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The Smallest Sample Size 08/01/13: More Exciting Than the Trade Deadline

We were treated to some truly amazing games yesterday and I get to recap them all for you in today's "The Smallest Sample Size."

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The MLB Trade Deadline passed with barely a whimper yesterday, although a few teams did make a few deals, but at least just about every game played yesterday had more action and had more intensity than said deadline. Eight different match-ups had an average leverage index greater than one, with seven of them at 1.3 and higher, there were four different shutouts, and six different blowouts (five-plus run difference).

The Smallest Sample Size -- Game Results for 07/31/2013

Photo credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Blue Jays 5, Athletics 3

The first extra innings game of yesterday's schedule took place between the team that was expected to contend for the American League East division title and the team that wasn't expected to be in first place in the American League West. The aLI of this game was 1.59 but the most meaningful inning of the game, other than the top of the tenth of course, would have to be the fourth.

Toronto scored their first run of the game off of Bartolo Colon in the fourth on a Brett Lawrie single to center, which scored Adam Lind. Then the Blue Jays loaded the bases and a passed ball allowed Colby Rasmus to score making it 2-1 Jays. Oakland came back to load the bases with no outs against R.A. Dickey in the bottom of the fourth but were unable to capitalize on a situation that had a run expectancy of 2.23. The A's did manage to score a run on an error in the bottom of the fifth inning, tying the game at two a piece.

Ultimately, the deciding factor of the game was a tenth inning double by Blue Jays slugger Jose Bautista giving his team the lead for good as the Blue Jays went on to win by a score of 5-2.

Tigers 11, Nationals 1

Does anyone know what exactly has happened to the Washington Nationals? Coming into this season they were the favorites to win their division and one of the favorites to win the National League altogether. Instead they've been beaten around and told their feelings don't matter.

The Detroit Tigers had this game in hand by the second inning and Justin Verlander cruised along for eight strong innings as Nationals starter Gio Gonzalez allowed ten earned runs over 3.1 innings of work, and worked to a -.429 WPA. This is the fourteenth time the Nationals have been on the wrong side of a blow out this season.

Reds 4, Padres 1

The San Diego Padres were one of the few teams that made a meaningful deal at the trade deadline, picking up Ian Kennedy from the Arizona Diamondbacks, which should certainly help them out beyond this season. The problem of course is this season as they slowly gave way to the Cincinnati Reds grind-it-out mentality as they wore the Padres down before finally nailed the coffin shut with a Joey Votto double in the seventh inning.

Reds starter Homer Bailey cruised to another true quality start (seven-plus IP with three or less ER) tossing eight and a third high quality innings, giving up just six hits, and striking out seven. His .391 WPA was nearly two and a half times as high as the next person on either team.

Giants 9, Phillies 2

Who says the San Francisco Giants can't score runs, other than the fact that they have gotten bottom tier production from their offense all season long?

The Giants had this game won in the first inning as they staked themselves to a 4-0 lead and the Philadelphia Phillies average win expectancy (aWE) was a mere .08 for the entire game. The player of the game would have to be none other than Giants first baseman Brett Pill as he contributed .198 WPA to his team's cause. The most interesting thing, to me at least, is the fact that the Phillies really could have made moves to build for the future at the trade deadline and they chose not to.

Photo credit: Patrick Smith

Astros 11, Orioles 0

The Baltimore Orioles were one of the more active teams during the trade season this year, and likely did the most to improve themselves other than the Boston Red Sox, and they ended up being clubbed to death why one of the worst teams in the American League. The Orioles aWE was the second worst yesterday, at just .11, and they were bested by a starter making his major league debut.

The Astros starter, making his first career start, was Brett Oberholtzer and he shut the Orioles out for seven innings while giving up just three hits and striking out six. The real star of the game would have to be catcher Jason Castro though as he went 3-4 and hit a grand slam.

Braves 9, Rockies 0

When your starting pitcher gives up ten hits and seven earned runs over just 2.1 innings you really shouldn't expect to win the game, and the Colorado Rockies didn't. As a matter of fact, the Rockies never even threatened to win this game as the Atlanta Braves and Freddie Freeman thoroughly ripped them a new one.

Freeman went perfect at the plate going 4-4 with two runs scored, two RBI, and .197 WPA while starting pitcher Mike Minor coasted through seven innings, his pLI was just .38, allowing just two hits and striking out six.

