Thursday, May 29, 2014

Game of the Day (5/28/14)

Phillies 6, Rockies 3. Colorado's Jordan Lyles took on the sinkerball artist formerly known as Fausto Carmona (and currently known as Roberto Hernandez).

Both teams threatened in the first and second innings. Hernandez allowed a two-out double to Justin Morneau in the top of the first, while Jimmy Rollins drew a walk and advanced to second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the second, Charlie Culberson reached on a two-out error, Lyles singled, and Charlie Blackmon walked to load the bases, but DJ LeMahieu grounded out to strand the runners. A Marlon Byrd single and a Domonic Brown walk started the bottom of the second, but a flyout, a forceout, and a strikeout ended the inning with no scoring.

The Rockies broke through in the top of the third, starting with a Morneau homer. Corey Dickerson then walked and scored on Willin Rosario's double to augment the lead. Philly countered when Chase Utley doubled and Ryan Howard singled him home, cutting their deficit in half. Both starters were perfect in the fourth; Hernandez allowed a single to Michael Cuddyer and a walk to Dickerson before recovering to end the top of the fifth.

Ben Revere led off the home fifth with a single and stole second. With two outs, the Rockies intentionally walked Howard, and Byrd then singled to score Revere with the tying run. Brandon Barnes hit for Lyles to open the sixth and doubled, but Hernandez and Antonio Bastardo combined to record three outs in time to strand Barnes at third. Matt Belisle tossed a perfect bottom of the sixth, and the Rockies tried again in the seventh, with Dickerson and Rosario drawing walks and an errant pickoff throw moving them to second and third. Josh Rutledge also walked, loading the bases and chasing Bastardo in favor of Mike Adams. With the bases loaded and nobody out, Colorado turned to a pair of highly overqualified pinch hitters. Pinch hitter Carlos Gonzalez hit into a 1-2-3 double play, and pinch hitter Troy Tulowitzki struck out, keeping the game tied at 2.

A Rollins single off of Rex Brothers in the bottom of the inning went for naught, and the Rockies took the lead in the top of the eighth when LeMahieu homered against Jake Diekman. Nick Masset managed a 1-2-3 bottom of the eighth, and Jonathan Papelbon did the same in the top of the ninth to give his team a final shot at the one-run gap.

LaTroy Hawkins quickly recorded the first out, and would have had the second if not for Rutledge's throwing error allowing Tony Gwynn Jr. to reach. Revere singled, but Rollins lined out, putting the Rockies one out from victory.

With a pair of lefties coming up, Colorado made the unusual (though not ill-founded) move to pull the closer in favor of southpaw Boone Logan. Sound though the reasoning behind the move may have been, it did not pay off in practice, as Utley singled to score the tying run, and Howard followed with a walkoff three-run homer.

This game makes for a nice flashback to the Phillies' glory days, as Chase Utley and Ryan Howard combined for four hits (two for extra bases) and five of the team's six RBI. It also demonstrates the difficulty of pioneering strategic changes, even if they make sense: I'm guessing Walt Weiss got to answer questions about why he pulled the closer in the ninth, even if Utley and (especially) Howard are far less effective against lefties and Boone Logan is a good lefty. Had Hawkins remained on the mound and the result been the same, few would have questioned the move.

But mostly, it was a baseball game that remained close and tense throughout, with heroes both likely and unlikely coming through for both teams. Its WPL of 5.03 puts it in the highest echelon of nine-inning contests, and deservedly so.

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