Sunday, June 15, 2014

Game of the Day (6/14/14)

Much like June 14 of 30 years ago, yesterday's games included a number of excellent contests that ended in regulation, along with one extra-inning affair. And again, just like 30 years ago, the best of them was Angels 11, Braves 6 (13). This one saw LA's Garrett Richards take on Gavin Floyd of Atlanta.

Both starters began the game well. Richards allowed a BJ Upton single in the first, an Evan Gattis single in the second, and committed an error and walked a batter in the third, but kept the scoreboard clear. Meanwhile, Floyd didn't allow a baserunner until hitting Chris Iannetta in the third, and quickly erased him when Richards bunted into a double play. However, Kole Calhoun led off the fourth with a single, moved to second on a wild pitch, advanced to third on a Mike Trout hit, and scored on an Albert Pujols flyout.

Richards worked around a walk in the bottom of the fourth. Erick Aybar led off the top of the fifth with a single and stole second; Floyd singled in the bottom of the inning and was moved up on a walk, but Richards struck out the other three Braves to bat in the frame. In the top of the sixth, Trout and Pujols hit back-to-back homers, extending the Angel lead to 3-0. Tommy La Stella singled in the bottom of the inning, but Richards left him on.

Aybar led off the seventh with a single, and David Freese singled him to third. One out later, both starting pitchers were removed at the same time - Floyd for Luis Avilan, Richards for pinch hitter Raul Ibanez. Ibanez popped up, but Calhoun walked to load the bases, and Trout greeted reliever Anthony Varvaro with another walk, forcing in a run. Jordan Schafer started the bottom of the seventh with a bunt hit against Kevin Jepsen, but the Braves couldn't get the runner past first.

The Angels padded their lead once more in the eighth against former Angel Jordan Walden; Howie Kendrick singled and made it to third on an error, then scored on a hit by Aybar, who was thrown out attempting to stretch the single into a double. Gattis finally got the Braves on the board with a homer against Joe Smith in the eighth, and David Carpenter worked around a hit in the ninth, but Atlanta still trailed 5-1 when Ernesto Frieri entered the game in the bottom of the inning.

Andrelton Simmons, pinch hitter Ryan Doumit, and Jason Heyward started the inning with consecutive singles, the third one scoring a run. BJ Upton then tripled in both remaining runners, and Freddie Freeman hit an automatic double to tie the game. Mike Morin was hustled to the mound to replace Frieri; he struck out Justin Upton, intentionally walked Gattis, and coaxed a double play from Chris Johnson to preserve the tie and send the game to a tenth inning.

Craig Kimbrel took the mound in the top of the tenth; Pujols greeted him with a double, and Josh Hamilton singled him home. Kimbrel retired the next three hitters; Cam Bedrosian took the mound in the bottom of the inning, and La Stella greeted him with a single and was balked to second. One out later, Ramiro Pena reached on an infield hit, with the runner remaining at second; Heyward then singled La Stella home to tie the game. BJ Upton grounded out to move the winning run to third, Freeman was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Justin Upton flied out to extend the game.

David Hale worked around a walk in the top of the eleventh. In the bottom of the inning, Gattis greeted Fernando Salas with a single and was bunted to second. La Stella was intentionally walked, and Gattis was then pulled for pinch runner Dan Uggla. Uggla, of course, was immediately doubled off of second when Simmons lined out to third. Hale and Salas were both spotless in the twelfth.

Aybar led off the top of the thirteenth with a single and moved to second on a passed ball. The Angels then hit for Salas; their best available pinch hitter was starting pitcher CJ Wilson - and Wilson walked on a full count. Hale then plunked Iannetta to load the bases; John McDonald popped up, but Calhoun singled in one run, and Trout doubled in two more to drive Hale from the mound. Shae Simmons relieved Hale and Pujols hit a two-run single before Hamilton's double play grounder mercifully ended the carnage; Cory Rasmus relieved in the bottom of the inning and retired the Braves in order to end the game.

The Braves came back at the last moment twice in this game, with one of those instances coming in extra innings. After having trailed by fairly healthy margins for much of the game, they put the winning run in scoring position in three straight innings before the Angels unloaded in the thirteenth.

Individually, the Angels got an interesting pair of batting lines from their 2 and 3 hitters (who, incidentally, may end up as the best players of each of the first two decades of this century). Mike Trout and Albert Pujols both went 3 for 6 with a double, a homer, 2 runs, and 4 RBI. The only differences were that Trout also drew a walk and stole a base, and Pujols had a sacrifice fly.

When you get eight RBI from two players - future Hall of Famers or no - it goes a long way toward winning the game. But the fact that the Braves made LA work as hard as they did for it moves this contest into the top 20 on the year so far.

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