Friday, May 2, 2014

Game of the Day (5/1/14)

Yesterday's three best games were all in the 90th percentile or higher on the season so far. They were also all second halves of doubleheaders. Thanks, rain!

The best of the bunch was Dodgers 4, Twins 3 (12), which saw Red Patterson make his big league debut and Kris Johnson his first appearance for Minnesota. This may be related to the aforementioned fact that it was the second game of a doubleheader.

Johnson allowed a single and a walk in the top of the first, but Yasiel Puig was thrown out trying to stretch the single into a double before Hanley Ramirez drew the free pass. The bottom of the inning began with singles by Brian Dozier and Joe Mauer; a forceout and a walk loaded the bases, and Josmil Pinto followed with a sac fly to score the game's first run. Johnson walked Scott Van Slyke and Justin Turner in the second, but stranded them; he then allowed hits to Puig and Ramirez in the top of the third, but prevented them from scoring as well.

Patterson was perfect in both the second and third, and Johnson continued his established two baserunner pattern in the fourth, walking both Juan Uribe and Drew Butera before ending the inning with the runners still at first and second. In the fifth, a Ramirez walk, a wild pitch, and an Adrian Gonzalez single finally brought the end of Johnson's adventuresome start; Anthony Swarzak relieved and coaxed a double play from Matt Kemp to end the inning. (Having allowed two baserunners in every inning and not finished his last one, Johnson left the game with a WHIP of 2.3... and an ERA of zero. I may be going out on a limb, but I'll predict that combination will not last.)

With Johnson out, Patterson appears to have staged a tribute to his outing in the bottom of the fifth, walking Sam Fuld and Pedro Florimon. He was pulled with two outs and Mauer coming up; Brandon League retired the multiple batting titlist to keep the game close.

The Dodgers finally tied the score in the sixth when Van Slyke tripled and Uribe singled him home. Swarzak would then walk Dee Gordon and Puig to fill the bases before Michael Tonkin got Ramirez to foul out and keep the game even. The Twins nudged ahead in the sixth thanks to an overdose of Dodger miscues, as Trevor Plouffe reached second base on a Uribe error, and Chris Colabello singled on a grounder back to the mound, with League committing an error of his own that allowed Plouffe to come all the way home. League recovered to induce a popup and a double play, and Gonzalez reset the scoreboard in the seventh with a leadoff homer.

Following the homer, Tonkin walked the bases loaded in the top of the seventh before Caleb Thielbar took over and retired Gordon. League recorded the first out of the bottom of the inning, and Paco Rodriguez got the last two. Casey Fien was spotless in the top of the eighth; Rodriguez walked Dozier and gave up a single to Mauer, then yielded to Brian Wilson who sat the next three Twins down in order. Glen Perkins produced a 1-2-3 ninth, and Jamey Wright circumnavigated a walk to force extras.

Brian Duensing gave the Twins their third consecutive bases-empty inning in the tenth, while Wright allowed a Mauer single but nothing else. The Dodgers finally got another baserunner in the eleventh when Ramirez doubled, but couldn't advance him from there, while Wright allowed nary a Twin to reach in the bottom of the inning.

That brought the game into the twelfth. Van Slyke led off with a go-ahead homer; a Uribe walk was erased on a Turner double play ball, but Butera followed that with a solo shot of his own, making the lead 4-2. A Gordon single-and-error spelled the end of Duensing's outing, and Jared Burton struck out Puig to end the inning.

One would think that the establishment of the game's first multi-run lead might put a damper on further excitement. In that case, one would be incorrect. Jason Kubel greeted Kenley Jansen with a single, and walks to Eduardo Escobar and Dozier loaded the bases with nobody out and the meat of the order coming up. Mauer brought in one run with a sac fly, but Plouffe flied out (moving Escobar to third, so he likely would have scored the tying run had he been able to advance on Mauer's fly), Dozier stole second, and Colabello lined out to end the game with the tying and winning runs in scoring position.

There's a lot going on here, as you'd expect from the #7 game of the season by WPL. Both teams chose starters who were likely to provide brief outings (and in fact did so), despite it being the second game of a doubleheader; as a result, the Dodgers burned through 5 relievers, and the Twins, a remarkable 7. All of the pitching changes provided limited benefits, as both teams had K/BB ratios of exactly 1 for the game (7 of each for LA, 12 for Minnesota).

Joe Mauer had half of his team's hits in a 12-inning game; that is rather undignified for the rest of the Twins lineup. But worse than that is the fact that the eventual decisive run came off of the bat of former Twin Drew Butera, who now has as many home runs in 11 plate appearances against the Twins as he did in his last 236 plate appearances for them. That's got to be an extraordinarily annoying way to lose a baseball game.

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