Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Game of the Day (8/5/14)

Cubs 6, Rockies 5 (12). Chicago's Travis Wood, a reasonably young lefty who's usually healthy and sometimes effective, against Colorado's Brett Anderson, a reasonably young lefty who's usually effective and sometimes healthy.

Anderson retired the Cubs in order in the top of the first, including a strikeout of top prospect Javier Baez, who was making his big league debut. Wood walked and stranded Josh Rutledge in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the second, Justin Ruggiano singled, but Luis Valbuena hit into a double play. The Rockies took the lead in the bottom of the inning on singles by Drew Stubbs and Willin Rosario and a double by Brandon Barnes, though Barnes was thrown out trying for third on the play. Anderson later added a two-out double before being left on. Both starters then threw perfect third innings.

In the top of the fourth, Anderson came down with back tightness while pitching to Arismendy Alcantara and was replaced by Franklin Morales, who set the Cubs down in order. Wood worked a flawless fourth, and Morales was spotless in the fifth. DJ LeMahieu led off the bottom of the fifth with a walk and was bunted to second by Morales, then scored on Rutledge's two-out single to augment the Colorado lead to 3-0, but a Welington Castillo solo homer in the top of the sixth reduced the gap to two once more. Stubbs singled and Rosario walked to start the bottom of the sixth. Barnes bunted into a force at third, but a wild pitch moved the remaining runners to second and third, forcing Wood to strike out both LeMahieu and pinch hitter Corey Dickerson to keep the Rockies from scoring again.

Tommy Kahnle took the mound in the top of the seventh; his appearance did not go terribly well, as he walked Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Valbuena before being pulled with one out and the bases loaded. Nick Masset supplanted him and continued in the same vein, walking Castillo to force in a run. Rex Brothers then relieved and walked pinch hitter Chris Coghlan to push the tying run across. Pinch hitter Chris Valaika followed with a sacrifice fly that put the Cubs in front, and Alcantara walked to reload the bases, but Matt Belisle relieved and got Baez to fly out, closing an inning in which the Cubs scored three times without benefit of a hit.

Wesley Wright threw the bottom of the seventh for the Cubs; he got two quick outs, then served up a game-tying homer to Nolan Arenado. Belisle was perfect in the eighth, while Justin Grimm countered a Rosario single with a Barnes double play ball. Valbuena led off the ninth with a bunt single against LaTroy Hawkins, and Hawkins's error on the play sent him to second. A flyout and an intentional walk later, the Cubs had runners at the corners with one out, but pinch hitter Nate Schierholtz grounded into a double play to end the threat. Pedro Strop walked pinch hitter Carlos Gonzalez in the bottom of the inning, but left him on to send the game into extras.

Adam Ottavino struck out the side in the top of the tenth. Brian Schlitter had a rather tougher time of it in the bottom of the inning, which started with singles by Arenado and Justin Morneau. Stubbs bunted the runners to second and third, Rosario was intentionally walked to load the bases, and Barnes hit into a double play to end the inning. Castro led off the eleventh with a double, and Valbuena and Castillo walked to load the bases with one out. Boone Logan then replaced Ottavino and allowed an RBI single to Sweeney, putting the Cubs in front. Logan retired the next two hitters, leaving Cub closer Hector Rondon with only a one-run lead. With one out, Jason Pridie and Charlie Blackmon singled; Rutledge struck out, but Charlie Culberson singled as well, scoring Pridie with the tying run and forcing a twelfth inning.

Baez stepped in for his sixth big-league at bat to start the twelfth, having gone 0 for his first 5 with three strikeouts. But he connected with the first pitch he saw from Logan, walloping it over the right-center field fence for an opposite field, go-ahead, extra-inning homer. Carlos Villanueva worked around a Rosario single in the bottom of the inning, and that was the game.

WPL likes this game a great deal, and deservedly so - it went 12 innings, had the Cubs come back from a healthy deficit in the seventh (albeit in none-too-thrilling walk-heavy fashion) and the Rockies tie it right back up, and saw each team get the go-ahead run to third with one out in a do-or-die inning before a double play cost them a chance to win it. Then Chicago went ahead in the eleventh, and Colorado tied it back up with 2 outs, forcing the Cubs to take an extra extra inning to finish the game off. The twisty-turny nature of the game adds up to a score of 6.81, making it the twelfth-most exciting game of the 2014 season to date.

And that's without adding any bonus excitement for the fact that the decisive home run came off the bat of one of the best prospects in baseball, who happened to be making his major league debut.

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