*April 8 in Detroit* — **Tigers 13, Red Sox 12** (11 innings):

In one of the year’s wildest tilts, Detroit rallied twice from death’s door to complete an opening-series sweep. After 4 innings it was tied at 7, with both starters drubbed and departed. Boston forged ahead in the 6th when Adrian Gonzalez punished the first pitch from lefty Daniel Schlereth, and behind Vicente Padilla‘s four scoreless innings, they took a 3-run lead into the 9th. It seemed a routine first save try for the newly anointed closer, Alfredo Aceves.

But two men singled, and Miguel Cabrera smoked the first pitch out to left for a tie game.

Bobby V’s club went ahead again with 2 in the 11th, and on came Mark Melancon, one of their prize new acquisitions. Cabrera and Fielder singled with one out, and with two gone, Alex Avila stepped in. A 2-and-2 pitch from Melancon would be the last of 391 thrown in this game, as Avila launched one to right for his first career walk-off RBI.

And now for the box-score nuggets, illuminated by the Play Index:

— Avila’s HR was the year’s first game-ender, and would go down as one of the most forceful, rating 0.90 Win Probability Added (WPA). Only two others last year topped that figure, both scoring 0.91.

- Both of
*those*were served in a 10-day span by Oakland’s Brian Fuentes, who was released a month later. The A’s topped the majors on both sides of the walk-off HR ledger (6 hit, 5 allowed). - Although the total number of HRs increased 8% in 2012, the number of game-ending blows fell 22%, from 74 to 58.
- Four teams did not allow a walk-off HR, including Baltimore — until this, that is.

— Cabrera’s HR gave him 5 RBI in a game for the first time since August 24, 2009.

- In 2010-11 combined, there were 229 games of 5+ RBI by 182 different players, including 5 each by Jose Bautista and Carlos Quentin — but none by the man who led the majors in total RBI for those years.
- In the last 11 years, only two players have notched one or more RBI in more than half their team’s games over a season: Cabrera 2012 (83 games), and Fielder 2009 (85).

— Aceves had a WPA of -0.598 for the game, with Melancon at -0.906. There were just two other games last year where reliever teammates each scored -0.500 or worse on the WPA meter, including this doozy in Arlington.

- Melancon took his second loss in as many outings. Ten days later, he was demoted to AAA with a 49.50 ERA, having faced 18 batters, getting 6 outs against 5 home runs. He returned in June and pitched pretty well the rest of the way, but with three more blowups in lost causes.
- Melancon (6.20 season ERA) and Aceves (5.36) each had four games allowing 4+ runs; only two other MLB relievers had as many.
- Aceves (25 SV, 8 BS) finished with the highest ERA and ERA+ of any Red Sox ever with 20+ saves. He likely won’t have that job this year, with “proven closer” Joel Hanrahan having been acquired in a trade for Melancon.

— For the second straight time against Boston, Max Scherzer allowed 7 runs and failed to survive the 3rd inning; he has a 9.21 ERA in 6 career starts against the BoSox.

- After 13 starts last year, Scherzer had averaged 11.3 SO/9 and 3.0 SO/BB, but had a 5.76 ERA. In his last 22 starts (including postseason), Scherzer averaged the same 11.3 SO/9, but had a 2.42 ERA.
- Scherzer finished with a Tigers record 11.1 SO/9, but a late-September injury likely cost him the MLB strikeout crown, as he finished 8 behind Verlander. Among active SPs with 500+ IP, Scherzer’s 9.3 SO/9 trails only NL’ers Tim Lincecum (9.8) and Clayton Kershaw (9.3).

— Clay Buchholz made his first appearance since June 2011, and his first six starts last year were hardly reassuring, adding up to a 9.09 ERA. But the 2010 ERA+ champ righted the ship and produced a 3.62 ERA the rest of the way, and logged 189 IP despite a midyear DL stint.

— Reliever Duane Below faced one batter and got the win, his second in Detroit’s three games. He pitched in 25 more games without another win.

