Sunday, April 13, 2014

Game of the Day (4/12/14)

Here I spent all that effort talking up April 11 in yesterday's post, and the next day goes and upstages it. There were four extra-inning games again, but this time, they were complemented by a pair of fine nine-inning contests.

The best of the bunch was both the longest and highest-scoring of the extra-inning games (which is usually an excellent combination): Mets 7, Angels 6 (13).

Jered Weaver started the game for the Angels, and allowed a walk and steal to Eric Young Jr. leading off the first. Daniel Murphy grounded out, moving Young to third, and David Wright then flied to left. Young tagged and tried for home, but was thrown out by Collin Cowgill.

Cowgill kept up the good work in the bottom of the inning, leading off with a single against New York's Jon Niese. A Mike Trout grounder moved him to second, and Albert Pujols singled him around for he game's first run. Howie Kendrick ended the inning with a double play ball, however, and the Mets tied it in the top of the second on a solo homer by Lucas Duda.

The starters calmed things down considerably after that, and the next three half-innings were devoid of baserunners. Wright and Curtis Granderson drew walks from Weaver in the top of the fourth, but Wright was thrown out stealing third to dampen the threat. Trout led off the bottom of the inning with a single and advanced 90 feet on each of two groundouts before being stranded at third.

Weaver set the Mets down 1-2-3 in both the fifth and sixth innings, and his teammates reclaimed the lead for him, as Chris Iannetta homered in the former inning and Cowgill went deep in the latter. The 3-1 advantage proved insufficient in the top of the seventh, however. Granderson drew a one-out walk, and after Ike Davis flied out, singles by Duda and Juan Lagares made it 3-2 and put the tying run in scoring position. Weaver was pulled in favor of Fernando Salas, who ran the count full on Anthony Recker. Recker then hit a flare to medium center that dropped just in front of a diving Trout. Since the count had been full, the runners were off with the pitch, and Trout's dive failed to corral the ball. Those factors combined to allow Lagares to score from first on a single, which is... unusual. It was the go-ahead run for a 4-3 New York edge.

Erick Aybar drew a walk to start the bottom of the seventh, but was doubled off after a line drive from Raul Ibanez found Davis's glove. Wright singled against Michael Kohn and was stranded in the top of the eighth. The bottom of the inning saw Carlos Torres replace Niese with one out, allow a single to pinch hitter JB Shuck, and then coax a double play ball from Trout to end the inning.

The lead grew larger in the top of the ninth. Dane De La Rosa walked Davis and allowed a one-out single to Lagares before being removed for Kevin Jepsen. Recker greeted Jepsen with a base-loading walk, and Omar Quintanilla followed with a two-run single to make it a 6-3 margin. Young was hit by a pitch to reload the bases, but Murphy struck out and Wright flied out to lose the chance for additional insurance.

The Mets would regret that missed opportunity soon after. Jose Valverde got through the first two Angel hitters of the bottom of the ninth without incident, but David Freese then singled, Aybar walked, and Ibanez whacked a 1-0 pitch over the right field fence for a game-tying three-run homer.

Ernesto Frieri worked an immaculate tenth to open the extra frames, and Scott Rice and Gonzalez Germen combined to do the same for New York. Joe Smith circumvented a Quintanilla single in the eleventh, while Germen set the Angels down 1-2-3.

The Mets rallied in the twelfth against Matt Shoemaker. Granderson singled with two outs, and Davis and Duda both walked to load the bases before Lagares struck out to leave all three runners in place. John Lannan managed a spotless home half of the inning, and Shoemaker came out for a second inning in the thirteenth. It went even worse than his first, as Recker led off with a home run to put the Mets back in front. Quintanilla then singled and made it as far as third before Wright's flyout stranded him, but the extra run proved unnecessary this time as Lannan retired three more Angels in a row (ending with Trout) to secure the victory.

This was a fine game all around, but it was particularly noteworthy for the efforts of Anthony Recker, a 30-year-old catcher playing in his 81st career major league game. He had two hits and three RBI, with the latter mark tying his career high. More significantly, the three runs Recker drove in were the tying and go-ahead runs in the seventh, and the go-ahead run in the thirteenth; he also drew a walk to contribute to a run-scoring rally in the ninth. Those three plays helped him amass .715 WPA on the day, which more than doubled his previous career high.

I always love it when a bit player has a thoroughly decisive role in a Game of the Day. When it's a 13-inning Game of the Day that features a game-tying three-run homer in the ninth, so much the better. This game scores as the sixth-best of the season to date; more importantly, it also gives Anthony Recker a strong candidate for his fondest MLB memory.

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