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This Day in Reds History: Sparky’s Bullpen

August 8, 1972: The Dodgers strike out 22 Reds, but nine innings of two-hit relief help the Reds outlast the Dodgers, 2-1, in 19 innings.

The Reds entered the day in first place with a rather comfortable 5 ½ game lead over the second place Houston Astros and nine games ahead of the third place Los Angeles Dodgers. The Reds had started slowly in 1972, falling to 8-13 early in the season, but a nine-game winning streak and two seven-game winning streaks propelled the Reds into first place by June 9 and the Reds pretty much cruised the rest of the season to the National League title.

The Reds won the Western Division by 10 ½ games over the Dodgers and Astros, and then defeated the Pittsburgh Pirates in five games for the National League title. The Reds lost the 1972 World Series in seven games to the Oakland Athletics in one of the closest world titles in major league baseball history. The Reds finished 1972 second in the NL in offense with 4.59 runs per game and were third in pitching/defense, allowing 3.62 runs per game.

Manager Sparky Anderson oversaw a Reds pitching staff that was being decimated by injuries. Wayne Simpson, Jim Merritt, Gary Nolan, and Jim McGlothlin were all talented starters who suffered injury and found their innings limited in 1972. Don Gullett became ill and only made 16 starts. So, Anderson worked wonders with his relief staff. Check out this usage:

Clay Carroll made 65 appearances, pitched 96 innings, went 6-4, 2.25 ERA, 37 saves
Tom Hall made 47 appearances, pitched 124 innings, went 10-1, 2.61 ERA, 134 K’s
Pedro Borbon made 62 appearances, pitched 122 innings, went 8-3, 3.17 ERA, 11 saves
Ed Sprague made 33 appearances, pitched 56 innings, went 3-3, 4.13 ERA
Gullett made 15 relief appearances, pitching 36 innings, went 3-3, 3.00 ERA
McGlothlin made 10 relief appearances, pitching 19 innings, went 1-3, 3.26 ERA

Sparky used his bullpen, used it often, and varied in how he used them. All of the pitchers listed started at least one game, except for Carroll, who had started several games for Anderson in other seasons. Only Nolan did not relieve in a game as Sparky nursed his talented, but oft-injured arm through 25 starts, a 15-5 record, and a 1.99 ERA.

The August 8 game versus the Dodgers showed the Reds’ pitching at its best. Second –year starter, Ross Grimsley (finished 14-8, 3.05 ERA) took the mound for the Reds versus Dodger starter, Tommy John, before John had suffered the injury that brought forth the first “Tommy John” surgery. John and Grimsley battled inning by inning. Through the first five innings, John had only allowed a second inning single to the Reds’ Denis Menke, and Grimsley had allowed but three singles to the Dodgers.

Both teams scored in the sixth. The visiting Dodgers struck first. Manny Mota drew a two-out walk before singles by Wes Parker and Frank Robinson drove home the Dodgers’ first run. The Reds tied it in the bottom half of the inning in similar fashion. Pete Rose drew a two-out walk, Joe Morgan walked, and then Bobby Tolan singled home Rose.

But that was it for both teams, for the next 13+ innings. The Reds only reached base twice more off John, one on an error and the other on a walk that was erased by double play. John left after pitching nine innings, allowing three hits, walking four and striking out 13. Meanwhile, over the next five innings, the Dodgers manage one more hit and two walks from Grimsley, who leaves the game after pitching 10 innings, allowing seven hits and three walks.

The game was turned over to the bullpens and both bullpens were exceptional. From innings, 10 through 18, the Dodger bullpen allowed three hits, three walks, no runs, and struck out nine more Reds, giving the Dodgers a total of 22 K’s on the day. The Reds bullpen also pitched nine innings of shut out ball. Closer Carroll hurled four innings of no-hit ball, allowing only one runner on a 13th inning error which was eventually eliminated on a double play. Borbon relieved Carroll and pitched five innings and allowed only two hits. The last runner to get into scoring position for the Dodgers came in the 10th inning when Grimsley walked the lead off hitter who was sacrificed to second base. Two ground outs later and the threat was over.

The Reds loaded the bases with two outs in the 11th, but Jim Brewer struck out Menke on a called third strike. The Reds threatened again in the 18th off Pete Mikkelsen, but Darrel Chaney flied out with runners on second and third with two outs to end the threat.

The Reds won it in the 19th when Menke doubled off Mikkelsen to start the inning. Ted Uhlaender was inserted as a pinch runner and Cesar Geronimo was called on to pinch hit for George Foster, but was intentionally walked. Joe Hague then won the game with a pinch hit single to centerfield to score Uhlaender and give Borbon his fifth pitching victory of the year.

2 thoughts on “This Day in Reds History: Sparky’s Bullpen

  1. A BRM bullpen question I always wondered about in retrospect was the circumstances around Rawly Eastwick being traded in 1977. The guy was a big part of the 75 and 76 team and going by the numbers was not doing bad in 77 when he was traded away for a guy in Doug Capilla that didn’t have much of a record. Was it about money or personality? Was the Reds that desperate for a starting pitcher, which was the big problem in 77? In hindsight, Eastwick never pitched like he did in the two championship years, so it wasn’t like that, but being so young, I have no recollection why they would deal him in the first place.

  2. As I recall (I was 18 at the time) he was asking for more money than the REDS wanted to pay. So, having given up any hope of resigning the guy traded him before they wouldn’t get anything for him. I think the first truly big free agents were in 1975 (Andy Messersmith of the Dodger was one of them).

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