Sunday, August 17, 2014

Game of the Day (8/16/14)

Giants 6, Phillies 5. San Francisco's Tim Hudson, who might start working his way into Hall of Fame conversations some time soon if he keeps pitching as well as he has been this year, faced Philadelphia's Kyle Kendrick, who... probably won't.

Hudson and Kendrick allowed a hit apiece in the first inning; the difference was that the Phillies got a Ben Revere single, and the Giants picked up a solo homer by Hunter Pence to take the lead. Domonic Brown walked and Wil Nieves singled in the second, but neither runner scored; Mike Morse led off the bottom of the inning with a triple, and was also left on.

The Phillies took the lead in the top of the third. Jimmy Rollins drew a one-out walk, and Chase Utley and Ryan Howard singled to score the tying run. Marlon Byrd then brought Utley home with a sacrifice fly. Kendrick was perfect in the bottom of the third, while Hudson cancelled a Nieves single with a double play ball in the top of the fourth. Pablo Sandoval singled and Morse walked in the bottom of the fourth, putting the tying run at second, but Kendrick retired the next three Giant hitters to end the inning without further advancement.

Philadelphia extended the lead in the fifth. Revere led off with a single and stole second, and Rollins walked behind him. Utley then doubled to score Revere, and Howard singled in Rollins and Utley to make it a 5-1 game and chase Hudson from the mound. JC Gutierrez allowed a double to Byrd, but then induced a groundout from Brown; Howard proceeded to get tagged out at home on Nieves's grounder to the catcher, and Kendrick ended up striking out to leave the bases loaded. Kendrick retired the Giants in order in the bottom of the inning, and the Phils tried again in the sixth, starting when Revere led off with a double and moved to third on a wild pitch. Rollins grounded back to the mound, and Javier Lopez relieved and drew a grounder to second from Utley, on which Revere was thrown out at home. Howard doubled Utley to third, and Byrd was intentionally walked to load the bases, but Brown grounded out to end the threat, marking two straight innings in which the Phillies both had a man cut down at the plate and stranded three runners. Still, with a 5-1 lead, one might have expected the missed opportunities to prove meaningless.

It didn't work out that way. Buster Posey led off the bottom of the sixth with a single, and Sandoval reached on an Utley error. Morse doubled in a run, chasing Kendrick in favor of Mario Hollands. Pinch hitter Adam Duvall walked, and Joe Panik singled in a run. Justin De Fratus relieved Hollands and allowed an RBI hit to pinch hitter Gregor Blanco; Matt Duffy struck out, but Angel Pagan hit a sacrifice fly that tied the game at 5.

Jean Machi and Antonio Bastardo exchanged scoreless sevenths, with Morse's double making him the only runner to reach for either team. Jeremy Affeldt allowed a Revere single but induced a double play from Utley in the eighth. Bastardo then allowed a leadoff triple to Panik, and was pulled for Jake Diekman, who gave up the go-ahead RBI single to Blanco. Affeldt opened the ninth by retiring Howard and then gave way to Sergio Romo, who recorded the remaining two outs to end the game.

Two things jump out about this game - at least to me. First, Ryan Howard had an increasingly rare good day, with 3 hits and 3 RBI. You may have heard that Howard is having a pretty bad year - and that's perfectly true, as he's slugging under .400 for the first time in his career and complementing the new lack of power with his normal low OBP and leadfooted defense and baserunning. Baseball-Reference combines all that mediocrity and assigns Howard a dreadful WAR of -1.1 so far this season.

In other news, Ryan Howard ended this game ranking third in the National League with 77 RBI.

The second thing that pops up to me are the two squandered bases loaded opportunities the Phillies had in the fifth and sixth innings. Not so much because the Phils likely would have come out on top had they managed to bring in a couple more runs, although that's part of it. My interest is more due to the fact that this game serves as a case study to counter the goofy unwritten rules-based complaints you'll sometimes hear when a player steals a base with his team ahead by, say, four runs.

The lesson, as always: Score as many runs as you can while you have the chance, because the other team can always come back.

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