Two last inning home runs by Wayne Krenchicki and Brad Gulden, in the bottoms of the ninth and 14th innings, respectively, save the Reds from a near loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, 6-4, on May 30, 1984.
After spotting the Pirates a 3-0 lead, the Reds had rallied for two runs in the bottom of the sixth on run scoring hits by Dave Parker and Dave Concepcion. The Reds tied it with one out in the bottom of the ninth when Krenchicki hit his second homer of the year off Pirate reliever Don Robinson. 1984 would prove to be Krenchicki’s best major league season, as he batted .298 with six homers in a part-time role, but his average was only .176 entering this May 30 game.
The Pirates took the lead in the top of the 14th when Benny DiStefano reached second base on a flyball two-base error by Reds left fielder Gary Redus. Dale Berra sacrificed DiStefano to third base, and pitcher Robinson followed with a run scoring single to score DiStefano and give the Pirates a 4-3 lead. Robinson was an excellent hitting pitcher with a career average of .231 including 13 homers. He batted .290 as a hitter during the 1984 season.
The Reds won it in bottom of the 14th. Tony Perez led off with a single, and Tom Foley was called in to pinch run for the 42-year-old future Hall of Famer. Concepcion sacrifice bunted, to move Foley, the potential tying run, to second base. Krenchicki drew a walk, but Ron Oester grounded back to pitcher. Robinson, now in his eighth inning of relief, got the force at second base, with Foley advancing to third and Oester safe at first.
Next to the plate was little used catcher Brad Gulden, who entered the day batting .183 with two career home runs. Gulden had earlier pinch hit for another light hitting catcher, Dann Bilardello (side note–why do bad teams insist on having three catchers?–the Reds also used Dave Van Gorder, Alan Knicely, and Alex Trevino during 1984). Oester stole second, moving the potential winning run to second base. With first base open and the lefty batting Eddie Milner on deck, the Pirates elected to pitch to the catcher. Gulden promptly crashed his second homer of the season, a three-run shot, to win the game for the Reds, 6-4. Gulden would only hit five home runs in his major league career.
Entering the 14th inning, the Pirates’ Robinson had retired 14 of the 15 Reds he had faced since Krenchicki’s home run. The Bucs had used four relievers the day before, but none had been used two days in a row. Four Pirate relievers that season finished the year with ERA’s at 3.02 or less. Still, manager Chuck Tanner stayed with Robinson, who had spent four seasons as a starter with the Pirates and was working his way back from injury. In the eight innings of relief, Robinson had walked three and allowed four hits, including the two home runs. Meanwhile, the Reds used five pitchers with Bob Owchinko getting the victory. The Reds had used four pitchers the previous day, five the day before, and five more the day before that. Reds manager Vernon Rapp wasn’t afraid to use his bullpen.
The win moved the Reds into a virtual tie for second place with a 26-22 record, 1/2 game behind the Dodgers. However, it was downhill for Rapp and the Reds from there. From this point forward, the Reds went 25-48 under Rapp before he was replaced by hometown hero, Pete Rose. The Reds went 19-22 under Rose as player-manager for the remainder of the year, with Rose batting .365 with a .430 OBP in his return to Cincinnati. However, the Reds still finished fifth in the standings for the 1984 season. The Reds went on to have four consecutive second place finishes with Rose at the helm before the gambling scandal brought Rose and the Reds down.