Friday, July 4, 2014

Game of the Day (7/3/14)

Phillies 5, Marlins 4. Philly's Kyle Kendrick, who has started semi-regularly since 2007, took on Miami's Brad Hand, who was making only his third start of the year (along with 14 relief appearances) and the 18th of his career.

Yes, Kyle Kendrick now gets to be the established veteran in some of his pitching matchups. (No offense to Kendrick; I've just never revised the initial impression of him as the unspectacular youngster who kind of rode on the coattails of the Hamels-Lee-Halladay-Oswalt rotations of the last half decade or so.)

Hand allowed lone baserunners in each of the first three innings, while Kendrick was perfect through two. Marcell Ozuna led off the bottom of the third with a double, moved to third on a groundout, and scored the game's first run on a Hand squeeze bunt, which is pretty nifty for the pitcher hitting.

Both starters kept the bases clear in the fourth. The Phillies got singles from Kendrick and Ben Revere in the fifth before leaving them both on, and Miami extended its lead in the bottom of the inning on hits by Ozuna, Donovan Solano, and Christian Yelich. But the Phils struck back in the sixth. Chase Utley, Ryan Howard, and Marlon Byrd started the inning with singles, loading the bases and chasing Hand from the mound. Chris Hatcher relieved and induced an RBI forceout, then struck out Aaron Altherr for the second out. Cameron Rupp then worked a full count and struck a go-ahead two-run double.

Kendrick permitted only a Casey McGehee single in the bottom of the sixth. Dan Jennings struck out the side in the top of the seventh, while Kendrick walked Yelich, then saw him caught stealing to end the bottom of the inning. Bryan Morris hit Howard with a pitch in the eighth and threw a wild pitch that moved him to second, but left him there.

Jake Diekman relieved Kendrick in the bottom of the eighth, and quickly got into more trouble than his predecessor had encountered in quite some time. Ed Lucas and Giancarlo Stanton started the inning with singles, and a wild pitch moved them to second and third. McGehee brought Lucas home with a game-tying groundout, and pinch hitter Jeff Baker followed with a go-ahead RBI triple. With a runner at third and one out, the Marlins were threatening to extend the lead further still, but Jarrod Saltalamacchia's grounder to third got Baker thrown out in a rundown, and Saltalamacchia compounded the problem by trying and failing to reach second while the defense pursued the lead runner. The unorthodox double play ended the inning and kept the Phillies within a run.

Steve Cishek took the mound in the ninth, and the visitors went to work on the deficit. Tony Gwynn Jr. led off with a walk, and Revere singled him to third, then stole second. Jimmy Rollins grounded to second, and the drawn-in Solano had to range to his right to field the ball; his throw home was late, and the game was tied at 4. Utley followed with an RBI groundout to put the Phils in front, and Jonathan Papelbon allowed an Ozuna single but nothing else in the ninth to end the game.

Lead changes in the sixth, eighth, and ninth innings will typically make for a very good game, and this one is no exception; it edges just inside of the top 100 so far this year.

This is the thirteenth time the Phillies and Marlins have played in 2014, and the games have by and large been barn-burners. 10 of the 13 have been above the median of games played this year overall, and 7 have been in the 80th percentile or higher. They've played extra innings three times, and have had five other games decided by one run in regulation.

The Marlins and Phillies currently rank second and fourth, respectively, in the 2014 excitement race - and the series of marvelous games they've played against each other is a big part of the reason.

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