Sunday, May 11, 2014

Game of the Day (5/10/14)

Orioles 5, Astros 4 (10). Baltimore's Miguel Gonzalez entered the game with a mere 49 career starts - which is still 37 more than his opponent, Houston's Collin McHugh.

Gonzalez threw a 1-2-3 first, while McHugh allowed hits to Nick Markakis and Nelson Cruz, which did less damage than would normally be expected because Markakis was caught stealing before Cruz's single. Gonzalez therefore allowed the game's first run in the top of the second on rookie George Springer's second career home run. The Orioles wasted another chance in the bottom of the inning when Steve Clevenger singled and Steve Pearce walked, and Houston tacked on another run in the top of the third as Jonathan Villar singled and took second on an Adam Jones error, stole third, and scored on a Dexter Fowler single.

No baserunners reached between the top of the third and the top of the fifth, when Jose Altuve singled and stole second with two outs. Fowler then drew a walk, but Jason Castro flied out to strand them both. The bottom of the inning brought a Pearce walk and little else, while the top of the sixth featured a Matt Dominguez single and a Springer double that put runners at second and third with one out. Gonzalez recovered to coax a popup and a groundout to keep the deficit to two runs.

That deficit began shrinking in the bottom of the sixth when a two-out homer by Jones put the Orioles on the board. Gonzalez worked a spotless seventh, and Baltimore tied the score in the bottom of the inning on singles by JJ Hardy, Clevenger, and Pearce, followed by a wild pitch. McHugh notched one out before leaving the game with the go-ahead run at third; Tony Sipp induced a Markakis groundout, and Josh Zeid struck out Manny Machado to end the inning.

Zach Britton gave up a single to Castro but eliminated him on a double play ball, and Cruz led off the bottom of the inning with a go-ahead homer. Tommy Hunter relieved for the top of the ninth in an effort to preserve the newfound lead; he allowed a one-out single to Chris Carter, and a double to Marc Krauss (both of whom were replaced by pinch runners). Villar grounded into an out at home, but the rundown took enough time to allow him to move to second behind the play, which meant that Altuve's subsequent single was able to score both baserunners and return the lead to Houston. Troy Patton replaced Hunter and intentionally walked Fowler, then got Castro to fly out.

Anthony Bass took the mound for the inning's second save situation and quickly recorded the first two outs. Jonathan Schoop then singled, as did Markakis, and Machado walked to load the bases. Pinch hitter Delmon Young followed with a single that scored Schoop with the tying run. Jones proceeded to pop up on the first pitch to send the game to extras.

Dominguez greeted Ryan Webb with a single in the tenth, and was bunted to second before being stranded. Paul Clemens got one out in the bottom of the inning, but never managed the second, as Hardy singled and Clevenger doubled him around to end the game.

In individual terms, Steve Clevenger was the story of this game; his three hits tied a career high, and his walkoff double helped him post a WPA of +.366, also his best effort in the majors. Jose Altuve's go-ahead single in the ninth gave him a career best WPA as well, with an even more impressive +.629.

With all the late-inning lead changes (Baltimore ties in the seventh and takes the lead in the eighth, Houston goes back in front in the ninth, the Orioles tie in the ninth and win in the tenth), it was exactly the sort of game that produces multiple WPA career highs. It also had one of the more unusual linescores I can ever remember seeing from the home team: the Orioles were scoreless in each of the first five innings, then scored exactly one run in each of the remaining five. The resultant line, 0000011111, reads like a bit of binary code accidentally dropped into a baseball scoresheet, and makes me irrelevantly wonder how the pattern would have progressed had the Astros scored once in the top of the tenth and prolonged the game.

As it is, though, this is a top-notch baseball outing, with its 5.94 WPL putting it in the 12th spot among this year's games, and among the best 10-inning games I've seen overall.

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