BLUE JAYS 5, MARINERS 4 (10)
Monday, July 24, 1978 at Exhibition Stadium
Game 1292 – 3/20/13
For the Seattle Mariners and manager Darrell Johnson, tonight’s game was an opportunity to prove to their 1977 expansion cohorts, the Toronto Blue Jays, who was the most-improved of the two: the Mariners currently held the better won-lost record, had an 8-0 advantage in head-to-head meetings in 1978, and could boast a 16-game winning streak from earlier this season. But they’d recently fallen on hard times, and were eager to not only get back on track and make a run for the AL West lead, but to keep their perfect record against the Blue Jays intact. “It’s about pride,” said Johnson before the game, “and we’re out to show people we’re not the same team we were last year.”
Neither, apparently, were the Blue Jays, who clawed back from a 4-3 deficit to tie the game in the seventh, then scored the game-winner on a sacrifice fly from first baseman John Mayberry in the tenth, good for a thrilling 5-4 win in front of a jubilant Junior Jays Night crowd at chilly Exhibition Stadium in Toronto.
Toronto had built an early 2-0 lead on RBI singles by Roy Howell and Bob Bailor, but the Mariners bounced back to even the score when team home run leader Leon Roberts clubbed his 22nd, a two-run shot with nobody out in the fourth. The two squads then engaged in a see-saw scoring battle over the ensuing three innings: the Jays took a 3-2 advantage on a solo HR from Al Woods, a run-scoring double from M’s catcher Bill Plummer re-tied the game, and after Roberts struck again with an RBI double in the seventh, Toronto came back in the bottom of the frame when Howell’s triple to the gap was misplayed by Ruppert Jones at the wall, allowing Howell to circumnavigate the basepaths, knotting the game once more, this time at 4-4.
Oddly enough, M’s manager Johnson appeared to be intoxicated at times throughout the game, and at one point almost sent Bruce Bochte to the plate instead of Lee Stanton, which nearly resulted in an automatic out for the Mariners. Now, he suddenly called for the removal of Abbott and summoned Shane Rawley (5-7) from the bullpen to pitch the eighth. Toronto manager Roy Hartsfield had already made a pitching change an inning earlier, replacing starter Balor Moore with Don Kirkwood, a four-year veteran who was playing his first season in a Jays uniform, and his last in the major leagues. Both relievers pitched a pair of uneventful shutout innings, and the game went into extra frames still deadlocked 4-4.
Joe Coleman (3-0) was now on the mound for the Jays, and threw a perfect tenth; Rawley opened the bottom of the inning by striking out Luis Gomez, but it would be the last out he’d secure for the night; Woods followed with a sharp single to right, advanced to second on a pinch-single by Otto Velez, then moved to third when Rawley plunked Bailor with an inside pitch. With the bases now loaded and still only one out, Johnson made his way the mound, dismissed Rawley, and waved Enrique Romo in from the bullpen to face clean-up batter John Mayberry.
Romo, a right-hander who currently held the team lead in saves with seven, watched the left-hand-hitting Mayberry drive his first offering 347 feet to the warning track in right-center, where Roberts made the running catch at the base of the wall. However, Roberts could do nothing else as Woods tagged and easily trotted home from third with the game-winning run, snapping Toronto’s eight-game losing streak against their Pacific Northwest rivals and sending the cheering Jays partisans home on a high note.
The loss was a dispiriting one for the Mariners, who were riding a wave of enthusiasm after their 3-game winning streak of the previous week, and tonight were hoping to gain ground on the fourth-place A’s. For the Jays, the victory improved their record to 40-56, and they became the first cellar-dwelling team in the majors this season to reach the 40-win mark. The teams will continue their short 2-game set tomorrow at 7:30.
• The game was played at night at site AZ13, in Room 411 of the Hampton Inn & Suites in Prescott Valley, Arizona, on the room desk while we listened to ‘Adult Alternative’ on the Music Choice cable channel on TV.
• My opponent for the game was my friend Brent, who managed the Mariners; his SP78 record against me now stands at 0-1.
• This was the first game ever played at site AZ13, and since I’ll probably never get to Prescott Valley again to play an SP78 game, it will no doubt be my last game there as well.
• This was the second game ever played on this date, and the first since 1998.
• Securing Prescott Valley as an SP78 site location was made possible when Brent and his wife Simona made paid a visit to me in Arizona, a side-trip they surprised me with while they were vacationing in San Diego for three weeks. I was then invited along on their two-day venture around northern Arizona, and Brent asked if I could bring Statis Pro along; it would be his first time ever playing an SP78 game.
• The expansion Mariners and Blue Jays, upon entering the major leagues in 1977, became ‘honorary’ favorite teams of Brent and I, so it was cool that the schedule allowed us to manage these two teams tonight.
• Toronto catcher Alan Ashby was ejected from the game in the fourth inning for making disparaging comments towards home plate umpire Ron Luciano and his inconsistent strike calls; with regular backup Rick Cerone on the disabled list, recent AAA call-up Ernie Whitt was forced to enter the game, making his first appearance of the SP78 season.
• To make Whitt’s ’78 debut a memorable one, he was given the green light on the basepaths, even though his base-stealing rating was a dismal ‘E’. He drew a walk in his first at-bat, and promptly took off for second, where he was easily gunned down by Mariners backstop Bill Plummer. He did not attempt to steal another base that night.
• John Mayberry’s game-winning sacrifice fly was the first sacrifice—bunt or fly-out—registered by the Blue Jays this month.
• Brent drank Big Flats lager beer while he managed—which he’d picked up earlier that day at a Walgreen’s near the hotel—and at one point early in the game almost batted Bruce Bochte out of order; these events were incorporated into the summary above, at the unfortunate expense of M’s manager Darrell Johnson.