Friday, May 30, 2014

Game of the Day (5/29/14)

Royals 8, Blue Jays 6 (10). KC's James Shields faced Toronto's RA Dickey. It's one of the more interesting pitching matchups of the year, because the two starters mirror each other pretty well; both were acquired in trades before the 2013 season with the intent of installing them as aces of playoff teams. Only one team has ended up with the ace it hoped for - but the other team is the one in first right now.

Dickey worked around a first-inning walk to post an opening goose egg on the scoreboard. Shields then allowed a single to Melky Cabrera and a two-run homer to Jose Bautista. The Royals cut the resultant deficit in half when Salvador Perez went deep in the top of the second, and the starters then combined for three straight perfect half-innings before Eric Hosmer and Alex Gordon both doubled, tying the game at 2 in the top of the fourth.

That tie was extremely short-tenured, as an Adam Lind single and an Edwin Encarnacion homer put Toronto back in front in the bottom of the fourth, but the Royals made quick work of that lead. Alcides Escobar led off the fifth with a single and scored on Pedro Ciriaco's double. Norichika Aoki reached on a bunt, putting runners at the corners, and Omar Infante singled Ciriaco in to tie the score. One out later, a hit by Billy Butler scored Aoki to give Kansas City its first lead of the game.

Shields worked around an Anthony Gose single in the fifth by picking the runner off to end the inning, and the top of the sixth began with a Lorenzo Cain double and an Escobar single, threatening to extend the Royal advantage. Dickey was lifted for Steve Delabar, who struck out Ciriaco, hit Aoki with a pitch to load the bases, and got Infante to line into a double play, wasting a golden opportunity. Cabrera led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but was picked off; the Jays recovered quickly, as Lind singled and Encarnacion hit his second homer of the game to take back the lead.

Rob Rasmussen took the mound in the seventh and recorded the first two outs while allowing only a Butler single. He then hit Perez with a pitch, threw a wild pitch, and walked Cain to load the bases; Aaron Loup was summoned and struck out Escobar to strand all three runners. Shields was spotless in the bottom of the seventh, Loup retired the Royals in order in the eighth, and Wade Davis did the same to Toronto's hitters.

Casey Janssen took the mound hoping to preserve the one-run lead in the ninth. He swiftly retired the first two Royal hitters, but then allowed an Alex Gordon single. Pinch runner Jarrod Dyson stole second, and Perez grounded to short, where Jose Reyes's throwing error permitted Dyson to score the tying run. Davis set the Jays down 1-2-3 to push the game into an additional inning.

Todd Redmond supplanted Janssen in the tenth and started out poorly, giving up a leadoff hit to Escobar and plunking Ciriaco. Aoki bunted the runners over, and Infante singled to bring them both home for a 2-run lead. Redmond retired the next two hitters, but Greg Holland allowed only a two-out Gose hit in securing his fifteenth save of the season.

This was as back-and-forth as just about any game you'll find; neither team scored a single run on a play that began while they already held the lead. More notably, it suffered a severe imbalance of in-game drama. The Royal hitters were highly exciting throughout, leaving 11 runners on base and batting 18 times with runners in scoring position.

The Blue Jays? They stranded one runner, and batted zero times with men on second and/or third base. Literally their entire offensive output was three home runs, each coming with a man on first. The resultant dearth of high-leverage plate appearances for Toronto gives this game the third-largest tilt toward the road team's hitters in dramatic terms so far this year. That's pretty impressive for a game in which the teams traded the lead with some regularity.

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