The defending National League champion San Francisco Giants had two passed balls in the sixth and two errors in the ninth that led to four unearned runs as the Houston Astros beat the Giants, 6-1 before a crowd of 17,980 at Candlestick Park.
The Giants, under manager Roger Craig, were hot, having just swept first place Cincinnati over the weekend and sending the Reds into an eight-game losing streak that tightened the pack in the NL West. Craig started lefty Trevor Wilson on the mound. Houston, managed by Art Howe, started Danny Darwin at pitcher.
The game was scoreless until the sixth. Darwin appeared to have struck out against Wilson, but catcher Terry Kennedy let the pitch get away on a passed ball and Darwin reached first. Center fielder Eric Yelding attempted to sacrifice and the Giants tried to get Darwin at second, but the throw was late and two were on with no out. With second baseman Bill Doran up, Kennedy allowed another passed ball to move the runners up. Doran popped out to second, but third baseman Ken Caminiti hit a sacrifice fly to score Darwin.
The Giants tied the game in the seventh when pinch hitter Ernest Riles, batting for shortstop Jose Uribe, hit his fourth homer of the season.
In the ninth, the Giants disintegrated. Steve Bedrosian came in to relieve Wilson. Right fielder Glenn Wilson flied out to lead off the inning, but catcher Craig Biggio singled. Terry Puhl pinch hit for left fielder Mark Davidson and walked. First baseman Franklin Stubbs drew another walk to load the bases. Craig decided it was time to try a lefty in Mark Thurmond. Shortstop Rafael Ramirez hit a fly ball to right fielder Mike Kingery, who dropped it, allowing Biggio to score and the bases remained loaded. (Ramirez was still credited with a sacrifice fly.) Carl Nichols pinch hit for Darwin and singled to score Puhl and Stubbs. The runners moved up on a ground out by Yelding. Then Doran hit a grounder to third baseman Matt Williams, who couldn't handle it, and Ramirez and Nichols scored on the error. Caminiti popped out to end the misery and the Astros led 6-1. Dave Smith pitched the ninth for Houston.
The Giants were just 5 1/2 games out of first on this day, but that was around where they would stay all year. The Giants would finish third in the NL West, six games out of first with an 85-77. The Reds won the division, leading wire to wire, with a 91-71 record. The Reds would lose Game 1 of the NLCS to Pittsburgh, but then win the next three and win in six games. The Reds then shocked Oakland with a four game sweep in the World Series.
The Astros finished tied for fourth with San Diego at 77-85, 16 games out of first. Houston would be even worse in 1991 as would the Giants. The Reds would pick up Doran for the last month of the season, but he got hurt before the playoffs and missed the postseason. Seldom-used Billy Bates would take his place and get a pinch single and score the winning run in Game 2 of the World Series against Dennis Eckersley.
Williams, in his first season in the majors as a fulltime starter, led the NL in RBI with 122. But the rest of the Giants were able to keep up their torrid hitting from 1989 as Kevin Mitchell and Will Clark, still hit well, but not in a spectacular way. The Giants pitching also suffered, especially as 41-year old starter Rick Reuschel finally started to wear down and went from being "crafty and rotund" to "old and fat."
As for Houston, Darwin led the NL in ERA at 2.21 as he just eked out the necessary 162 innings to qualify (162 2/3 innings to be precise!). Mike Scott, who had gone 20-10 in 1989, was a meager 7-13 in 1990 and injuries drove him out of baseball early in the 1991 season.