Friday, April 4, 2014

Game of the Day (4/3/14)

Yesterday's slate included a 3-2, 12-inning walkoff win by the A's that scored an exemplary 5.01 in WPL. This is exactly the kind of game that makes it extremely difficult for 9-inning contests to score as the best of the day when there's an extra-inning game played.

Difficult, but not impossible. All it takes is a game like Twins 10, White Sox 9.

Chicago's Jose Quintana allowed a two-out Josh Willingham single in the first inning, but nothing else. Phil Hughes, making his Twins debut, walked one batter and hit another, but held the Sox hitless through one. After a spotless second from Quintana, however, Alejandro de Aza led off the bottom of the inning with a homer to give the Sox the early lead.

That lead proved ephemeral in the extreme, which would develop into a trend. With one out in the third, Eduardo Escobar struck out, but reached base anyway thanks to a wild third strike, and made it to second on an error by Jose Abreu. Brian Dozier walked, and one out later, Willingham also drew a free pass, loading the bases. Chris Colabello promptly unloaded them with a three-run double that put Minnesota on top.

Hughes and Quintana worked a perfect inning each, and Hughes then worked around a pair of singles in the bottom of the fourth. The Twins were the next team to score, as fifth-inning singles by Joe Mauer and Willingham and a double by Colabello extended their advantage to 5-1. But the White Sox struck back in the bottom of the inning with an extra-base hit sampler platter: an Adam Eaton triple, an RBI double by Abreu, and a two-run homer by Adam Dunn that cut the lead to a single run.

Quintana retired the Twins in order in the sixth, and the bottom of the inning saw Hughes replaced by Anthony Swarzak. With one out, Swarzak allowed consecutive singles to Tyler Flowers and Leury Garcia, then walked Eaton to load the bases. Marcus Semien then drew a full-count walk to force in the tying run, and Abreu followed with a base-clearing triple to open up an 8-5 lead.

Nate Jones relieved to start the seventh and quickly provided an indicator that the game wasn't wrapped up yet - he walked both hitters he faced. Maikel Cleto relieved and uncorked a wild pitch which put both runners in scoring position. Willingham popped up, Colabello grounded out to score one run, and Trevor Plouffe added a single that brought the Twins back within one. With the tying run at first, Oswaldo Arcia lifted a fly ball to deep center, where Adam Eaton was just able to run it down as it approached the wall. Brian Duensing, having entered to stop the bleeding an inning earlier, managed a scoreless home seventh.

Ronald Belisario entered for the eighth and went to a 2-2 count on Minnesota catcher Josmil Pinto. On the seventh pitch of the at bat, Pinto rifled a line drive into the left field bullpen to tie the game. Belisario recovered to retire the next three hitters, however, and with one out in the bottom of the inning, Caleb Thielbar served up a go-ahead homer to Marcus Semien.

With Chicago once again in the lead, Matt Thornton came on to nail things down. He struck out Mauer, then walked Willingham, who was pulled for pinch runner Jason Bartlett. Colabello's groundout put the tying run in scoring position, but also put the Sox one out from victory. Plouffe singled to right, however, scoring Bartlett. Arcia then stepped in and once again flied to deep center, and Eaton was unable to track the ball down this time; Plouffe raced around the bases with the go-ahead run, and Arcia slid in with a triple.

Naturally, the teams weren't quite finished yet, as Glen Perkins allowed a one-out double to Dayan Viciedo, who took third on Arcia's throwing error. Perkins rallied to get Alexei Ramirez and Paul Konerko without allowing Viciedo to advance the final 90 feet.

This game had large lead swings in the third and sixth innings, and that was just to set the table: Road team ties in the eighth, home team retakes the lead. Road team goes ahead in the ninth, home team gets the tying run to third with one out before leaving it there. On an individual level, the teams' relatively anonymous first basemen (Colabello and Abreu) combined for three doubles, a triple, and 10 RBI; as for the pitchers, Duensing and Perkins were the only two who didn't either allow a run or permit an inherited runner to score, and both of them had to strand someone at third. They don't make 9-inning baseball games much better than that one; in fact, with a 5.52 WPL, this game would have been the second-best regulation affair of the entire 2013 season.

So between this and Cubs-Pirates the other day, 2014 is off to a rather tremendous start.

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