Royals 4, Twins 3

The Kansas City Royals continued their winning ways by defeating the Minnesota Twins, their eighth victory in a row and currently the longest winning streak in the majors. The Royals are in a bit of an odd situation in the standings because they are seven games behind the American Central leading Tigers but also seven games back of a wild card berth, so they know what they have to do.

Kansas City got out to an early 2-0 lead on a Miguel Tejada single, yes he's still playing, in the second inning and tacked on another run with a Billy Butler sac fly in the third. The Twins turned the tables a bit when they came back to tie the game at two a piece after a Pedro Floriman home run in the fifth and a bases loaded walk given up by Jeremy Guthrie in the sixth.

The Twins really let some scoring chances go by the wayside however because they had the bases loaded with no outs and only managed to score one run. The RE in those situations is a nifty 2.39 but Joe Mauer got thrown out at home and the following two batters hit a fly out and struck out.

Floriman, who was a bit of a hero earlier in the game for putting the Twins on the board, ended up committing the error that ultimately put the Royals in a position to win the game. The Twins would seriously threaten to tie the game in the eighth inning but Aaron Crow struck out the two batters he was brought in to face and ended the threat.

Cubs 6, Brewers 1

The battle of the worsts in the National League Central, or a game between the Chicago Cubs and Milwaukee Brewers -- whatever your preference.

Anthony Rizzo got the Cubs on the board in the bottom of the third inning with a two-run shot which was all the scoring the Cubs would need. Rizzo put up an .839 wOBA and also a .209 WPA but it was starting pitcher Edwin Jackson that is the true player of the game. Jackson pitched eight innings, allowing eight hits, one run, no walks, and striking out four on his way to a .281 WPA.

Rangers 2, Angels 1

If Josh Hamilton could play his former team on a daily basis then he would be putting up MVP-caliber numbers, he's batting .368/.442/.500 against the Rangers this season, but he's not and his season batting line is a mere .226/.283/.418. He was still the lone reason why the the Angels put one run on the board because he hit a moon shot in the seventh inning to tie the game at one.

Each team went back and forth, trying to gain momentum to score that winning run, through the ninth inning. Joe Nathan was brought in to shut the Angels down in the top of the ninth, a high pressure situation no doubt -- evidenced by the 2.41 pLI when he came in. He got through it unscathed and Adrian Beltre rewarded him and his team with a moon shot of his own, one which carried it's own level of pressure, and after seeing five pitches and fouling off three of them he ended the game and added .348 WPA to his stats in the process.

Marlins 3, Mets 2

Now that the Astros are in the American League the New York Mets are one bad run away from being the bottom dwellers in all of the National League. You may not think it could happen but it could and stranger things have happened, even if the Marlins are in the same division as them.

This game simply came down to which young starter would give up the most runs in a game where each young starter wasn't all that bad at all. Mets starter Jenrry Mejia went six innings giving up a home run and then two sacrifice flies to help the Marlins to a 3-0 lead, and that's all they needed.

Henderson Alvarez was the better overall pitcher yesterday and pitched seven and a third innings, giving up two runs on six hits while walking two. Even though his WPA ended up at .239 he wasn't the one that contributed the most to his team's win. That honor belongs to reliever Mike Dunn after wracking up a .244 WPA when he was put into the game in the eighth inning with a runner on third base and two outs. He pitched one and a third innings to help the Marlins secure win number 41 on the season.

Photo credit: Jared Wickerham

Red Sox 5, Mariners 4

Back-and-forth for fifteen innings. Looking at the spikes of the win probability graph on Fangraphs going up and down as the Mariners would get an advantage and then lose it, then the Red would gain an advantage and then lose it would certainly be nerve wracking if I were a gambling man.

The play of the game belongs to Red Sox shortstop Stephen Drew as he stepped up to the plate in the bottom of the fifteenth inning, with the bases loaded and two outs no less, and lined a single to the outfield that scored second baseman Dustin Pedroia and those Red Sox fans that stayed for the entire game roared to life. The leverage index of that specific situation alone was 6.39 and it's easy to see why.

Although Drew and the Red Sox own the play of the game they actually don't own the player of the game. That distinction belongs to Mariners third baseman Kyle Seager and his .331 WPA. He went three for six with a run scored, a home run, two RBI, and came up to the plate with an average pLI of 2.01 and he owned it.

