Monday, May 26, 2014

Games of the Weekend (5/23/14 through 5/25/14)

The Game of 5/23/14 was White Sox 6, Yankees 5, in which Chicago trailed 3-0 after half an inning, rallied to take a 4-3 lead by the fifth, fell behind 5-4 in the seventh, and won the game in the ninth on a two-run Adam Dunn walkoff homer.

The Game of 5/25/14 was Diamondbacks 2, Mets 1. The teams traded runs in the first, then went back and forth stranding runners (20 combined LOB, 21 AB with RISP for the game) until a ninth-inning error allowed Arizona to take the lead; the Mets would then get runners to first and second before bowing out. (This game very narrowly edged out Josh Beckett's no-hitter; given the subjective nature of both my no-hitter adjustment in particular and excitement in general, I will not argue with anyone who would choose differently between those two games.)

The best game of the weekend, however, came on Saturday the 24th: Royals 7, Angels 4 (13).

The game was started by James Shields, Kansas City's ace, and Matt Shoemaker, LA's 27-year-old rookie. Both pitchers allowed a runner to reach second in each of the first two innings, but neither team scored until the top of the third when Norichika Aoki and Eric Hosmer singled and Billy Butler brought in the first Royal run with a sac fly. With two outs, Salvador Perez reached on an error, moving Hosmer to third, and Lorenzo Cain then singled to make it a 2-0 lead. KC padded the margin further in the top of the fourth when Alcides Escobar singled, stole second, and scored on a Hosmer single.

The Angels began to rally in the bottom of the fourth when Raul Ibanez doubled and Erick Aybar homered, closing the gap to 3-2. An inning later, Mike Trout led off with a game-tying homer; Albert Pujols followed with a double (thanks to a challenged call), moved to third on a groundout, and scored the go-ahead run on a wild pitch.

Kelvin Jepsen relieved Shoemaker in the sixth and threw a perfect inning; Shields worked around a double in the bottom of the inning to keep the Royals close, and singles by Hosmer (against Sean Burnett) and Butler (off of Joe Smith) and a walk to Gordon loaded the bases with nobody out in the top of the seventh. Perez hit into a double play that defused the inning but also tied the game at 4.

The game was now in the hands of the bullpens, and apart from the seventh-inning blip from the Angels, both relief corps handled it well. Kelvin Herrera and Wade Davis combined for a trio of scoreless innings for Kansas City, while Smith worked a spotless eighth and Ernesto Frieri did the same in the ninth. Frieri also allowed a lone single in the tenth, and Tim Collins did the same in the bottom of the inning. Fernando Salas and Aaron Crow exchanged pairs of scoreless innings in the eleventh and twelfth, with each allowing two singles and one runner in scoring position over that time.

Mike Morin assumed LA's pitching responsibilities in the top of the thirteenth; he entered the game having allowed one run on six hits in 10.2 innings, but did not exactly live up to that performance in this outing. Danny Valencia led off with a double; Escobar laid down a bunt and Morin threw the ball away, allowing pinch runner Jarrod Dyson to scamper around with the go-ahead run. Pedro Ciriaco bunted Escobar to second and Aoki singled him home; a Hosmer single and a Butler sac fly made the lead 7-4, and Greg Holland retired the Angels in order to end the game.

The Royals won this one on the strength of 7 scoreless innings from their bullpen (5 hits, 6 strikeouts, and no walks), and 7 combined hits by Eric Hosmer and Lorenzo Cain. That sort of bullpen performance has been pretty standard over the last season and a half - but the production from the young lineup members has been anything but, and that's why they're still scuffling along at .500 a few years after their farm system was universally proclaimed the best in baseball.

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