Monday, May 5, 2014

Game of the Day (5/4/14)

A's 3, Red Sox 2 (10). The pitching matchup was of rookie postseason heroes - Sonny Gray from last year, John Lackey from (ready to feel old?) 2002.

Oakland picked up a run in the opening half-inning when Josh Donaldson walked, stole second, and came home on a Brandon Moss single. That was enough for Gray through the first four innings; he allowed only one baserunner in that timeframe, and Grady Sizemore's single was erased on a double play ball from Jackie Bradley. However, the A's stranded a runner in each of the next three innings, the most significant coming in the third when Donaldson singled and was thrown out trying to score on a Moss double.

Boston finally broke through against Gray in the bottom of the fifth. Mike Carp and AJ Pierzynski started the inning with singles, and one out later, Sizemore doubled to score Carp with the tying run. They had a chance to take the lead, especially after Will Middlebrooks drew a walk to load the bases, but Bradley hit into his second double play of the game to end the inning.

The A's quickly took advantage of Boston's failure to pull ahead, as Donaldson started the sixth with a walk and scored on a Yoenis Cespedes double. Gray worked around a leadoff single by Dustin Pedroia in the sixth, but after Andrew Miller threw a perfect seventh, Pierzynski started the bottom of the inning with a game-tying homer. Gray then walked Xander Bogaerts, prompting his removal in favor of Fernando Abad. Jonny Gomes hit for Sizemore and flied to right, but Josh Reddick misplayed it into a two-base error that put the go-ahead run at third with nobody out. From that point, Middlebrooks struck out, Bradley bunted into an out, and Luke Gregerson relieved to induce a groundout from Pedroia.

Junichi Tazawa was spotless in the eighth. Gregerson got the first two outs in the bottom of the inning before Carp singled; Sean Doolittle relieved, Jonathan Herrera pinch ran, and Herrera was caught stealing to end the inning. Koji Uehara allowed a John Jaso single and walked Derek Norris in the top of the ninth, but Reddick hit into a double play. That would not be the only double play of the inning, as Jim Johnson induced one from Gomes after Doolittle allowed a hit to Bogaerts.

Chris Capuano swiftly retired the first two Oakland hitters in the top of the tenth. Jed Lowrie then doubled, Donaldson was intentionally walked, and pinch hitter Alberto Callaspo drew an unintentional pass to load the bases. Burke Badenhop relieved and Cespedes greeted him with a slow bouncer to third, narrowly beating Middlebrooks's throw for an RBI infield single that gave the A's the lead.

Johnson remained in the game for the bottom of the tenth, and started out in trouble quickly, as Middlebrooks singled and made it to second on a Coco Crisp error. Bradley grounded to first, and Middlebrooks was thrown out trying for third on the play, setting Boston back by both an out and a base. Pedroia followed that with a game-ending double play, which would not have been possible had the runner been at second rather than first.

There are any number of reasons that the Red Sox lost this game; for starters, Josh Donaldson out-walked their entire lineup. But the thing that looks to have hurt the most is the loss of Jacoby Ellsbury. New leadoff hitter Dustin Pedroia went 1 for 5 and hit into the game-ending double play, good for a -.295 WPA. And new center fielder Jackie Bradley was even worse, going 0 for 4, hitting into two double plays (one with the bases loaded), bunting into an out with one out and the go-ahead runner at third (what?), and hitting into that damaging tenth-inning fielder's choice. Bradley amassed a rather horrible -.621 WPA for the game, which I'm guessing is either the worst single-game figure by any hitter so far this year or very, very close. It's hard to come out on top when you have that working against you.

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