Saturday, August 2, 2014

Game of the Day (8/1/14)

White Sox 10, Twins 8. I've seen a good number of highly-unbalanced pitching matchups in these games, but this one may take the cake. Minnesota opened with Logan Darnell, a 25-year-old lefty making his second big league start after what looks like a decent-but-unspectacular minor league career. Chicago also started a southpaw who was born a quarter century ago - but theirs was Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers in baseball.

Minnesota threatened the opposing ace in the first with a Brian Dozier walk, a Trevor Plouffe single, and a Kurt Suzuki HBP, but left the bases loaded when Kennys Vargas struck out. The Sox assembled a scoring chance of their own on walks to Adam Eaton and Jose Abreu, but Darnell worked around them with a popup and a pair of strikeouts. Sale was perfect in the second, and Chicago seized the first lead of the game when Tyler Flowers walked, Moises Sierra tripled him home, and Eaton added an RBI single.

With Sale on the mound, the home team appeared to be sitting pretty - at least for one batter. But with one out in the third, Dozier, Plouffe, and Josh Willingham singled to score one run, Suzuki doubled in another, and Vargas added a two-run double to put the Twins in front. Vargas then took third on a passed ball and came home on a Chris Colabello groundout for a 5-2 lead.

Chicago started its comeback almost immediately, as Abreu was hit by a pitch, and two forceouts later, Conor Gillaspie doubled Alexei Ramirez home. Eduardo Escobar's leadoff double in the top of the fourth was wasted, and the Sox picked up another run on a Sierra walk, a forceout, and singles by Gordon Beckham and Abreu. Sale retired the Twins in order in the fifth, and Anthony Swarzak relieved Darnell for the bottom of the inning; the change did not halt the home team's momentum, as Flowers homered to tie the game at 5.

Sale worked around an Escobar single in the top of the sixth, and his teammates recaptured the lead in the bottom of the inning when Abreu and Paul Konerko both singled and Ramirez doubled; Brian Duensing then relieved and stranded the remaining runners at second and third. Daniel Webb replaced Sale in the seventh; Dozier greeted him with a single, moved up a base on each of two groundouts, and scored the tying run on a hit by Suzuki. Duensing allowed a single to Sierra in the bottom of the seventh, but then picked him off 1-3-4, and the Twins grabbed the advantage once more when Chris Parmelee homered off of Eric Surkamp in the top of the eighth.

Javy Guerra recorded the last two outs of the eighth, and the Sox quickly went to work against Casey Fien in the bottom of the inning. Eaton led off with a single, and Abreu's single moved him to third one out later. Konerko and Ramirez followed with game-tying and go-ahead RBI singles. Caleb Thielbar relieved and retired Gillaspie, but Jared Burton then came on and yielded RBI hits to Flowers and Alejandro de Aza to make it a 10-7 game.

The Twins weren't quite done; Dozier, Plouffe, and Willingham started the ninth with singles to load the bases with nobody out. But Jake Petricka retired the next three hitters, with Suzuki's groundout bringing in the last run Minnesota would score on the day.

There were plenty of notable individual performances in this one - the Twins got three hits from both Brian Dozier and Trevor Plouffe and three RBI from Kurt Suzuki, while the White Sox got an uncharacteristically powerless-yet-effective game from Jose Abreu, who went 3 for 3 with a walk and an HBP, scored twice, drove in one, and had a game-high WPA of +.380, all without an extra-base hit. Abreu was not alone in his production, as seven of the nine Chicago starters had multiple hits.

The most notable aspect of the game, however, was corporate rather than individual. There were four lead changes crammed into the innings between 3 and 8, with two of them involving the scoring of four or more runs. Throw in an eventful top of the ninth, and you've got a game that overcomes the lack of a bottom of the ninth to post a 5.08 WPL, making it one of the ten best nine-inning games of the season to date.

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