Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Game of the Day (6/17/14)

Reds 6, Pirates 5. Cincinnati's Johnny Cueto entered the game with a 1.85 ERA in 2014. Pittsburgh's Brandon Cumpton stood more than three times higher, at 6.06. Not exactly something you'd expect to be an even matchup.

The Reds did indeed take an early lead, as Billy Hamilton led off with a double, stole third, and scored on Joey Votto's single. Cueto was perfect in the first, but Cumpton worked around a Ryan Ludwick single in the second, and Pittsburgh tied the score in the bottom of the inning on a Russell Martin walk and a Josh Harrison double. Jordy Mercer singled and stole second before Cumpton grounded out to end the inning.

Hamilton singled, then moved to third on a steal-and-error in the third, but was left on, and the Pirates took their first lead in the bottom of the inning. Gregory Polanco led off with a single, Andrew McCutchen doubled one out later, and Ike Davis and Martin both walked, forcing in a run. They had a chance to add more, but Pedro Alvarez flied to center, with McCutchen getting thrown out at home to end the inning, and the Reds responded in the top of the fourth. Brandon Phillips singled, Jay Bruce doubled, Ryan Ludwick singled in one run, and Brayan Pena hit into a go-ahead RBI forceout. Zack Cozart singled and Hamilton walked, loading the bases, but Cumpton managed to avert any further damage.

The starters calmed things from there, allowing occasional runners but no further scoring through the sixth. The Pirates put a runner at second in each inning during that span (Mercer singled and was bunted over, Davis doubled, and Harrison singled and stole second before getting thrown out at third on a grounder), but failed to bring any of those potential tying runs home.

Cincinnati extended its lead against Justin Wilson in the top of the seventh. Hamilton led off with a bunt hit and stole second, Todd Frazier singled him to third and then stole second himself, and Votto singled both runners home for a 5-2 advantage. Wilson then recorded two outs before giving way to Jeanmar Gomez, who finished the inning. Sam LeCure retired Polanco, but then allowed a single to Starling Marte, walked McCutchen, threw a wild pitch moving Marte to third, and gave up RBI singles to Davis and Martin. Manny Parra replaced LeCure and struck out pinch hitter Gaby Sanchez, but Logan Ondrusek then allowed a game-tying single to Harrison.

Mark Melancon threw a perfect eighth; Ondrusek walked Polanco and allowed a Marte single before striking out McCutchen and Davis to keep the game tied. Jason Grilli relieved in the ninth and Frazier greeted him with a homer to put the Reds in front; the Pirates threatened once more against Aroldis Chapman, getting a walk from pinch hitter Chris Stewart and a single from Harrison before Chapman finished off the game.

This was a rather remarkable game, for one specific reason: In every inning after the first, the Pirates stranded at least one runner in scoring position. Moreover, in all of those innings except the third, it was the tying or go-ahead run that was left on second or third (and sometimes both). As a result, the Pirate hitters by themselves accrued as much WPL as a 70th-percentile game. (Of particular note in this regard was Josh Harrison, whose four hits, including a double, a steal, and a game-tying single, added up to a career-high +.605 WPA.) Combine it with a healthy performance by the Reds, and you've got one of the best nine-inning games of the year, and a top-50 contest overall.

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