Thursday, May 22, 2014

Game of the Day (5/21/14)

Indians 11, Tigers 10 (13). Cleveland sent Zach McAllister (who entered the year looking kind of OK but has pitched lousy) against Detroit's Max Scherzer (who entered the year as the reigning Cy Young winner and has pitched like the reigning Cy Young winner).

McAllister's day got off to a sub-optimal start, as Rajai Davis singled, Ian Kinsler reached on an error, and Miguel Cabrera hit a sac fly to open the scoring and move Kinsler to third. Victor Martinez singled Kinsler home, and JD Martinez followed with a 2-run homer that made it a 4-0 lead. The Indians picked up a run in the bottom of the first, as Michael Bourn doubled, stayed at first on Asdrubal Cabrera's single (it was a shallow fly ball that dropped in, forcing Bourn to hold up), moved to third on a wild pitch, and scored on David Murphy's sac fly.

McAllister worked around a Kinsler walk-and-steal in the second, and his lineup unloaded on Scherzer in the bottom of the inning. Lonnie Chisenhall and Mike Aviles hit back-to-back one-out doubles, and a Bourn single, a Cabrera groundout, and a Michael Brantley two-run single combined to tie the game. Brantley then stole second and scored on Murphy's double, and Nick Swisher singled Murphy home to push the lead to 6-4.

Detroit's back-to-back Martinezes struck again in the third, as Victor led off with a home run and JD then drew a walk, the latter event chasing McAllister from the game. Scott Atchison took over and ended the inning without further drama (outside of the inherited runner getting caught stealing), and Chisenhall homered to start the bottom of the third, restoring the lead to its former two-run glory. Atchison worked around a single in the fourth, while Scherzer (still in the game after allowing seven runs) was spotless in the bottom of the inning.

Marc Rzepczynski replaced Atchison in the top of the fifth and walked Miguel Cabrera, then allowed a double to the first Martinez that moved the lead runner to third. An Austin Jackson sac fly scored Cabrera, and Nick Castellanos doubled Martinez home to tie the game. Carlos Carrasco relieved Rzepczynski and retired Bryan Holaday to end the inning.

With the game tied once more, Scherzer continued to soldier on, working around a single in the bottom of the fifth. Carrasco put two runners on in the sixth on a strikeout/passed ball and a walk (the walk being issued to Don Kelly, who was hitting for Miguel Cabrera, which is not great news for the Tigers), but stranded them both. In the bottom of the sixth, Bourn led off with a single, and Brantley doubled one batter later; unfortunately for Cleveland, the one batter had hit into a double play.

Carrasco notched the first two outs of the seventh before Castellanos singled and Holaday walked; John Axford then replaced him and walked Danny Worth to load the bases before Davis grounded out to leave them that way. Scherzer threw a 1-2-3 seventh before finally coming out of the game, and he picked his departure time flawlessly, as a Kinsler single, a Kelly walk, an ROE by the first Martinez in the lineup and a single by the second brought in a pair of runs, putting Detroit in the lead and Scherzer in position for an unlikely win. Josh Outman relieved Axford and got the next three Tigers out, but as Joba Chamberlain set the Indians down in order in the eighth, it looked very much like the two-run Detroit lead would prove decisive.

Kyle Crockett counteracted a Davis walk with a Kinsler double play in the ninth, giving his team one more chance. Joe Nathan retired Cabrera for the first out in the bottom of the inning, but then allowed a single-and-steal to Brantley, which Murphy followed with a game-tying home run. Nathan got through the next two hitters with ease, sending the game to extras with the teams even at 9.

Crockett worked around a walk in the tenth; Ian Krol had a more adventurous time of it in the bottom of the inning as Chisenhall walked and Aviles singled him to third. Bourn then flied to left, and Chisenhall tagged up and was thrown out at home. Josh Tomlin (also known as the originally-scheduled Thursday starter) took the mound in the eleventh for the Indians and retired the Tigers in order, and Krol duplicated that result in the bottom of the inning. Kinsler doubled with one out in the twelfth, but Kelly popped up, Victor Martinez was intentionally walked, and JD Martinez struck out to preserve the tie. Phil Coke issued a pair of walks in the bottom of the inning, but a double play in between them helped him prolong the game.

Tomlin got through the first two batters of the thirteenth without incident; the third was a different story, as Alex Avila broke the tie with a home run. In the bottom of the thirteenth, Coke allowed a leadoff single to Aviles, saw Bourn bunt him to second, and hit Cabrera with a pitch. Brantley followed with a game-tying single, and Murphy's groundout moved the runners to second and third. Al Alburquerque relieved Coke and intentionally walked pinch hitter Yan Gomes. With Ryan Raburn at the plate, Alburquerque flinched before going into his motion, and was called for a balk, bringing Cabrera home with the game-winning run.

This is a legitimately fantastic game, and not just because it spared me the dispiriting ordeal of writing about the trials of winless MLB ERA leader Jeff Samardzija after the Cubs blew another lead for him. Both teams had big comebacks, the Indians from 4-0 and 9-7, Detroit from 7-5. Max Scherzer gave up 7 runs in 4 innings, then stayed in the game and threw 3 scoreless ones. The Indians used nearly their entire pitching staff, 9 men in all, as their starter was pulled in the third and the game went thirteen. Cleveland put the go-ahead run at third in the tenth and had it thrown out at home. And finally, the Tigers took the lead in the thirteenth, only to lose the game in the bottom of the inning.

And all of that pales in comparison to the singular freak event that ended it. WPL sees all of the lead swings and extra-inning drama and awards the game an 8.01, the second-highest score of 2014 so far. When you throw in the balkoff, I'm not sure it shouldn't be #1.

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