Friday, August 29, 2014

Game of the Day (8/28/14)

Twins 11, Royals 5 (10). KC's Jeremy Guthrie took on Minnesota's Tommy Milone. Both starters have struck out fewer than 6 batters per 9 innings in 2014. Their K rates would have been above-average 30 years ago, and within hailing distance of average 10 years ago; today, they're both relative soft tossers.

The Twins jumped ahead in the top of the first on a Brian Dozier single, a Kurt Suzuki double, an RBI groundout by Kennys Vargas, and a run-scoring Oswaldo Arcia single. Norichika Aoki led off the bottom of the first with a single; Alcides Escobar hit into a force, but then stole second and scored on an Alex Gordon single. Billy Butler walked, moving Gordon to second, and Salvador Perez then singled him home with the tying run. Josh Willingham hit into a double play to end the inning with the go-ahead run at second.

Guthrie was perfect in the second, while Milone allowed a single and steal to Lorenzo Cain before leaving him on. Danny Santana led off the top of the third with a bunt hit, and moved to second on a Suzuki single before being left there; Butler then singled and was stranded in the bottom of the inning.

Minnesota recaptured the lead in the top of the fourth. Chris Parmelee started the rally with a one-out double, and came home on a Jordan Schafer single. Schafer then stole second, saw Santana walk behind him, and scored on a hit by Dozier to make it a 4-2 lead. Kansas City got one of the runs back when Willingham walked, Cain hit into a force and stole second, and Christian Colon singled Cain home; after a perfect fifth from Guthrie, the Royals then tied it when Escobar tripled and Butler singled him home.

The Twins responded in the top of the sixth, pulling ahead once more on a Parmelee walk and a Schafer double. Cain led off the bottom of the inning with a single; Milone was pulled one out later, and Ryan Pressly stranded Cain at second. Francisley Bueno relieved Guthrie in the seventh and worked around an Escobar error, and Gordon led off the bottom of the inning with a game-tying home run. Butler drew a walk, chasing Pressly in favor of Jared Burton, who retired three of the next four Royals to end the inning with the 5-5 tie intact.

Kelvin Herrera and Casey Fien swapped flawless eighths. Greg Holland walked Dozier in the ninth, but saw him caught stealing; Perez singled against Anthony Swarzak in the home ninth and was left on, sending the game to extras.

Bruce Chen took the mound in the top of the tenth and allowed a one-out Arcia triple. Trevor Plouffe was intentionally walked, and pinch hitter Joe Mauer walked as well to load the bases. Eduardo Nunez singled in the go-ahead run, and Schafer's subsequent single knocked in two more. Santana popped up, but Dozier then doubled in two runs and Suzuki doubled Dozier home to make it an 11-5 lead. Glen Perkins worked around a Mike Moustakas single to finish off the game.

On the good side: Jordan Schafer had a borderline career-best game, going 3 for 5 with a double, a steal, four RBI, and +.318 WPA; the RBI tied a career high, and the WPA was within .05 of his best mark. A 99th percentile game from Jordan Schafer may not be quite as beneficial as one of the best efforts of, say, Joe Mauer's MLB tenure - but it still helps quite a bit.

On the bad side: The Royals have staked out first place this year largely on the strength of an excellent bullpen - so it seems like an unspectacular sign that they turned to Bruce Chen, who entered the game with a 2014 ERA of 6.46, to start the tenth inning. He who lives by the bullpen...

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