Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Game of the Day (3/31/14)

Giants 9, Diamondbacks 8.

This comes immediately after I posted the the introduction to WPL, in which I pointed out that the median extra-inning game is a 99th-percentile nine-inning game. So naturally, the best game of an Opening Day that featured not one, but two extra-inning games, is a regulation affair.

It should be noted that it is virtually never a bad thing when a game of standard length surpasses the WPLs of multiple extra-inning outings, and this is no exception.

Arizona's Brandon McCarthy opened the game in fine form, striking out the side in the first inning and inducing three groundouts in the second. His San Francisco counterpart, Madison Bumgarner, had slightly more difficulty, starting with a first-inning walk. In the bottom of the second, new Diamondback Mark Trumbo led off with a single, only to be thrown out at third on Miguel Montero's subsequent hit. Gerardo Parra worked a two-out walk, but that brought McCarthy to the plate, and Bumgarner fanned him to end the inning.

The Giants finally managed their first baserunner in the third, as Brandon Crawford led off with a single. Bumgarner bunted him to second one out later, and Angel Pagan followed with a single to right that brought Crawford home with the game's first run. Bumgarner worked around a two-out double by 2013 MVP runner-up Paul Goldschmidt in the bottom of the third, but after a perfect fourth from McCarthy, the Diamondbacks struck.

The inning started with consecutive errors, which is pretty much always a bad sign. Trumbo reached on a miscue by first baseman Brandon Belt, and Montero was the benificiary of Pablo Sandoval's misplay. Chris Owings then singled to load the bases with nobody out, and Parra followed with a two-run single to give Arizona its first lead of the season. Bumgarner got McCarthy to ground out and whiffed AJ Pollock, putting him one out away from successful damage control, but Aaron Hill then cracked a two-run double to make it a 4-1 game.

San Francisco drew closer in the top of the fifth on a Michael Morse walk, a Crawford double, and an RBI groundout by Gregor Blanco, who was pinch hitting for Bumgarner. But reliever Yusmeiro Petit came on and promptly gave back more than his teammates had scored. A Martin Prado double and a Trumbo single made it a 5-2 game. Singles by Montero and Owings loaded the bases, still with nobody out. Parra hit into a fielder's choice with everyone safe (I tend to call this a "fielder's poor choice"), extending the lead to 6-2 and keeping the bases full. Petit managed to prevent further catastrophe, as McCarthy hit into a force at home, Pollock struck out, and Hill hit into a force at second, but a four-run deficit after five innings is not an insubstantial hill to climb.

The climb began quickly, as Belt led off the top of the sixth with a homer. Petit stayed in for the bottom of the inning and gave the run back again, this time allowing Goldschmidt to single and steal second before Trumbo singled him home.

It was the seventh when the Giants mounted their real rally. Morse led off with a single. After a flyout and a forceout, the runner at first was Joaquin Arias and San Francisco was seven outs from defeat. Pinch hitter Ehire Adrianza stepped in and doubled Arias home, cutting the lead down to 7-4 and chasing McCarthy from the mound. Oliver Perez came in and promptly unraveled; Pagan doubled Adrianza around, and Belt and Sandoval hit consecutive singles, the second of which scored Pagan and make it a one-run game. Brad Ziegler relieved Perez; the first batter he faced was former MVP Buster Posey, who singled to load the bases. Hunter Pence then drew a five-pitch walk to tie the game at 7.

Javier Lopez came on for the bottom of the seventh; he allowed a Cliff Pennington single which was erased on a strikeout/throwout double play. Josh Collmenter was spotless in the top of the eighth, while Jean Machi worked around a leadoff Hill single in the bottom.

New Arizona closer Addison Reed came on to face the top of the Giant order in the ninth. He sandwiched two outs around a Belt single before Posey stepped in. The San Francisco cleanup man proceeded to hammer a 1-0 pitch over the left field wall for a go-ahead two-run homer. Arizona would mount a threat in the bottom of the inning - Montero greeted Sergio Romo with a homer of his own, making it a 9-8 game, and Owings singled and moved to second on a bunt, but a strikeout and a popup stranded him in scoring position to end the game.

This was a pretty spectacular Opening Day overall - of the 13 games played, eight of them amassed WPL scores of 3 or higher (a mark that typically covers about the top 1/3 of games). There were two extra-inning games, and three others in which the winning run scored in the ninth. A game in which the winning team rallied from four runs down in the seventh, then held off their opponents with the tying run in scoring position in the ninth, is a worthy headliner for such an auspicious seasonal debut, and gets 2014 off to a wonderful start - unless you're Addison Reed, of course.

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