— Detroit started off 10-5, then dropped 5 straight, and hit the halfway point at 39-42. They won 14 of 17 to gain a share of first, but spun their wheels for the next two months (27-27). Only an 8-2 close, all against KC and Minny, plus Chicago’s 4-11 fold, put the Tigers in the playoffs.

— An inconsistent first half left the BoSox at .500 come Break time, but just 2.5 games back of the 2nd Wild-Card and 5 games behind the 1st WC.

- Boston’s positive run differential (432-389) suggested a better record to come; instead, they went 26-50 and finished 69-93.
- The last time they lost 90+, Yaz had not yet won a Triple Crown, and Curt Schilling had not been born.

— The game was one of four last year in which the loser scored 12 runs or more. Boston was the only team to drop two such games, including another Aceves debacle — *the worst relief WPA of the last 10 years* — during their 9-20 August swoon.

- Adrian Gonzalez made the last out of
*that*game, with the tying run on base; his next AB produced a go-ahead 3-run HR … for the Dodgers. Boston went 9-27 after the big August 25 trade.

— Boston’s scoring distribution was inefficient all year. They ranked 5th in the AL at 4.53 R/G, but scored 3 or less 79 times and were 11-68 in those games. Only Seattle and Minnesota had more games of 3 or less, and they finished last and 10th in AL scoring, respectively.

- Detroit ranked below Boston in R/G, but they had 16 more games scoring 4 or more.

— 2011 MVP runner-up Jacoby Ellsbury had his first hits in this game, but after 32 HRs in 2011, his first bomb of 2012 did not come until July 22 — after 15 games played and a 2-month DL term. He finished with 4 taters in 323 PAs, giving him this career breakdown:

- 2011, one HR per 23 trips
- All other years, one HR per 77 trips

— For the first time since 1927, Detroit won with 5 different pitchers allowing a run. In that 17-11 game (also against Boston, in Detroit), the teams combined for 9 pitchers who each allowed 2+ runs, matching the searchable record.

— Detroit threw 206 pitches and won. There was one other game last year that the Tigers won while throwing 200+ pitches; it featured a 5-run 10th that began with 2 down and none on, and it all started with a pair of walks. *(Sorry, Ed!)*

Wow, Aceves came into 2013 with a 24-3 record, and made that a memory by going 2-10.

24-3 has to be one of the best starts to a career ever. Can’t imagine many pitchers have started out 25-2.

Jimbo, I think you’re right about Aceves. I can’t answer for records at any point within a season, but Aceves is the first ever to finish a season with at least 20 career wins and a winning percentage of at least .870.

Howie Krist is the only one in the same ballpark. He was 26-4 (.867) after his first 4 years, then went 11-7 in his last 2 years to finish 37-11.

Luis Aloma had a career record of 18-3.

Yeah, this is a midseason record but Roy Oswalt was 17-3 after his first 20 decisions.

And Tim Hudson was 21-4 career during his 2nd season, and 31-8 after 2 seasons (best 2-year start in modern history, min. 30 wins).

But we still haven’t found a guy to match Aceves’s 24-3 start.

Whitey Ford won 24 of his first 29 decisions.

King Cole started off 21-4 but we don’t have game logs for his following season when he was 18-7.

Russ Ford was 26-6 as a rookie but again, we lack the game logs.

Bob Wickman started off 20-5. In fact on July 31, 1997 his career record stood at 47-18. He finished his career at 63-61 so we went 16-43 the rest of the way.

Ron Davis may have been the closest to matching Aceves’s start. He was 22-2, then went 1-2 over his next 3 decisions to go to 23-4, one game behind Aceves.

Davis finished his career 47-53 which means that after his 22-2 start he went 25-51.

Guidry was 41-11 lifetime after the 1978 season.

On a negative note or two, it’s seems a little off to me to compare the W-L record of a recent middle reliever to those of starters from the past, especially since, as has been argued on this site several times, pitching wins aren’t that meaningful, something I don’t personally believe about staters from the past, but . . ..

