Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Game of the Day (4/15/91)

Indians 1, Red Sox 0 (13). Cleveland started 24-year-old right-hander Charles Nagy, who was spending his first full season in the rotation for the team he'd stick with for over a decade. Boston countered with 32-year-old southpaw Matt Young, who was pitching for his fifth major league team (plus two minor league squads) in six years. I'm sure there have been plenty of matchups between pitchers in more widely varied circumstances, but this one has to be at least 90th percentile in that respect, right?

The early innings of this game were not rife with threats. Nagy issued a walk in the bottom of the first, but cancelled it with a double play. Young walked two Indians with two outs in the second and stranded both men. Another Cleveland walk went for naught in the third; the bottom of the inning saw Carlos Quintana manage the game's first hit, but Nagy induced another twin killing to extinguish the potential rally. Brook Jacoby singled in the top of the fourth and made it to second on a groundout before being left on; Wade Boggs led off the bottom of the inning with a single and was promptly caught stealing.

Young retired the Indians in order in the fifth, and his teammates mounted the most promising inning of the game so far in the home half, as Jack Clark led off with a walk and Ellis Burks doubled him to third. Mike Marshall grounded to third, with Clark getting thrown out at home on the play; Quintana then flied out, and Tony Pena hit into a force to leave two men on and the game still scoreless. Young and Nagy each circumnavigated a walk in the sixth; Young allowed two free passes but no runs in the seventh, and Nagy gave up a single to Burks, then erased him on yet another double play ball.

Neither team put a runner on in the eighth. Young worked around a two-out Jeff Manto single in the top of the ninth; Boggs drew a leadoff walk in the bottom of the inning and was bunted to second, and Nagy's intentional pass to Mike Greenwell spelled the end of his outing. Steve Olin replaced him and coaxed a double play from Clark, sending the still-scoreless game to extra innings.

Jeff Gray replaced Young in the top of the tenth and worked around a single and steal from Mike Huff; Olin set the Sox down in order in the bottom of the inning. Albert Belle was hit by a pitch, then took second on a wild pitch in the eleventh, but Gray recovered to retire the next three hitters. After another perfect frame from Olin, Joe Hesketh relieved Gray and allowed a one-out single to Jerry Browne, followed by a walk to Huff. Felix Fermin's groundout moved the runners to second and third, but Hesketh struck out Mitch Webster to strand them both.

Another spotless inning from Olin brought the game into the thirteenth. Dennis Lamp took the mound for Boston and retired Belle to begin his outing, but then allowed a first-pitch home run to Brook Jacoby. Doug Jones replaced Olin in the bottom of the inning and allowed one-out singles to pinch hitter Tom Brunansky and Quintana. Pena grounded out, moving the runners to second and third (and therefore putting the winning run in scoring position), but Tim Naehring popped up to end the game.

Charles Nagy, who worked around 4 hits and 5 walks to post 8.1 scoreless innings, established an at-the-time career high of +.491 WPA in this game - and was not the day's best pitcher. Steve Olin, who recorded 11 outs while facing 10 hitters, set the high-water WPA mark for his entire (tragically abbreviated) career, at +.637 - and he also wasn't the day's best pitcher. That distinction went to Boston's Matt Young, whose 9 shutout innings gave him a mark of +.703, the second-highest WPA of his decade-long MLB tenure.

Needless to say, this is easily the most-effectively-pitched game of the year to date, and is likely to remain so for quite a while.

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