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Random Jays Recap: Jays @ White Sox, May 21, 1989

Toronto Blue Jays v Baltimore Orioles
George Bell
Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

I have tons of time and nothing to write about, so I’m going to try something new. I’m going to use a random number generator to pick a game in Blue Jays history to write a recap about. I’ll likely only do two or three a week but I need something to keep me going.

What came up today was game 42 of the 1989 season, Blue Jays at White Sox:

Jays 9 White Sox 3

Going into the game the Blue Jays were 16-25, in 6th place in the AL East, tied for last in the AL East with the Tigers. We were 4 games back of the first-place Red Sox (who were only 19-20).

This was back in the days where the AL and NL had two divisions each (in what old guys like me would call the good old days). Coming into the game this was how the AL East looked:

The Jays starting pitcher was John Cerutti. Going into the game, John was 0-2 with a 2.66 ERA in 8 games, 7 starts. John was coming off his worst start of the season, he gave up 6 runs (though only 1 earned) in 1.2 innings. He allowed 5 hits, 1 walk, no strikeouts against Cleveland.

John was, well, a good guy. In fact, the Toronto baseball writers named their ‘Good Guy’ award after him. After his playing days were over, he worked as a TV analyst on the CBC Jays games working with Brian Williams (I used to call Williams Mr. Interesting, because he would say “Its interesting” and then give some bit of trivial several times a game. Generally it wasn’t interesting, but it seemed to be his thing). Cerutti died of a heart attack before the final game of the 2004 season.

Starting for the White Sox was Mélido Pérez, a right-handed pitcher. Up to that point in the season he had a 2-4 record with a 6.64 ERA. Mélido had a 9 year MLB career, pitching for the Royals, White Sox, and Yankees. He made 201 career starts, had a 87-85 record with a 4.17 ERA and yet I have almost no memory of him, but he had two brothers who also pitched in the MLB, Carlos (who had 3 pretty good seasons starting for the Expos and then 3 pretty poor seasons with the Dodgers) and Pascual (who also had 3 pretty good seasons with the Expos in the middle of an 11-year career. I know Mélido signed a rather large (for the times) contract with the Yankees.

Anyway the game:

The Jays opened the scoring in the first. Junior Felix leading off, reached on, second baseman, Fred Manrique error and then went to third when Mélido made an error on Tony Fernandez’ sac bunt. I know times have changed, but bunting with your second batter in the first inning is just silly. Bunting with Tony Fernandez is even sillier (though he was having a slow start to the season).

An aside, Cito had just taken over as manager. Jimy Williams started the season as manager, his fourth with the Blue Jays, but then the team went 12-24 to start the season, Pat Gullick decided to make a change. It was somewhat of a surprise when he decided on hitting coach Cito Gaston, but it all worked out.

Felix would score on Kelly Gruber’s ground out, but fly outs from George Bell and Fred McGriff ended the inning.

The Jays would score another run in the third. Back-to-back singles from Fernandez and Gruber gave us runners on first and second. A deep fly from Bell moved them to second and third and a wild pitch scored Fernandez making it 2-0 Blue Jays.

In the bottom of the third, the White Sox scored 3 runs to take the lead. Cerutti gave up a Dave Gallagher single and walks to Ron Kittle and Manrique (Kittle played in Edmonton for the Edmonton Trappers, the White Sox Triple-A team. I was at the game that he hit his 50th home run of the season for the Trappers. I thought he was going to be a great player. It didn’t happen). Then first baseman Carlos Martinez unloaded the bases with a double. Jays were down 3-2.

They would tie the game up at 3 in the top of the fifth inning. Fernandez led off the inning with his 3rd home run of the season. Tony had a pretty lousy 1989 season with the bat, hitting just .257/.291/.389, but he still made the All-Star team and, playing his usual smooth defense, won his fourth consecutive Gold Glove. And it was his fifth consecutive season of bWARs above 4.

In the sixth, we went out in front to stay. Lloyd Moseby led off with a double and scored on a Nelson Liriano single. This would be Moseby’s last season with the Jays. He wasn’t having a good year, after this game he was hitting .209/.310/.331. Shaker will always be one of my favorite Blue Jays. He was so good with the kids when my youngest went to the Blue Jays camps the team put on. I’m a simple guy, you are nice to my kids, I like you.

We got two more in the eighth inning. Lefty reliever Tom McCarthy had come into the game getting the last two outs of the sixth, had a quick 3-up, 3-down inning seventh, but he had troubles in the eighth. Ernie Whitt singled and Bob Brenly (pinch-hitting for DH Rance Mulliniks) doubled. McCarthy was out and Jerry Reuss came in, giving up a run-scoring on a sac fly from Liriano and a run-scoring single from Felix.

Reuss was at the end of a very good MLB career. In total, he pitched in 628 games, 547 starts, with a 220-191 record and a 3.64 ERA. He had been part of a pretty amazing rotation with the Dodgers, with Bob Welch, Don Sutton. Burt Hooton and Fernando Valenzuela.

Up by three Cito still went to Duane Ward to start the 8th. We had a pretty terrific back of the bullpen that year. Henke (finished with a 1.92 ERA), Ward (3.77 ERA) and David Wells (2.40 ERA) pitched 290 relief innings that year, between the three of them. I wonder when the last time was that we had 3 relievers rack up that many innings? Cito was always the type to pick the guys he liked and would ride them to the finish.

Ward would get the last 6 outs without giving up a baserunner, picking up 3 strikeouts and 3 ground outs.

We tacked on 3 runs in the ninth. Home runs from George Bell (solo) and Ernie Whitt (2-run). Bell was 2 years removed from his MVP season and bad knees were hurting his production: he only had 18 home runs (but 104 RBI) in 1989. 1990 would be his last year with the team, leaving as a free agent. When the Blue Jays wouldn’t pay what he thought he was worth (and the Cubs did) Bell said “the Leafs would win more games than the Blue Jays next season”. He was wrong. Bell would be traded from the Cubs to the White Sox before the 1992 season with Sammy Sosa going the other way. Sosa would discover PEDs and hit 545 home runs over 13 seasons with the Northsiders. Bell hit .240/.274/.396 with 38 home runs in two seasons on the South Side.

John Cerutti got the win, his first of the season, going 7 strong innings, allowing 5 hits, 3 walks, 2 strikeouts and 3 earned. Ward got his 3rd save of the season, pitching 2 perfect innings.

Jays of the Day: By the numbers Fernandez (.290 WPA, 2 for 4, home run, some of that came from the Perez error in the first), Liriano (.176, going 3 for 3, with a double), and Moseby (.100, 1 for 4 with a walk). I’d give one to Cerutti (.083).

Suckage: McGriff (-.105, on a 0 for 4 with a walk) and Bell (-.099, despite the home run in the ninth.

This was the sixth game of Cito Gaston’s managerial career. He was 5-1 in those six games. He would lead the team from 12-24, 6 games back from first, in sixth place, and would lead them to a 77-49 record the rest of the way, getting them to first place, 2 games ahead of the Orioles (they took 2 of 3 from the Orioles in the season-ending 3-game series).