Wednesday, July 9, 2014

Game of the Day (7/8/14)

Cardinals 5, Pirates 4. Pittsburgh's Vance Worley is a veteran who strikes out an acceptable number of hitters and walks very few; he has made five career appearances out of the bullpen, with the rest of them starts. St. Louis's Carlos Martinez is a flame-throwing youngster who strikes out a pretty high number of hitters but walks quite a few as well; he's just making the transition into the rotation, so before this game, all but five of his career appearances were in relief.

In other words, if one of them was left-handed, they would basically be opposites.

Martinez allowed a leadoff single and steal to Gregory Polanco in the first, and a flyout moved the runner to third with one out. The Cardinal starter then recovered to strike out reigning NL MVP Andrew McCutchen, eventually stranding Polanco. Matt Carpenter also led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but Worley worked out of the inning with much less drama, getting a double play ball out of the next hitter. Russell Martin began the second with a single, but three straight grounders got Martinez out of the inning. Worley then became the first pitcher to retire the leadoff man, and also allowed the game's first runs in the bottom of the second when Jhonny Peralta and Oscar Taveras singled with two outs and Kolten Wong doubled them both home.

Polanco singled again in the third and moved to second on a wild pitch, but didn't advance from there. Worley then retired the Cardinals in order in the bottom of the inning, and Pittsburgh tied the game in the fourth on an Ike Davis walk and a Pedro Alvarez homer. Matt Adams and Taveras both singled in the bottom of the fourth, but Wong flied out to end the inning, and the Pirates grabbed the lead in the fifth on Polanco's third hit of the game and McCutchen's 14th homer of the year. It was then St. Louis's turn to rally, which they did in the bottom of the inning, tying the game on singles by Carpenter and Jay and a Matt Holliday double.

Martinez worked around a Jordy Mercer single in the sixth. Worley had been pulled for a pinch hitter during the inning, and Jared Hughes relieved him in the home sixth and countered a Peralta single with a Taveras double play ball. Randy Choate and Seth Maness combined on a spotless seventh, and Hughes kept the bases equally vacant in the bottom of the inning. Pat Neshek was perfect in the eighth, while Tony Watson plunked Adams before inducing a Yadier Molina GDP.

The Pirates threatened against Trevor Rosenthal in the top of the ninth when Mercer singled and Josh Harrison walked, but Polanco flied out and Starling Marte struck out to leave the go-ahead run in scoring position. And with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Ernesto Frieri served up a walkoff homer to Wong, only the third MLB homer for the 23-year-old second baseman.

Kolten Wong's go-ahead RBI double and walkoff homer easily give him the highest WPA of his nascent career to date, a healthy +.602. It proved just enough for the Cards to overcome an excellent game from 2/3 of the Pirate outfield, as Gregory Polanco went 3 for 5 with a steal and a run and Andrew McCutchen hit a two-run homer. Those three (along with many other participants in this game) are players who should be seeing quite a bit of each other in the years to come; let's hope that many of them end up being just as lively as this one was.

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