Pirates 5, Cardinals 4

These two teams have been battling each other all season long for their division and the Pirates just seem to have the Cardinals number so far this season, winning six in a row against them. St. Louis got to Pittsburgh's starting pitcher Jeff Locke early, and knocked him out of the game after just four innings of work. They scored a pair of runs in the first inning and led 4-3 through four and a half innings but the Pirates would not quit.

Andrew McCutchen hit a sacrifice fly in the bottom of the fifth inning, tying the game at four, and then catcher Russell Martin contributed the play of the game when he singled Neil Walker home in the bottom of the eighth. On that play the Pirates win expectancy went from 57.6% all the way up to 87.2% and that's why Martin owns the play of the game and is also the player of the game.

Indians 6, White Sox 5

The Cleveland Indians had an opportunity to further their cause to reach the playoffs yesterday and they made sure not to waste it. Cleveland led this game 3-0 through five innings but the White Sox decided it was their turn to make some noise in the top of the sixth, scoring three runs on three straight base hits. Cleveland's win expectancy nose dived from 87.1% as the top of the sixth began and were left with a 49.7% win expectancy by the time it was over.

If you enjoy wild swings in a game then you really loved this game because it had several huge swings back and forth. In the top of the ninth the White Sox managed to load the bases with two outs on two singles and a walk. Jeff Keppinger came up to the plate to pinch hit and came through in a big way by hitting a liner for a single, scoring two runs in a situation with a LI of 6.86 and a RE of .76. Just like that the entire complexion of the game changed for the White Sox and the Indians looked dead in the water.

Instead of giving up the Indians fought back by loading the bases on a double, HBP, and a bunt single. Michael Bourn came up to the plate with zero outs, his team down by two runs, and the ability to bring in a run, tie the game, or win it. He hit a sacrifice fly to bring his team within one run and that would bring Nick Swisher to the plate, but the White Sox decided to intentionally walk him to go for the force out at any base or the double play to end the game.

With the bases loaded, one out, his team down by one run, and a LI of 8.97 staring him in the face second baseman Jason Kipnis came to the plate looking to win the game -- not tie, but win. He wasn't able to come through with the win in that moment but he hit a sacrifice fly to tie the game and send it to extra innings. The White Sox went down quietly in the top of the tenth which gave the Indians another chance to win it. Carlos Santana comes to the plate and hits the most beautiful walk-off home run you'd think any of his teammates had ever seen on the sixth pitch.

Diamondbacks 7, Rays 0

The Diamondbacks made it 2-0 in the first innings, then that lead doubled on a home run by Eric Chavez to 4-0 in the fourth, and they just continued to tack on runs until it was 7-0 by the ninth inning and the Rays really had to hope of a comeback.

Tampa Bay mustered just three hits and struck out 12 times while their pitching staff gave up 14 hits to the D-Backs offense. All six pitchers the Rays brought in the game gave up a hit and four of the six allowed a runner to cross home plate.

Yankees 3, Dodgers 0

The late game of last night's schedule and if you weren't able, or willing, to stay up late enough to watch it to the end you missed a good one. Specifically, you missed one of the best pitching duels yesterday's schedule had to offer because each starting pitcher showed up with great stuff.

Hiroki Kuroda pitched seven strong innings allowing just five hits, one walk, and striking out eight as his WPA was at .400 when Yankees manager Joe Girardi pulled him after 103 pitches. Kuroda threw 20 of his 25 first pitches for strikes and finished with a game score of 74.

The man that got the nod for the Dodgers was Clayton Kershaw and he was even better. He pitched eight innings of five hit ball while striking out five. He exited the game after just 97 pitches, please don't get me started on the whole 'role of the closer' thing, and even though he only threw 16 of his 28 first pitches for strikes he still finished with a WPA of .492 and a game score of 77.

What was the deciding factor in the game was a a single by Lyle Overbay in the top of the ninth that scored Robinson Cano, who managed to get into scoring position at second base due to fielders choice. That was all the offense the Yankees would need, even though they scored two additional runs due to errors by the Dodgers, because it was Mariano Rivera time in the bottom of the ninth and we all know how that story goes.

. . .

All statistics courtesy of Fangraphs.

Lance Rinker is a writer at Beyond The Box Score. You can follow him on Twitter at @BSLLanceRinker.

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