Saturday, May 3, 2014

Game of the Day (5/2/14)

Rays 10, Yankees 5 (14). David Price (who entered with 9 career complete games, not to mention 74 wins and a Cy Young) opened on the mound for Tampa; New York sent Vidal Nuno (making his sixth career start) to oppose him. That matchup seems... less than equitable.

Nuno and Price combined to allow one baserunner in the first, and Jacoby Ellsbury was removed on a Derek Jeter double play ball. The lineups warmed up in the second; the Rays scored once when Sean Rodriguez doubled, advanced on a wild pitch, and came home on James Loney's single, and the Yankees responded with an Alfonso Soriano single and a Brian McCann homer to take a 2-1 lead.

Nuno and Price both managed scoreless third innings, but the same could not be said of the less-experienced pitcher in the fourth. Evan Longoria hit a one-out triple, and Wil Myers singled him home to tie the game. Rodriguez and Loney both walked to load the bases, and Logan Forsythe capitalized with a sac fly to put Tampa back in front. Price allowed a Mark Teixeira single but nothing else in the bottom of the inning, and a Desmond Jennings homer in the fifth extended the Ray lead and chased Nuno from the mound.

Dellin Betances retired Longoria to end the inning. After a perfect fifth from Price, Myers and Rodriguez started the sixth with singles, but Betances rallied to strike out the next three Rays he faced to keep his team within striking distance. Singles by Carlos Beltran and Soriano gave the Yanks a chance in the bottom of the sixth, but they failed to convert; the same could be said of the Rays in the seventh after Jennings walked and stole second against Preston Claiborne. JR Murphy doubled in the bottom of the seventh, making it the third consecutive half inning in which a runner reached second base and did not score.

The Rays made it 90 feet farther in the top of the eighth, as Matt Thornton hit Loney with a pitch and Yunel Escobar singled him around to third before Jose Molina hit into a force to end the threat. But it was the Yankees who finally brought a runner home - and followed immediately with a second, as Teixeira and Soriano hit back-to-back homers against Joel Peralta to tie the game at 4.

Tampa was undeterred by the sudden change of fortune, and responded promptly against David Robertson in the ninth. Ben Zobrist led off with a single, stole second, and one out later, came home on Longoria's single to retake the lead. But after Brian Roberts led off with a single against Peralta, Juan Carlos Oviedo (the artist formerly known as Leo Nunez) allowed him to steal second and allowed a game-tying single to Ellsbury. Brandon Gomes relieved and retired Jeter to force extras.

Kelly Johnson had hit for Murphy in the ninth, and McCann, who started the game at DH, was New York's only other catcher; he took over behind he plate, costing the Yanks the DH, and Shawn Kelley both took the mound and entered the lineup in the ninth spot. Kelley countered a Loney single with a Joyce double play in the tenth, while Gomes set the Yankees down in order. Kelley struck out the side in the eleventh, and Gomes quickly retired the first two hitters of the bottom half before Roberts singled. Heath Bell relieved and allowed a single to Yangervis Solarte that put the winning run at third, but then coaxed a groundout from Ichiro (pinch hitting for Kelley) to prolong the contest.

Adam Warren worked around a Longoria single in the twelfth, and New York threatened again in the bottom of the inning. Ellsbury led off with a single, and Jeter bunted, reaching on a Bell error. Beltran then hit into one of the more unusual double plays you'll ever encounter (video of which seems to be tragically unavailable on MLB.com): he grounded to second and was thrown out at first (simple enough); Jeter then got caught in a rundown, which turned into a rundown of Ellsbury between third and home that ended with the lead runner being tagged out and the trail runner at third with two away. According to the MLB game recap, the scoring was 4-3-3-6-3-4-3-4-5-2. I'm pretty sure there's an extra 3 in there, at least, but either way, you don't see baserunning hijinks of that caliber in the twelfth inning every day.

The thirteenth was no less eventful. Loney led off with a single and was pulled for pinch runner Brandon Guyer; Joyce promptly hit into a double play (after which Joe Maddon was ejected for arguing the call). Escobar singled, and Ryan Hanigan did as well, putting the go-ahead run in scoring position, but Zobrist grounded out to leave it there. In the bottom of the inning, singles by McCann and Roberts and a Solarte groundout put the winning run at third with one away. The Rays shifted to a five-man infield, with right fielder Myers moving to first base, and Brett Garnder (hitting for Warren) hit what seems fairly likely to be the first 3-9 groundout in MLB history. Ellsbury was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Jeter grounded out against a conventional infield to end the inning.

New York put Chris Leroux on the mound in the fourteenth, and the tie disappeared rather swiftly. Jennings led off with a walk, and stole second with one out. Myers singled Jennings home, Rodriguez doubled Myers home, and Guyer singled Rodriguez home, taking second on the throw to the plate. Joyce was intentionally walked, which interrupted the scoring only momentarily; Escobar singled Guyer around, and Hanigan's single brought Joyce in with the inning's fifth run. Leroux finally retired Zobrist and Jennings to stop the bleeding, but Josh Lueke had no trouble holding the five-run lead in the bottom of the inning to finish the game.

It would be fair to say that there was quite a bit going on in this one. One of the teams lost the DH; the other had its manager ejected and briefly played a five-man infield (against the pinch hitter their opponent was using because, as mentioned, they lost the DH). The Yankees turned five double plays; the Rays crammed five double plays' worth of assists into two. The Yankees rallied to tie in both the eighth and ninth innings despite going 1 for 13 with runners in scoring position (the lone hit was at least well-timed, being the game-tying single in the ninth); Tampa was an only-slightly-better 3 for 12 before unloading in a 4-for-6 fourteenth inning. And, speaking of, the game went 14 innings. During those innings, the Rays' pitching staff issued all of one walk - and that one was intentional. (It was to get to Jeter, who went 0 for 7 for the first time ever, and saw his OPS drop 47 points to .606.)

It was a nearly six-hour marathon of exhaustingly eventful baseball. WPL scores it as the second-best game of the year, and I am not terribly inclined to argue.

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