Comeback Week in “When Sports Were Played” continues by going back to rainy April 21, 1991, when the Pittsburgh Pirates became the first team in major league history to overcome a five-run, extra-innings deficit to win, doing so against the Chicago Cubs.
PITTSBURGH – Accounts of the game will read like a fictional story written by someone with a vivid imagination.
But the reality is the Pirates rallied twice from five-run deficits Saturday afternoon and stunned the Chicago Cubs, scoring an unbelievable 13-12 victory in 11 innings.
Don Slaught’s one-out double capped a six-run 11th inning that erased what had been a 12-7 Chicago lead. And it brought back memories of another miraculous come-from-behind win of last season, when the Bucs scored five ninth-inning runs to down Los Angeles 6-3 on Memorial Day.
“That was a great win, but nothing compared to this,” said Andy Van Slyke. “It was like taking that game and doing it twice. That was a routine win compared to this one. This one was incredible.”
The game was played a steady rain with temperatures in the low 40s and before 10,860 fans.
“I’ve never seen anything like it in my life,” said Bill Landrum, one of six Pirate pitchers used in the game. “It was the ultimate comeback.”
“I’ve never seen a team come back twice like that,” said Slaught, who scored the winning run in the comeback against the Dodgers. “It would have been hard to do that against a batting practice pitcher.”
Chicago had taken a 12-7 lead in the top of the 11th when Andre Dawson followed Doug Dascenzo’s tiebreaking RBI single with his second grand slam home run in three games. But like Friday night, when Dawson hit a dramatic ninth-inning grand slam to give the Cubs a 4-3 lead, Chicago came away numb. The Pirates got two runs in the ninth inning Friday to win 5-4.
Pittsburgh, now 8-5, won the final three games of the four-game series.
Bob Patterson (1-0), who yielded Dawson’s grand slam, got the win and Mike Bielecki, who shut down the Pirates a little more than a week ago, suffered the loss.
Bielecki (2-1) relieved Hetathcliff Slocumb in the 11th after the first three Pirates batters reached base.
Jay Bell greeted him with a two-run double. Van Slyke hit a sacrifice fly and Bobby Bonilla walked. Barry Bonds then hit an RBI single, pinch-hitter Gary Redus walked and Slaught then slugged a 1-1 pitch over center fielder Jerome Walton’s head for a game-winning double.
“I don’t know how to explain it,” said Bielecki. “I was trying to get (Slaught) to hit a ground ball and threw him a couple of sliders. The ball was right there. He got the head of the bat on it and hit it good. My job is to come in and get people out. I didn’t do my job.”
Almost every other Pirates hitter did his part from the eighth inning on. After Chicago roughed up Neal Heaton and Mark Huisman for five runs in the top of the inning, Pittsburgh scored four runs in the eighth off Paul Assenmacher to make it 7-6. Orlando Merced’s two-run triple and Bobby Bonilla’s two-run home run – the 100th of his career – highlighted the rally.
The Pirates made it 7-7 in the ninth when former Cub Gary Varsho smashed a two-out double off Dave Smith to score Jeff King.
“I won’t forget this one,” said Merced, who made his first start in the majors.
“Twice we were down and out of it,” said Redus. “It shows great character.”
Bonilla – who had two hits, two walks and reached base in each of his last five at-bats – and Bonds – who broke his string of hitless at-bats at 22 despite striking out four times – were instrumental in the game-winning rally.
Bonilla’s walk represented the tying run and Bonds’ single cut the deficit to one and set the stage for Redus and Slaught.
“I just like people who go out and play hard,” said Pirate manager Jim Leyland, fighting back tears. “Some people get down on our guys because of the salaries and all the outside stuff. These guys proved to the world today they’re special individuals.
“They bust their butts every minute on the field. How else can you account for a win like this?”