the fourth, when a Wills triple scored both Jim Sundberg and Toby Harrah with one out. Unfortunately, the lead was short-lived, as the Brewers came back on an RBI single from Cecil Cooper, scoring leadoff man Yount from second and knotting the score at 2-2.
With the game still deadlocked, rookie pitcher Willie Mueller had come on in the seventh in relief of starter Bill Travers and quickly got himself into trouble, allowing a base hit to Nelson Norman and a walk to Sundberg; he then worked himself out of the jam by retiring the next two Ranger batters, and entered the decisive eighth with the score tied and the top of the Texas order coming up.
But singles by Wills and Johnny Grubb chased Mueller in favor of Bill Castro, who this month had given up just one run in his six appearances as a reliever. With runners at the corners, Bonds bounced what appeared to be a routine grounder to Yount at short, which ticked off his glove and rolled into shallow left as Wills jogged home with what would prove to be the game-winning run. The tally was charged to Mueller, who suffered the first loss of his rookie season.
For Yount, it was his 27th error on the year, an embarrassing amount that had the young shortstop shaking his head in disgust after the game. “Horrible,” he stated to reporters. “just plain horrible. If I don’t get my act together, I’ll be joining Sakata in Spokane before the month is out.”
• The game was played in the afternoon at site AZ8 in Peoria, Arizona, on the living room table while I listened to Mirage by Fleetwood Mac.
• Texas first baseman Mike Hargrove was a last-minute replacement for Mike Jorgensen, who is usually slated to start against left-handed pitching.
• While researching Robin Yount’s early career on Wikipedia, I found this interesting little tidbit that I’d never heard before: “His brother Larry had one of the oddest, and shortest, careers in major league history. While taking his warmup tosses for his debut as a Houston Astros reliever in 1971, he experienced elbow pain. He never threw an official pitch in that game, or any other.”
• This was the last SP78 game where the original blue, yellow, and pink out charts were used; newly-printed copies in sheet protectors will now be used for all subsequent games, one set for each league.