Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Game of the Day (6/23/14)

Out of the 10 games played yesterday, only two of them were in the 35th percentile or better. Naturally, both of them involved gut-punch endings being delivered to Chicago teams. The better (or worse, depending on your perspective) of the two was Orioles 6, White Sox 4, which opened with the high-caliber lefty-lefty matchup of Chris Sale and Wei-Yin Chen.

Chen issued a pair of walks in the top of the first, managing to strand Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo after doing so. Sale walked Steve Pearce, then allowed a two-run homer to Adam Jones that opened the scoring in the bottom of the inning. Caleb Joseph's ground-rule double off of Sale made him the only batter on either team to reach in the second; quite a few more reached in the third, as Adam Eaton and Beckham singled and doubled, respectively, and Jose Abreu flied out to bring Eaton home in the top of the inning. Jones singled with one out in the bottom half and moved to third on a hit by Nelson Cruz, but Sale struck out the next two hitters to leave them both on and limit Chicago's deficit to one.

Alexei Ramirez led off the fourth with a double, but the next three White Sox were retired, leaving the tying run in scoring position. Baltimore threatened to extend the lead in the bottom of the inning; Manny Machado and Jonathan Schoop started it with singles, Joseph bunted them to second and third, and Nick Markakis was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Pearce flied out and Jones struck out to end the inning. After a perfect fifth from Chen, Baltimore had an even better chance when Cruz, Delmon Young, and JJ Hardy all singled to load the bases with nobody out. Machado hit into a force at home, Schoop grounded into a double play, and the Orioles had wasted five consecutive outs with the bases loaded. So of course, Jose Abreu proceeded to lead off the sixth with a game-tying homer, and the Sox then took the lead on doubles by Viciedo and Conor Gillaspie.

Sale worked around a Joseph single in the bottom of the sixth, and Ryan Webb gave up a run in the top of the seventh when Tyler Flowers singled and Abreu doubled him home. Delmon Young doubled against Javy Guerra in the seventh and moved to third on a wild pitch, but was left on. Brad Brach worked around a Ramirez walk in the eighth, and Joseph halved the Baltimore deficit with a solo homer against Zach Putnam in the bottom of the inning. Brach then threw a perfect ninth.

Pearce greeted Ronald Belisario with a single in the bottom of the ninth, and Jones was then hit by a pitch. Cruz struck out, and the Orioles then replaced Young with a pinch hitter - defending AL home run champ Chris Davis. Davis worked a full count, and then homered to right to end the game.

Once this game entered the bottom of the ninth, there was no way that it wasn't going to end up being acutely painful for one team or the other. If the Orioles had lost, they had wasted bases loaded, one out, and bases loaded, nobody out in back-to-back innings. If the White Sox lost, it meant they'd blown a lead in the ninth after clawing their way there while allowing 13 hits (including 2 homers) through 8 and going 1 for 11 with runners in scoring position.

That's a pretty effective description of an exciting baseball game, actually - it's one that will make whichever team loses feel utterly lousy.

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