Ray Ratto of the San Francisco Chronicle talked about one of the Giants’ biggest comebacks of 1989, vs. the Dodgers, of course, on September 20:
For the second time in 16 days, the Giants interrupted the reading of the last rites, this time by rallying from seven runs down and scoring five times with nobody out in the bottom of the ninth inning to beat Los Angeles, 8-7.
It wasn’t their biggest comeback of the year, because they had come from eight runs back September 4 to beat Cincinnati, 9-8. But last night’s comeback almost certainly has to finish off the San Diego Padres and Houston Astros; no sane person would still harbor hope when the team they’re trying to catch is winning games from beyond the crypt.
“We’ve got to win it now,” Giants manager Roger Craig said in an almost incredulous tone. “That’s got to take the starch out of everybody. They won big games tonight, but ours was bigger than theirs.”
Indeed. The Padres beat Cincinnati, 3-1, in 10 innings, and the Astros beat Atlanta, 7-6, in 14 innings. But it was all rendered small potatoes by Brett Butler’s hard grounder down the first-base line, San Francisco’s seventh consecutive hit, which scored Chris Speier with the game-winning run.
“When they (Padres and Astros) watched the 11:30 SportsCenter, we were behind 7-0,” Will Clark said. “I imagine they’ll be in for a little surprise when they wake up this morning.”
The surprise, though, was slow in building. After 2 innings, the Dodgers already had put seven runs on the board.
They picked up one run in the first off Giants starter Bob Knepper with back-to-back soft singles by Alfredo Griffin and Willie Randolph and a warning-track fly by Eddie Murray. Then they put the boot in hard, scoring three times in the second and three more times in the third, on pitcher John Wetteland’s bases-loaded double.
That was all the Dodgers needed. That had to be all they needed. What fool would think otherwise?
Well, the ship of fools in the home dugout, to mention a few. But even their dream took time to construct.
It started with rookie pitcher Stuart Tate, who had been part of the September 1 call-up but hadn’t seen action in nearly three weeks. He came on in the third after Wetteland’s double chased Randy McCament, and proceeded to retire the eight men he faced, four on strikeouts, four on fly balls. He even got himself a standing ovation from the very disgruntled crowd of 21,420.
“I didn’t think it was going to make that much of a difference,” Tate said. “I was glad I finally got an opportunity to pitch after so long. I think that might have been why I wasn’t nervous when I went out there, because I’d been here for so long. There was no sense in being nervous.”
Besides, if he had known he was going to provide the initial impetus for Absurd Comeback II, he might have been scared green. As it was, his eight outs were followed by 12 others, provided by Ernie Camacho and eventual winner Trevor Wilson. The only Dodger to reach base after Wetteland was Randolph, and that was on Matt Williams’ sixth-inning error.
So the Giants had half the battle won. The other half began with Kevin Mitchell’s RBI groundout and Ernest Riles’ two-run homer in the sixth that made it 7-3.
“That’s when we first thought we could win it,” catcher Terry Kennedy said, “because now it’s four runs, and we can do that.”
They did. Moreover, they did it the way they did it in Cincinnati, in a hurry, beginning with Mitchell’s 46th homer, a shot over the center-field fence off the Dodgers’ best reliever, Jay Howell, which made it 7-4. Riles followed with a ground single to right, and Williams, who had struck out in his three previous appearances, dented a 6-for-51 slump with a line double off the fence in right-center to make it 7-5.
Kennedy then grounded a single to right to score Williams, making it 7-6. The killing blow, though, came on the next play, when Howell was replaced by rookie Mike Hartley and Candy Maldonado was replaced by Chris Speier. Speier hit a line drive to right that Mike Marshall dived for and missed; the ball kicked off his leg and a good 30 feet away, moving Kennedy’s replacement, pinch-runner Mike Benjamin, to third.
“Speier’s ball, that’s when we knew we won it,” Mitchell said. “If Marshall catches that ball, it’s a double play.”
He didn’t, and it wasn’t. The Dodgers were checkmated, but they played out the final moves. Greg Litton grounded a single to left to score Benjamin with the tying run, and veteran John Tudor, who replaced Hartley, gave up Butler’s single on a belt-high, 1-0 breaking ball .
“That’s what makes this game amazing,” Butler said. “It can break your heart and it can exhilarate you.”
The Giants, therefore, must have exhilarated their way right into the postseason.