Saturday, July 12, 2014

Game of the Day (7/11/14)

Cubs 5, Braves 4. Atlanta's Alex Wood took on Chicago's Jake Arrieta. There may not be many Cub games left this year in which the Chicago starter is (a) not Edwin Jackson or Travis Wood, and (b) more experienced than his opponent. But this was one of them.

Jordan Schafer reached on an Anthony Rizzo error and stole second to open the game. Schafer was then caught stealing third, and he was the only runner to reach base in the first two and a half innings. That string of remarkable effectiveness from both pitchers finally ended when Chris Coghlan led off the bottom of the third with a double and stole third. Mike Olt walked, and Arrieta bunted to score Coghlan with the game's first run; after the second out, Justin Ruggiano singled Olt home for a 2-0 lead.

The Braves rallied to tie in the fourth. Schafer led off with a walk and stole second, but then somehow managed to only make it to third when Andrelton Simmons doubled. Freddie Freeman and Justin Upton followed with an RBI groundout apiece to even the score at 2. Wood and Arrieta exchanged perfect innings once more before Coghlan and Arismendy Alcantara walked in the bottom of the fifth; the mild threat ended on a Ruggiano strikeout.

Wood led off the sixth with a single, Schafer bunted him to second, and Freddie Freeman doubled him home to give Atlanta its first lead of the day. But the Cubs struck back in the bottom of the inning. Rizzo led off with a double, Starlin Castro singled, and Welington Castillo was hit by a pitch to load the bases. Junior Lake struck out, but Coghlan singled to tie the game. Shae Simmons replaced Wood, Luis Valbuena hit for Olt, and Valbuena drew a four-pitch walk to put the Cubs back in front. Arrieta struck out and Alcantara flied out to limit the margin to a run, but Arrieta then worked around a Jason Heyward leadoff double in the seventh to preserve the lead.

Simmons was perfect in the bottom of the seventh, and a Schafer walk and steal put the tying run in scoring position once more in the eighth. With two outs, Neal Ramirez relieved Arrieta and struck out Justin Upton to end the inning. Anthony Varvaro retired the Cubs in order in the home half, and Hector Rondon was summoned for the save opportunity. Heyward greeted him with a double, and two outs later, Christian Bethancourt singled Heyward home to tie the game.

Jordan Walden relieved in the ninth and retired the first two Cubs he faced. But just when extra innings seemed imminent, Chicago mounted a sudden rally. Alcantara singled and stole second, and Ruggiano singled him home with the winning run.

Arismendy Alcantara did not exactly duplicate his magnificent second game in this one; 1 for 4 with a walk, a steal, and a run isn't quite 4 for 5 with a double and a triple. His performance was overshadowed not just by his own work from the previous day, but also by the man who followed him in the order; Justin Ruggiano's 2 for 5 with 2 RBI, including the walkoff single, continued a magnificent couple of weeks (.393/.424/.607 since June 25) that have brought his overall seasonal line from lousy to downright good.

Alcantara did, however, score the winning run in the ninth a day after doing the same in extra innings. Which means that he has now scored late-inning go-ahead runs in two of his three major league games.

Call me crazy, but I'm going out on a limb and predicting that Alcantara will not maintain that rate of winning-run-scoring. But that won't make it any less fun as a beginning to his career.

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