Thursday, July 31, 2014

Game of the Day (7/30/14)

Dodgers 3, Braves 2 (10). I have very little familiarity with Atlanta lefty Alex Wood, which makes some sense given that he has not yet reached 200 career MLB innings. He does have 180, however, and they have been pitched at a solidly above-average level, at age 23 or younger, and with an average of a strikeout per inning.

LA's Zack Greinke is... slightly better-established in my mind, given that he is a former Cy Young winner and current All-Star.

Greinke was perfect in the top of the first; Wood likely would have matched the effort in the bottom of the inning but for a Tommy La Stella error that put Dee Gordon on. Gordon stole second, but didn't advance past that point. Atlanta opened the scoring in the second when Evan Gattis doubled and Andrelton Simmons singled him home, but Matt Kemp led off the bottom of the inning with a game-tying homer.

From there, the starting pitchers posted several scoreless innings in a row: Greinke was perfect in the third, allowed a Justin Upton double in the fourth, was perfect again in the fifth, gave up singles to La Stella and Upton in the sixth, and set the Braves down 1-2-3 in the seventh. Wood had somewhat more trouble, starting with a Gordon single and a Yasiel Puig walk in the third (Gordon was caught stealing before the walk). Hanley Ramirez walked and was stranded in the fourth, AJ Ellis and Gordon both singled in the fifth and were left at the corners, Kemp and Juan Uribe got hits in the sixth and also ended the inning at first and third, and Wood finally managed a spotless seventh.

Greinke worked around a La Stella walk in the eighth, and the portion of the game handled by starting pitchers came to a close. Jordan Walden took the mound in the bottom of the inning and struck out the first two hitters he faced. Kemp then walked, Carl Crawford reached on a pinch single, and Uribe singled Kemp home to put LA in front. A steal and a walk would load the bases before Walden struck out pinch hitter Andre Ethier to end the inning.

Kenley Jansen relieved in the ninth, and Upton greeted him with a game-tying homer. Jansen retired the next three hitters, and David Hale countered a Puig single with a double play to force extras. In the top of the tenth, JP Howell walked two Braves, but picked off Jordan Schafer before BJ Upton reached. Hale remained in the game for the bottom of the inning and allowed a pinch single to Justin Turner, threw a wild pitch, and served a walkoff single to Kemp.

This contest was clearly pitching-dominated, but each team did have one hitter perform well - and in fact, they were two of the top four finishers in the 2011 NL MVP vote, both young outfielders who have largely failed to build on the promise offered by that season. Justin Upton went 3 for 4 with a double and a game-tying homer, but he was trumped by Matt Kemp's 3 for 4 with a homer, two runs, two RBI, and involvement in every run his team scored.

Outside of the two former young luminaries, however, the pitchers ruled. For a game that involved 25 strikeouts, this one is actually a slight change from most of the other recent 2014 pitcher's duels I've been writing about - the starters were the ones who pitched forever and gave up little to nothing (although the Dodgers got someone on against Wood nearly every inning), and the relievers were the guys who gave up most of the runs. The final tally was 15 innings, 2 runs for the starters, and 4 innings (plus the out-free bottom of the tenth), 3 runs for the bullpens. It's almost enough to remind you that the bullpen used to be where you stashed the guys who just couldn't be trusted to start.

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