December 12, 2013
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Thursday, May 03, 2012
Last year, I wrote an article for THT trying to figure out the best postseason series of all-time based on a semi-basic formula I’d figured out. I took some of the elements that made a game memorable and applied it to the postseason.
It occurred to me, I can just as easily apply this formula to regular season games and figure out what are the most exciting and dramatic games of the year. So I’ve done that.
First, what makes a game exciting? There are a few things I look for—late-game drama and lead changes, walk-off wins, going into extra innings, a close final score, comebacks, and great personal performances. For hitters, that just means hitting multiple homers in a game, and for pitchers tossing a shutout, and/or a game with few hits allowed (with a no-hitter or perfect game getting real big points).
The full formula can be found in the references & resources section of last year’s article. I made two minor tweaks here: 1) lessening the points for going into extra innings, and 2) increasing points for no-hitters/perfectos.
That said, here are the five best games of April:
5. April 28, 2012: Dodgers 4, Nationals 3 (10)
It’s an extra-inning game that ended with a walk-off home run. The ninth inning was a wild one. Washington scored a pair to take a 3-1 lead, only to see LA storm back with two of their own to tie it, 3-3.
4. April 21, 2012: Yankees 15, Red Sox 9
Ah yes, this one. Boston blew the biggest comeback of the month here, a nine-run lead. A game is worth a lot of points with a big comeback.
3. April 14, 2012: Rockies 8, Diamondbacks 7
Ah, Coors Field. A real back-and-forth game. Arizona led, 1-0, then Colorado went up 5-1 only to see the Diamondbacks storm back for a 7-5 lead in the middle of the eighth. Todd Helton ended it with a two-run walk-off home run.
2. April 8, 2012: Tigers 13, Red Sox 12 (11)
It wasn’t enough that Detroit had to score three runs in the bottom of the ninth to tie the score at 9-9. No, they had to spot Boston a pair of runs in the 11th before completing their incredible victory with three runs in the bottom of the 11th.
1. April 21, 2012: White Sox 4, Mariners 0.
It’s the 21st perfect game in baseball history. Of course, it’s No. 1.
Using the same system, I can figure the teams who had the most and least exciting April. Please note it doesn’t matter if the team won or lost—just how exciting their game was.
The most exciting month: Washington Nationals
Three times they’ve won a game on a walk-off play. All three came in extra-innings. Their April 18 game against Houston saw both teams come from behind to take the lead. On April 15, they overcame a 5-0 deficit to the Reds only to lose in 11 innings. Washington also lost the fifth most exciting game of the month. In all, it’s a pretty busy month.
Least exciting month: Atlanta Braves
Let’s start with what they haven’t had. There are no extra-inning games. No walk-off finishes. You get points for late game drama, but Atlanta has played in exactly one game where either they or their opponent tied the score or took the lead in the eighth inning.
One unexpected oddity: Even though one-sixth of all games in major league baseball scored at zero points—nothing especially distinctive happening in them—the Braves had only one such game. I wouldn’t expect that from the least exciting team.
Yeah, but while an average big league game scores at 6.7 points, Atlanta achieved that only three times all April long. They’re games are rarely completely lacking in anything especially exciting; they just regularly have very little excitement.
Yes, I'll get to the Weaver no-hitter in a minute. But it's already a Hardball Talk top story and we have some supporting stuff too. And besides, there was some clairvoyance going on last night, and that's way more rare than a no-no, so first:
Braves 15, Phillies 13: Dudes, not gonna lie. I turned this game off when it was 5-0 Phillies and Halladay was on the mound because 99 percent of the time, that's over. So instead I chatted online with my girlfriend and watched a couple of Season Two episodes of "Louie." Including the one with the duckling in Afghanistan which was awesome, right? Of course.
So, Louie ends and I go to the scoreboard to see how badly the Braves lost and I see that -- shock! -- it's 13-13 in the 11th inning. To the Roku player! I turn it on and Chipper Jones is batting against Brian Sanches. This is my chat log with my girlfriend, unedited. Apologies for the language, but it was the heat of the moment:
Me: Holy f**k, what the f**k happened in the Braves game. I started ignoring it when it was 5-0 Phillies. Now it's 13-13, hahaha
Allison: oh my god i had no idea??
