Monday, April 20, 2015

Game of the Fortnight (4/20/15)

In terms of producing exciting contests, the 2015 baseball season is off to a fine start. April 12 produced both a 14-inning affair between the Astros and Rangers and an 11-inning showdown between St. Louis and Cincinnati in which there were three lead changes, and the Reds left the go-ahead or winning run in scoring position for three straight innings before the Cardinals finished them off. Both of those were exceeded by Arizona and San Francisco's 12-inning battle on April 16, in which the Giants rallied to tie in both the ninth and tenth, gave up two in the twelfth, then got one of them back only to leave the tying run on second.

But all of those options were merely vying for second place behind Red Sox 6, Yankees 5 (19).
Boston pulled ahead in the first when Nathan Eovaldi allowed singles to Dustin Pedroia, Hanley Ramirez, and Pablo Sandoval. Wade Miley made that run stand up for a while, not allowing so much as a hit until Brett Gardner doubled in the fourth.

Neither team had multiple simultaneous baserunners again until the sixth, when the Sox added two more runs. Sandoval singled and moved to second on a wild pitch; Mike Napoli then walked, and after another wild pitch moved them to second and third, Daniel Nava singled both men home. Chris Martin relieved Eovaldi and went on to load the bases with two outs on an error and a walk, but Pedroia grounded out to strand all three.

The Yankees rallied in the bottom of the inning. Gregorio Petit drew a leadoff walk, Jacoby Ellsbury singled, and Gardner hit into a force that put runners on the corners. Alex Rodriguez singled one run in, Mark Teixeira walked to load the bases, and Robbie Ross relieved and allowed a sacrifice fly to Brian McCann before ending the inning with the lead curtailed to 3-2.

The next two innings passed quietly; Gardner's bunt single in the eighth made him the only man to reach base, and he was immediately caught stealing. Dellin Betances worked around a pair of walks in the ninth to keep the Yanks within striking distance, and with two outs in the bottom of the ninth, Chase Headley homered off of Edward Mujica to tie the game.

The first several extra innings involved a few rallies, but none of them were serious enough to have a runner reach third. Both teams had runners at first and second with one out in the eleventh, but David Carpenter and Tommy Layne worked out of the jams, and those were the most serious threats until the sixteenth.

At that point, Steven Wright and Esmil Rogers had taken over pitching duties for the Sox and Yanks, respectively. In the top of the sixteenth, David Ortiz homered to put Boston in front 4-3, but Teixeira led off the bottom of the inning with a solo shot to tie it at 4. New York threatened further with a Headley walk and a Stephen Drew single, which put runners at the corners with two outs, but Didi Gregorious grounded out to extend the game.

Rogers and Wright both had fairly straightforward seventeenth innings. The eighteenth opened with Rogers plunking Pedroia; one out later, singles by Ramirez and Sandoval brought him around with the go-ahead run. But in the bottom of the inning, McCann and Carlos Beltran both doubled, re-tying the game at 5.

Boston pulled ahead yet again in the top of the nineteenth when Xander Bogaerts singled, stole second, saw Ryan Hanigan walk behind him, took third on a passed ball, and scored on a sacrifice fly by Mookie Betts. Ellsbury led off the bottom of the inning with a single, but one out later, Garrett Jones hit into a double play, finally allowing Wright to finish off the contest.

Six hours and 49 minutes, nineteen innings, 28 at bats with runners in scoring position, three last-chance game-tying rallies, and Esmil Rogers and Steven Wright left as the last arms available for arguably the two most powerful franchises in baseball. This is a ridiculous, tremendous, wonderful baseball game, and WPL treats it as such; its score of 10.18 is not only easily the highest of the 2015 season to date, but it also would have been the highest in any of the last four full seasons. So within a week of Opening Day, 2015 has given us a healthy favorite to capture Game of the Year honors.

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