Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Game of the Day (8/4/14)

A's 3, Rays 2 (10). Jeff Samardzija, one of the many recent acquisitions in the Oakland rotation, took on Alex Cobb, one of the few Rays starters with a chance to pitch even a near-full season with the team.

Samardzija was flawless in the top of the first; Cobb had a much more adventurous time of it, walking Sam Fuld, Josh Donaldson, and Brandon Moss to load the bases before rallying to strand all three runners. Evan Longoria then led off the second with a homer to put Tampa in front. Jed Lowrie started the bottom of the inning with a single, Eric Sogard walked, and John Jaso was hit by a pitch to load the bases with two outs, but Donaldson grounded out to leave them that way for the second straight inning. Samardzija worked around a Desmond Jennings single in the third, and Oakland then tied it on a Josh Reddick single and a Lowrie RBI double.

Samardzija was perfect in the fourth, while Cobb allowed a leadoff hit to Sogard and let him advance to third before leaving him there. With two outs in the fifth, Kevin Kiermaier tripled and Jennings singled him home to take a 2-1 lead; Ben Zobrist walked and the runners stole second and third, but Samardzija struck out Matt Joyce to leave them both in scoring position. Derek Norris reached on a Longoria error in the fifth, and Longoria in turn reached on a Donaldson miscue in the sixth, but both runners were stranded.

In the bottom of the sixth, Sogard, Fuld, and Donaldson all singled, with the third hit scoring the tying run and chasing Cobb in favor of Joel Peralta. Samardzija retired the Rays in order in the seventh. Peralta recorded the first two outs in the bottom of the inning, then allowed a Lowrie single and walked Coco Crisp. Jonny Gomes hit for Sogard, and Peralta intentionally walked him to load the bases. Brad Boxberger relieved and struck out Fuld to leave the bases full of A's for the third time in the game.

Luke Gregerson worked a 1-2-3 eighth, and Boxberger matched him in the bottom of the inning. James Loney greeted Sean Doolittle with a ninth-inning single; pinch runner Sean Rodriguez was then bunted to second and took third when Yunel Escobar reached on a Lowrie error. Pinch hitter Brandon Guyer attempted a squeeze bunt, but Rodriguez was cut down at home on the play, and Kiermaier struck out to end the threat. Jake McGee allowed only a Lowrie walk in the bottom of the ninth, sending the game to extras.

Ryan Cook retired the Rays in order in the top of the tenth. Grant Balfour allowed a one-out single to Fuld in the bottom of the inning. Fuld stole second, and Jaso and Donaldson both walked (Donaldson with the benefit of both a disputed check-swing call and an uncaught foul popup). Moss struck out, but Norris then singled in the winning run.

This was a fun one. The A's loaded the bases three times without scoring, before finally converting on the fourth such opportunity; they stranded a remarkable total of 18 runners in 10 innings and went 2 for 13 with runners in scoring position. Tampa had it relatively easier, stranding only 7 and posting a mere 1 for 10 RISP mark; on the other hand, they also blew a potentially game-deciding squeeze play in the ninth.

With all the constant activity, however, the game's strangest play may also have been its dullest. The Rays intentionally walked Jonny Gomes to load the bases in the bottom of the seventh. Even though it was Gomes's first intentional pass of the year, that's not the strange part - the decision was only notably weird because it came with runners on first and second. It was only the third IBB in the majors so far this year with a runner on first and third base open, and it was issued to Jonny Gomes, a perfectly decent but not overtly formidable player.

Of course, Sam Fuld then struck out to leave the bases loaded. This is why annoying intentional walks continue happening.

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