It’s certainly more interesting than it is meaningful.

I don’t recall this game but it was pleasant reading nonetheless even if it did bring back the memory of the knot that was forming in my stomach by June when it appeared that Scherzer’s struggles had no end in sight. And it was somewhere around that time that I read something about his going to a hospital to visit some sick kids on the day after a less than successful start. And that made me realize that if he could go thru more than 2 months of struggling and almost certainly wondering if things would ever get better and yet still seeming to be able to keep in perspective that there we others facing much harder struggles and more uncertain futures than he that there was reason to think that he might come thru this.

Aceves’ 81 ERA+ is the third worst among 40 relievers in a 5th season (min. 50 IP) after compiling career 150 ERA+ or better (min. 200 IP) through their first four seasons.

Generated 1/6/2013.

I really miss baseball during the offseason, but if there’s a silver lining to these snowy days, it’s that I can wake up every day knowing I won’t have to watch the game John writes about here. Much despair in New England this April. And May. And August. And September.

I was at both 200+ pitch games with my son. He will never let me leave a game early again!

On the 5 run 10th inning game, I persuaded him to walk to the top of the aisle after 2 were out. We now call the spot where we watched that comeback our “lucky spot.”

Tigers were in a game a few years ago in Texas in which they scored something like 10 runs in one inning, taking a lead about that big, only to give up even more in the bottom of the same inning. I think the game went to extra innings and they lost it.

That game took place on 5-8-04. The Tigers scored 8 runs in the top of the 5th to take a 14-4 lead. The Rangers retaliated with 10 runs in their half of the 5th to tie it at 14. Final score was Rangers 16, Tigers 15 in 10 innings.

You’re awesome Richard!

Teams making 200 pitches in a 9-inning game went 1-18 in 2012. The sole victor was Arizona, prevailing over Oakland 9-8 on June 8th on a 3-run walkoff HR by Ryan Roberts off Brian Fuentes, who had retired the first two batters of the inning in his save bid.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/ARI/ARI201206080.shtml

Of the 19 games, the White Sox and Blue Jays each turned the trick 3 times, and the Astros, Rockies and Mets twice each. The Padres had the shortest of the 19 games at 3:08, losing 6-2 to the Mets on Aug 4 at Petco.

Since 1988, there have been six 9-inning games where both teams had 200 pitches, most recently on June 10, 2010 with Atlanta beating Arizona 11-7. The most recent 4 games all occurred since 2006, including two double-header contests, one of which was the longest-ever 9-inning contest at 4:45. Predictably, it was a Yankees-Red Sox tilt on Aug 18, 2006, with the two games (both of 9 innings) coming in at a combined time of 8 hours 40 minutes.

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/BOS/BOS200608182.shtml

Most pitches thrown by a team in a 9-inning game was 263 by Oakland when losing 20-4 to Detroit on Apr 13, 1993. Most pitches thrown by a team winning a 9-inning game was 230 by Texas, beating Oakland 12-9 on Sep 9, 2007.

Seven lead changes in that game, counting leads -> ties and vice versa. There were 26 other such in 2012, plus 12 games with eight changes and four with 9 changes. This was maybe the wackiest of the latter:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/KCA/KCA201207130.shtml

Check this one out, gotta be one of the most amazing games ever:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/CLE/CLE200108050.shtml

And people say Omar never did anything offensively…

The unbeatable Mariners had won 8 out of 9 before that, including 4 in a row on the road.

John Rocker strikes out the side for the win.

Alomar

Juan Gone

Thome

Pretty nice heart of the order.

You’ve got to imagine there were a fair amount of people who had left the stadium at five runs down with two out and only one man on in the bottom of the ninth. It’s games like this that cause me to never leave until the final out.

That is one awe-inspiring comeback!

But for sheer back-and-forthing, try topping this:

http://www.baseball-reference.com/boxes/MON/MON200005140.shtml

Expos logged the highest

battingWPA in searchable history.