Saturday, July 19, 2014

Game of the Day (7/18/14)

Angels 3, Mariners 2 (16). LA's Jered Weaver took on Seattle's Hisashi Iwakuma; my in-depth analysis of their capabilities indicates that both of them fall into the category generally known as "very good pitchers."

Both starters allowed singles to the opposing #3 hitter and future contractual albatross in the first - Robinson Cano in the top of the inning, Albert Pujols in the bottom. The starters then kept the bases clear for the next two innings, then worked around singles again in the fourth (Cano once more in the top, Mike Trout in the bottom).

Justin Smoak led off the fifth with a double and moved to third on a bunt, but Weaver stranded him there, and LA seized the game's first lead in the bottom of the inning. Howie Kendrick opened the rally with a single and came around to score on David Freese's double; Hank Conger's one-out single then brought Freese home for a 2-0 lead. Seattle loaded the bases in the sixth on a single and steal by James Jones and walks to Cano and Logan Morrison, but Smoak struck out to strand all three runners.

After a spotless sixth from Iwakuma, a Dustin Ackley double and a Brad Miller single put the Mariners on the board to open the seventh. Mike Morin relieved Weaver and induced a groundout that moved Miller to second, then allowed a game-tying hit to Endy Chavez; one out later, a Cano single chased Morin in favor of Joe Thatcher, who retired Kyle Seager to leave runners at the corners. Iwakuma gave up a leadoff hit to Kendrick, but then retired three Angels in a row to keep the tie intact. Kevin Jepsen countered a Morrison walk with a Smoak double play ball in the eighth, and a trio of Mariner pitchers (Joe Beimel, Yoervis Medina, and Charlie Furbush) combined to work around a Trout double that Medina allowed in the bottom of the inning.

Joe Smith allowed only a Chavez single in the ninth; Furbush served a single to Erick Aybar and was then relieved by Danny Farquhar, who allowed a sac bunt and struck out two Angels to send the game to extras. Jason Grilli allowed a Cano single in the tenth, but Cano tried and failed to turn it into a double, and Grilli set down the next two hitters. Farquhar gave up a hit to Kole Calhoun, then coaxed a double play from Trout in the bottom of the inning. Smoak greeted Fernando Salas with a single in the eleventh, and pinch runner Willie Bloomquist moved to second on a bunt, but was then doubled off when Miller lined back to the mound.

Brandon Maurer was spotless in the bottom of the eleventh. Cory Rasmus allowed only a Jones single in the twelfth, and Tom Wilhelmsen permitted a lone hit to Freese in the bottom of the inning. A Bloomquist walk and an Ackley single put Mariners at the corners with two out in the thirteenth, but Miller struck out to end the inning; Wilhelmsen set the Angels down in order in the bottom of the inning. Rasmus was pulled after recording the first out of the fourteenth. Hector Santiago then saw Chavez reach on an error, but left him on. Wilhelmsen was flawless again in the fourteenth and fifteenth, while Santiago worked around a hit by Bloomquist in the intervening half-inning.

Miller led off the sixteenth with a single, but was caught stealing one out later. Dominic Leone replaced Wilhelmsen in the bottom of the inning and gave up a one-out Trout double. After a groundout and an intentional walk, pinch hitter Efren Navarro stepped to the plate and doubled Trout home with the winning run.

This game ends up having played out as a bit of a showdown between the #2 and #3 hitters in this year's AL All-Star lineup. #3 Robinson Cano went 4 for 6 with a walk, but was thrown out on the bases once and had no extra-base hits. #2 Mike Trout, meanwhile, was only 3 for 7, but with a pair of doubles, and he's the one who ended up scoring the winning run.

Outside of the two stars' at bats (and the one by Efren Navarro), the game was extraordinarily well-pitched, with the staffs combining for 27 strikeouts and 5 walks. In fact, the Mariners did not unintentionally walk an Angel all game, and still lost. I'd be curious as to how often that happens.

Despite the lack of bases on balls and the scoring chances they create, the length and closeness of the game helps it grade out well; it scores as the #11 game of the year, and headlines one of the better overall days of 2014 so far (despite being the only extra-inning game). But nice as the first day back from the All-Star break was, that doesn't mean I'm ready to forgive MLB for the absurd decision to place the sport's return on Friday rather than Thursday.

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