Monday, September 8, 2014

Game of the Day (9/7/14)

Orioles 7, Rays 5 (11). Baltimore sent Bud Norris, who has been typical of the 2014 Oriole rotation - steadily average. Tampa Bay opposed him with Jeremy Hellickson, who has been equally representative of the '14 Rays pitchers - good and injured.

The Orioles threatened in the first, as Nelson Cruz singled and Chris Davis walked, but Hellickson retired Steve Pearce to strand both men. The Rays also had two baserunners in the bottom of the inning, but they came on solo homers by Evan Longoria and James Loney,

Hellickson was perfect in both the second and third, and his teammates had chances to extend the lead in both innings. In the bottom of the second, Logan Forsythe walked, Kevin Kiermaier singled, and Jose Molina walked to load the bases with one out, but Ben Zobrist and David DeJesus were retired to strand all three runners. In the third, Loney and Brandon Guyer both singled with one out, and Matt Joyce's groundout moved them to second and third. Forsythe was hit by a pitch to load the bases, but Kiermaier struck out to end the inning.

Hellickson continued rolling, however, working around a walk in the fourth, and DeJesus hit an inside-the-park homer in the bottom of the inning to pad the lead to 3-0. The play was both typical of present-day inside-the-parkers and freakish: DeJesus flied into the left-center field gap, and Alejandro de Aza had it in his glove for a moment before David Lough collided with his arm and knocked the ball free; it zipped into the left field corner, and DeJesus circled the bases unmolested. Hellickson allowed a Ryan Flaherty double in the fifth, and Norris permitted a Loney single in the bottom of the inning, but both runners were left on.

Baltimore finally got on the board in the top of the sixth when Lough singled and Cruz homered. Hellickson was pulled one out later, and Steve Geltz promptly made the Rays regret that move, hitting Pearce with a pitch and walking Kelly Johnson and Caleb Joseph to load the bases. Jeff Beliveau hurried to replace Geltz and induced a Flaherty popup, then struck out Jonathan Schoop to leave all three runners on and preserve the remaining run of Tampa's lead. Kiermaier then led off the bottom of the inning with a homer, pushing the advantage to 4-2.

Beliveau allowed a leadoff hit to de Aza in the seventh, and Brandon Gomes walked Cruz later in the inning, but Delmon Young hit into a double play in between; TJ McFarland worked around a Guyer single in the bottom of the seventh. Gomes was perfect in the eighth, and the Rays threatened in the home half when Forsythe walked and Kiermaier doubled against Darren O'Day. Molina grounded out, with the runners holding, Zobrist was intentionally walked, and Tommy Hunter then induced a double play from pinch hitter Wil Myers to end the inning.

Joel Peralta took the mound in the top of the ninth and got off to a very bad start. Flaherty led off the inning with a single, and pinch hitters Jimmy Paredes and Adam Jones proceeded to single as well, loading the bases with nobody out. Young struck out, but Cruz followed with a triple that brought all three runners home and gave the Orioles a 5-4 lead, their first of the day. Cesar Ramos replaced Peralta and ended the inning with Cruz still at third, and Zach Britton was summoned to preserve the one-run advantage in the bottom of the ninth. Longoria led off the inning by reaching on a Flaherty error, Loney singled, and Guyer bunted the runners to second and third. Sean Rodriguez then grounded to third, bringing Longoria home with the tying run. The potential winning run was still in scoring position, but Britton left it there, sending the game to extras at 5-5.

Ramos was perfect in the top of the tenth, while Brad Brach worked around a Zobrist single in the bottom of the inning. In the top of the eleventh, Nick Hundley drew a one-out walk, and Cruz followed with a homer to put the O's ahead 7-5. Andrew Miller took over in the bottom of the inning and hit Rodriguez with a pitch, but allowed nothing else, bringing the game to a close and recording his first career save.

So... Nelson Cruz had a good day. He went 4 for 5 with a walk, a triple, and two homers (his 38th and 39th of the season, extending his AL lead). His 7 RBI (giving him 101 on the season, second in the league) were one off of his career high (set twice in the past), and moreover, they represented Baltimore's entire scoring output in the game. And his timing... well, the first two RBI turned a 3-0 deficit into 3-2. The next three turned a 4-2 hole into a 5-4 lead in the ninth inning. And the last two gave his team the game's final lead in the eleventh.

That adds up to a WPA of +1.214, which I feel pretty comfortable in predicting as the highest total anyone has posted in the 2014 season.

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