Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Game of the Day (4/14/14)

There's an asterisk on this selection, because of the Pirates-Reds game in which the two teams got to 7-7 in the sixth inning with the maximum number of lead changes possible before the game was suspended due to rain. With a couple more twists and turns, that could end up being one of the best games of the year, let alone of yesterday. But it will be considered with the games from April 15, since that's when it'll be completed.

That leaves the April 14 crown to the also-excellent Braves 9, Phillies 6.

Atlanta pitched Ervin Santana, while the Phils chose the artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona (now referred to as Roberto Hernandez, which is not as cool but has the benefit of being his actual name). Hernandez allowed a leadoff single to Jason Heyward in the first; BJ Upton hit into a force, but then moved to third on a steal-and-error. Hernandez then struck out both Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton to keep the potential run off the board.

Santana was spotless in the bottom of the first, and the Braves got a runner to third again in the next inning on a two-out Andrelton Simmons triple. Hernandez walked Ramiro Pena, bringing Santana to the plate, and the Atlanta pitcher grounded back to the mound. Ryan Howard then led off the bottom of the second with a homer to take a 1-0 lead.

Heyward walked and stole second in the top of the third. BJ Upton then grounded out to move him to third, and Freeman grounded to the mound; Hernandez caught Heyward leaning off of third, leading to a rundown, and not only was the lead runner tagged out, but Freeman was then thrown out trying to take second behind the play. Tony Gwynn Jr. reached on a bunt single (making second on the play thanks to an Evan Gattis error) and was eventually stranded at third. Hernandez managed his first perfect inning in the fourth, and the Phils threatened again in the bottom half, as Marlon Byrd doubled and Domonic Brown walked before Carlos Ruiz lined into a double play. A Pena double and a Heyward walk roughly duplicated that rally in the top of the fifth, and the Braves similarly failed to convert the chance into a run.

After a 1-2-3 fifth from Santana, Atlanta finally got on the board in the sixth. Freeman drew a leadoff walk, and one out later, Gattis homered to right to give his team its first lead. Hernandez would issue two more walks later in the inning, but no further hits were allowed, and thus neither were any additional runs. Santana worked around a Chase Utley double to hold the one-run advantage.

Both starters were pulled after the sixth ended. Mario Hollands walked BJ Upton, who then managed his second steal-and-error advancement to third of the day before his younger brother struck out to leave him 90 feet away. Ian Thomas recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the inning, and Anthony Varvaro came on for the last one after Cody Asche had reached on an error.

Atlanta appeared to break the game open in the top of the eighth against BJ Rosenberg, as Gattis, Dan Uggla, and Simmons hit consecutive home runs. Rosenberg was pulled without retiring a hitter, and Luis Garcia worked through the next three Braves easily enough, though it appeared to be too little, too late. However, Luis Avilan started the bottom of the inning in nearly as much trouble as Rosenberg, walking Gwynn and allowing singles to Jimmy Rollins and Utley that loaded the bases. Howard struck out, but Byrd singled in a pair of runs to pull the Phils within 5-3, and Brown followed with a go-ahead 3-run homer.

With the game having turned on a dime, Philadephia was left with a thoroughly unexpected save opportunity, and turned it over to Jake Diekman. He promptly loaded the bases by walking both Uptons, with a fielder's poor choice (Freeman grounding to second and BJ Upton beating the throw to second) sandwiched in between. Gattis struck out, but Uggla followed with his second home run in as many innings, this one a go-ahead grand slam. David Carpenter walked Rollins in the ninth but gave up nothing else, nailing down the save.

First seven innings: Three combined runs, two home runs, one lead change.

Last two innings: 12 combined runs, five home runs, two lead changes.

The early innings did feature a number of scoring chances, but it was the last two frames that were easily the best part of the game. As always, a really excellent game (#13 on the year so far, #3 among nine-inning games) is made at the end.

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