Me: Looks like the wildest thing ever
Allison: couple of Phillies fans i know havent tweeted much
Me: I'm hoping Chipper hits a walkoff two run homer here
Me: S**t he almost did. Just foul
Allison: haha aw
Allison: No f*****g way??
Me: I f*****g called that!
Allison: Hahahaha this chat log better make the blog too
Me: Oh yeah
So yeah. I called it. If "hoping" counts as calling it, which I think it does. If not, I at least willed it. Anyway, the Braves' mostly-dead third baseman is better than your third baseman, so there.
Angels 9, Twins 0: Jered Weaver: no hitter. Drew had the details last night. And yes, it counts even though it came against the Twins. The best part of it: the lengths to which the Angels broadcasters went to avoid mentioning the fact that he actually had a no-hitter going until the game actually ended. They're so cute.
Rockies 8, Dodgers 5: Chipper wasn't the only old man to hit a walkoff homer. Jason Giambi did too, and his was a three-run job. Carlos Gonzalez hit two homers of his own as Clayton Kershaw was rocked in Denver.
Cardinals 12, Pirates 3: A really nice day for older, often-gimpy players: Carlos Beltran had two homers and seven RBI. Also, there was a kind of beauty in A.J. Burnett's pitching line. Just the numbers themselves, I mean: 2.2 12 12 12 1 2 2. I'm assuming Pirates fans feel differently about that.
Cubs 3, Reds 1: You can't stop Bryan LaHair, you can only hope to contain him. He hit a homer and now sits at .381/.459/.794 on the season with six bombs.
Indians 6, White Sox 3: Johnny Damon led off, went 0 for 3 and left early with cramping. Didn't matter, though, because Travis Hafner and Carlos Santana went yard. Adam Dunn hit a homer too.
Rays 5, Mariners 4: James Shields became the first five-game winner in the AL, and struck out 11 Mariners. It wasn't perfect -- he gave up four runs in six innings -- but he had homers from Sean Rodriguez and Luke Scott backing him. That's 10 of 11 for the red-hot Rays.
Athletics 4, Red Sox 2: Brandon McCarthy explained after the game how seeing Jarrod Parker tie up the Red Sox the night before helped him visualize success against them last night:
"If anything, it gives you the confidence that you're not facing a team that scored a bunch of runs," McCarthy said of watching his teammate's success the previous game. "When you see someone go out there, throw strike one, with good location, I think it can give you the confidence that it can be done."
Based on that, I'm taking the hill tonight. I'll watch the Parker game three times if I have to. I know I can do it.
Nationals 5, Diamondbacks 4: Ian Desmond hit a walkoff homer. Bryce Harper went 3 for 4 with two doubles and an RBI and made a barehanded catch in the outfield after he stumbled. More importantly, the Nats snapped a five game losing streak. Exciting stuff going down in the District.
Orioles 5, Yankees 0: OK, seriously Orioles, cut it out. The joke has gone on long enough. That "hee hee, look at us compete" thing is starting to make everyone a little nervous, so whenever you're ready, please return to being the division doormat, OK? Anyone? Folks, I'm not sure that they're listening. Jake Arrieta, eight innings of shutout ball.
Padres 5, Brewers 0: Jeff Suppan won his first game since 2010, shutting out his old team for five innings. I'd call it "The Revenge of Jeff Suppan," but I'm not sure that the Brewers did anything that warranted vengeance.
Royals 3, Tigers 2: Hit this up yesterday. The Tigers are gonna wake up soon, right?
Blue Jays 11, Rangers 5: Edwin Encarnacion continues to abuse baseballs. He hit a three-run jack -- check out how beautiful it was -- and Kelly Johnson hit one too. Just as disaster of a series for Texas.
Astros 8, Mets 1: Chris Johnson: two homers, four hits, six RBI. This is the Astros third baseman, by the way. Not the Chris Johnson I went to GW law school with and who was a former colleague of mine back at the Ohio law firm. Totally different dude.
Marlins 3, Giants 2 : Carlos Zambrano shut out the Giants for seven. And, amazingly, Barry Zito's new marriage didn't cause him to maintain his pitching success. He walked seven dudes in three and two-thirds innings and needed over 90 pitches to get that far. But then the ninth inning came and Heath Bell came in and he, once again, didn't have it, and the Giants tied it up. Never fear, though: Giancarlo Stanton had it: homer in the 10th to win it.