The Cubs and Marlins played a 13-inning barn burner yesterday, the 25th-best game of the year, and as a Cub fan, I would very much like to break with my evaluation system and write about a North Side win for once.
But narrowly edging past it into 24th place for the 2014 season so far, was Phillies 6, Braves 1 (13), pitting Philly's Cole Hamels (and his bullpen) against Atlanta's Julio Teheran (and his bullpen).
Given the final score, it should come as no surprise that both starters were highly effective. Teheran allowed a Ryan Howard homer in the second, but put no other runners on in the first four innings. Hamels, meanwhile, got into intermittent scraps of trouble - Freddie Freeman doubled in the first, Chris Johnson singled in the second, and Jason Heyward walked in the third - but worked out of it with aplomb each time.
The Phils threatened to extend their lead in the fifth when Carlos Ruiz and Reid Brignac both singled with two outs, but Hamels struck out to leave them both on. In the bottom of the inning, a Tommy La Stella single and an Andrelton Simmons walk also brought the pitcher to the plate, and Teheran's at bat ended identically to his counterpart's. Both starters were perfect in the sixth, and Teheran was in the seventh as well; Hamels had considerably more trouble in that inning. Evan Gattis led off with a single, and Justin Upton doubled him to third. Johnson was hit by a pitch to load the bases with nobody out. But La Stella lined out, and Simmons grounded into a double play to end the inning with the Phils still in front.
Brignac singled and stole second in the top of the eighth before being left on; Hamels was hit for during the inning, so Jake Diekman took over in the bottom of the eighth and allowed singles to BJ Upton and Freeman before striking out Gattis to strand both men. Luis Avilan and Shae Simmons combined on a scoreless top of the ninth despite singles by Chase Utley and Marlon Byrd, keeping the Braves within a run for their last chance.
Jonathan Papelbon entered for the bottom of the ninth, and quickly gave up singles to Justin Upton and Johnson. La Stella flied out, but Simmons (the shortstop, not the pitcher) singled to score Upton with the tying run. Papelbon recovered to strike out pinch hitter Ryan Doumit and Heyward, leaving the winning run in scoring position and forcing extras.
Jordan Walden threw the top of the tenth for the Braves and allowed only a pinch single by John Mayberry Jr. Justin De Fratus worked the bottom of the tenth and had rather a more adventurous time, allowing a one-out Freeman triple and intentionally walking Gattis afterward. But Justin Upton fouled out and Johnson struck out, leaving the winning run 90 feet away.
David Carpenter put two runners on in the eleventh, but Jimmy Rollins was caught stealing before Howard's walk, keeping the team from mounting an actual threat. Mario Hollands was spotless in the bottom of the inning. Carpenter was pulled after Domonic Brown's leadoff single in the twelfth, and Anthony Varvaro retired the next three Phillies; Antonio Bastardo set the Braves down in order again in the bottom of the inning.
The game broke when David Hale relieved in the thirteenth. Ben Revere led off with a single and stole second. Rollins flied out to move him to third, Utley was intentionally walked, and Howard reached on an error to bring in the go-ahead run. Byrd singled in another run, Brown was intentionally walked to load the bases, Ruiz hit a sac fly, and Brignac tripled to make it a 6-1 lead. Bastardo hit for himself and walked, just because it was the kind of inning in which a relief pitcher reaches base for the first time in his career, then retired three Braves in four tries in the bottom of the inning to finish off the game.
Neither team was starved for chances in this game - each had 11 at bats with runners in scoring position. The Phillies, of course, won't spend much time lamenting their 2 for 11 line, since they came out on top anyway. Atlanta, however, had the bases loaded with nobody out in the seventh, runners at first and second with one out in the ninth (after tying the game), and a runner at third with one out in the tenth, and failed to capitalize each time. That's an unpleasant loss to swallow, even if it does make for a lively game in real time.