Sunday, June 1, 2014

Game of the Day (5/31/14)

Mets 5, Phillies 4 (14). Second verse, highly similar but slightly superior to the first. Once again, the Mets sent a pitcher making his fourth career start (Jacob deGrom) against a Philly veteran (Kyle Kendrick).

New York struck early against Kendrick, starting with singles by Chris Young and Daniel Murphy. Two outs later, Bobby Abreu singled one run home, and Lucas Duda doubled to bring in another. deGrom was perfect for the first three innings, and the Mets added a third run in the top of the fourth when Ruben Tejada homered.

The Phillies started putting occasional runners on at this point - Chase Utley singled in the fourth, and Domonic Brown walked in the fifth. But no scoring came as a result, and when an Abreu double and a Tejada single made the score 4-0 in the sixth and deGrom retired the home team 1-2-3 in the bottom of the inning, the outlook was bleak indeed. Mario Hollands relieved in the top of the seventh and walked Murphy, then gave up a David Wright single that put runners at the corners and lifted New York's win expectancy to 98%.

Things improved rather quickly from that point. Murphy tried to score on a pitch that temporarily escaped from Wil Nieves and was thrown out at home, which helped Hollands get out of the jam without a run coming across. And in the bottom of the seventh, Jimmy Rollins led off with a single, Utley walked, and Ryan Howard homered, immediately bringing his team within a run. deGrom was lifted one out later, and Josh Edgin and Daisuke Matsuzaka combined to end the inning without further damage.

Jake Diekman threw a scoreless eighth, and the bottom of the inning brought a one-out Ben Revere triple, bringing Philly's 2-3-4 hitters up with an exceptional chance to tie the game. Rollins grounded out, however, and Scott Rice then relieved, walked Utley, and struck out Howard to end the inning. Jonathan Papelbon allowed a Curtis Granderson single, but saw him caught stealing to end the inning, giving his teammates another shot at the one-run margin. They quickly took advantage; Jeurys Familia allowed a ground-rule double to Marlon Byrd and a game-tying single to Brown. The Phils would move the winning run to second with a bunt before leaving it there, necessitating the game's continuation.

Jeff Manship took the mound in the top of the tenth and was perfect for his entire tenure in the game, giving his team numerous chances to win. Revere led off the bottom of the tenth with a single, then stole second and saw Rollins walk behind him. Utley flied out, Howard hit into a force that moved the winning run to third, and Byrd struck out. Buddy Carlyle was perfect in the bottom of the eleventh and worked around a Carlos Ruiz leadoff single in the twelfth. Howard started the home thirteenth with a single and Byrd walked, but Brown hit into a double play; the Philly bench was apparently totally bereft of options, because Manship's spot was up next and he hit for himself and grounded out, then was pulled from the game anyway in the top of the fourteenth.

Antonio Bastardo was the first non-Manship pitcher to take the mound in the top of an extra inning, and quickly put the first Met of the extra session on base by walking Tejada. Juan Lagares bunted the runner to second, Young was intentionally walked, Murphy popped up, and Wright singled to score the go-ahead run. Granderson flied out to strand the remaining runners, and Carlos Torres entered in the bottom of the inning for New York's second save chance of the day. Reid Brignac led off with a walk, and Ruiz singled him to second, but Torres rallied to retire Revere, Rollins, and Utley to end the game without the tying run advancing from second.

In innings 9-14, the Phillies had the winning run on base with nobody out five times. It would thrice advance into scoring position, with two of those instances coming before an out was registered. And every time, they left it on base. Meanwhile, the Mets only had one inning with any baserunners at all in the extra period, and they still scored the only post-regulation run of the day.

There are two things that result from the one-sided action. First, the game goes down as what would commonly be called a "bad loss" for the Phillies, with whatever psychological implications you care to ascribe to such a defeat. Second, the game also takes over as the most dramatically-imbalanced contest of the season's first two months, as the Philly offense was exciting enough to come within a rounding error of doubling the WPL of the New York hitters, 4.32 to 2.16. If Jeff Manship had permitted a bit more Met participation in the early extra innings, this game could have approached the top 5 on the year so far; as is, it still slips into the #11 spot.

This entry also brings the month of May to a close, and it's worth taking a moment to compare the two seasons that I'm processing this year.

Through May (829 total games), 2014 has produced an average WPL of 2.73.
Through May (620 total games), 1984 has produced an average WPL of 2.77.

That difference is not statistically significant at this point (the standard deviation of the mean for 1984 is .05), but if it persists, it will likely attain significance by the end of the year.

As far as the individual teams go, the most exciting team of 2014 so far is the Pirates, with an average WPL of 3.08. And the most exciting team of 1984 through two months is... the Pirates, with an average WPL of 3.09. Despite that amusing coincidence, the relationship between the excitement scores for 1984 teams and their 2014 counterparts (ignoring the four teams that have joined the league since then) is predictably very weak, with a correlation of just less than .2, which I would expect to shrink as the year goes on.

But the most pertinent feature of both 1984 and 2014 is that they both still have 4 months of baseball left for us to explore, and I'm looking forward to getting started.

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