Monday, May 12, 2014

Game of the Day (5/11/14)

Mets 5, Phillies 4 (11). The teams play their third consecutive one-run game, this one beginning with Philly's Cole Hamels facing New York's John Niese.

Niese allowed a first-inning double to Jimmy Rollins, but nothing else; this allowed the Mets to open the scoring when Eric Young Jr. singled, stole second, and scored on a single by David Wright. Since Daniel Murphy had walked ahead of Wright's single, New York still had runners on the corners with nobody out, but Hamels recovered to induce two strikeouts and a comebacker, stranding the remaining Mets.

Marlon Byrd led off the second with a single, but was doubled up on Domonic Brown's grounder. Undeterred, the Phils then tied the game with back-to-back doubles by Wil Nieves (Who? Wil Nieves!) and Cody Asche. Nobody reached in either of the next two half-innings; Murphy would double in the bottom of the third, but was left at second.

Ryan Howard began the top of the fourth with a single, and moved to third on Byrd's double. Brown hit into a fielder's poor choice, with Howard scoring the go-ahead run, and Nieves brought Byrd home with a groundout. Asche walked and Hamels bunted the runners over, but Tony Gwynn Jr. flied out to leave them on; still, the Phillies now led 3-1. Eric Campbell started the bottom of the fourth with his first major league hit, and Juan Lagares singled as well. One out later, Ruben Tejada walked to load the bases, but that brought Niese to the plate; the pitcher struck out, and Young hit into a force to end the inning.

Neither team put a runner on in the fifth; the Phillies got singles from Nieves and Asche in the sixth, but didn't capitalize. Campbell walked and Tejada doubled, and this time, Niese wasn't left to hit for himself - but the result of pinch hitter Curtis Granderson's at bat was the same, as he struck out to end the inning. Daisuke Matsuzaka and Hamels exchanged scoreless sevenths, allowing one runner each. Matsuzaka put two Phillies on in the eighth, but Marlon Byrd was removed on a double play before Nieves was hit by a pitch. The Mets also put two on, and they managed to have their runners on simultaneously, as Anthony Recker singled and Tejada walked; Mario Hollands then struck out pinch hitter Travis d'Arnaud to end another threat.

Philadelphia added a ninth-inning insurance run against Jose Valverde when Rollins walked and Chase Utley tripled him around. Antonio Bastardo relieved with a chance to save the game, but he immediately allowed a double to Young and a homer to Murphy, closing the lead to a solitary run.  Wright struck out, but Chris Young doubled, putting the tying run in scoring position. Roberto Hernandez (who had pitched 5 innings in a start two days prior) relieved Bastardo and allowed a single to pinch hitter Bobby Abreu, which was followed by a game-tying groundout by Lagares.

With a tenth inning suddenly necessary, the Mets sent Jeurys Familia to the mound, and he responded with a 1-2-3 effort. Jeff Manship relieved for the Phils and worked around a single-and-steal by Eric Young, intentionally walking Murphy to face Wright and coaxing a forceout from the superior player. The top of the eleventh brought a Familia walk of Rollins, followed by Scott Rice hitting Utley with a pitch before retiring Reid Brignac to end the inning; that set up the bottom of the inning, in which Chris Young singled, was bunted to second by pinch hitter (and most-of-the-time starting pitcher) Zack Wheeler, watched Lagares intentionally walked behind him, moved to third on an infield hit by Recker, and scored the game-winner on a Tejada single.

This was a very good game, slipping past a number of other very good games to claim the day's top spot. It featured a starting pitcher not only being used in relief, but being given a ninth-inning save situation. Early on, the game saw a first career major league hit, which is always fun. There was also an important hit by an ancient pinch hitter who didn't play in the majors last year, and a walkoff single by a shortstop who is exactly on the Mendoza Line in his last 332 plate appearances. And yet, the least-likely event was an intentional walk: the Phillies put Daniel Murphy on base, on purpose, in order to face David Wright, who is the all-time Met leader in... everything, basically: runs, hits, total bases, doubles, RBI, walks, and just about all of the more advanced mashups of the standard counting categories. That sort of managerial decision is one you don't see every day.

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