Thursday, April 24, 2014

Game of the Day (4/23/14)

Giants 12, Rockies 10 (11). Any game that has a score like 12-10 or lasts 11 innings is usually going to have a pretty good shot at being the best of the day. If you get both in one, you can more or less bank on it. The starting pitchers were Matt Cain for the Giants and Tyler Chatwood for the Rockies; you'll be shocked to learn that neither one would go on to earn a decision.

Chatwood got the game off to a brisk start with a perfect first inning, which allowed Colorado to open the scoring when Charlie Blackmon singled and Troy Tulowitzki homered. The top of the second started with a Mike Morse homer to cut San Francisco's early deficit in half, but the Rockies hit Cain quite hard in the bottom of the inning, starting with three consecutive singles by Brandon Barnes, DJ LeMahieu, and Chatwood himself. With the bases loaded, Blackmon hit into an RBI force at second; Cain then attempted to pick Blackmon off at first, but Brandon Belt failed to corral the throw, allowing LeMahieu to score and Blackmon to take second. Nolan Arenado advanced the remaining runner with a groundout, and Tulowitzki singled him home for a seemingly secure 5-1 lead.

That lead vanished with striking rapidity in the top of the third, starting with a homer by Brandon Hicks. Cain singled, and one out later, so did Hunter Pence. After Belt flied out, Morse stepped to the plate again - and homered for the second time in as many innings, tying the game at 5.

Cain actually kept the Rockies scoreless in the third, but Chatwood shut out the Giants in the fourth, and Blackmon homered in the bottom of the inning to put Colorado in front once again. Cain led off the fifth with a single, and a pair of walks loaded the bases with nobody out, but Chatwood then retired the heart of the Giant order (Belt, Morse, and Pablo Sandoval) in order without allowing a run to score. After a perfect fifth from Cain, Hector Sanchez reached on a K/WP to open the sixth, but was doubled off of first on a line drive.

Chatwood was pulled to open the seventh, and Rex Brothers recorded a quick first out. He then walked Pence and surrendered a go-ahead 2-run homer to Belt for a 7-6 lead. The bottom of the seventh started with Cain walking Blackmon, who stole second; Arenado then doubled in the tying run. Tulowitzki drew a walk that finally chased Cain from the mound, and Jeremy Affeldt escaped the jam without further runs coming across.

Matt Belisle replaced Brothers in the eighth, and Sanchez hit his first pitch over the right field wall for a go-ahead homer. Hicks doubled later in the inning, but didn't score, and the Rockies tied it yet again in the bottm of the inning; LeMahieu led off with a single, was bunted to second, moved to third on a balk, and scored on Blackmon's groundout.

LaTroy Hawkins circumvented a Pence leadoff double in the ninth, while Casilla yielded singles to Justin Morneau and Drew Stubbs, then walked Barnes before LeMahieu flied out to leave the bases loaded and force extra innings. San Francisco threatened in the top of the tenth with a Brandon Crawford single and a wild pitch, but pinch hitter Buster Posey was intentionally walked after the wild pitch, and Gregor Blanco struck out to strand both runners. Javier Lopez and Jean Machi then combined on a perfect bottom of the inning.

Chad Bettis took the mound in the top of the eleventh and started his appearance by allowing a single to Pence and a walk to Belt. Juan Perez, who had replaced Morse for defensive purposes four innings earlier, bunted the runners to second and third. Joaquin Arias (in for Sandoval) was intentionally walked, which worked out great, because Sanchez followed with his second homer of the game, this one a grand slam. Taking on Sergio Romo in the bottom of the inning, the Rockies came halfway back on a Tulowitzki single and a Morneau homer, and got the tying run to the plate when Stubbs singled with one out, but Barnes hit into a double play to end the game.

The stars of this game came from very opposite ends of the production-so-far-this-year spectrum. Colorado heroes Charlie Blackmon and Troy Tulowitzki currently hold the top two spots in the NL in batting average, OBP, and slugging. (Tulowitzki, as an established star, makes sense on the leaderboard; Blackmon, as a 27-year-old who's never had 300 plate appearances in a season, makes... less sense.) As such, their combining to go 5/10 with 2 homers, 6 runs, and 6 RBI fits their seasons to date.

And then, there's Hector Sanchez, the backup catcher who entered the game with a seasonal batting line of .120/.179/.200. Two go-ahead homers later, his slugging percentage has more than doubled to .419 (although his average is a still-dire .161).

Early season exhibitions of small sample size theater aside, this was a highly entertaining game in the old school Coors Field style. The numerous and rapid lead swings, particularly in the seventh and eighth innings, followed by a pair of eventful extra frames, combine to give the contest a WPL of 6.68, which squeaks it into the #3 spot for the year so far.

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