Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Game of the Day (5/19/14)

Reds 4, Nationals 3 (15). Cincinnati sent Mike Leake to the mound to face Washington's Stephen Strasburg.

There were a variety of scoring opportunities in the first three innings, but none of them were cashed in. Strasburg worked around a double, an error, and a walk, respectively, while Leake walked a batter in the first and allowed a double and hit a batter in the second.

The scoring drought ended in the fourth when Todd Frazier was hit by a pitch, moved to third on a single by Brayan Pena, and scored when Pena was thrown out trying to take second on an escaped pitch. Washington got a Greg Dobbs double in the bottom of the inning, but failed to score, and Cincinnati added another run in the fifth as Strasburg plunked Zack Cozart and gave up singles to Billy Hamilton and Skip Schumaker.

The Nats wasted singles by Strasburg and Denard Span in the fifth; the Reds squandered a Chris Heisey double in the sixth. In the top of the seventh, Hamilton singled, stole second, and moved to third on a groundout, but was then picked off. The bottom of the seventh brought the first Washington run of the game, as Nate McLouth singled and moved to second on a wild pitch and Span singled him home.

The game was turned over to the bullpens at that point. Ryan Mattheus was perfect in the eighth and allowed only another double by Heisey in the ninth. Jonathan Broxton worked around an Ian Desmond infield hit in the eighth, and Aroldis Chapman was entrusted with the one-run lead in the ninth; Danny Espinosa greeted him with a double and moved around to score on a pair of pinch flyouts, with the game-tying RBI coming from Scott Hairston.

Rafael Soriano allowed a walk and steal to Schumaker in the tenth, while Chapman retired the Nats in order. The Reds threatened in the top of the eleventh, starting with a Frazier single and a Drew Storen wild pitch. Heisey walked one out later, and a two-out passed ball moved the runners to second and third before Storen rallied to strike out pinch hitter Ryan Ludwick. Manny Parra permitted only an Espinosa single in the bottom of the inning, and the game continued.

Tyler Clippard was spotless in the top of the twelfth, while JJ Hoover allowed a pair of walks but stranded both resultant runners. Aaron Barrett walked Devin Mesoraco and allowed a Frazier single to start the thirteenth, but Wilson Ramos threw out the lead runner on Neftali Soto's bunt attempt, which then allowed the Nats to turn a 5-4-3 double play on Chris Heisey's ground ball. Hoover retired the Washington hitters 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning.

Cozart led off the fourteenth with a single, but Barrett didn't allow him past second. Frandsen opened the bottom of the inning with a double against Logan Ondrusek and made it as far as third before Hamilton made a game-saving diving catch to end the inning. Ross Detwiler took the mound in the fifteenth and allowed a single to Brandon Phillips, then a go-ahead 2-run homer to Frazier. Heisey later doubled, but Detwiler managed to strand him. Jayson Werth began the bottom of the inning with a double and scored on a two-out single by Dobbs, but Ondrusek retired Espinosa to end the game.

Chris Heisey set a career high with three doubles in this one, but the real big hitting performance came courtesy of Todd Frazier. He was 3 for 6 with two singles, one time reaching on error, one time hit by pitch, two runs (including the first of the game via savvy baserunning), and the game-winning two-run homer in the fifteenth. That adds up to a WPA of +.828, easily the highest total of his career so far.

Despite that exemplary individual performance, the real standout is the game as a whole. In the first five extra innings, six different go-ahead or winning runs reached scoring position without being brought home. That's a good way to put on a quality baseball outing, and this one grades out as the fifth-best of 2014 to date.

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