October 20, 1991
World Series, Game Two
Twins Lead Series, 1-0
Twins: Dan Gladden (LF), Chuck Knoblauch (2B), Kirby Puckett (CF), Chili Davis (DH), Brian Harper (C), Shane Mack (RF), Kent Hrbek (1B), Scott Leius (3B), Greg Gagne (SS), Kevin Tapani (P)
Game Two of the 1991 World Series is remembered for one play in particular. You already know what it is.
Kevin Tapani was arguably Minnesota's best starter in 1991, posting the only sub-3.00 ERA of his career over a career-high 244 innings, and posting a very good 3.38 strikeout-to-walk ratio thanks to superb command. Looking to steal a victory in the Dome was 25-year old lefty Tom Glavine, who would go on to win the 1991 Cy Young Award for the National League, leading the senior circuit in wins (20), complete games (9), and ERA+ (158). It was the beginning of a 12-year stretch where he'd average 17 wins, a 3.15 ERA, 225 innings...and oddly enough just a 1.87 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Minnesota struck quickly in the bottom of the first, when Chuck Knoblauch coaxed a walk and Chili Davis followed two batters later with a home run over the plexi-glass in left-center field. The Braves answered right away, as David Justice's single and Sid Bream's double put runners on second and third with nobody out in the top of the second inning. Brian Hunter succeeded in bringing Justice home on a sac fly, but a great play from Greg Gagne in the hole and a big strikeout of Mark Lemke meant Tapani danced around his base runners to maintain a 2-1 lead.
Then came the bottom of that infamous third inning. Lonnie Smith had singled with one away, and two hitters later Ron Gant singled through the left side. I'll let you watch it for yourself. First is the broadcast feed, and then a retrospective made after the fact.
At the time, and this is one of the few memories I have of the '91 World Series, I remember thinking that there was no way that Kent Hrbek would have pulled Gant off of first base. It would be cheating. My team doesn't play dirty. I'm 11 years old and I like good guys and the team I cheer for are definitely the good guys.
Now I'm torn between obstinately refusing to acknowledge that Hrbek pulled Gant off the bag, and accepting that Hrbek pulled Gant off the bag and being proud of it because, hey, Kent Hrbek, and that's just the kind of play you'd expect him to make if the had the opportunity. It's not like he planned it. But it happened.
Glavine was in full control, at one point retiring 15 Twins in a row between the second and seventh innings. Greg Olson would double to lead off the top of the fifth, though, and came home on a Rafael Belliard sac fly to tie the game at two.
It wasn't until the bottom of the eighth that the Twins managed to pick up the big hit they were looking for. With Glavine still on the mound, Scott Leius jumped all over the first pitch he saw and jacked it into the left-center field seats. Because platoons work. Glavine still finished the inning, with his Braves now down a run, and stranded Gagne on third.
For the second time in as many days, and for the fifth time in the post-season, Rick Aguilera came on and closed the game out. Sid Bream: strikeout swinging. Greg Olson: strikeout looking. Tommy Gregg: strikeout looking.
It was a hard-fought game with great pitching from both sides. Gant's base running mistake was costly, and whether you believe he was pulled off the base or not he should have been smarter and not rounded first. Glavine, as incredible as he was on this day, was just human enough.
With the 3-2 win, the Twins were on their way to Atlanta. Let's watch their totally early 90s recap.
Also in the 1991 World Series