Monday, April 14, 2014

Game of the Day (4/13/14)

White Sox 4, Indians 3. Jose Quintana vs. Corey Kluber.

Both starters were perfect in the first, and both allowed their first baserunner with two out in the second; Michael Brantley walked in the top of the inning, and Dayan Viciedo doubled in the bottom. Neither runner advanced from there. The mirroring ended at that point, at least to an extent, as Cleveland put two runners on in the third (a Mike Aviles single and a Nick Swisher walk), while Chicago managed only one (an Alexei Ramirez leadoff single which was followed by three consecutive, but different, forceouts at second: 5-4, 4-6, and 6-4.)

The scoring opened in the fourth, as Brantley hit a two-out homer to take a 1-0 lead for the Indians. The Sox tied it in the bottom of the inning when Conor Gillaspie, Adam Dunn, and Viciedo all singled. The fifth inning saw the game resume its scoreless ways, as Quintana circumvented an Aviles single and Kluber tossed a 1-2-3 inning.

Jason Kipnis led off the top of the sixth with a double. Carlos Santana followed with an infield hit that had Kipnis stay in place; this became significant when Ryan Raburn flied out deep enough to move Kipnis to third, which means it likely would have been deep enough to score the go-ahead run if Kipnis had been able to advance on the previous play. Quintana retired Brantley and Yan Gomes to end the inning without that run scoring. The bottom of the sixth brought a two-out single by Jose Abreu, followed by a Dunn ground-rule double before Viciedo flied out to strand both runners and keep the game tied.

Maikel Cleto relieved Quintana in the top of the seventh and worked around a walk for a scoreless inning. Kluber was flawless in the bottom of the inning, and Cleto again allowed only a base on balls in the top of the eighth. Kluber remained on the mound for the bottom of that inning as well, at least until he allowed a one-out go-ahead homer to Marcus Semien; at that point, Marc Rzepczynski and Cody Allen were summoned to end the frame without further damage.

Matt Lindstrom took over for Chicago in the top of the ninth, and immediately got into trouble. Brantley started the inning by reaching on an Abreu error (his third of the year, which seems like a distressingly high total for a first baseman through 13 games). Gomes singled, and David Murphy singled as well, scoring Brantley with the tying run. Aviles sacrificed the runners to second and third, and Asdrubal Cabrera grounded out without advancing them. With Swisher at the plate, Lindstrom's 2-1 pitch went wild, allowing Gomes to race home with the go-ahead run. Swisher walked, but Kipnis grounded out, forgoing the chance for insurance.

John Axford relieved for Cleveland in the bottom of the ninth, and promptly walked the speedy Jordan Danks, who stole second immediately. Alejandro de Aza fouled out, but Ramirez hit the first pitch of his at bat over the left field wall for a come-from-behind walkoff homer.

This game is similar, but superior to the top game from the same date in 1984. Both of them had the same score and the consecutive go-ahead two-run ninth innings, but the 2014 entry was closer throughout the early innings, and the Indian rally in the ninth was more eventful than any of the other three. 1984 has the benefit of hindsight in that we can say that Alvin Davis's homer had some historical significance to the beginning of his career, whereas we're not sure how meaningful a career Marcus Semien will have. But just in terms of excitement on the field, this game was better - in fact, it was the second-best 9-inning game of 2014 so far, and the eighth-best overall. (It was also the second-best 9-inning game to include the White Sox, and their third-best overall. Unsurprisingly, the Sox are the most dramatic team of 2014 to date, with the Cubs sitting in second. The Chicago teams may not be good, but at least they're interesting!)

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