Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Game of the Day (9/8/14)

White Sox 5, A's 4 (12). Chicago's Hector Noesi, who has pitched for three different teams in 2014, faced Oakland's Sonny Gray, who has pitched only for the A's, and done so quite well.

Noesi was flawless in the first, and the Sox jumped on Gray early. Adam Eaton and Alexei Ramirez opened the inning with walks, Jose Abreu moved Eaton to third with a flyout, and Conor Gillaspie grounded into a run-scoring Brandon Moss error. Gray then threw a wild pitch, moving the runners to second and third, and Avisail Garcia's fly ball brought Ramirez home for a 2-0 lead. Noesi allowed an Adam Dunn single and a Josh Reddick walk in the second, but escaped with the help of a double play. Gray worked around a hit by Marcus Semien in the bottom of the second, and both starters worked 1-2-3 third innings.

Noesi threw a spotless fourth; Gray had rather more trouble, allowing a Garcia single, hitting Dayan Viciedo with a pitch, and permitting an infield hit by Tyler Flowers that loaded the bases with one out. Semien then hit into a double play to end the inning, and Oakland finally scored in the fifth when Derek Norris singled and Reddick and Jed Lowrie hit back-to-back homers to take a 3-2 lead. After a pair of perfect half innings, Gillaspie led off the bottom of the sixth with a homer to tie the game at 3.

After recording the first out of the seventh, Noesi was replaced by Eric Surkamp, who got through the next two hitters without incident. Gray walked Flowers to start the bottom of the inning and saw him advance as far as third before being left on. Surkamp walked Alberto Callaspo with one out in the eighth; pinch runner Billy Burns then stole second, and singles by Coco Crisp and Sam Fuld brought him around with the go-ahead run. Daniel Webb relieved and struck out the next two hitters to end the inning.

Luke Gregerson retired the Sox in order in the eighth, and the A's threatened again in the ninth, starting when Norris led off with a triple. Reddick grounded out, Lowrie was intentionally walked, and Ronald Belisario replaced Webb and drew a double play ball from Nate Freiman to keep Chicago within a run. Eric O'Flaherty took the mound in the bottom of the ninth and retired the first two hitters. He then got to a 2-2 count on Flowers, who proceeded to hit a game-tying homer. O'Flaherty recovered to record the third out and send the game to extras.

Belisario worked around a Fuld walk in the tenth; Dan Otero kept the bases clear in the bottom of the inning. Javy Guerra was flawless in the visiting eleventh, and Otero countered a Gillaspie walk with a double play in the home half. Guerra retired the A's in order again in the twelfth, and with one out in the bottom of the inning, Flowers hit his second consecutive homer (this one against Jesse Chavez) to walk off with the game.

At the beginning of this month, Tyler Flowers had never hit multiple home runs in a game. He has now done so twice, with both of them coming in extra-inning victories for his team. This game was particularly impressive (or crushing, depending on your perspective), as he homered to tie the game in the ninth, then homered to win it in extras. Throw in another hit (to load the bases in the fourth) and a walk (he eventually made it to third with the potential go-ahead run before being left there), and you've got a stunning +.998 WPA, which is the highest total of his career by a colossal margin.

I'm not generally one to believe in baseball omens or anything, but when a semi-respectable regular like Tyler Flowers is single-handedly beating you in the middle of a playoff race, it seems like a bad sign. Of course, it's not as bad a sign as going 2-8 in a ten-game stretch that coincides with an 8-2 run from the team you used to be competing with.

Yeah, not a great couple of weeks for the A's.

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