Great Pitchers Duels in Padres History: Andy Benes vs Bret Saberhagen, 7/15/94

These were tough times for the Padres and for baseball. On a local level, then-owner Tom Werner had sold all his top-name players in 1993. The following year, the team sputtered and so did MLB, thanks to a player’s strike that denied Tony Gwynn a shot at becoming baseball’s first .400 hitter since Ted Williams and that caused the first World Series cancellation in 90 years.

In the midst of all this, Padres fans witnessed a briliant pitchers duel on July 15, 1994, in the second game of a doubleheader against the Mets at Shea Stadium. Right-handers Andy Benes and Bret Saberhagen dominated, in what was one of the best duels of the 1990s, although neither man got the decision.

                  IP H R ER HR BB SO GSc
Andy Benes       8.0 2 0  0  0  1 14  91
Bret Saberhagen 10.0 5 0  0  0  0 11  93

Benes led the National League in strikeouts (and losses) this season, the last he would finish in San Diego. As for Saberhagen, I’ll repurpose what I said about him in the Hardball Times article:

Saberhagen was a brilliant pitcher when healthy, which wasn’t often. He had two Cy Young Awards (and more than half of his career victories) by age 25. The Bill James Baseball Abstract 1986 ranks his age 21 season among the best ever, along with Bob Feller, Vida Blue and Babe Ruth. The New Bill James Historical Baseball Abstract ranks Saberhagen as the No. 79 pitcher of all time.

Back to the game at hand, nobody scored until the 14th inning. The Padres put runners at the corners with one out in the fifth, but Saberhagen fanned catcher Brian Johnson and Benes to quell that threat. The Mets put a couple of men on in the ninth before Trevor Hoffman escaped and sent the game to extra frames.

The Padres made a little noise in the 11th. New York did the same in the 13th.

In the 14th, facing former Padres right-hander Mike Maddux, the visitors finally scored. With one out, Gwynn drove a 2-2 changeup from Maddux beyond the fence in right-center for his 10th home run of the season (after Gwynn’s first swing of the at-bat, bullpen coach Dave Bialas was quoted as saying, “I think he’s trying to go deep”). Phil Plantier followed with his 18th, a line drive down the right field line.

The Mets responded in the bottom half. After Bobby Bonilla flied to center for the first out, pinch-hitter Luis Rivera singled to left against southpaw Jeff Tabaka (one of the Padres’ one-hit wonders). David Segui followed with a double over first baseman Eddie Williams’ head. Rivera scored thanks to Gwynn’s error on the play.

Tim Mauser (another one-hit wonder) then replaced Tabaka. Mauser got Jeff Kent to fly out and Rico Brogna to ground out, game over. As Plantier noted, “When you’ve got two guys like that, Benes and Saberhagen, blowing people away — that’s a fun game. Even for the hitters.”

On a side note, this game might not have happened but for Gwynn’s heroics in the All-Star Game earlier that week. He scored the winning run on a close play at the plate. Current Padres staffer Brad Ausmus is quoted in Buster Olney’s U-T article:

“Hey, way to be heads up,” Ausmus said, sarcastically. “If you just hold up a bit and get thrown out, then (Bret) Saberhagen would’ve had to have pitched and we probably wouldn’t have to face him in this series.”

Then we all would have missed out on a great game.

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