Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Game of the Day (9/2/14)

Tigers 4, Indians 2. Detroit's Kyle Lobstein was making his second major league start. That made Cleveland's Carlos Carrasco, age 27 and with 49 career starts, the veteran of the matchup, which is presumably not the most familiar of experiences for him.

Carrasco was perfect in the first, and the Indians jumped ahead in the bottom of the inning when Michael Brantley singled and Carlos Santana homered. Victor Martinez, JD Martinez, and Nick Castellanos opened the top of the second with singles, loading the bases with nobody out; Alex Avila walked to force in a run, but Carrasco notched two strikeouts and a groundout, managing to narrowly hold the lead.

Lobstein allowed a walk and steal to Jason Kipnis and a Tyler Holt single in the second, leaving the runners at the corners. In the top of the third, Miguel Cabrera and JD Martinez both singled and were left on; the same fate befell Santana after he walked in the bottom of the inning. A Eugenio Suarez single and a Rajai Davis double put Tigers at second and third with one out in the fourth, but Carrasco struck out both Ian Kinsler and Torii Hunter to end the inning. Lobstein worked around a Ryan Raburn single in the home half, and Detroit threatened yet again in the fifth when Cabrera led off with a double and Victor Martinez singled him to third. Carrasco struck out the next three hitters, leaving the tying run 90 feet away yet again.

Brantley's walk made him the only Indian to reach in the fifth. Carrasco was pulled with one out in the sixth after Davis singled; Scott Atchison allowed a Kinsler single that put runners at the corners, then drew a double play ball from Hunter to end the threat. Lobstein was also yanked in the bottom of the inning when Kipnis hit a one-out single. Al Alburquerque walked Zach Walters and Holt to load the bases, and Blaine Hardy was summoned and induced a Michael Bourn flyout to strand all three runners. Atchison allowed a Victor Martinez double in the seventh, then walked Castellanos; Bryan Shaw replaced him with two outs and retired Bryan Holaday to end the inning.

Hardy allowed walks to Jose Ramirez and Santana and a single to Yan Gomes in the seventh, but Ramirez was picked off before the other two hitters reached, and Phil Coke entered to retire Kipnis and strand the two runners. Davis singled in the top of the eighth, but was caught stealing, and Coke retired the Indians in order in the bottom half. Cody Allen took the mound in the top of the ninth, and the Tigers finally broke through. Hunter led off with a walk, and Cabrera singled him to second. One out later, JD Martinez launched a go-ahead 3-run homer, putting Detroit in front 4-2. CC Lee retired the next two hitters, but Joe Nathan worked around a Brantley single in the bottom of the ninth to end the game.

The Tigers fell behind early in this one, as Carlos Santana hit a two-run homer in the bottom of the first. They then threatened repeatedly to close that gap, starting by getting the bases loaded with nobody out and a run in in the top of the second. Detroit's lineup then proceeded to put the tying run in scoring position in the third (first and second with two outs), fourth (second and third with one out), fifth (corners with nobody out), sixth (corners with one out), and seventh (second with one out), failing to score it each and every time. Finally, they took the lead on a homer in the top of the ninth, and finished the game in routine fashion in the bottom of the inning.

That is a remarkably heartburn-inducing performance. The game put up a highly respectable overall WPL score of 4.69 - and over 75% of that drama (3.56 WPL) came with the Tigers at bat. The difference in the level of excitement produced by the two lineups was 2.43 WPL - which is the largest imbalance in favor of the road team in my large-and-growing database (well over 10,000 games), and by a very wide margin.

So it turns out, spending the entire game behind by a run and going 3 for 16 with runners in scoring position (with the first two hits failing to actually bring the run home) is even less common than you'd think.

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