Saturday, July 5, 2014

Game of the Day (7/4/14)

A's 1, Blue Jays 0 (12). Oakland's Tommy Milone is a relative neophyte; this game represented his 78th career start. But he's still got over 10 times as many as Toronto's Marcus Stroman.

Both leadoff hitters reached in the first - Jose Reyes on a single, Coco Crisp on a walk - and both stole second, but the starters each recovered to strand them there. Neither team put a runner on base in the second; the A's would get a Jed Lowrie walk and a Crisp single in the bottom of the third, but failed to score either player. Dioner Navarro singled in the top of the fourth, and Josh Donaldson doubled in the bottom, and once again, both runners would be stranded.

Steven Tolleson led off the top of the fifth with a double and advanced to third on a groundout before being left on. In the top of the sixth, Melky Cabrera singled and Navarro reached on an error, but Milone recovered to strand them both. John Jaso walked and moved to second on a wild pitch in the bottom of the inning, and in keeping with the spirit of the game, did not advance further.

Eric O'Flaherty relieved Milone in the seventh and permitted only a two-out single to Munenori Kawasaki. Stephen Vogt led off the bottom of the inning with a single and was pulled for pinch runner Craig Gentry; Oakland then made three consecutive outs without the ball touching the ground, so Gentry remained at first when the inning concluded. Luke Gregerson allowed a Jose Bautista single in the eighth, while Aaron Loup served up a double to Nate Freiman, but both relievers kept the scoreboard as empty as it had been when they entered.

Sean Doolittle and Dustin McGowan permitted lone baserunners in the ninth, on a Tolleson single-and-steal and a Derek Norris walk, respectively. In the tenth, Fernando Abad cancelled a Kawasaki single with a double play; Brett Cecil walked Crisp in the bottom of the inning, leaving Chad Jenkins with the responsibility of coming in for the last two outs. Ryan Cook and Jenkins combined to give up only one walk in the eleventh. Dan Otero permitted a Darin Mastroianni single in the top of the twelfth; a bunt moved him to second, but he advanced no further. In the bottom of the twelfth, Jenkins walked Norris to start the inning. One out later, Nick Punto doubled, and Norris was able to score thanks to a Cabrera error on the play.

This... is kind of a strange one. Despite its long-term scorelessness, both teams had their share of chances; there were only five 1-2-3 innings, and only two of those came after the third. And while some of those imperfect innings were of the "two-out walk and nothing else" variety, far from all of them were; the Jays had 8 at bats with runners in scoring position, and Oakland had 7.

But few of those opportunities were truly dangerous. Only six of the 15 combined at bats with runners in scoring position came with less than two outs. More damaging still, 14 of the 15 came without a runner at third, and the lone chance to score a runner from 90 feet away rather than 180 arose after two outs had already been recorded. But worst of all for the offenses was of course the fact that they produced not a single hit in the 15 at bats that represented their best scoring chances.

Which, naturally, is why the game remained scoreless for eleven and a half innings, and why it took the assistance of an error to finally break the drought.

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