Sunday, September 14, 2014

Game of the Day (9/13/14)

White Sox 7, Twins 6. Minnesota's Logan Darnell, a 25-year-old rookie making his fourth major league start, faced Chicago's Scott Carroll, who will turn 30 later this month and is also in his first big league season.

Yes, it's a September game between non-contenders; how could you tell?

The Twins charged out to a lead in the top of the first. Jordan Schafer led off with a single, but was caught stealing. Brian Dozier was then hit by a pitch, and Joe Mauer walked. Kennys Vargas fouled to third for the second out, but Trevor Plouffe singled home the game's first run, and Oswaldo Arcia followed with a 3-run homer. Chicago responded swiftly, however. Marcus Semien was gifted a free chance when Dozier mishandled his foul popup, and took advantage with a leadoff double. One out later, Jose Abreu walked and Avisail Garcia homered to draw the Sox within one. Dayan Viciedo and Michael Taylor followed with singles, putting the tying run at third, before Darnell retired Moises Sierra and Josh Phegley to leave it there.

Carroll worked around an Eric Fryer double in the top of the second. Darnell threw a 1-2-3 bottom of the inning, and Carroll replied with a flawless third. A Garcia walk and a Taylor single put White Sox at the corners in the bottom of the third, but Sierra struck out to strand them, and the starters then both threw perfect fourths. Carroll set the Twins down in order in the fifth as well, and Abreu's one-out homer in the bottom of the inning tied the game at 4. The subsequent Garcia single chased Darnell from the mound in favor of Ryan Pressly, who allowed Garcia to steal second and walked Taylor, but left the go-ahead run in scoring position.

Daniel Webb supplanted Carroll to begin the sixth, and Plouffe's one-out homer put the Twins immediately back in front. Eduardo Nunez added a two-out triple, but was left on. Semien's single made him the only Chicago hitter to reach against Pressly in the bottom of the inning, and Webb combined with Eric Surkamp on a flawless seventh. Jared Burton worked the bottom of the inning and allowed a leadoff single to Abreu. He hit Viciedo with a pitch one out later, and then allowed a two-out, game-tying pinch single to Conor Gillaspie.

Surkamp struck out the side in the top of the eighth, and Casey Fien worked an immaculate bottom of the inning. Arcia led off the ninth with a single; he was pulled for pinch runner Aaron Hicks, and Surkamp was replaced by Jake Petricka. Nunez bunted Hicks to second, and Chris Parmelee then flied into left center; Hicks held at second to see if the catch would be made, and was able to advance only to third when the ball dropped to the turf. The Sox outfielders hurried the ball back to the infield, and Parmelee, not realizing that Hicks was already ensconced at third, attempted to take the base for himself and was tagged out easily. Pinch hitter Kurt Suzuki partially atoned for the baserunning disaster, doubling Hicks home with the go-ahead run, but it could easily have been a two-run lead that the Twins turned over to Glen Perkins.

They regretted the lack of that second run very quickly. Abreu worked a 14-pitch walk to start the bottom of the ninth. Garcia hit into a force for the first out, and Viciedo also got to a full count, then hit the eighth pitch of the at bat for a lengthy two-run homer, ending the game.

For all that its outcome is quite irrelevant to the overall narrative of the season, this is a genuinely delightful game. It has star performances from Jose Abreu (unsurprising), Trevor Plouffe, and Oswaldo Arcia (mildly surprising). It also has a go-ahead ninth-inning hit from All Star Kurt Suzuki, which would be less unusual if he'd started the game. And it ended with a come-from-behind walkoff by Dayan Viciedo, whose resultant WPA of +.832 is a new career high.

The starting pitching was poor, which is what often happens when you have two rather mediocre starters going, and there was an appalling baserunning mistake that would have been genuinely gut-wrenching had it occurred in a game with significant championship ramifications (see Smith, Lonnie). But the muted nature of this affair turns Chris Parmelee's possibly game-losing blunder into a relatively fun story, one that allowed the home fans to witness a terrifically fun ending with their team taking its first lead of the day on the game's final play.

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